Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Rebecca Zarger, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tara Deubel, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laurel Graham, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Miller, Ph.D.


social reproduction, attachment, ethnography, neoliberal, women and work


The purpose of this research is to understand definitions of what it means to be a “good” parent as described by parents and child development specialists at a family service organization in the Southeastern United States. Previous research on social reproduction and concerted cultivation have opened up pathways to understanding how social and economic inequality manifest in family life and the social structures of which they are a part. This ethnographic study is an effort to contribute to an anthropology of parenting by unveiling the ways that definitions of “good” parenting in middle-class and wealthy communities reflect time-intensive, attachment-based ideologies that are also encouraged by child development professionals.

Through a mixed-methods approach, including participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and electronic questionnaire, the author describes how parental beliefs about spending time with children and focusing on developmental milestones become central to ideas about “good” parenting. This widespread ideology is situated within a broader social and economic context to suggest that a system of inequality emerges when parents with less time, knowledge, and other resources are not able to access time-intensive parenting practices in the same way as parents more social and economic capital.