The Well-Being, Peer Cultures and Rights of Children: Volume 14

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Table of contents

(22 chapters)

Volume 14 of Sociological Studies of Children and Youth (SSCY) is comprised of empirical research and theoretical papers within three areas, namely children's well-being, children and youth peer cultures, and the rights of children and youth. In this volume, the term “children” is used inclusively to encompass those from infancy through the transition to adulthood. These empirical studies include children's voices and experiences from four continents and a range of methodological and theoretical orientations. Additionally, a clear connection to social policy is made in many of these studies. Altogether, these studies highlight how structure and culture both limit and enable the life chances of children, how children interpret and construct their social relations and environments, and finally, how children view themselves as well as how others view the rights of children.

Purpose – This chapter examines the impact of armed conflict and three forms of militarization on child mortality rates cross-nationally. Previous theorizing argues that praetorian militaries create conditions particularly adverse to the well-being of civilians, but the effects of praetorian militarization are likely confounded both by economic and social militarization, and by armed conflict, economic development, and political regime.

Methodology – This study conducts a cross-national panel study of the impact of armed conflict and militarization on civilian life chances using data from 175 countries with populations 200,000 or larger. Analyses employ a fixed-effects model, which controls for stable country characteristics; the analyses also control for time-varying characteristics of countries that influence the impact of armed conflict and militarization on life chances.

Findings – Praetorian militarization appears to increase child mortality, as does social militarization (particularly during years of internationalized internal armed conflict), once stable country effects and other variables are controlled. This chapter is the first to systematically examine the impact of praetorian militarization on social development (indexed by child mortality rates).

Purpose – Mobility of youth in multiple foster care placements contributes to diminished life chances and outcomes. Foster care youth mobility during care results in numerous school changes within one academic year which hinders educational achievement. This qualitative study examines a group of Latino alumni of foster care and their experiences related to housing and education.

Methodology – Interviews with 25 young Latino adults ranging in age from 18 to 22 examined foster care placement, transitions to independence, and experiences after foster care. Researchers used a semi-structured interview guide, and tape-recorded interviews transcribed and coded for emergent themes.

Findings – Results suggest that as youth experience school mobility, social capital aids in promoting positive educational experiences. This research emphasizes the importance of positive social capital for Latino foster care youth and their educational achievement, evidenced in both adult and peer social networks. Few studies have examined Latino foster care youth experiences, and currently there are no studies that address educational experiences of these youth.

Purpose – This chapter focuses on the family and school influences on the achievement gaps in math and reading by gender, race, and nativity.

Methodology – With the longitudinal data from the National Education Longitudinal Studies, this chapter uses panel data technique to model for the changes of the achievement from the three time points of observation, 8th grade, 10th grade, and 12th grade. This study proposes the concept of “low-level constrained curriculum” to characterize the curriculum structure that leads to the universal low level of course taking among students within the same school.

Findings – The analysis shows that this kind of curriculum structure has the most damaging effect on individual students' math achievement outcomes. For the analysis on parental involvement, the results show that school involvement is more effective than home involvement for math achievement, but not for reading. Domain-specific parental involvement is more important than general parental involvement for both math and reading. These findings have important theoretical and policy implications.

Purpose – Studies suggest that children's experiences during first grade help establish educational trajectories that eventually shape their life chances. Research also indicates that student attentiveness in the classroom is integral to learning and later academic achievement, with low-income students of color running a greater risk of “attentional difficulties.”

Methodology – Joining these two bodies of work, I map the social conditions that shape attentiveness in the first-grade classrooms of “at-risk” students. Using ethnographic data collected over three school years, I examine how children actively construct attentiveness during their everyday interactions at school.

Findings – First graders sustain attention but often onto their own auto-involvements and mutual engagements, focal concerns teachers consider “distractions.” By learning the moment-by-moment variations of what to pay attention to and how “attentiveness” looks, children navigate the social ropes of schooling. Young students apply these lessons to self and peers, regulating attentiveness and socializing one another to the norms of their classroom. They are also resourceful actors who skillfully use their understandings of attentiveness to maneuver around the strict order of the day. Schoolchildren multitask, conceal other focal concerns, and give the impression of attentiveness, all of which influence what behaviors get detected as “(in)attentive.”

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.

Purpose – UK urban state schools have recently experienced increased pressure to improve pupil performance levels and punitive policies appear to be one way of dealing with “problematic” young people. While some are permanently excluded for serious acts, others, who are by comparison less problematic, are unofficially “excluded” and referred to off-site educational provision (OSEP) where they receive reduced timetables and unchallenging courses. This research study set out to examine why 20 young people were “unofficially” excluded from school and their progress in OSEP.

Methodology – The study made use of ethnographic methods with 20 excluded young people in one south London borough in the UK. The research was undertaken from March 2009 to August 2009.

Findings – This chapter shows how “unofficial” exclusionary processes, to which these urban young people are exposed, have implications for their identity, self-worth and lifestyles, and makes them increasingly vulnerable to crime and victimization. The chapter makes use of labeling perspectives to understand the significance of the social reaction to deviant labels young people receive in school (Becker, 1953) and how they respond as a consequence (Lemert, 1972).

Purpose – Recent research on the gender culture and femininity of adolescent girls found that girls construct their gender identity in various ways that are intertwined with race, ethnicity, social class, and sexual orientation. However, these existing studies focused on either general schoolgirls (see Ali, S. (2003). To be a girl: Culture and class in schools. Gender and Education, 15(3), 269–283; Bettie (2003); Weiler, J. D. (2000). Codes and contradictions: Race, gender identity and schooling. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press; Renold, E. (2005). Girls, boys and junior sexualities: Exploring children's gender and sexual relations in the primary school. London: Routledge) or delinquent girls in a gang (see Miller, J. (1998). Gender and victimization risk among young women in gangs. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 35, 429–453; Miller (2001); Joe-Laidler & Hunt (2001); Schalet, A., Hunt, G., & Joe-Laidler, K. (2003). Respectability and autonomy: The articulation and meaning of sexuality among the girls in the gang. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 32, 108–143; Messerschmidt (1995); Messerschmidt, J. W. (1997). Crime as structured action: Gender, race, class, and crime in the making. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage), and only a few studies paid attention to girls who showed overt oppositional behaviors at school.

Methods – The research uses qualitative methods and explores the gender identity of two adolescent girls in a junior high school in Taiwan, who are regarded as problem or “bad” girls by the school faculty.

Results – The two girls both manifested “ladette” culture (Jackson, 2006). On the one hand, they showed masculine behaviors such as fighting, troublemaking, disobeying school regulations, and using drugs and alcohol. On the other hand, they deliberately emphasized their femininity and sexual maturity in the way they dressed, talked, and behaved.

Purpose – This chapter draws on tenets of the “new” sociology of childhood, which posit that children are affected by social structures in the same way that adults are, to formulate an explanation for the black–white test-score gap.

Methodology – It builds on an analysis of ethnographic fieldnotes, which recorded the experiences of early elementary school students in a racially homogeneous school in a low-income African-American neighborhood.

Findings – The case is made that the children were oppressed by adults in the school. Being in school was almost a wholly negative experience for children. Students' active strategies to protect the self were ineffective, which led to their shutting down emotionally. Like adults in similar social contexts, children's energy was devoted to self-protection rather than to being a student.

Purpose – In this chapter, we address the ambiguous nature of parental consent requirement decisions for the purpose of conducting minimal risk research of at-risk youth.

Methodology/approach – We evaluate current guidelines, which are used to determine the appropriateness of parental consent waivers, review related literature, and offer a case study to understand some of the resulting dilemmas that arise when seeking approval and researching youth in potentially abusive and neglectful situations.

Findings – We offer the researcher, practitioner, ethics committee, and policy maker new strategies to aid in the determination and application of parental consent waivers for minimal risk research participation among at-risk youth populations.

Purpose – This chapter has three major points. First, I present the legal context that guides pediatric clinical interactions in the United States. Second, I argue that pediatric care is incomplete if the child patient is not identified as a knowledgeable and serious resource, thereby illustrating the concept called child inclusion. Third, it recognizes the child as a research participant.

Methodology – This chapter will present an argument for the concept of child inclusion by presenting limited data from research at a private clinic in the state of Florida, USA. It will present recommendations for the inclusion of children in the pediatric setting and comment on the child-centered method used for this research. The concept of child inclusion acknowledges the agency of a child in health care and places the child at the forefront of research. It presents qualitative data from ongoing research on indicators for child inclusion in a pediatric clinical setting, assuming that such indicators can only manifest in a partnership model of clinical interaction, where physician authority does not dominate clinical care and patients are actively involved in the negotiation of their health care.

Findings – I present recommendations for the inclusion of children in the pediatric setting and comment on the child-centered method used for this research. The concept of child inclusion acknowledges the agency of a child in health care and places the child at the forefront of research. This work calls for the child to no longer be in the background of pediatric care and social science research.

Purpose – Young people exhibiting serious behavior problems represent an enormous challenge for municipal child welfare services in Norway. In working with these youngsters, it is vital to create opportunities for them to participate in the decisions affecting their lives. The study aims to explore the dilemmas involving issues of participation on the one side and protection on the other: it is one where the child welfare worker is being required, on the one hand, to provide youths with an opportunity to participate in decisions affecting them while at the same time being required to protect those youths in their care from harming themselves in various ways. These two concerns of participation and protection are spelled out specifically in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children of which Norway is a signatory.

Methodology – This study draws from a qualitative reanalysis of interview data from a 15-year longitudinal study of 85 child welfare clients in Norway. They were followed up at three points in time: first when they became clients (age 14–15), next when they were young adults (age 20), and finally when they were 30 years old. All of these 85 informants had initially come to the attention of child protection authorities owing to the severity of their behavior problems.

Findings – The chapter describes how these young people experienced both participation and protection of the child welfare services at the time they were provided and later on when they had become adults. One important finding of the study is that, as adults, their opinions had changed and they then believed that the protection usually in the form of guardianship earlier provided to them as youngsters had been beneficial to them.

Purpose: The present study is derived from a research project, which aimed to verify how the ECE public network in the state of São Paulo understand young children's agency. Despite ECE national guidelines, some municipalities have decided to use standard textbooks, developed and commercialized by private educational organizations in the format of booklet series. These materials, referred to as Private Systems of Education (PSEs), are the same for all children, based on the idea of normal development and learning.

Methods: The question that guided this inquiry was: why are these materials used? The research was organized in three stages: (1) identification of public educational networks within the State of São Paulo that were using the PSEs in ECE; (2) analysis of the compatibility between the materials offered by PSEs and the ECE national guidelines; (3) interpretation of why these materials are used, considering the new conceptions of childhood and ECE presented in legislation and recently published research.

Findings: Concerning policy-making, the research provides corroborative evidence for how difficult it is to implement a new law. Data also revealed that some municipalities were unprepared to take over ECE. Children's agency, in its turn, is far from the pedagogical proposals. The use of PSEs indicates a contrast between the potential of children and the opportunities that are offered to them. Thus, playing and interaction have no relevant place in everyday education.

Purpose – This chapter investigates the possibilities and limits for effectuating the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in Latin American countries.

Methods – The following dimensions are questioned: (a) the monitoring process of the CRC; (b) the contrast between the social organization of children's rights in the National State and the international pressures to incorporate foreign law into the national legislation; (c) the role of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the processes of child rights violations.

Findings – The main conclusion is that the possibilities of effectuating international treaties on human rights are different at three scales. Within international organizations (specifically within the United Nations and its Committees on Human Rights), it is possible to create conventions and monitor them, making use of the reports. At the nation-state scale, it is possible to formally incorporate the rights of the foreign law into national constitutions, but the punishment related to the violations of these rights will depend on the hierarchical relationship between domestic and foreign law. At the interregional scale, one can observe the effective actions of the juridical institutions (specifically of the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights) to punish and compensate the victims that suffered violations of the rights guaranteed by international treaties.

David A. Kinney is professor of sociology at Central Michigan University. He obtained his Ph.D. in sociology from Indiana University at Bloomington, completed postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago and worked as a research development specialist for the U.S. Department of Education in Philadelphia. His primary research areas are sociology of adolescence and sociology of education. He has published articles and chapters on children's time use, adolescent peer cultures, and education in venues such as Sociology of Education, Youth and Society, American Behavioral Research Scientist, and The Praeger Handbook of American High Schools. He is past president of the Michigan Sociological Association and elected council member of the American Sociological Association sections on Sociology of Children and Youth and Sociology of Education. He became series editor of this volume in 1999 and has been series co-editor with Katherine Brown Rosier since 2004.

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Sociological Studies of Children and Youth
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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