Parenting Orders and the criminalisation of parenting

In England and Wales’ legislative history there have been various procedures making parents responsible for their children’s actions. However, during the New Labour governments between 1997 and 2010 numerous laws were implemented enforcing aspects of parental responsibility, including the Parenting Order. Parenting Orders were first introduced to England and Wales in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. They were made available when a young person was given an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order), they were convicted of a criminal offence, or when there had been a Child Safety Order or Sex Offender Order. In addition, a Parenting Order could be triggered if a parent was convicted of an offence under section 443 (failure to comply with a School Attendance Order) or section 444 (failure to secure regular attendance at school of registered pupil) of the Education Act 1996. Education-related Parenting Orders were extended by two further pieces of legislation; the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 stipulates Parenting Orders for the parents of children excluded from school, and the Education and Inspections Act 2006 allows schools to apply directly to the courts for a Parenting Order because of a child’s serious misbehaviour in school.

Parents who are given a Parenting Order have to participate in parenting education, most usually parenting classes delivered by local statutory agencies. Dr Eleanor Peters has conducted important research on the use of Parenting Orders. Her research found that Parenting Orders were most liable to be awarded to mothers rather than fathers and that these orders position mothers’ actions – or inaction – as the cause and effect of anti-social, truanting and criminal behaviours in young people. Yet mothers were correspondingly and conversely also regarded as the solution. Dr Peters’ research explored the sometimes contradictory nature of the role of parenting workers in delivering parenting programmes in that they were giving parents supportive programmes aimed at positive change while also having to ‘police’ the Parenting Order’s legal requirements.


  • Peters, E (2012) ‘The weight of my words: the role of confession and surveillance in parenting programmes’, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 34(4) 411-424.
  • Peters, E. (2012) ‘Social Work and Social Control in the Third Sector: Re-Educating Parents in the Voluntary Sector’, Practice: Social Work in Action, 24(4) 251-263.
  • Peters, E. (2012) ‘‘I Blame the Mother’: Educating Parents and the Gendered Nature of Parenting Orders’, Gender and Education, 24(1) 119-130.