maintenance debt from
civil debt thereby meaning that any father found to be non-compliant with a child
maintenance order could be found to be in contempt of court and sent to prison.
The decline of patriarchal power
The decline of patriarchal power was posited by Kennedy (2001) as a phenomenon
in Ireland that was rooted in the 1920s and the 1930s. Kennedy’s account revealed
four overarching historical influences on the decline of parentalpower in Ireland.
First, was the influence of British marriage and family law and in particular the
Guardianship of Infants Acts (1927
this construction. Although the Poor Law had restricted and questioned
parentalpower (particularly that of fathers) from the 1830s, the NSPCC
deliberately advanced legislative reforms that increasingly involved the State
in the private lives of families. As the quotation opening this chapter elucidates, unlike ‘other societies’, the Society was focused on reforming parents
through the threat of prosecution, and as charity work took on a greater
class consciousness and class fear in the nineteenth century, the children of
the poor became a primary focus.