Brotherhood of St Laurence

Family policy and the capability approach to parents’ and children’s well-being

By: Hartas, Dimitra
Publisher: London, U.K, Palgrave Macmillan [2014]Description: pp. 166-187Other title: Chapter 8 : family policy and the capability approach to parents’ and children’s well-beingSubject(s): Children And Poverty | Family | Parent And Child | Family Policy | Gender Equality | Capabilities approach (Social sciences) | Disadvantaged Groups
List(s) this item appears in: Capability Approach
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Chapter in: Parenting, Family Policy and Children’s Well-Being in an Unequal Society

Sen’s capability approach to human well-being provides a useful framework to explain parent–child interactions and interactions between families and public agencies. The capability approach has two core concepts, namely, functionings and capabilities. A ‘functioning’ is what a person achieves whereas ‘capability is the ability to achieve’ (Sen, 1995, p. 266). Functionings are related to the different conditions that surround people’s lives. Educated parents, for example, may be in a better position to offer learning support at home and create learning conditions that are conducive to child academic achievement. Capabilities, in contrast, ‘are notions of freedom, in a positive sense: what real opportunities you have regarding the life you may lead’ (Sen, 1987, p. 36). With regard to children’s learning and well-being, parents’ functionings refer to parental behaviour and practices that support children to live a life they value while acknowledging the existence of social and structural constraints, whereas capability refers to parents’ ability to operate within these constraints and convert the real opportunities they are afforded into valued functionings and, ultimately, exercise the freedom to choose among possible lifestyles. An important principle of the capability approach is that individuals are able to exercise volition in deciding what constitutes a valued activity or state of being, while acknowledging human diversity and different living conditions in negotiating the principles of equality and difference and balancing diverse views on parenting.

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Electronic Brotherhood of St Laurence

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