This article explores how risk, moralisation and class intertwine in prevention work targeting parents. The analysis is based on an ethnographic study at three Danish schools, from which two exemplary cases have been selected, consisting of observations of two introductory consultations between families and school health nurses. We focus on how the professional assesses whether a family is at risk. The outcome of the consultations is distinctly different. The privileged family is able to display the legitimate risk practices. In contrast, the disadvantaged family is regarded as irresponsible and at risk. This is not so much due to the complexity of their social situation, but because of what the professional identifies as a major risk: the child’s overweight. Our methodological approach is to explore how the consultations are framed. Our analysis reveals how a focus on ‘lifestyle choices’ results in dismissing the structural conditions that shape not only the hazards facing families, but also their risk practices. Consequently, the privileged parents are celebrated as morally worthwhile, while the disadvantaged parents are judged to be of less moral value. This, we argue, is grounded in symbolic class distinctions, revitalising ‘respectability’ as a central aspect of the discretionary assessment.
- School health nurse