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Media representations of early human development: protecting, feeding and loving the developing brain.

O'Connor, C; Joffe, H; (2013) Media representations of early human development: protecting, feeding and loving the developing brain. Soc Sci Med , 97 297 - 306. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.048. Green open access

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Abstract

The public profile of neurodevelopmental research has expanded in recent years. This paper applies social representations theory to explore how early brain development was represented in the UK print media in the first decade of the 21st century. A thematic analysis was performed on 505 newspaper articles published between 2000 and 2010 that discussed early brain development. Media coverage centred around concern with 'protecting' the prenatal brain (identifying threats to foetal neurodevelopment), 'feeding' the infant brain (indicating the patterns of nutrition that enhance brain development) and 'loving' the young child's brain (elucidating the developmental significance of emotionally nurturing family environments). The media focused almost exclusively on the role of parental action in promoting optimal neurodevelopment, rarely acknowledging wider structural, cultural or political means of supporting child development. The significance of parental care was intensified by deterministic interpretations of critical periods, which implied that inappropriate parental input would produce profound and enduring neurobiological impairments. Neurodevelopmental research was also used to promulgate normative judgements concerning the acceptability of certain gender roles and family contexts. The paper argues that media representations of neurodevelopment stress parental responsibility for shaping a child's future while relegating the contributions of genetic or wider societal factors, and examines the consequences of these representations for society and family life.

Type: Article
Title: Media representations of early human development: protecting, feeding and loving the developing brain.
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.048
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.048
Language: English
Additional information: �© 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Keywords: Early brain development, Intensive parenting, Media, Neuroscience, Public engagement, Social representations, Thematic analysis, United Kingdom, Biomedical Research, Brain, Child Development, Great Britain, Humans, Infant, Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena, Love, Mass Media, Parent-Child Relations, Parenting
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1360256
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