Mothers: Early Intervention Ethics (MO: EIE), an early stage of the BeGOOD project, focused on the social, political and ethical dimensions of early intervention in maternal and child development. Its primary aim was to critically examine the concept of the ‘good’ from multiple perspectives: mothers, babies, scientists, and policymakers. Using a theoretical framework based on care ethics and the ethics of practice, Mothers:EIE deployed both empirical research and ethical analysis to examine the normative assumptions both implicit and explicit within the project of early intervention.
The Empirical Dimension
MO: EIE comprised two central empirical components.
The first drew on Dr. Rodolfo Maggio’s ethnographic fieldwork among families enrolled in Preparing for life (PFL) a community-led early intervention programme, which pairs pregnant women or new mothers with a mentor who conducts home visits and provides support and guidance on maternal self-care and care of the child. The ethnography will provide a detailed description of the everyday challenges faced by mothers and babies and the day-to-day work of the mentors. To mirror the programme, the empirical focus was the mother-child bond, through which we examined the enactments of maternal and child value, moral goals and life expectations. With an ethnographic approach, Dr. Maggio sought a “thick” understanding of the influence of early intervention in the lives of mothers and babies, and contextualize this against the national political and economic agenda.
The second ethical component draws from Dr Rose Mortimer’s doctoral study of Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) in UK Women’s Prisons. This research examined how mother-child relationships and maternal care play out in MBUs, and how they are monitored and impacted by the prison environment and the overarching care of custodial staff and the State. Dr Mortimer’s project generated an understanding of the day-to-day challenges of caring in prison, exploring how the government emphasis upon early intervention is carried over into the prison environment.
The Ethical Dimension
MO: EIE’s ethnographic approach is paired with an ethical analysis of early intervention policy and programming, conducted by Dr Rose Mortimer. In addition to the empirical work in prisons, Rose’s DPhil project generated a genealogical mapping of early intervention policy across several sectors, including developmental science, criminal justice, and education. Rose’s work draws on virtue ethics and care ethics, and she is particularly interested in how concepts such as care, love, hope, resilience and ‘the good life’ take on a normative value within early intervention discourse.
BeGOOD: Early Intervention Ethics
MO: EIE is one of a series of projects within the BeGOOD programme of research. BeGOOD critically examines early intervention as a political, scientific and psychiatric means of shaping the moral development of young citizens, for the benefit of the individual, the family, and the wider society.