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‘I Don't Like My Children to Grow up in this Bad Area’: Parental Anxieties about Living in Informal Settlements


  • The first two projects outlined in this article were funded by the Nuffield Foundation, and I would like to thank the organization for its generous support. Thanks to Khethiwe Malaza, Sibongile Buthelezi and Kerry Philp for their extensive contributions to the collection of data. Thanks also to the referees of IJURR, and Eric Olund, Dan Hammett, Steve Connelly and Margo Huxley for comments on an earlier version of this article.


A growing body of research on informal settlements considers the experiences of children, but seldom outlines the daily parenting experiences of adult men and women. At the same time, policy on housing in South Africa points to the ways in which the ‘eradication’ of informal housing will help provide children with better futures. This article explores the social relation of parenting within an informal settlement in Durban, South Africa, bearing in mind the broader difficulties of parenting in poverty, and points to ways in which the material qualities of informal settlements contribute to feelings of anxiety in parents. It questions how these experiences might differ from or be similar to those of parents who live in generic contexts of poverty (but not necessarily informality). It concludes ultimately that living in an informal settlement does actually contribute to particular parental anxieties, but that there is no guarantee that informal housing eradication will remove these concerns.

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