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Money makes a family: A genealogy of female -headed families, welfare and media representations

Janice L Haynes, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Foucault's genealogy is applied to the analysis of welfare-to-work policy and media representations of female-headed families. Discourses of personal responsibility in the history of welfare services and current media representations are analyzed and connected to ideologies of economic citizenship and freedom for female-headed families. A present truth of female-headed families is constructed: female-headed, living in poverty, utilizing welfare services, destructive to the social order and majority African-American. The history of female-headed families and welfare is a development of a knowledge system about single-parent families. This knowledge system is produced by cultural institutions that impose particular meanings on female-headed families as a strategy for controlling poor populations and expunging undeserving poor from social services. Disciplinary mechanisms, both moral and economic, have been transformed to primarily economic mechanisms of self-sufficiency and individual responsibility. Economic mechanisms of control articulated with freedom, citizenship and financial stability have allowed for the emergence of a normative single-parent family. The normative single-parent family is white, female-headed, middle-class and self-sufficient. Analysis of the articulation of welfare-to-work policies post 1996 reform and representations of female-headed families in television and film between 1992 and 2002 is produced in this work. The consequences of welfare-to-work and representations of normative female-headed family are articulated and produce a low-wage labor pool that benefits industry and reproduces the marginalization of single-parent families on welfare.

Subject Area

Mass media|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Welfare|American studies

Recommended Citation

Haynes, Janice L, "Money makes a family: A genealogy of female -headed families, welfare and media representations" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3179880.