Adult Supervision Required considers the contradictory ways in which contemporary American culture has imagined individual autonomy for parents and children. In many ways, today’s parents and children have more freedom than ever before. There is widespread respect for children’s autonomy as distinct individuals, and a broad range of parenting styles are flourishing. Yet it may also be fair to say that there is an unprecedented fear of children’s and parents’ freedom. Dread about Amber Alerts and “stranger danger” have put an end to the unsupervised outdoor play enjoyed by earlier generations of suburban kids. Similarly, fear of bad parenting has not only given rise to a cottage industry of advice books for anxious parents, but has also granted state agencies greater power to police the family.
Using popular parenting advice literature as a springboard for a broader sociological analysis of the American family, Markella B. Rutherford explores how our increasingly psychological conception of the family might be jeopardizing our appreciation for parents’ and children’s public lives and civil liberties.