Headlice eradication as everyday engagement with science: An analysis of online parenting discussions

Christine Hine

This paper focuses on the way in which people deploy scientific knowledge alongside other resources in everyday interactions. In the UK headlice are common amongst schoolchildren, and treatment is viewed as a parental responsibility. Choice between treatment options lies with individual parents, with official guidance giving no clear steer. In the face of this combination of responsibility and uncertainty, users of an online parenting forum justify their actions using a variety of resources, including claims to scientific knowledge of both headlice and the action of various treatments, but also drawing on the authority of having direct experience, trust in brand-named products and generalised suspicion of “chemical” treatments. These discussions occasion expression of knowledge as part of portraying oneself as a responsible parent, and thus while they do not necessarily represent public knowledge about science more generally, they do offer a useful site to explore what people do with science.

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