The changing meaning of family: Individual rights and irish adoption policy, 1949-99
This article examines child adoption discourse to investigate the changing cultural conceptions of children, family, and individual rights. Through an analysis of Irish child adoption debate from 1949 to 1999, the author explores the relationship between the worldwide individual rights imperative and culturally specific, national ideals of family. This analysis reveals two general policy dynamics. First, these debates reveal how policies are often "discursively dependent." The seemingly arbitrary framing of a social problem in one era sets the agenda, language, and framework for debate in future periods. Second, they demonstrate how state social policies are compilicit in the changing social construction of family and help constitute "motherhood," "fatherhood," and "childhood" as core social categories and as inalienable individual rights and identities. Concretely, in the case of Ireland, these dynamics have together yielded an otherwise unanticipated history of adoption policy and policy discourse.
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