In this article we examine the ways discourses of risk manifested and played out within and across two groups of Australian mothers living in two large urban centres in Australia: the first comprised of mothers who had a pre-teen child diagnosed with an eating disorder (n=13); the second of mothers who had a pre-teen child without the symptoms or diagnosis of an eating disorder (n=13). In 2011 and 2012, we conducted in-depth interviews with the mothers in their homes on their ideas about health and their relationships with their children. An analysis of the data collected from these interviews indicated that having a pre-teen child diagnosed with an eating disorder had a decisive impact on how the mothers constituted and responded to risk. For mothers, who had a pre-teen child with an eating disorder, risk was intensified by bio-medical discourses. The particular intensifications of risk limited the ways in which mothers could act and often threatened to undermine their abilities as competent carers. By contrast, the mothers who did not have a pre-teen child with an eating disorder spoke about risk less directly, and with less sense of immediacy. Where these mothers acknowledged risk discourses particularly in regard to health, they were in a stronger position to negotiate them. Our analysis indicates that the ways in which mothers responded to risk is contingent on circumstances and contexts. Mothers' responses to risk were related to the calculability of the risk and their perceived capacity to manage it.
Wright, J., Halse, C., Levy, G. & Hartung, C. (2014). Australian mothers' notions of risk and uncertainty in relation to their pre-teen children. Health Risk & Society, 16 (2), 185-198.