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Feckless fathers and monopolizing mothers: Motive, identity, and fundamental truths in the Australian Public Inquiry into Child Custody


Correspondence should be addressed to Kathryn Fogarty, School of Psychology, The University of Adelaide South Australia 5005, Australia (


This paper presents findings from a discursive analysis of Hansard recordings of the public hearings of the Australian Public Inquiry into Child Custody. Using a synthesis of membership categorization analysis, sequential conversation analysis, and rhetorical analysis, the study shows how two witnesses, and the committee members they interacted with, oriented to a normative requirement to talk in terms of being motivated by children's interests. Building on discursive psychological research into ways that categories-in-talk can imply and infer things about psychological concepts such as motive and identity, this paper shows how motive and identity were a salient participants' concern in a setting where an important social issue was being contested. A contribution is the illumination of several common ideas that formed part of people's sense making about parenting practices and what children purportedly need. Some implications of an uncritical acceptance of these ideas by psychologists, researchers, and people influential in assisting families with post-separation parenting arrangements are suggested.