Professor Ravinder Barn and Dr Vicki Harman from the Centre for Criminology and Sociology at Royal Holloway, University of London are carrying out research into white mothers of mixed-race children. It is part of a wider study of mixed-race children and young people that has spanned more than two decades.
Parenting as an activity has become the focus for much concern at a policy and academic level, and the experiences of white women mothering mixed-race children is also receiving considerable attention.
Globalisation and migration are playing key roles in determining the social and familial landscape of contemporary western societies. Government statistics in the UK, Canada and the USA point to the increasing racial and cultural heterogeneity and the growth of the mixed-race population. Although many of these families lead relatively trouble-free lives, there is evidence of vulnerability and disadvantage for others in a number of areas including education, health, social care and the criminal justice system.
New and ongoing research was presented at a one day inter-disciplinary research conference, organised by Professor Barn and Dr Harman to disseminate the findings to those working with inter-racial families and to determine the research agenda of the future.
"In the academic and popular discourse, there is now a concern that 'mixed families' have become problematised. White mothers in these settings are often subjected to a racialised critical social gaze in a way that their parenting is placed under scrutiny," says Professor Barn.
Dr Harman added: "Although the growing number of mixed relationships have been suggested to be evidence of a more tolerant society, social significance continues to be attached to relationships involving people from different ethnic backgrounds. White mothers of mixed-parentage children can find themselves dealing with racism directed at their children as well as facing social disapproval themselves."
The six papers presented at the event explored a range of areas including: the mixed-race landscape in the Canadian context, common themes amongst families experiencing social service involvement, the need to understand the social networks utilized by white mothers in mixed families and historical research looking at government archives to understand the ways in which white women's role in nation building had been marginalized.
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