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“They’re stealing my opportunity to be a father”: the child support system and state intervention in the family

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Title
“They’re stealing my opportunity to be a father”: the child support system and state intervention in the family
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Battle
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Brittany Pearl
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1987-
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Brittany Pearl Battle
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author
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Eviatar Zerubavel
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chair
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BROOKS
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ETHEL BROOKS
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internal member
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Nepomnyaschy
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Lenna
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Lenna Nepomnyaschy
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Advisory Committee
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internal member
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Waller
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Maureen
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Maureen Waller
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Advisory Committee
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outside member
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Rutgers University
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degree grantor
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School of Graduate Studies
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theses
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2019
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2019-05
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2019
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English
Abstract (type = abstract)
Currently there are just under 7 million custodial parents with formal child support orders in the child support system which serves approximately 22 million children or more than one in four in the United States. While these orders regulate the ways that non-custodial parents financially support their children, child support payments and related involvement with the system do much more than impact household finances. Scholars have long explored the effects of child support system involvement both on relationships between custodial and non-custodial parents and between non-custodial parents and their children. Others have examined the impact of financial and criminal justice related collateral consequences. The ways that parents experience and navigate the system has also been a main area of study, with recent literature primarily focusing on low-income non-custodial fathers. To date, however, no work has explored the experience of child support system involvement from inside the system, specifically in the courtroom and enforcement agencies. As a result, the literature is missing a direct analysis of interactions between parents and staff, as well as the bureaucratic mechanisms of enforcement.
In this project, I use ethnographic data from a system in Virginia to examine the implications of child support system involvement for parenthood and family. I conducted observations of approximately 300 support hearings and 75+ hours in child support related sites. I also conducted 50 formal and informal interviews with parents and individuals working in the system (i.e. judges, mediators, attorneys, and enforcement staff), as well as an analysis of a diverse collection of cultural artifacts (i.e. federal, state, and municipal statutes; news articles and video clips; and political rhetoric). I use a cognitive sociological framework to analyze the data, focusing on symbolic systems of meaning, cultural norms, (in)attention, and filters of perception and relevance.
My findings illuminate the collateral consequences of enforcement, the ways that stigma and shame are pervasive in social interactions, and how parents both resist and reinforce the system’s bureaucratic apparatus. Ultimately, I demonstrate that the child support system functions as a massive neoliberal state intervention into the family situated at the intersection of the welfare and criminal justice systems which reinforces cultural messages about deservingness, morality, responsibility, and the desirability of traditional family structures.
Subject (authority = local)
Topic
Child support policy
Subject (authority = RUETD)
Topic
Sociology
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Child support -- Law and legislation -- Social aspects -- Virginia
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Support (Domestic relations) -- Social aspects -- Virginia
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Rutgers University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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ETD_9727
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1 online resource (ix, 242 pages)
Note (type = degree)
Ph.D.
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Includes bibliographical references
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School of Graduate Studies Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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rucore10001600001
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doi:10.7282/t3-cmnf-zs22
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ETD doctoral
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Rights

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The author owns the copyright to this work.
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Name
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Battle
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Brittany
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Pearl
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Permission or license
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2019-04-08 23:44:42
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Brittany Battle
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Rutgers University. School of Graduate Studies
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Author Agreement License
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I hereby grant to the Rutgers University Libraries and to my school the non-exclusive right to archive, reproduce and distribute my thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, and/or my abstract, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, subject to the release date subsequently stipulated in this submittal form and approved by my school. I represent and stipulate that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract are my original work, that they do not infringe or violate any rights of others, and that I make these grants as the sole owner of the rights to my thesis or dissertation and its abstract. I represent that I have obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by my school. I acknowledge that RU ETD and my school will not distribute my thesis or dissertation or its abstract if, in their reasonable judgment, they believe all such rights have not been secured. I acknowledge that I retain ownership rights to the copyright of my work. I also retain the right to use all or part of this thesis or dissertation in future works, such as articles or books.
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2019-05-31
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2021-05-30
Detail
Access to this PDF has been restricted at the author's request. It will be publicly available after May 30th, 2021.
Copyright
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Copyright protected
Availability
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Open
Reason
Permission or license
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