Challenging the challenge: The Ethics of Early Intervention

Rodolfo Maggio


Early intervention (EI) programs face severe and often condemnatory critique. Some common criticisms arising within the social science literature concern the burden of moral blame that EI programs supposedly place upon parents; the use of inaccurate or misleading scientific ‘evidence’; and the absorption of children from minority or peripheral backgrounds into the dominant culture. These criticisms might be unwarranted and must be questioned. In this paper, I draw from ethnographic research conducted with ‘Preparing For Life’ (PFL), an EI program operating in Darndale, Ireland. Research with this population provides ways of responding to criticisms frequently levelled at EI. In defending this argument, I propose approaching the debate about EI from at ethical rather than political perspective.


Ethnography, Early Intervention, Ethics, Governmentality, Politics of evidence

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