Purpose – To examine how youth appropriate and resist elements of the developmental discourse as they construct and enforce dating norms.
Methodology – In 2007, we conducted participant observation at a middle school summer camp for youth in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Youth ranged in age from 11 to 17 years old.
Findings – Youth borrowed the idea of a normative sequence of behaviors arranged by age from the developmental discourse to establish a set of age-appropriate dating norms for all campers, regardless of chronological age. Youth enforced these norms by treating other dating actions as too young or too old. By tying this linear trajectory to social age instead of chronological age, youth creatively altered the apparently rigid developmental discourse and established dating norms which addressed their own values and concerns. Youth established dating norms and maximized opportunities for pleasurable, collective discussions about dating and romantic relationships. Although the developmental discourse influenced the norms in this peer culture, we argue that the small, heterogeneous composition of the camp facilitated youths' ability to appropriate, refashion, and resist the developmental discourse.
Kawecka Nenga, S. and Apgar, L.A. (2011), "The Age of Love: Dating and the Developmental Discourse in a Middle School Summer Camp", Bass, L.E. and Kinney, D.A. (Ed.) The Well-Being, Peer Cultures and Rights of Children (Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, Vol. 14), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 109-131. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1537-4661(2011)0000014010
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