Contextualizing Childhoods

This edited collection draws together a variety of contexts of contemporary childhoods, linking thinking from Canada with spaces in the UK and Sweden. The contributors explores the discourses that shape those childhoods and how this then impacts on the way that children come to experience their everyday lives.The aim of the book is not to reflect the entirety of childhood experience but to draw off particular expertise that shine a light into partial, yet significant areas of children’s lives, with the contributions engaging with a range of voices and perspectives. As a result, the collection advocates the need for childhood studies to zoom out from a predisposition to isolate the child, which has been seen as a necessary part of conceptualizing childhood. As a result, the book focuses on a ‘context’ for childhoods through a consideration of both structure and agency, and through this seeks to recognise the interconnected nature of the arenas within which children live their everyday lives. A range of themes are covered, including the education system, identity within the home, suicide in communities, and younger children’s 'political' engagement and sense of belonging.Contextualising Childhoods will be of interest to students and scholars across a range of disciplines, including sociology, law, and education.

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Contextualizing Childhoods

Sam Frankel  •  Sally McNamee Editors

Contextualizing Childhoods Growing Up in Europe and North America

Editors Sam Frankel EquippingKids Church Stretton, Shropshire, UK Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College Western University London, ON, Canada

Sally McNamee Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College Western University London, ON, Canada

ISBN 978-3-319-94925-3    ISBN 978-3-319-94926-0 (eBook) Library of Congress Control Number: 2018952937 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: © Tim Gainey / Alamy Stock Photo This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


A very special thank you to Alan Pomfret, who began the ‘Childhood and Social Institutions’ program at King’s University College at Western University, Ontario, Canada, in 1999. We quite literally wouldn’t be here without him.



1 Introduction   1 Sam Frankel and Sally McNamee 2 Childhood Agonistes: The Liminal Horizons of Late Modern Childhood  11 Alan Pomfret

Part I 


3 After the Century of the Child: Swedish Education and the Transformation of the Role of the Child  39 Peter Lilja and Despina Tzimoula  Commentary on Chapter 3: A Reflection on ‘After the Century of the Child’ by Lilja and Tzimoula  63 Patrick J. Ryan


viii Contents

4 Pencil Box Journey: Old Colony Mennonite Children, Education, and Schooling  73 Wendy A. Crocker  Commentary on Chapter 4 (Response 1): Integration and  Negotiation in UK Schools  91 Clare Claxton  Commentary on Chapter 4 (Response 2): Considering Belonging Through ‘Display’  99 Julie Walsh 5 Contexts of Twinship: Discourses and Generation 107 Kate Bacon  Commentary on Chapter 5: Understanding the Discourses of Childhood and Agency 129 Nadine Ivankovic and Lindsay Izsak 6 The Art of Belonging 141 Sam Frankel  Commentary on Chapter 6: Questioning Schools: The Role of Belonging in Shaping Practice 169 Sam Frankel

Part II 


7 Reflections on Global Citizenship Narratives in Canadian Higher Education Through International Experiential/Service Learning: Moving Towards New Practices for Youth and Global Poverty Engagement 177 Allyson Larkin



 Commentary on Chapter 7: Volunteer Work and Global Citizenship in Sweden 191 Peter Lilja and Despina Tzimoula 8 Children and Death in the Canadian Context 197 Eunice Gorman  Commentary on Chapter 8 ‘Children and Death in the  Canadian’ Context 219 Esme Turner 9 Lives Lost, Voices Unheard: Examining the Importance of Youth-Led Research Amidst One Community’s Adult-­Centered Responses to Youth Suicides 231 Tara L. Bruno  Commentary on Chapter 9 ‘Lives Lost, Voices Unheard’ 255 Sally McNamee 10 Britain, Brexit and Belonging and Concluding Thoughts on Contextualising Childhoods 263 Sally McNamee and Sam Frankel Index 273

Notes on Contributors

Kate  Bacon is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK. Her research and teaching explore themes from within Childhood Studies including the social construction of childhood, structure and agency, childhood identities (especially twinship and sibship), and children and citizenship. Tara  L.  Bruno  is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at King’s University College at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. Her primary research interests focus broadly on at-risk youth, substance use and mental health, and examining ways that young people are resilient to negative experiences and surroundings. She is particularly interested in better understanding how communities can support and encourage resilience in youth through empowerment and active engagement. Her current research explores the active role that young people can play in addressing suicide and mental health crises experienced by their peers at both the individual and community levels. Clare  Claxton is currently School Improvement Partner within a multi-­ academy trust supporting a secondary academy in a deprived, multi-cultural area in central England. Prior to that, she spent six years working in a very disadvantaged rural migrant town including two years as a senior leader in a primary context and four years as Principal of a secondary academy where for 40% of students, English was not their first language. This followed nine years of senior leadership in a disadvantaged, inner city secondary school. xi


Notes on Contributors

Wendy  A.  Crocker is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education, Western University, Ontario, Canada. She teaches primarily in the graduate programs in the areas of curriculum, multi-literacies, and early childhood education. Crocker’s research interests stem from her lived experiences as an educator and principal working with Old Colony Mennonite children and their families in rural southwestern Ontario, Canada. Sam Frankel  combines an academic and practice-based engagement with children as he seeks to further understanding of the way they navigate their everyday lives. He is Creative Director of EquippingKids with current research projects in a range of schools across England. He is a part-time faculty at King’s, Western University, Canada. His recent publications include Negotiating Childhoods (2017; Palgrave Macmillan) and Giving Children a Voice (2018). Eunice Gorman  is a registered nurse and a PhD-prepared social worker with a history of working in oncology, end-of-life care, and bereavement support. She is currently an associate professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Programs (Thanatology) at King’s University College at Western University in London, Ontario. Her teaching and research focuses on palliative care, loss across the lifespan, and interprofessional education for health care professionals working with individuals and their families as death approaches, professional caregiver continuing education, traumatic loss, mystical experiences in end-oflife and bereavement care, and online supports for those who are grieving. Nadine Ivankovic  is Education Assistant in Ontario, Canada, supporting children with special needs within the classroom. She graduated from King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario, completing her Bachelor of Arts degree—Honors Specialization in Childhood and Social Institutions and Minor in Psychology and she has received a certificate in Childhood and the Justice System. She is also pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at Wilfred Laurier University. Ivankovic has a particular interest in advocating for children’s mental health as well as children’s participation and inclusion within legal matters such as divorce. Lindsay Izsak  is a program coordinator at a non-profit organization in Ontario, Canada. She helps support children and youth with special needs to attend inclusive recreational programs with one-to-one support. She graduated in 2015 from King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario, completing her Bachelor of Arts degree—Honors Specialization in Childhood and Social Institutions. She also received certificates in Childhood and Advocacy

  Notes on Contributors 


and Childhood and the Justice System. She has experience working in both education and recreational fields and continues to be passionate about childhood agency and advocacy within these areas of society. Allyson Larkin  is an associate professor at King’s University College at Western University. Her research and teaching fields include social justice and critical pedagogy, international service/experiential learning, international development and volunteering, citizenship, humanitarianism and cultural conflict. Recent research has focused on internationalization of higher education and the impact of international research on local communities in Tanzania and international experiential and service learning programs with communities impacted by transnational mining projects. Currently she is working on research in migration, conflict, and communities. Peter Lilja  is a senior lecturer at the Department of Children, Youth, Society at the Faculty of Education and Society, Malmö University, in Sweden. He is a certified upper secondary teacher and got his PhD in Education in 2014. His research interests are located at the intersection of education policy studies and the philosophy of education with special focus on questions relating to the role of the teacher/teaching, intergenerational relations in the context of education and the relationship between education and politics in general. Sally  McNamee is an associate professor in the Childhood and Social Institutions program at King’s University College, Western University, Canada. Her research interests include the social study of childhood, constructions of childhood held by practitioners, children’s leisure and children’s everyday lives. Her recent text The Social Study of Childhood: An Introduction was published in 2016. Alan  Pomfret  Following a childhood in Oakville, Ontario, he completed a doctorate focusing on educational change at the University of Toronto. In 1979, he took up residence in London, Ontario, with a position in Sociology at King’s University College at Western University. In 1999, the college approved his ­proposal to begin a Childhood and Social Institutions program. It was more successful than anyone anticipated. Finishing his professional career in childhood proved to be one of his very best decisions. Patrick J. Ryan  is currently President of the Society for the History of Children and Youth (est. 2001) and the long-time managing editor of H-Childhood (est. 1998). He is the author of Master-Servant Childhood: A History of the Idea of Childhood in Medieval English Culture (Palgrave, 2013) and dozens of articles,


Notes on Contributors

including the multi-media series of interviews Childhood: History and Critique. Since 2003, he has been faculty at King’s University College at Western University, Canada where he helped in building an undergraduate program in childhood and social institutions. Esme Turner  is a physiotherapist at Hope House, a children’s hospice covering a rural area of England and Wales. She uses her knowledge and skills as a therapist to holistically support the children and their families who use the hospice. Turner enjoys the creativity and spontaneity of the role—no two days are ever the same. She delivers training across the UK on a variety of different topics and has been involved in research. She is currently pursuing an MSc in palliative medicine. Despina Tzimoula  is a senior lecturer at the Department of Children, Youth, Society at the Faculty of Education and Society, Malmö University, in Sweden. Her PhD is in history and she has worked within gender studies and human rights. Her main research interest concerns issues of gender, nation and education, with special focus on intersectionality. Her recent research has also involved issues of digitalization within educational settings as well as the use of objects of formation and transformation of identity. Julie Walsh  joined the Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield in 2016, where she is currently Lecturer in Sociology. Prior to this, she worked and studied at the University of Hull, primarily teaching on the Youth and Community Work Degree. She holds her PhD from the University of Hull, received in 2016, and her research interests focus on international childhoods, family-making practices, culturally located perceptions of ‘the family’ and the role of ‘family’ in cohesion. More broadly, Walsh is interested in the impact on policy and media narratives on people’s everyday lived realities and innovations in research methods, with a particular focus on ethnographic approaches.

List of Figures

Chapter 4 Plate 4.1 Old Colony Mennonite pencil box on display in Ontario classroom73 Plate 4.2 Slate, math tables, and pencil box in a dorf school outside Cuauhtémoc, Mexico 77


List of Tables

Commentary on Chapter 6 Table 1 How happy do we feel in the classroom, at home, and on the playground?171 Table 2 Do we ‘fit in’—in the classroom, at home, and on the playground?171 Table 3 How helpful to our learning, is being in the classroom, at home or in the playground? 171


1 Introduction Sam Frankel and Sally McNamee

The impetus for this edited collection grew out of a desire to highlight the work of scholars in and affiliated with the Childhood and Social Institutions (CSI) Program at King’s University College, London, Ontario. The book takes as its focus the contexts of childhood and youth, both in terms of geography and in the encounters of everyday life. The CSI program at King’s was the first university college program anywhere in the world, but particularly in North America, to offer a three- or four-­ year undergraduate degree in what has become known as the ‘new paradigm’ of the social study of childhood. Faculty teach a range of critical S. Frankel (*) EquippingKids, Church Stretton, Shropshire, UK Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] S. McNamee Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



S. Frankel and S. McNamee

theoretical approaches to childhood and the program is multi-­disciplinary in focus. More recently we have introduced certificate or diploma courses in Childhood and the Justice System, and in Child Advocacy. Our program combines a unique focus on identifying often-overlooked child competencies and capabilities, a constructive questioning of existing understandings of childhood, and an exploration of the changing status of children and childhood in Canada and internationally. We take a critical view of the social institutions of childhood—the home, the school, the legal system, the educational system and others. Students can take exchanges in Sweden and in the UK. Our students engage with the opportunity to gain skills in critical thinking and social and historical analysis as well as in understanding how childhood is experienced by children. We concentrate on issues around children’s rights, children’s agency and power relations exercised by and experienced by children. Our stance is that here, we take childhood seriously. This year Dr. Alan Pomfret, who was instrumental in setting up this program in the late 1990s, retires. It is in celebration of the thinking that he has inspired but also with an eye on what is next that we present the following chapters to you. What the following chapters offer are a range of voices that reflect the multi-disciplinary nature of Childhood Studies. Some of the chapters and responses highlight views from those who might not even associate themselves with the discipline, and yet find themselves advocating for ideas that are deeply rooted in the theoretical journey that has developed over the last 20+ years. Indeed, part of the ambition here is to increasingly make those connections and allow for a more meaningful partnership between academics and practitioners from a range of backgrounds to unite behind an awareness of both the contextualised nature of childhoods but also the active way in which children come to make meanings within those spaces where they experience their everyday lives. In the dialogue that follows we simply aim to shine a light into partial yet significant areas of children’s lives. As a result, this book will pursue a sense in which Childhood Studies needs to zoom out from a predisposition to isolate the child, which has been seen as a necessary part of conceptualising childhood. As a result, our ambition is to focus on the place of the child through a consideration of both structure and agency, and by this seek to recognise the interconnected nature of the arenas

  1 Introduction 


within which children live their everyday lives, ‘this shifts the social study of childhood from a political stance, which was necessary in the early days of the formation of the new paradigm, to a more nuanced research agenda which represents more closely the reality of children’s… lives’ (Seymour and McNamee 2012: 104). It is by establishing a sense of the context within which children live their lives that this book will argue that we can come to understand the processes of agency more effectively. It is a perspective that has application much wider than simply children in Canada and is reflected in discussion in Sweden and the UK as well; thus reflecting the variable and changing construction of childhoods and the implications this has for children’s everyday experiences. The discussions that follow are not meant to capture a comprehensive view of childhoods across North America and Europe, but rather through some focused exemplars offer a basis for dialogue, which if explored more widely will enrich the tapestry of our understanding.

Contextualising Childhoods Why ‘contextualising childhoods?’ A growing feature of the Program which we introduced above is the extent to which students are showing an interest in applicability (as seen through our certificates and diplomas in Child Advocacy, and in Childhood and the Justice System). However, what has become clear is that for these courses to have meaning, and we would argue to ultimately be effective in providing a foundation for challenge and change, students need to embrace the theoretical connections between social structure and the agentic processes that come to inform action. Much debate within the academy, has in years past, reflected the sparring (both gentle and at times more aggressive) between camps that have raised a banner in support of one of these elements over the other as they make their case for the value of the discipline to the wider world. However mutual exclusivity is not, in our opinion, where the value lies but rather in the interrelationship of structure and agency. None of this is new. The work of Habermas (1987) for example on Lifeworlds and Systems Worlds shows the interconnection between institutionalised spaces and relational spaces, which in its simplest form reflects the way in which tradition and culture come to impact everyday life. The notion of


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colonisation that exists within this is also of particular relevance to a discussion on childhood, where adult attitudes come to dominate and define children’s experiences. Such thinking invites a reflection on the notion of capability spaces and the extent to which the nature and type of opportunities that there are in society—inform ongoing attitudes and ways of thinking about self. Here structure shapes agency—with implications for experiences. Last year we published a paper (McNamee and Frankel 2017) in response to a framework that one of us had been exploring as part of a new publication (Frankel 2017). What the framework presented was a view of the structure-agency connection developed through a reflection on Adrian James’ (2010) notion of a fabric, in which structure represents one strand and agency, interwoven with it, the other (more on this and the framework in Chap. 6). However, what this paper did was that it allowed us to argue why, in the context of research analysis, this relationship was of such value. At the heart of it was a recognition of the way in which the individual was positioning themselves within a certain setting and how their interactions could be reviewed in light of a constant process of reflection and refraction—shaping their actions or reactions. As such it highlighted the contextualising of the agentic process, as the children responded to perceived interpretations of how they should behave (as children) in this interaction. Out of this the notion of Contextualising Childhoods emerged as we wished to explore the extent to which we can increase our awareness of this interactive process of meaning making in relation to different settings. What the following chapters therefore offer are illustrations of the extent to which recognising a ‘contextualised’ back drop offers a basis for analysis—both in terms of what this ‘might’ mean for children’s experiences and what this ‘does’ mean for some.

Structure of the Book As such the chapters in this book reflect a range of examples that show how the notion of contextualising childhoods has application to furthering understanding in different settings but also at different stages

  1 Introduction 


within a process of analysis. To start, therefore, our focus reflects how understanding the structural dimension helps to build a backdrop from which we can come to understand or at least begin to assess children’s experiences. We begin this by foregrounding the chapter contributed by the person to whom this text is dedicated. Alan Pomfret’s chapter brings together a comprehensive overview of theories—several from outside of Childhood Studies—which nonetheless aid in the project of contextualising childhood. Many of these will be pointed to in the chapters that follow, although his discussion of capabilities (Sen 2011) brings a new focus to the discussion of competence and its links with agency. It allows us to see how context matters in that capabilities require not only the individual having the capacity to make choices and impose them on the world (James 2010) but there also being a situational opportunity within which to act. The discussion of thin and thick agency (Klocker 2007) to some extent takes into account capabilities in that there may be the competence to make choices (in Klocker’s case, for child domestic workers in Tanzania) there are limitations in the situational opportunities in terms of gender, tribe and age. Similarly, Frankel’s model (see commentary on Chap. 6) illustrates how children build meaning depending on individual competence and the situation. Does this mean, then, that we are all addressing the same issue but from different theoretical perspectives or drawing on differing explanations? Perhaps we are. However, each movement made in exploring, applying and using these theories in Childhood Studies helps those of us engaged in the study of childhood to utilise a variety of tools with which to understand issues of context. Pomfret asks ‘Are we up to the challenge of creating the capabilities that will provide [children] with opportunity’ to contribute and create change? The answer has to be, that with the continued attention to the issues raised through the theoretical study of childhood, through educating our students and equipping them with the tools that are required to provide opportunities for children to demonstrate capabilities in students’ future careers, change can happen. And, as the chapters in this book show, there are so many contexts within which this work is sorely needed. We aim in this text to be the agonistes which Pomfret alludes to in his title.


S. Frankel and S. McNamee

Part 1 Through a consideration of the education process in Sweden (Chap. 3) Peter Lilja and Despina Tzimoula demonstrate the evolving nature of an image of the child, which frames the practice space within which school comes to be ‘done’. This analysis highlights the place of dominant discourses and how those influence attitudes and approaches. The powerful notion of the child as a social agent that emerges, offers both encouragement but also challenge. For, although the case for children’s active role in their learning emerges, so too does the extent to which it provides both a level of transferred responsibility, as well as the normalisation of levels of surveillance. The rights or wrongs of this are not the focus here, but what is clear is the extent to which a post ‘new paradigm’ society offers the potential for adults to enforce a level of control in a range of different ways and under different guises. Indeed, Patrick J. Ryan’s response to this chapter, identifies with an undercurrent of adult control that sits behind education (and family related) policy in Canada. His reflection highlights the importance of understanding those structural roots, as we look back in history, if we are going to be able to respond to them effectively. In Chap. 4 we get a greater sense of how structure might come to shape a child’s everyday life. Here Wendy A. Crocker focuses on the case of Old Colony Mennonite children who, with their families, migrate from the Mennonite colonies in Mexico to South-Western Ontario. This chapter explores the intersections of culture and identity in school, where Mennonite migrant children are assumed by educators in the Canadian context to be in need of education, perhaps being non-English speakers or readers, as they have grown up in a Low-German-speaking community where the function of school is to prepare children for life in the church. Crocker points out, however, that Canadian educators fail to see the many competencies that these children possess. Crocker highlights the ways in which the Old Colony Mennonite children draw on their funds of knowledge and identity to negotiate the different contexts which frame their childhood experience. This chapter is followed by two responses. The first takes experiences of school leadership in England to consider the challenges facing migrant

  1 Introduction 


families and particularly children in school. It paints a positive picture of inclusivity, whilst recognising the constraints of the wider educational system and the reality of limited resources. The second response continues this focus on migrant families in the UK. This commentary was originally meant to be a response to Chap. 6, but here, through looking at the concept of ‘display’, offers an interesting progression to the discussion around belonging that flows from Chap. 4 and the practical reality of how this comes to be managed. Kate Bacon’s chapter on twinship (Chap. 5) takes our engagement with contextualised childhoods further as this investigation directly explores the structure-agency dialogue. Here she engages with an intergenerational assessment of both children and their parents. The focus on one family (although with reference to others) shows how in the context of exploring having or being a twin, the structural dimension plays an important part in shaping the ‘context’ within which meanings come to be made. What this chapter so expertly does is highlight the extent to which the individual has to work with the constructed notions of twinship that they hold. This is demonstrated in the way in which the children react to adult ‘ideals’ about what it means to be a twin, in terms of what they wear and how they relate to one another. However, it is not just children who are managing this construction but also their parents! What this chapter shows is how those structural features, through which a constructed notion of what it means to be a twin emerges, come to have an impact on how children experience their childhoods. The response directly addresses this backdrop from which a range of constructed understandings about childhood appear. Through the experiences of two former King’s students, a range of settings are explored, highlighting the way in which constructed views about childhood continue to define practices and presenting a challenge to those who think about the child in terms of their agency. This section finishes with a chapter and response that seeks to illustrate the way in which, through an investigation of belonging, we can move beyond traditional and limited views of the child to push on with a more progressive understanding of the value of engaging with the processes of agency through a focus on children’s personal lives. As such this chapter challenges the notion of belonging in terms of membership, but high-


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lights the extent to which it reflects assessments of self in light of relationships. Through applying the notion of ‘display’ a further tool is presented that deepens our ability to investigate the meaning that sits behind actions and the extent to which these can be seen as part of informing structure itself. Instead of relying on a different voice to respond to this chapter, the section that follows looks at a separate but related piece of research that extends the discussion into the realm of school based practice. It highlights how our developing understanding of the contextualised nature of childhoods, investigated through a growing ability to define a process of reflection and refraction has application that can inform how we seek to engage children in key everyday settings.

Part 2 The second section of the book offers three explorations of children or young people from slightly different perspectives. They reflect academic voices from within three very different areas—international development, thanatology and criminology. However, each piece offers a very valuable contribution to the growing place of, and importance in, a Childhood Studies perspective as a means for making sense of and in developing practice. A growing theme across these contributions is a need for engagement in what it means for children and young people to ‘effectively participate’. Drawing off the value of children’s voices as a tool for furthering social dialogue, and as a first step to any level of change (from the previous set of responses), here we look at that in these distinct settings with a range of important practice based implications. Larkin provides in Chap. 7 a useful critique of the notion of global citizenship education, a growing field in North American universities, whereby students go on ‘experiential’ learning trips to ‘other’ contexts— predominately countries in the global South—where they volunteer their time to ‘help’. Larkin points out that such approaches fail to position the youth volunteer as complicit in global capitalism but rather young people see themselves as benevolent citizens. In their commentary on this chapter, Lilja and Tzimoula consider the issues Larkin raises in terms of the Swedish context. There, we can identify a similar tendency of young

  1 Introduction 


people to identify themselves as the ‘globe-trotting’ citizen who is ‘making a difference’. Two chapters in this volume speak on issues around childhood and death. In Chap. 8, Gorman addresses children as mourners and dying children and challenges the predominant focus on age and developmental stage within which parents and practitioners routinely work. This chapter also takes account of the particularities of the Canadian context—its large land mass but relatively small communities, issues specific to the indigenous population and around Canada’s large immigrant population. The chapter provides a valuable perspective on what is often a taboo subject. In a commentary on this chapter, Turner, a physiotherapist in an English children’s hospice, addresses some of the ways in which child-centred communication and a focus on children as actors enhances the relationship between carers and the child. Dealing with issues of voice, participation and competence, this commentary provides points and case study examples for practice with children in the hospice setting, but which offers themes in terms of engagement that should be considered more widely. Chapter 9 brings the topic of youth suicide into focus. Bruno’s contribution looks at children, youth and suicide in a small Canadian town which suffered six teen suicides in less than a year, with as many as 40 suicide attempts by youth. She traces the community level response to this crisis, but reveals that action in the community to address and deal with these events was largely adult centric and that few people asked young people themselves for their views or comments. Her own research facilitated young people’s involvement in carrying out the research according to their ideas and priorities. In the chapter, she describes the process of instigating the participatory action research, including training in methods but also in sensitivity training for the young researchers, and highlights some of the problems and successes of the process. Sally McNamee’s commentary on Bruno’s chapter takes a broad look at issues around youth suicide in Canada, with a focus on what Children’s Advocates in Canada and the Children’s commissioner in England are doing to address the problem. The commentary notes that there has as yet been no real commitment to either involving youth in community-­based


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responses to the issues of youth suicide, or to listening to young people’s voices.

Conclusion Contextualising Childhoods offers examples of research and practice that are being made increasingly meaningful through a recognition of a structure-­agency dialogue. If we are to continue to build on what has been achieved then we need to be able to traverse this connection cleanly as a means of reflecting on settings that frame childhoods and also how this is responded to by the individual as they seek to navigate their everyday life. The chapters within this text—while a disparate collection—all aid us to understand the contexts of the lives of children and young people.

References Frankel, S. 2017. Negotiating childhoods. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Habermas, J. 1987. The theory of communicative action vol. 2. Lifeworld and system: A critique of functional reason. Boston: Beacon Press. James, A.L. 2010. Competition or integration? The next step in childhood studies? Childhood 17 (4): 485–499. Klocker, N. 2007. An example of ‘thin’ agency: Child domestic workers in Tanzania. In Global perspectives on rural childhood and youth, ed. R. Panelli, S. Punch, and E. Robson, 83–94. London: Routledge. McNamee, S., and S. Frankel. 2017. Subverting the research encounter: Context, structure and agency in the creative analysis of research data. In Researching children and youth: Methodological issues, strategies, and innovations, ed. I.E. Castro, M. Swauger, and B. Harger, 1st ed. Bingley: Emerald Publishing. Sen, A. 2011. The idea of justice. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University. Seymour, J., and S. McNamee. 2012. Being parented? Children and young people’s engagement with parenting activities. In Learning from the children: Childhood, culture and identity in a changing world, ed. J.  Waldren and I. Kaminski, 92–107. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

2 Childhood Agonistes: The Liminal Horizons of Late Modern Childhood Alan Pomfret

Introduction: The Long Illusion How could we have gotten it so wrong for so long? Seduced by the heady promises of the European Enlightenment, nation after nation embarked on a quixotic quest for the construction of the perfect society. The modern belief that we are in command of our destiny and can produce any desired outcome with the application of sufficient human will, intelligence and resources unleashed a relentless search for order manifested in a plethora of planned social change projects, ever increasing in scope and pace over time. Childhood did not escape this frenzy. It was added to Modernity’s to do list and became yet another one of Modernity’s projects. Authorities increasingly sequestered childhood, attempting to maximize control by awarding childhood a space of its own embedded in its own institutional nexus governed by child experts and associations armed

A. Pomfret (*) Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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with proprietary discourses and integrated structures, policies and ­practices. The situation appeared to be well in hand, except when it appeared otherwise, as is the case today. Discourses such as early childhood socialization and stage theories of child development were central actants in the search for order in the childhood space. They privileged apparently scientifically grounded understandings of children. They became integral components of the standard normative discourse (hereafter SND) of childhood—standard in that it is the widespread dominant way of thinking about children. Normative in that it is based on how children should be rather than how they are. Discourse in that SND talk circulates exclusively among adults, especially experts, intent upon refining a well-established pattern of perceptions. SND children are portrayed as vulnerable, immature, irrational, overly emotional, uninformed, helpless, and incompetent among other uninspiring traits. The SND informs the creation of expert controlled governing, managerial and knowledge production regimes. It offers the hope of understanding children without ever having to actually meet one. It promises to tame the chaos, both actual and feared and quell the rising levels of social anxiety arising from the inevitable uncertainties and risks accompanying social change efforts. (Beck 1999; Giddens 1984, 1990). Its focus on future child outcomes rather than children’s here-and-­ now lives converges well with early and mid-modernist value orientations. As does its focus on child protection and provision, the best interest of the child, and child needs and wellbeing, a focus necessitated by the very sequestering network which simultaneously caused and resulted from the discourses. Both socialization and developmental stage imagery have yielded useable insights into children and childhood. Still, two concerns remain. To what extent are socialization and development claims overstated? And to what extent do they obscure from view other, perhaps even more crucial, aspects of children and the childhood social space? These two concerns contributed to the institutionalization of the (now not so) new social study of childhood. Although there are individual intellectual predecessors to aspects of this perspective, an institutionally situated and loosely organized interdisciplinary group of academic researchers first emerged in Europe in the early 1990s. Through vaguely

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specified concepts such as voice and agency, early investigators explored the notion that children are much more self-directed and competent than previously realized, research findings corroborated by related work among cognitive scientists working with children. Children are presented as quite competent at resisting and accommodating social control attempts. They construct interpretations of self, others, and society, independently of what authorities communicate. Additionally, some researchers propose that childhood should be understood as a permanent social space rather than just an agglomeration of transitory immature individuals passing through something called a childhood stage on their way to greater things. Overtime, research based on such notions resulted in more insistent claims about the nature of children’s competencies and what such knowledge might imply for their position in society. Early researchers reported that children can and do decentre from parental concerns, even stressful ones involving conflict and abuse (Flowerdew and Neale 2003). Children interpret and respond to situations on their own terms rather than simply reflecting adult responses, whether it is watching questionable material on television or deciding what constitutes valuable ways of spending their time (Christensen 2002). Although children are influenced by parental actions and situations, often in unanticipated ways, they do not merely reflect or respond to them in some mechanical or predictable manner. Much more often than is generally acknowledged, children’s understandings are influenced by ethical considerations generated by children themselves. Children are more strongly integrated into the economy than people realize and are competent economic agents as well as self-aware about the work they perform (Woodhea 1999; Zelizer 2002). Spurred on by Articles 12 and 13 among others of the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), child participation in society assumed increased prominence in the emerging Childhood perspective. Children were increasingly presented as competent enough to be included as negotiating partners in collaborative decision-­making activities rather than simply competent enough to have views differing from those of adults. Inquiries into changing the societal status of childhood proceeded with a twin focus on desirable and practical ways of including children in existing adult exclusive endeavours


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while also limiting adult interventions into children’s activities and spaces. Although there may be some universal or general features of childhood, just as or even more significant are the diversities within childhood spaces. We should be talking more about childhoods in the plural, and not just a singular uniform childhood. Such investigations have acquired considerable complexity informed by more recent understanding of agency and voice as emergent properties of ongoing interactions within negotiation networks of human and non-human actants rather than simply as traits of individuals (Lee and Motzkau 2011; Prou 2005; Spyrou 2011; Stoecklin and Fattore 2018). Many outside as well as inside academia find the general value orientations of the Childhood perspective appealing. In selected societal sectors, there exists an increased awareness and acceptance of the notion that children have a will and mind of their own and that others should make an effort to listen to what children have to say by changing existing participation structures and practices in a more inclusive direction. As illustrated below, this is easier said than done. It remains unclear whether we yet realize fully what changes the acceptance of the emerging Childhood perspective requires. Unanswered questions remain about the mutual accommodations required to incorporate participation orientations into existing institutional protection and provision policies, practices, and structures. It is also likely that some significant components of the childhood domain remain uncharted. Developmental and socialization perspectives may account for some aspects of the childhood domain. Although the book on these two orientations may be smaller than claimed, it is by no means closed. While notions of voice and agency will add to the mapping of these domains, it is unlikely that they will address everything not covered by current theories.

Searching for Participation The current youth initiated and sustained March for Our Lives gun reform protest rallies and events are exemplars of the kinds of sophisticated participatory activities young people can mount. The protests are notable for another reason: the amazement and admiration expressed by

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television reporters and commentators that youth are able to accomplish such participatory feats. There is a Canadian precursor to this. Shortly after WW II ended, Canadian children and youth initiated and ran a national movement to protest a proposed increase in the price of chocolate bars from 5 to 8 cents at a time when the average allowance was 15 cents. From British Columbia the movement spread to the Maritimes. It garnered the support of many adults tired of the never ending general price increases. The protest did have the effect of decreasing chocolate bar sales nationally. A coordinated national day of protest was planned; but before the protest could take place, an anonymous informant to a Toronto paper claimed the movement was controlled by Communist agitators. The Canadian children did not have access to any effective means of countering such propaganda. Institutional leaders in churches and municipal councils across Canada began to successfully exert pressure on various youth groups to withdraw their support. The movement died. (Lammle 2013). The March for Our Lives organizers were also accused of being under the control of outside agitators. But unlike their Canadian counterparts in the Candy Bar Wars, the young March for Our Lives Americans had access to an extensive social media network allowing them to effectively negate and counteract such misinformation. Both instances should have provided a wakeup call for adults, especially institutional leaders. However, the expressions of support and encouragement by some adults exist simultaneously with dismissive and even derogatory pronouncements by others. Just one more signal among many that participation by children and youth remains a highly contested terrain. While rare, these are not isolated instances of vigorous child participation. Working children organizations exist in a number of majority world countries, some dating back to the 1970s (Liebel 2003, 2004; Taft 2015). Started by employed and often orphaned children, these organizations offer support to their members by providing earning opportunities, co-­ operatives, and even minimal health care in some instances. They also advocate at local, regional, and national levels for policies and other resources relevant to their concerns. Their general focus is on protecting the rights of working children rather than banning child labour. The Bolivian working children organization effectively overcame the resistance of national politicians to enact a controversial child labour law


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regulating the working conditions of children as young as ten (Howard 2014). If only it were always so easy to so fully engage children as co-­ participants, negotiators, collaborators, organizers, communicators, and decision-makers. Canada signed the UNCRC in 1991. Since then it has initiated a number of sporadic efforts to encourage greater participation by children in the system. Much remains to be done. Today UNICEF ranks Canada 26th out of 35 wealthy nations for ‘fairness to children’ and 25th out of 41 affluent nations in terms of children’s wellbeing (UNICEF 2017). Two main national initiatives are underway to address these and other child and youth related issues. For youth, the Canadian Prime Minister has established a Youth Policy Committee (Government of Canada 2018). He has also undertaken the role of Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Youth. According to the government web site: A youth policy is a commitment to create a vision for youth – by youth, which can guide the priorities and actions of governments and society, and ensure that youth voices are heard and respected. The Government of Canada wants to make this commitment and create a Youth Policy that will be a tool to help achieve goals that are important to youth and that will have a meaningful, long-lasting impact for all young Canadians.

Children as well as youth are included in a currently unfolding process to formulate a new Children’s Charter in nation-wide consultations with children and youth (Children First Canada 2017). They have produced a draft which is intended to serve as a basis for continuing consultations on a national basis. Clause 1 of the draft charter reads: 1. Child Participation & Youth Engagement We envision a Canada where childrens’ (sic) voices are empowered and children are valued as equal citizens, decision makers and leaders in Canadian society. We call for the following: • Children have a clear voice and opportunity to lead in their schools, families, governments and communities

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• Governments at all levels have processes and structures in place to gather input from children of all ages • Communities to share responsibility for equitable involvement of all children and youth Other areas of Canadian society have undertaken initiatives to increase child participation. In 2006, Section 16.1 of the Canada Evidence act 2006 was amended to read 16.1 (1) A person under fourteen years of age is presumed to have the capacity to testify.

Prior to 2006 the burden was on proving the child had the capacity to testify. Now the law requires proof they do not have such a capacity. This affects Federal courts which deal with criminal cases. With respect to children, this usually means abuse cases. Civil law in Canada is under provincial jurisdiction and includes separation and divorce proceedings. Provision is sometime made for children to have their stated wishes and preferences ascertained. But the main criterion remains the best interest of the child, a report prepared by an expert. The child’s stated wishes and preferences report is optional and may be turned over to the best interest writer to use as they see fit. In Ontario at least the law does make provision for the judge to talk to children but it is optional. This is in strong contrast to Germany where the best interest of the child assessment and the child’s stated wishes and preferences report are prepared by two different experts and are submitted independently and simultaneously to the judge. Many provincial youth and child advocacy agencies also promote child participation. Although many are charged with a protection mandate, others also include and even stress child participation, especially reaching out to marginalized groups of children. For example, the Ontario office has a group of young voice amplifiers who work with committees composed of affected children and have collaboratively produced a series of reports on how indigenous, disabled and in-care children view their situation and the changes they would like to see. These reports are then forwarded to the relevant provincial ministry for consideration and action.


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Child and youth involvement in the change process then ends. Numerous private and voluntary organizations have established youth advisory councils including Experiences Canada, Plan International Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, PREVNet which deals with bullying, 4-H Canada, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, among many others. There are also examples at more local levels, too numerous to mention. The current mobilization of bias, favouring enhanced child participation in principle, notwithstanding, participation has proven elusive in practice. Especially when one moves beyond a focus on children as information providers. Youth Advisory Councils are a case in point. Advisory Councils are a major mechanism used by organizations, especially political bodies, to incorporate child participation into their operations. Just how widespread Youth Advisory Councils in Canada are remains unknown (O’Connor 2013). Canada is not alone in this practice as child and youth councils are numerous in both minority and majority world countries. In Canada as elsewhere one of the stated aims of the Councils is to involve children in policy formulation by increasing their voice. However, in minority world countries such as Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Europe these councils often end up being places to meet new friends, learn a bit more about local communities, and possibly to develop some participatory competencies (Crowley 2015; Drakeford 2009; Forde and Martin 2016; O’Connor 2013; Pillay 2018). Their impact on local policies, practices and conditions is minimal to non-existent. Instances of children collaborating as co-participants with adults in areas of policy formulation, decision making, and evaluation and assessment of activities are non-existent. Moreover, the Councils themselves are often isolated and not linked to other local governing bodies in ways that could enhance their effectiveness. Nor are they provided with adult support staff that could assist with negotiating the pathways from Council discussions to community impacts. Children value making new friends, acquiring new competencies, and expanding their awareness of their local area. However, in interviews and surveys, many child participants state dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the process and their lack of contact with adult decision-makers. They

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state that they feel patronized and underestimated by dismissive adult decision-makers and politicians. There is evidence that some local authorities view Councils as training grounds for citizenship rather than legitimate deliberative assemblies deserving respect. Youthful participants state they can do more and want the opportunity to have a greater impact on their environment. Youth Councils in majority world countries also have a chequered record. However, they more often impact their local communities with accomplishments ranging from removing bees nest to getting local roads built. Additionally, some are better integrated into their local community’s governing environment with more effective linkages to other agencies (Crowley 2015). A noticeable pattern in the Youth Council studies is that child participants continue to try to find ways to carry out their stated mandate despite encountering numerous barriers. One particularly clear illustration of this is a government mandated ten-member group of young people charged with constructing an online Australian Youth Forum to ascertain the views of youth on a variety of issues (Pillay 2018). The ten youth were experienced in working with youth groups through the responsiveness and speed of social media. They very quickly ran into bureaucratic barriers resulting in slow to non-existent communication flows, difficulties in arranging meetings with senior officials, lack of response to early efforts, and often being left in the dark. Despite such treatment, some participants persisted in their efforts to try to fulfil their mandate by inventing innovate ways of consulting youth. In less dramatic form, this child persistence in the face of adult intransigence appears as a pattern in many Youth Council studies attesting to their stated preferences to at least be listened to and an ethical commitment to fulfilling their obligations.

 he Challenge of Participation: Systems, Life-­ T Worlds, and Capabilities What accounts for these difficulties? Why is it so difficult to make participation work? Why do such initiatives so often end up being yet just another sequestered educational or training venue for adults in waiting? Why do they not function as collaborative decision-making ventures


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with discernible impacts on local, regional and national policies and practices? Why is this especially so in minority world countries? A variety of influences are at work here. Chief among them are: (1) systems indifference and outright disdain of children’s and youths’ life-world sensibilities and (2) the social and cultural concomitants accompanying the rapid spread of mobile internet technologies among the young.

Adult Systems and Children’s Life-Worlds Initially adults in general were seen as the culprits. Later scholars offered the notion of generations as an explanation. Eventually some targeted professionals as potential culprits. The debates around these contenders remain open. A number of considerations do raise concerns about these explanations. Many adults, notably parents, but also others, do not agree with the SND, as witnessed by the rise of negotiation families. Generation is another notion that is very general with many exceptions to, or variations in, general trends. It sometimes appears simply as another word for adults. Outside of families, most adults interacting with children are employed as professionals in what we can call systems such as education, justice, health, welfare, and recreation, among others. Professionals, however, are not free floating agents. They are not at liberty to act unencumbered in accordance with their conscience, to set goals and devise means of achieving them, and pursue what they determine is an appropriate course of action. They are employed by systems after following a mandated process of professional training and certification. By training and circumstance professionals are constrained to relate to children within a predefined set of mandated policies and practices derived from some variant of the SND. Still, professionals often find themselves at odds with the policies and practices they are mandated to enact. In many cases people do what they do because they have to, not because they want to or prefer to. If it is not adults, generations, or professions that account for weak participatory outcomes then something else must be at work. That something is systems. The notion of Systems has been evoked by numerous scholars as a way of framing societal trends and developments. Chief among them is Jurgen

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Habermas (1984) and his twinned notions of systems and life-worlds. This corresponded roughly to the governing institutions charged with running society on the one hand and people’s everyday experiences outside the system on the other. These two domains of social action are differentiated by distinctive communicative systems. Each system is characterized by distinctive values, preferences, practices and conventions. From their origins in sixteenth century Europe, systems have undertaken the self-appointed task of reforming rather than simply ruling the life-worlds (Taylor 2007). According to Habermas these reform or colonizing initiatives intensified as systems expanded in scope and size. Two recent illustrations of this disdain based colonizing tendency are Nudge Theory and Parenting Styles research. Nudge Theory’s (2008) creator was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2018. Nudge starts with the notion that adults have two cognitive systems: automatic and reflexive. The reflexive system is agentic but is used less frequently than the non-agentic automatic system. Consequently, people often make bad decisions. The Nudge notion is that you can get people to make better decisions by making small adjustments to the environment and rely on the automatic cognitive system to do the rest. Examples would be the way food choices are arranged in cafeterias or what is presented as the default option in areas such as joining a pension plan. The system has taken notice. The United Kingdom government established a Behavioural Insights Unit based on this theory. The United States created the now defunct Social and Behavioral Sciences Team with the mandate to develop ways of using Nudge Theory to better regulate the citizenry. Parenting Styles research provides a less clear but equally compelling illustration. Canadian researchers work with the related notion of parenting practices. Both reflect the belief that what parents do is decisive for children in a predictable way. As such they are key components of the SND.  They promote the idea that parenting is a skill set that can be learned through proper training by systems embedded parenting experts. Unacceptable child outcomes are the result of inadequate parenting (which usually means the mother). Parents are blameworthy because they fail to seek the appropriate training. The World Bank attempted to export these minority world orientations to majority world situations as part of


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its efforts to fight poverty (Penn 2002). In Ontario this outlook received official expression in the April 1999 Early Years report submitted by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (McCain and Mustard 1999). This report was accepted by the Ontario government and formed the basis for establishing a number of early years centres. These illustrations offer insights into some of the differences between systems and life-worlds. Only a few key ones are mentioned here. Systems rely on hierarchical authoritative command structures to focus primarily on instrumental rationality, a dominant concern with developing the means of achieving goals without giving sufficient thought to the goals being sought or providing effective channels for questioning the goals. Patterned relationships linking relevant societal variables to one another are also preferred. Related to this is the use of indicators that reinforce the preference for patterns. For example, the use of chronological age to organize the educational grade system. An ethic of rights and fairness informs how different categories of systems members connect to one another. Systems tend to be preoccupied with their own survival and expansion. Decisions reflect what is good for the system rather than for the individuals in it. By way of contrast, life-world concerns focus more exclusively on the uniqueness of individuals. Relationships tend to be characterized by negotiations among equals based on an ethic of response and care to relationships and involving more discussion of goals. Experiential rather than chronological age matters more and is one of the ways of acknowledging and taking into account individual differences and variations. Individuals often have more say over issues that matter more to them. When the system invites children to participate, it is simply not a matter of incorporating more individuals into already established communication practices. The challenge is not simply to make room for more participants in a pre-existing context but to actually change the context in which the initiative is taking place. Children’s and youths’ sensibilities have been formed in the life-world. It is what they know and even prefer. They bring these sensibilities in the form of expectations, preferences, competencies, and ethics to the participatory activity. They expect to receive respectful treatment, to discuss goals, and to see results. The system, with its long history of disdain based colonization towards the life-­ world, is unaware that it has to accommodate to these life-world

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sensibilities and often believes that it should not do so anyway. Consequently, there is little discussion of what can and should change in order to maximize the likelihood that the participatory initiatives will produce the stated outcomes. The notion of responsibility is one reasonably well documented example of a childhood specific life-world sensibility. Jans (2004) situates children’s notion of responsibility deriving from their life-world play experiences. During play children often pursue paths that eventually become too complex for them to handle, at which time they abandon the game and start another. They feel they should not be held responsible for things which they should not be expected to do. It would be irresponsible for them to continue. Bjerke (2011) refines this insight in his sample of Norwegian children talking about responsibility. Children feel they should be responsible for some things within their power but not for things beyond their means. The responsibilities children considered reasonably within their grasp related to life-world activities such as going to the corner store on their own. They argued they should not be held responsible for systems related responsibilities such as financial matters from which they were, in any event, excluded. In discussing children’s involvement in separation and divorce proceedings Neale (2002) argues for a responsive mode of participation whereby children could enter or leave the discussions based on their perceived ability to handle the cognitive and emotional complexity of specific issues. It is not enough to train children or provide them with maturing or socializing experiences. Child participation based exclusively on systems requirements results in only minimal beneficial outcomes at best. Achieving more robust child participation outcomes requires system accommodations to childhood specific, life-world based characteristics.

Capabilities What should inform decisions about which accommodations may be both desirable and practicable? Sen’s (2011) notion of capabilities may be helpful here. Sen sees capabilities as opportunities for individuals to make choices they have reason to value. Capabilities are real rather than just


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formal choices in that individuals can actually act on the choices they make. Generally, the capability literature typically presents capabilities as something associated with individuals. However, capabilities have a situational as well as an individual face. On the one hand, for an opportunity to be a capability, individuals must be competent enough to act on the choices they make. On the other, the opportunity must be present in the situation. It is not enough that individuals be competent to act on an opportunity. And it is not enough that an opportunity be available in the situation. Both conditions are required. It is important not to confuse capabilities with competencies. Individuals, for example, may be presented with the capability to acquire additional competencies. This chapter focuses on this more situationally oriented understanding of capabilities. Hengst (2001) identifies an exponential growth in action opportunities as a central feature in the emergence of new childhood life-world cultural spaces. Action opportunities are choices available to children and youth which they may or may not select. The choice is up to them. Action opportunities stand in contrast to command opportunities, such as mandatory school attendance, which are more typically associated with systems. Capabilities can be seen as action opportunities which children have reason to value. The valuing requirement increases the complexity of the capability concept as it references not individual preferences but one of the many ethical stances that are seen as generally acceptable even after adequate public scrutiny and discussion. This requirement positions capabilities as a more specific guide for identifying, justifying and assessing systems accommodations than does the notion of action opportunities. Capabilities also spotlight children’s oft reported capacity to ground their thoughts and actions in their notions of what is right and wrong. With participation, the aspect of children’s lives of primary interest is the contextually mediated capacity of children to act intentionally and ethically. This is the definition of agency used in this chapter. The capabilities notion is useful as it includes the explicit requirement that children’s valuing be taken into account. Change and accommodation suggestions based on notion of rights and citizenship do not explicitly require taking children’s meanings into account although there is nothing about such concepts that prohibits consulting with children, as

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many proponents do. Ascertaining children’s stated wishes and preferences obviously involves consulting with children but does not necessarily encourage discussion of ethical considerations, although again such discussions are not prohibited either. More familiar criteria such as needs, best interests and wellbeing require hardly any consultation with children and are SND based adult-centric constructions. Failure to consult with children runs the risk of advocating for changes which children do not value and of creating opportunities which are only formal in nature. For example, one report on the Welsh national youth council, Funky Dragon, found the youth valued only two of the three recognition components specified by the theory guiding the investigation (Thomas 2012). Capability creation focuses attention on real opportunities in terms of how children actually prefer to live their lives. In charting a course of action in conditions of high uncertainty, it is useful to proceed along all the above lines of inquiry but with a better understanding of the advantages and potential drawbacks of the various options. Systems should change in the direction of creating capabilities taking childhood experientially grounded life-world agentic competencies into account. To date, system initiated child participation efforts have prioritized command opportunities within a general stance of requiring participation on system’s terms. In initiating child-participating projects systems are unknowingly inviting life-world sensibilities into their environments. It remains to be seen just how welcoming systems will be.

Enter Mobile Internet Technology Related to the above is the ubiquitous spread of mobile internet technology (hereafter MIT). Currently there is growing awareness of how systems use MIT, through tactics such as micro-targeting and echo chambers, to further colonize adults’ and children’s life-worlds with the explicit purpose of advancing systems agendas. Conversely, these technologies provide individuals, especially children and youth, with the means of strengthening the life-world by creating capabilities for children to exert more control over aspects of their lives that matter to them. MIT is not creating a new kind of child. It is changing childhood. Imaginations and play capacities have always enabled children to act on their desire for


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more freedom by mentally temporarily escaping adult-constructed boundaries. MIT has greatly enhanced children’s capacity to act upon this foundational orientation. MIT changes childhood more than it changes children by providing affordances viewed by many children as capabilities. This new and ever expanding capability-rich childhood environment allows children and youth to re- position themselves with respect to their participation in systems. This trend received dramatic representation by the youthful speaker at the March for Our Lives Washington DC rally who waved a cell phone above his head proclaiming that youth now had the means of taking back more control of their lives. MIT raises the bar for child engagement in systems, generating expectations of children for greater recognition as well as achieving results in a more timely manner. In the key area of education, MIT fosters the expansion of a highly agentic, child constructed, informal learning environment firmly embedded in the children’s life-world spaces. This informal environment has always been with us. MIT simply greatly enhances it to the point where it now competes with systems constructed formal learning environments rather than merely co-existing along with them. This trend is reinforced by perceptions that the old institutions are of minimal value in navigating new, unfamiliar, and rapidly changing environments. Rather than relying on guidance from seemingly out-of-touch established institutions, children find their way through the new uncertainties by engaging in what Hengst characterizes as a process of bricolage. The social consequences that may be forthcoming as these early trends gather strength and speed remain unknown (Seitzer 2018).

Starting with Children System initiated participation efforts are one route researchers have investigated in attempts to gain a greater understanding of child participation informed by notions such as agency and voice. Another is to start with insights about how children actually enact agentic participation and to then explore how adults, systems based and otherwise, can collaborate with children to foster agentic capacities.

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Baraldi’s (2014) notion of promotional communication systems illustrates this child grounded approach. Communications are characterized as a series of ongoing verbal interactions which eventually result in a shared understanding among participants. In promotional communications, adults converse with children in ways that facilitate the display of children’s agentic competencies promoting them by enhancing children’s epistemic authority within the communication system. In communications with children, adults create capabilities for children to exhibit and even develop agentic capacities. He contrasts this with more typical systems oriented command communications systems such as IRE in which teachers initiate an Inquiry, students Respond, and teachers then Evaluate the response. In promotional systems control of the communication is shared with children who are provided with considerable leeway as to directing the course of the interaction. In what is probably one of the best studies of natural language use, Wells (2009) notes similar communication patterns but documented how promotional systems are more often found in the life-world of the home with more command type communication systems located in classrooms clearly showing how context affects communication systems. Baraldi, however, argues it is possible to implement promotional communications within systems. A particularly strong example of this is from one of the reproduced transcripts— Example 6. In this conversation the facilitator starts out trying to develop an existing topic. Bracketing for the moment what the conversation is about and focusing instead on how it is conducted, Turn 1 begins with the facilitator attempting to direct an existing communication. Fac: I would like to say that we have said many right things, many good interesting things, but in your opinion with all these things that we have said, do you also have any suggestions so that we can find a solution in case these things happen?

However, in Turn 3 a child initiates a request to take control of the communication, in effect, indicating a preference for the creation of a capability. M2: I would like to say another thing


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This attempt is supported by the facilitator in Turn 4. In Turn 4 the facilitator has, in effect, created a capability within the communication system. Fac: Go ahead Go ahead (from Baraldi 2014: 86)

In the rest of the transcript, the children, now with enhanced epistemic authority, begin exhibiting their emergent agency. As Baraldi notes, the facilitator promotes this changed situation by clarifying meanings but otherwise giving minimal feedback. Stuart Lester provides a second illustration of a child-grounded approach in his discussion of play. The right to play is covered in Article 31 of the UNCRC. It states: That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. That member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

It is set apart from the other participation articles (21–17) and has attracted relatively little attention, not receiving a General Comment until April 2013. Its implications, if the Article is taken seriously, are quite revolutionary. The Scottish parliament recently debated the provisions of a piece of new child legislation. The debate, which took place over approximately two years, began with a focus on children’s rights, including the right to play, but ended up being based on the notion of child wellbeing. At one point in the debate, an alarmed Scottish parliamentarian exclaimed, somewhat incredulously: Are you really saying that if we incorporate the UNCRC in domestic legislation and there is then a challenge, with somebody saying that their rights were somehow breached because they were forbidden to play, or their play was stopped, it would be a matter for the courts to decide?

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The honourable member identified a distinct possibility (Tisdall 2015). Lester (2013) presents play as a kind of micro-politics performed by children attempting to transcend adult constructed boundaries. Most of the examples of the attempts he cites are located in one or another system. In some cases, they are aided by adults employed by the system. Lester reproduces a memorable transcript from Hannikainen’s (2001) study of a kindergarten classroom. In a conversation reminiscent of the transcript from Baraldi the transcript reveals a teacher collaborating with her students to momentarily create an alternative, and presumably more enjoyable environment, a kind of break from ongoing classroom routines. As in the Baraldi transcript, the conversation begins with the teacher assuming a controlling role by trying to carry out a routine roll call. On Turn 4 a student initiates a request for taking the conversation in a different direction. In response to the roll call, instead of answering ‘here’ he states: Peter: ‘No, [not here], I am down inside Magnus’.

Several students indicate their support and approval. The teacher then gives permission to move the conversation in this direction by contributing to the imaginative play, in effect creating a capability. Sara asks, with a twinkle: ‘Are you down inside Magnus?’ (Lester 2013: 32)

With their epistemic authority enhanced, the students and teacher continue to build up the emerging communication system with some quite imaginative creations. This transcript can be interpreted from the perspective of promotional communication systems and from the vantage point of the capability perspective. Again we ignore the content of the conversation and focus instead on how the participants choose to communicate. The teacher takes a more active role in this conversation than did the facilitator in the Baraldi transcript. The intent and effect are the same. Most of Lester’s empirical examples involve children playing without the collaboration of a supportive adult. He positions these playful acts as


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ways children have to resist and accommodate controls mainly imposed by systems based adults. Tam’s (2012) socio-dramatic informed study of a Hong Kong kindergarten nicely illustrates many of Lester’s themes. She reports on the ways in which the students attempt through play to transcend classroom constraints through engaging in bricolage processes such as hybridization, disguise, and invalidation, sometimes by improvising upon teacher defined settings and sometimes by inventing entirely new scenarios. While the Lester transcript can be seen as an example of a promotional conversation, it is more difficult to make the case that the Baraldi transcript illustrates a form of play. Both, however, make the case that children routinely construct highly valued participative environments for themselves, with or without adult collaboration, even in settings that on the surface appear highly constraining. The discussion of promotional communication systems and especially Lester’s equation of play with micro-politics is isomorphic with recent discussion of performative citizenship as that concept has been applied to adults. Performative citizenship has five distinct but overlapping features (adapted from Engin 2017): (a) citizenship involves political and social struggles over who may and may not act as a subject of rights; (b) these struggles feature not only citizens but also non-citizens as relational actors; (c) citizens and non-citizens include different social groups making rights claims; (d) people enact citizenship by exercising, claiming, and performing rights and duties, and; (e) when people enact citizenship, they creatively transform its meanings and functions. It is an open question as to how much children value a formalized status. As with adults, children do, however, often strive for the freedom to express and develop their emerging agency, for a space they can call their own, a space rich in capabilities, one they can participate in with

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others through negotiation, and one which serves as a reference point for engaging with other societal settings. While some current trends, such as MIT, appear to be increasing child freedoms, other trends, such as widespread risk anxiety, appear to be doing the opposite. The striving, however, remains. Baraldi’s promotional communication systems, Lester’s play activities, and Tam’s bricolage pathways are examples of children engaging in life-world oriented performative citizenship whenever they can manage to shape environments, even systems settings, so that they afford the capability for children to act on their competencies. The substantive question is to what extent can and should systems support child specific agentic aspirations and participatory competencies. The Finnish school system appears to be accommodating children’s performative citizenship rights through structuring a less intrusive system by providing children more time on their own and by diversifying school activities that allow more opportunities to choose from a range of activities. Children’s museums, such as the London, Ontario Children’s Museum, that are activity rather than preservation oriented, advocate for children’s playful citizenship by deliberately pursuing ways of creating capabilities for children as they develop new facilities and exhibits. It is not that systems cannot change. The question is will they, and in what ways. Children’s existing participative competencies, and their ability to acquire additional ones, are greater than is generally acknowledged as is system’s capacity for accommodation. Inviting children and youth to participate in systems is often seen either as an expansion of their citizenship capacity or, more often, a great opportunity for children to develop into citizens. From the perspective presented in this chapter, however, just the opposite may be the case. Systems initiated participation invitations may actually be asking children and youth to give up, however temporarily, their citizenship status in a life-world they value for a lessened citizenship status in a systems environment of questionable value to them. If only things were actually this clear. Still, despite the complexities, ambiguities and uncertainties of the current situation it is difficult not to conclude that it is more than just the children that need to change.


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Late modernity, characterized as it is by unrelenting planned and unplanned social change, fuelled by factors such as MIT, rising risk anxiety, human will unfettered by ethical constraints among many other influences, requires us to confront change whether we want to or not. We have some idea of where we are and a growing awareness that we cannot stay here. This is especially true for one of the most rapidly changing and highly contested societal sectors, the childhood space. But where do we go? There is a good chance that there is not really such a thing as a destination. Just endless motion reflected in ongoing processes of change, resistance, and accommodation from individual to collective levels. But not knowing where we will end up does not mean we should ignore how we conduct the voyage. Children have a potentially important part to play in addressing these unique challenges. Are we up to the challenge of creating the capabilities that will provide them with opportunity to do so?

References Baraldi, C. 2014. Children’s participation in communications systems: A theoretical perspective to shape research. Sociological Studies of Children and Youth 18: 63–92. Beck, U. 1999. World risk society. Malden: Polity Press. Bjerke, H. 2011. Children as ‘differently equal’ responsible beings: Norwegian children’s views of responsibility. Childhood 18 (1): 67–80. Canada, C.  F. 2017. Canadian children’s charter: A call to action to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of Canada’s children. Last Accessed April 2018. Christensen, P. 2002. Why more ‘quality time’ is not on the top of children’s lists: The ‘qualities of time’ for children. Children & Society 16: 77–88. Crowley, A. 2015. Is anyone listening?: The impact of children’s participation on public policy. The International Journal of Children’s Rights 25 (3): 602–621. Drakeford, M.E.A. 2009. Welsh children’s views on government and participation. Childhood 6 (2): 247–262.

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Engin, I. 2017. Performative citizenship. In Oxford handbook of citizenship, ed. A.E.A. Shachar. New York: Oxford University Press. Flowerdew, J., and B. Neale. 2003. Children with multiple challenges in their post-divorce family lives. Childhood 10 (2): 147–161. Forde, C., and S. Martin. 2016. Children and young people’s right to participate: National and local youth councils in Ireland. International Journal of Children’s Rights 24: 135–154. Giddens, A. 1984. The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 1990. The consequences of modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Canada, G. O. 2018. Building a youth policy for Canada. https://youthaction. ca. Last Accessed April 2018. Habermas, J. 1984. The theory of communicative action. Boston: Beacon Press. Hannikainen, M. 2001. Playful actions as a sign of togetherness in day care centres. International Journal of Early Years Education 9 (2): 125–134. Hengst, H. 2001. Rethinking the liquidation of childhood. In Childhood in Europe: Approaches--trends--findings, ed. M. Bois-Reymond, H. Sünker, and H. Krüger. New York: Peter Lang. Howard, N. 2014. On Bolivia’s new child labour law.’s-new-child-labour-law. Last Accessed April 2018. Jans, M. 2004. Children as citizens: Towards a contemporary notion of child participation. Childhood 11 (1): 27–44. Lammle, R. 2013. A brief history of the 1947 chocolate candy bar strike. http:// Last Accessed April 2018. Lee, N., and J.  Motzkau. 2011. Navigating the bio-politics of childhood. Childhood 18 (1): 7–19. Lester, S. 2013. Rethinking children’s participation in democratic processes: A right to play. Sociological Studies of Children and Youth 16: 21–43. Leibel, M. 2004. A will of their own: Cross-cultural perspectives on working children. London/New York: Zed Books. Liebel, M. 2003. Working children as social subjects. The contribution of working children’s organizations to social transformation. Childhood 10 (3): 265–285.


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McCain, M.N., and J.F.  Mustard. 1999. Reversing the real brain drain: Early years study: Final report. Toronto: Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Neale, B. 2002. Dialogues with children: Children, divorce and citizenship. Childhood 9 (4): 455–475. O’Connor, C.D. 2013. Engaging young people? The experiences, challenges, and successes of Canadian youth advisory councils. Sociological Studies of Children and Youth 16: 73–66. Penn, H. 2002. The world bank’s view of early childhood. Childhood 9 (1): 118–132. Pillay, A. 2018. Online youth political engagement and bureaucratization: The Australian Youth Forum. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 1–15. full/10.1177/1354856517750363. Last Accessed April 2018. Prout, A. 2005. The future of childhood: Towards the interdisciplinary study of childhood. London/New York: RoutledgeFarmer. Seitzer, R. 2018. Fault lines on display: In a fast-changing world, nearly everything is unsettled in higher education. news/2018/02/16/conference-shows-higher-educations-many-tensions-andchallenges. Last Accessed April 2018. Sen, A. 2011. The idea of justice. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Spyrou, S. 2011. The limits of children’s voices: From authenticity to critical, reflexive representation. Childhood 18 (2): 151–165. Stoecklin, D., and T.  Fattore. 2018. Children’s multidimensional agency: Insights into the structuration of choice. Childhood 25 (1): 47–62. Taft, J.K. 2015. “Adults talk too much”: Intergenerational dialogue and power in the Peruvian movement of working children. Childhood 22 (4): 460–473. Tam, P.C. 2012. Children’s bricolage under the gaze of teachers in sociodramatic play. Childhood 20 (2): 244–259. Taylor, C. 2007. A secular age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Thomas, N. 2012. Love, rights and solidarity: Studying children’s participation using Honneth’s theory of recognition. Childhood 19 (4): 453–466. Tisdall, K. 2015. Children’s wellbeing and children’s rights in tension. International Journal of Children’s Rights 23: 769–789. UNICEF. 2017. UNICEF report card 14: Child well-being in a sustainable world. https:// Last Accessed April 2018.

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Wells, G. 2009. The meaning makers: Learning to talk and talking to learn. 2nd ed. Bristol/Buffalo: Multilingual Matters. Woodhead, M. 1999. Combatting child labour: Listen to what the children say. Childhood 6 (1): 27–49. Zelizer, V. 2002. Kids and commerce. Childhood 9 (4): 375–396.

Part I

3 After the Century of the Child: Swedish Education and the Transformation of the Role of the Child Peter Lilja and Despina Tzimoula

Introduction For many years, Sweden, and what has been called the Swedish model, has been considered an international role model in terms of social and educational policy. From the start of the twentieth century, the overarching ideology behind the social model regulating the Swedish welfare system was that of Swedish Social Democracy. In order to engineer a social model that would ensure individual equality beyond the restrains of class and gender, reforms of family and educational policies became key strategies in order to bring about desired social changes. In many ways, questions pertaining to childhood came to be a central part of Swedish social reforms. The twentieth century, according to Ellen Key, was to become “the century of the child” and in many ways, it did. A vital strategy for fundamentally trying to change the very basis of

P. Lilja (*) • D. Tzimoula Department of Children, Youth, Society at the Faculty of Education and Society, Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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society has always been to start with the young, the next generation. Consequently, one of the most important goals for the social democratic reform agenda of the twentieth century was to implement policies designed to compensate for a structural inequality manifested in the existence of a class-based society where the opportunity to succeed in life was more dependent upon your ancestry than upon your willingness to work or learn. In this ambition, the educational system became one of the most important tools for achieving these goals. As is argued by Arnesen and Lundahl (2006, 285) ‘there were high hopes that a uniform, free-of-charge education for children from all social strata would contribute to equality and justice, and promote social cohesion’. In 1968, the Swedish Minister of Education, Olof Palme, underlined the importance placed on the educational system by the Social Democrats as he claimed that ‘[t]he school is, and remains, the key to abolishing a class-based society’ (Oftedal Telhaug et al. 2006, 253). In other words, in order to construct a modern society, new pedagogic influences focusing more directly on the child became a vital political tool for creating an educational system designed to serve the “modern”, equal and democratic citizen. As a result, childhood in Sweden, up until this day, is largely lived within the context of the educational institutions and it could be argued that it is, mainly, in relation to the educational system that the view of children and childhood in Sweden is constructed. In what follows, we aim to describe some fundamental developments within Swedish educational policy focusing especially on the idea of educational individualization as a way of placing the child at the center of the educational activity and thereby as a vital agent in the construction of a more equal and just future. As we will argue, these historical trends, coupled with the neo-liberal influences within contemporary educational policies, have created a strong discourse of childhood within Swedish society, centered on the concept of ‘the competent child’. However, as we will show, the neo-liberal transformation of the idea of educational individualization has far-reaching consequences in terms of what competencies children are to develop as well as for the overall relationship between the state and the individual in Sweden.

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 llen Key and Alva Myrdal: Liberating Children E from the Bonds of Tradition One important aspect of the historical development of Swedish education, and particularly the place for children within Swedish society, is the influence of the Swedish feminist movement. For example, one of Sweden’s internationally most famous educational thinkers, Ellen Key, considered the question of women’s liberation and the responsibility of the state for safeguarding the education and rights of children as interrelated, something made obvious in her internationally celebrated book The Century of the Child, published in Sweden in the year 1900. The starting point of The Century of the Child is the Rousseau-inspired idea of the inherent goodness of children. Following from this, Key describes the educational process as follows; “allowing nature quietly and slowly to help itself, taking care only that the surrounding conditions help the work of nature: that is education” (Key 1900, 107). As a result, the question of agency—children’s agency—is at the very core of Key’s educational arguments. She believed that there was a need to shape a society that makes it possible for children to be agents of their own life, their own environment and their own future (Ambjörnsson 2012; Tzimoula 2008, 128). In order to accomplish this, adults should be careful not to intervene too much in the natural development of children. Consequently, Key became a strong opponent of the educational system of her time, built upon ideas of authority, discipline and obedience. Instead, she proposed—in line with other Rousseau-inspired educational thinkers—an educational system based on freedom in order to give all children the possibility to learn and grow in accordance with their own preconditions and personal dispositions. This does not mean that children should be free to do whatever they want. For Key, all education requires a certain amount of obedience, but the educators should strive for a “voluntary obedience” rather than punishments and threats. For Key, this was ultimately a question of creating a sustainable democratic social order. In order to be able to participate as responsible democratic citizens, all children—and consequently all men and women—needed to be properly educated. As a result, Key became one of the earliest proponents of the


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creation of a unified comprehensive school for children from all social classes. Such a school, she argued, should focus on thematic studies comprising theoretical as well as practical subjects. Above all, the education of children should be closely aligned to the world outside the school walls, in order to make it relevant to the post-educational lives of children (Burman 2014). In many ways, Ellen Key expressed educational views that, though rather radical in her own days, would come to make up the core ideas of Swedish education during the following decades of the 1900s. She became one of the very first educational and social thinkers highlighting the importance of children’s perspectives in matters of educational and social reforms. She was also one of the first to argue for the interconnectedness of children’s rights, education and family structure with issues of gender equality and class affiliation. However, even though she did recognize that “the difference in education is the deepest of all class marks”, it would still take several years until issues of education became one of the most central political concerns in Swedish politics (Ambjörnsson 2012, 175). A few decades later another powerful advocate for children and children’s rights appeared on the political stage in Sweden—Alva Myrdal. She was a public intellectual, a prominent member of the Social Democratic Party, and is considered, together with her husband, Gunnar Myrdal, as one of the central architects of what was to become internationally known as the Swedish welfare model. In 1934, the Myrdals published a co-authored study called Crisis in the Population Question, in which several reforms, aimed at addressing the problem of declining birth rates at that time, were suggested. According to Alva Myrdal, this was a problem that could not be solved only by focusing on issues of poverty. Instead, she argued, social reforms aimed at women and children were needed, designed to liberate women as well as to break the unjust life chances of a class-based and unequal society. Such reforms were to be general and thereby available to, and benefit, the entire population. The reforms dealt with issues regarding childbearing, day care, healthcare and social housing, and among the reforms suggested was housing subventions for large families, free healthcare for children, free education for all children (including books and other

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necessary materials) and the ­introduction of a state funded child allowance for every child, regardless of social background (Hirdman 2006). The central objective of these reforms was to ensure domestic liberty, not least for women (Nilsson 1994), and to create a more just society with equal opportunities for all citizens. In order to break the reproduction of the class society, Myrdal argued that the fostering of children should be the responsibility of the state. Only the state, she claimed, could guarantee the well-being of all children as family patterns were too diverse and sometimes too restricting, not least because of class affiliation, to allow all children to develop in accordance with their personal dispositions and to reach their fullest potential. As was argued in the introduction above, within the efforts of the Social Democrats to create a new welfare society, the educational system came to be a vital tool. For Alva Myrdal, this included the creation and expansion of the preschool system, catering to the needs of the youngest children. Creating a preschool system that was equal to all, regardless of family background, she argued, was the only way to obtain equality in the access to a good education (Myrdal 1935). In order to break the reproduction patterns of social classes, every child should have the right to attend a preschool where they would be brought up collectively by professionals trained in the latest scientific ideas of child rearing, in an airy and homelike environment. According to Myrdal, these institutions would also be charged with monitoring the health of every child, making (health) care and fostering the guiding objectives of the preschool system. Many of the ideas of Alva Myrdal and her contemporaries were to be implemented following the end of the Second World War. Having been faced with the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism, the promotion of democracy came to be one of the most central objectives of the educational reforms of the latter part of the 1900s. In order to secure a democratic system, the school system was to be founded upon objective scientific knowledge and the pedagogical ideals that were to be promoted included motivation, activity, individualization and cooperation. A preschool system was created, largely built upon the ideas of Alva Myrdal. It was heavily expanded during the 1970s, supported, not least, by the women’s movement of that time (Burman 2014).


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Ellen Key and Alva Myrdal were both shaped by their time and though quite different from one another, they had a common objective. They argued for a childhood free from restrictions, a childhood that would ensure the development of good, healthy and competent citizens. All children should have the same opportunities to a healthy life, and a good education. Only then would they be able to become “good” citizens as adults. In many ways, they contributed to the central position given to questions of childhood within the Swedish welfare state. By highlighting the need to take children’s perspectives into account and to underline the importance of giving all children equal educational opportunities to create a good life for themselves, they also, in different ways, stressed the importance and centrality of the educational system as the key instrument by which to realize a more equal and just society.

 wedish Education in the Twentieth Century: S From ‘Child-Centeredness’ to a ‘Competent Child’ The most decisive educational reform during what Oftedahl Telhaug et al. (2006) call ‘the golden years of social democracy’ was the replacement of a parallel school system, designed on the premises of a class-­ based society, with a nine-year comprehensive school for all Swedish children. The most important idea behind this far-reaching reform of the organization of the Swedish school system was to create social change by way of reordering the recruitment structures within the educational system to give all children the chance to develop to their fullest potential, regardless of social background. Furthermore, the reform was also rooted in a desire to create a new sense of community within Swedish society. As argued by Oftedahl Telhaug et al. (2006, 253), ‘the structure of the comprehensive school system with its unstreamed classes laid the foundations for a social community in which the strong aided the weak. This created expectations of a community characterized by solidarity, community spirit and cooperation, rather than competition and a race-to-the-top mentality’. The emphasis of the new school system as an arena where all

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layers of society would meet also had wider political aspirations in terms of the democratic fostering of future citizens. Not only were schools charged with increasing the teaching hours devoted to studies of society, they were also expected to become micro-democracies in themselves by establishing pupils’ councils and ‘opportunities for election which allowed the pupils to influence their own education’ (Oftedahl Telhaug et  al. 2006, 253). In this way, the pupils themselves were to become more involved in their own education in order for them to be prepared to shoulder their future responsibilities as active democratic citizens. In terms of consequences for Swedish children, the most influential part of the social democratic reforms of the educational system was the way that the organizational reforms were accompanied by the introduction of new theoretical understandings underpinning the way in which the actual work of teachers and students were to be carried out. Starting in the 1930s, the influence of the progressive reform pedagogy of John Dewey became dominant within Swedish educational thought (Edgren 2015). A key aspect of Dewey’s ideas on education concerned the important role education was considered to play in the overall social development of children. Consequently, the child was to be placed at the center of the educational activity by being presented with socially meaningful tasks connected to life outside of school and corresponding to the interests and internal motivation of the child in question. At the same time, the authoritarian transmission of ‘true’ knowledge and instrumental skills from teacher to pupils were considered an outdated and repressive educational model, associated with a conservative longing for upholding an equally outdated and traditional social order. As Oftedal Telhaug et al. (2006, 254–255) claim, ‘the ideal was the pupil-centered, contented school which provided space for the pupils to be spontaneous and creative, and which tried to engage them in a productive activity that gave them the opportunity to be involved in the choice of problems and methods of problem-solving through investigative and creative initiative’. From the start, thus, individualization became a central aspect of social democratic educational policy. In the first national curriculum for the comprehensive school system, focus was placed on the pupils’ activities and teachers were required to adapt their teaching to the individual needs of every child as well as to the overall needs of society. In this way,


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a f­undamental tension within the social democratic educational discourse became obvious. How are the demands on individualization to be balanced against the collective goals of society? In the adjustments made to the curriculum in 1969, the idea of the ‘pupil at the center’ is ‘advocated in order for the pupil to acquire a certain “body of knowledge”. The individualization is further expected to strengthen the students’ belonging to different communities and to be able to be actively involved in civic activities’ (Carlgren et al. 2006, 304). The idea of a somewhat stable body of knowledge is, thus, still present within the social democratic educational vision in the late 1960s, when a belief in the objective values of science were still very much a part of the overall all social democratic project. During the 1970s, a decisive shift in social democratic thinking became obvious, inspired by the new radicalism of neo-Marxist theory inspiring the growing resistance against oppression and discrimination highlighted by the women’s movement, the Vietnam War protests and the civil-rights movement. This neo-radicalism also turned against traditional social democratic values of (economic) progress and (scientific) development and claimed that the social democratic order had become authoritarian and instrumental. Demands were made ‘for the right of the small entity to self-determination and for individual emancipation’ (Oftedal Telhaug et al. 2006, 258). In terms of education, the basic values of the previous era were largely retained, but the development toward a school system based upon progressivism, student-centeredness and activity-based teaching techniques was strengthened. According to Oftedal Telhaug et  al. (2006) this involved a new focus on the learning environments in terms of the introduction of ideas such as multi-disciplinary and thematic learning, learning trough teamwork and problem- and project-based methods. The role of teachers was simultaneously redefined with a focus on guidance and support and teachers came to be regarded as ‘process-­ oriented supervisors’. Another aspect of this development was a decisive shift in the understanding of knowledge itself. From having emphasized the need for individual children to be introduced to a rather stable and collective knowledgebase, the rising influence of social-constructivist theories of learning during this time turned the relationship between the individual and the collective knowledge of society on its head. ‘[N]ow the

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knowledge [was] to be developed in relation to the interests and experiences of the pupils. The knowledge as constructed is based on individual activities, interests and efforts’ (Carlgren et al. 2006, 304). If individualization, in the traditional social democratic educational discourse, was intended to be a tool for the acquisition of a common cultural heritage, this changed during the 1970s and 1980s through ‘an idea of individualization as connected to individually constructed knowledge in the education of citizens actively participating in society’ (Carlgren et  al. 2006, 319). One of the most important changes of this period, with far-­reaching consequences for the overall role of children within contemporary Swedish education, was the effect of the neo-radical movement on the pedagogy and governance of higher education. Oftedal Telhaug et  al. (2006, 258) write: The essential objective of these revolts was that students should be regarded as equal members of the academic community; they should not be regarded as elements in the production process, but as individuals with a voice who were masters of their own destiny. Consequently, higher education was given a critical role and regarded as an emancipating force under neo-­radicalism, and much effort was made to change the existing forms of ­education. The hierarchical and traditional forms of lecture, based upon the division between those who knew and those who did not know, were abandoned.

To a large degree, this description would be equally valid in relation to the role of the child within Swedish education in general during the following decades, as dramatic shifts were made within both educational philosophy and educational organization during the 1990s and early 2000s. Even if policies of decentralization were partly introduced within the Swedish educational system during the 1980s, it was not until the 1990s that they would become the central tool by which the entire educational system would be reorganized. As the political agenda of the better part of the 1990s focused on fighting a vast national budget deficit, policies for transferring costs away from central authorities gained increased support, resulting in a breakup, by the center-right government of 1991–1994, of


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the state monopoly on education as choice and market reforms were implemented (Lundahl 2002b, 2005). As is argued by Brunsson and Sahlin-Andersson (2000), such policies of public sector reform aimed to transform the bureaucratic structures of the welfare system by replacing them with smaller, more autonomous organizations, capable of providing citizens with public services in more efficient and cost-effective ways. The strategy behind these reforms was heavily influenced by the New Public Management (NPM) movement, arguing for more business like management strategies within public service provision (Svensson 2002). This agenda was, however, not challenged by the Social Democrats as their struggle to find new ways of organizing the education sector in order to achieve the equality goals in a better way than before overlapped with the Conservative party’s desire to reduce the role of the state more generally. Even if the motives behind the large support for the decentralization and deregulation of the education system rested on differing bases, there was a general political consensus regarding the necessity to find new and more effective ways of governance in relation to the public service sector (Lundahl 2002a, 2005). The Social Democrats thus supported the decentralization of the educational system, introduced by the liberals and conservatives in the early 1990s, as they argued that this would not only reduce costs pertaining to the large school bureaucracy but would, above all, strengthen the democratic goals of the educational system, as decisions were moved closer to the public. However, as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) was introduced in the early 2000s, the state of Swedish education would be increasingly criticized, as the results of Swedish pupils were decreasing relative to other OECD countries for a number of years. Making reforms of the educational system one of its most prioritized ambitions was one important factor behind the center-right Alliance’s victory in the 2006 national election. The new liberal Minister for Education came out strongly against the social democratic educational ideals, arguing that the focus on democracy, student-centeredness and activity-based learning had created a school that did not deliver the necessary academic skills required in the context of a globalized knowledge-­society. In order to create a school system based on traditional educational ideals and organized in line with the values of competition and accountability, a new

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wave of educational reforms was launched. Departing from a focus on securing the future competitiveness of Sweden within a global knowledge economy, the emphasis of the center-right government became an increase in control of educational results by, what Larsson et al. (2010) call a ‘disciplinary turn’. Increased importance was given to inspection, assessments and accountability with the single primary objective to increase the results of Swedish students, as measured within the regime of international student evaluations and testing. Consequently, as is argued by Arnesen and Lundahl (2006, 296), ‘[i]n the last decades, social-inclusive policies have […] been reformulated and delimited, which can be related both to a strengthening of the economic-utilitarian functions of education and a weakening of central educational governance’. This reorientation of Swedish educational thinking obviously also affected the way individualization in education is understood. If it was once a tool for the acquisition of a cultural heritage, and later a means for constructing subjective knowledge as part of the education of participating democratic citizens, it has become something very different. Individualization in education has, since the end of the 1990s, emerged as a ‘neo-liberal individuality where the meaning of individualization is framed by an idea of individual competition and choices in a “society for the individual”’ (Carlgren et al. 2006, 319). The social democratic and progressive idea of the ‘student at the center’ of the educational activity has, within this neo-liberal framing of education, transformed into what Carlgern et al. (2006) refer to as ‘the self-reliant learner at the center’. As stressed by Biesta (2005), and others, one very influential aspect of the neo-liberalization of education is the replacement of a language of teaching with a language of learning. In this context, the relationship between society and the individual is changed as each individual becomes responsible for his or her own learning. In a society organized upon such educational principles, the desired individual is not primarily a socially committed democratic participant, but rather an entrepreneur. As Carlgren et al. (2006, 230) claim, the desired capacities to be fostered by the educational system ‘are instead self-mobilizing and flexible learners able to put themselves to work and evaluate their results’. If the ­educational system, during the golden age of social democracy, was considered a vital tool for engineering an equal society and creating and fostering


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socially responsible democratic citizens, contemporary education is more about the creation of entrepreneurial individuals capable of maximizing their own human capital based upon a subjective and internal evaluation of individual preferences and capabilities. Collective and political agency is, thus, replaced by individual agency (Arnesen and Lundahl 2006).

 he Competent Child: A Fundamental Idea T Under Scrutiny The strong focus on individual agency within contemporary Swedish education is equally strong in the way that children are described within this context. As is argued by Brembeck, Johansson and Kampmann (2004, 7) the idea of the ‘competent child’ often appears in present-day discussions and descriptions of modern childhood in Sweden and other Nordic countries. Originating in the works and arguments of proponents for children’s rights and needs such as Key and Myrdal, the Nordic countries have achieved an international reputation of placing the protection of children’s rights as individuals high on the political agenda. At the core, the idea of ‘the competent child’ centers on a vision where children are not just conceived as ‘becoming’ something, but are regarded as ‘beings’ endowed with agency and thereby capable to ‘take part in the activities of society on the same terms as adults’ (Brembeck et al. 2004, 18). In this way, the traditional understanding of the power relations between adults and children are challenged, as children are understood to be competent enough to take part in decisions that concern them and their lives on equal terms with their parents or teachers. Consequently, the ‘competent child’ stands in stark contrast to the idea of children as vulnerable, ignorant and incomplete, underlining the fact that ‘children’s needs’ cannot be articulated solely by professionals, be it in relation to social services or education or anything else, but must also take into account children’s own articulations of such needs (Kampmann 2004). In other words, the ‘competent child’ is an autonomous and actively participating child.

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This way of conceptualizing children shares many of the characteristics of the Dewey-inspired reform pedagogy that informed the educational thinking behind the social democratic school reforms in Sweden during the middle of the twentieth century. However, the discourse of the ‘competent child’ is—above all—associated with the educational agenda of the 1990s, partly because of the emergence of the ‘new’ sociology of childhood within sociological research at that time (McNamee 2016), but also because it came to fit very well with a concurrent change of focus within educational policy and research. As part of international trends of educational change, based on ideas of decentralization, deregulation and goal attainment, focus within educational policy and practice was placed on learning and the learner (Kryger 2004; Biesta 2005). Kryger (2004, 155) describes this change of focus and its significance for the role of children in educational settings as follows: Within the new rhetoric there is no significant difference between the way in which the learning process is verbalized for the adult learner and for the child learner. The learner is – regardless of age – seen as flexible and autonomous. Moreover, the adult teacher is mostly considered a ‘helper’ who creates the necessary conditions for the child’s ‘own’ learning process.

In other words, the discourse of learning is dependent upon a child that takes active responsibility for his/her own learning and that is not inferior to, or dependent upon, an adult teacher in order to take such responsibility for his/her own ability to learn. In this context, it becomes interesting to revisit the transformation of the idea of educational individualization discussed above. From having been an educational tool for compensating for socially disadvantaged children’s needs within the structure of a comprehensive school system geared toward the goal of social equality, it was turned, in line with the NPM-logic of the educational reforms of the 1990s, into a fundamental point of departure for an educational system designed to maximize children’s individual human capital. Changes in the way that the welfare system is designed, in other words, have consequences, not just for the educational system as such, but also for the way in which the place and role of children within its institutional framework is conceived


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(Kampmann 2004). As has already been highlighted in much research, efforts to safeguard the rights and autonomy of children have been transformed, within for example educational contexts inspired by neo-­ liberalism, into new ways of exercising control over and manage children’s lives in new and less direct and obvious ways. Because of the focus, within contemporary Swedish education, on the goal attainment of each individual child, critics argue that this has led to a much stronger focus on what is lacking in the individual child and that the demands on children to develop competencies of self-evaluation and self-reflection has resulted in increasing levels of stress among Swedish children. In other words, by making children ‘competent’, new demands of self-regulation are placed upon them, as ‘individualization and [the] focus on the individual child are not only a release and an extension of the individual’s room to manoeuver but also constitute the foundation for demands made on the child with accompanying assessment and evaluation criteria’ (Kampmann 2004, 145). The competency bestowed upon children, thus, demands a new kind of responsibility from them. In order to be free to obtain knowledge by way of their own capacities they must engage in processes of constant self-evaluation. However, such techniques need to be practiced in order to be fully developed, resulting, for example, in Swedish children being taught to preside over their own personal development dialogues with their teachers and parents, from as early as the age of six or seven. Within these dialogues, they are supposed to explain to their parents what they are good at, but also what they themselves consider areas where they need to improve themselves. During the last couple of decades, the introduction of ICT-technology in schools has provided teachers and children with new digital platforms through which these (self-) evaluation processes may take new and even more extensive forms.

From a Competent to an Evaluating Child As indicated above, many have scrutinized and discussed the disciplining nature and effects that the education system has on children and how this disciplining is a way to regulate the population in general. The family

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unit has been considered a key instrument of such techniques of governing (Foucault 1977; Donzelot 1979; Bloch et al. 2003, among others). Discipline in the Foucauldian sense only works when individuals, the family or the collective internalize the disciplining mechanisms in order to govern themselves. The development of the Swedish school system, as described above, may be argued to have contributed to the expansion of such internalized techniques of governing, not least in relation to children. As digital technologies gain ground throughout the world, it is no surprise that techniques of governing the self, or the learning self, are altered by the increase in software technology. Digital technologies are used on a daily basis within all levels of the Swedish school system. It may well be argued that this increase in the use of digital technology is one area where the self-evaluation and increasing demands children are facing in terms of their educational lives are obvious. In Sweden, a dramatic increase in the proliferation of electronic platforms within all educational levels, including preschools, has been obvious during the last decade. In order to monitor the educational progress of children, each pupil is given a digital profile on one of the electronic platforms in use, which teachers, school administrators, the school’s health team, parents and the pupil him/herself has access to. These platforms provide information on the pupils’ progress in different disciplines and grades and different educational projects are presented through text, photographs and video clips, for all included parties to see. It could thus be argued that these platforms are sites for the internalization of techniques for producing, monitoring and evaluating the self from a very early age. The child is introduced to the platform in question and to its profile as early as in the preschool years. It is presented as an electronic portfolio where one can follow progress in learning and social skills but also in terms of health, both physical and mental. This entails a monitoring that is diagnostic in relation to a perceived normality. In this way, the use of educational electronic platforms goes beyond what may be termed traditional educational activities. However, the inclusion of health issues concerning children into the educational system has a long history within Swedish welfare policies, making the presence of such dimensions of ­children’s development on platforms designed to monitor educational


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progress quite ‘natural’. As argued above, Alva Myrdal placed the question of children’s health at the center of her educational ideas. Consequently, schools are charged with providing health care teams, and to monitor the physical (and if necessary psychological) development of children. As a result, during the school years, children have access to school nurses, psychologist and regular doctor’s visits and besides health issues such as weight and height measures, the part of the national vaccination program pertaining to schoolchildren are administered within the school healthcare system. In this way, the educational system, in cooperation with other national health agencies play an important part in educating children in how to take care of themselves (brushing their teeth, eating vegetables, exercising) in order to live what is deemed to be a healthy life. Through the use of educational electronic platforms, information on health issues, such as height and weight measures and vaccinations, together with the publication of academic results combine to produce a very strong self-regulating mechanism constructed on the basis of transparency and also accountability on behalf of the child in question. Furthermore, the platforms are simultaneously designed to function in a more direct way in terms of regulating children’s behavior. One example of this is the way that the system notifies parents directly, if a child is absent without a justified and pre-announced cause, by e-mail or text message. Together with the three-part development dialogue (pupil, parent, teacher) that is performed twice a year, the electronic platform thus makes an interesting canvas for the evaluation of a child’s learning, health and social situation and the configuration of responsibilities inherent in these domains and ultimately the child’s self-understanding. Within these dialogues, as mentioned above, it is up to the child to evaluate his or her learning progress, relations to other children and adults, whether he or she is happy and what to focus on during the following semester. As the child grows older, the centrality of the electronic platforms increases, as more and more of the evaluative dimensions of the work of pupils and teachers are communicated through the platforms. Schools have traditionally relied on and created subdivisions in the general pupil population and assessed the individual in relation to these subdivisions. Eventually, as we have seen, the subdivision becomes the

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individual itself. This gives a perceived freedom to a tailored education for each pupil, though it is a freedom with limits. The electronic platforms give a certain freedom. It is available at any time and whenever something is published the pupil and parent gets a notice—not unlike other social media like Facebook or Instagram. The use of digital platforms is a key factor in how the internalization of discipline is taught to children—especially in institutions like the school, where the intention is to teach children practices that will ensure them a biological future. This discourse of health cannot be taught in the traditional sense but has to be internalized as an active freedom of crafting the self. By teaching children how to take care of their biological lives, pedagogical institutions become the paradigmatic conduits of this configuration.

Concluding Discussion In many ways, the twentieth century in Sweden really became the century of the child. This is at least true when the development of the educational system is considered. Many of the ideas expressed by Ellen Key at the very beginning of the last century became something of an educational credo as the social democratic party, in power from the 1930s up until the national election of 1976, made the educational system into one of the most central tools for engineering a modern, equal and socially just welfare state. The idea that society is best changed through the deliberate education of the rising generation is not new, and through the contributions of ‘social engineers’, such as for example Alva Myrdal, Swedish childhood has very deliberately been placed, to a very large degree, within the institutional boundaries of the educational system. One obvious example of this is the idea, championed by Alva Myrdal, of having ­children raised in state-controlled preschools, in order to ensure that they are brought up according to the latest scientific findings—something that individual families could not, for different reasons, be trusted to manage. Even if the strong belief in scientific methods of child rearing have lessened today, Sweden has one of the world’s most expanded child care systems, with almost all Swedish children attending preschools for at least some years before entering first grade (Burman 2014).


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One of the most important ideas behind the social democratic reforms of Swedish education during the first half of the last century was the implementation of a comprehensive school system for children from all social classes. The theoretical underpinnings of the new educational system were heavily influenced by American Dewey-inspired reform pedagogy, placing the child and the child’s individual needs at the center of the educational agenda. As we have seen above, this made individualization one of the key strategies for making schools capable to compensate for social and/or economic differences of opportunity among children. The central ambition of placing the child at the center of educational activities by focusing on the child’s internal motivation and interests has had a number of significant consequences. As part of an explicit effort to dismantle social hierarchies, it transformed the relationship between teachers and students, reconfiguring the former in terms of mentors, guides or facilitators of learning. More importantly for our current purpose, but connected to this, are the obvious ways in which this kind of pupil-centeredness and its accompanying transformation of the teacher-­ pupil relationship paved the way for the discourse of the competent child discussed above. However, it has been argued (Dahlbeck and Lilja 2018) that progressive educational values, such as pupil- or student-­centeredness, may also be considered to have provided a fertile ground for the transformation, during the 1990s in the case of Sweden, of educational discourse into a system designed upon a market inspired neo-liberal educational agenda. The step from the progressive idea of education departing from the internal motivation and interests of the pupil is not that far removed from the neo-liberal educational configuration of the pupil (and/or his/ her parents) as a customer on an educational market. Despite originating in different ideological positions, progressive as well as neoliberal educational thinking finds common ground in the opposition against what might be called traditional education, characterized, among other things, by its strict hierarchy between teachers and pupils and a view of children as primarily, what contemporary childhood researchers would call, in a state of becoming. As we have seen, the pupil-centeredness of progressive education easily becomes the pupil as customer within an educational discourse founded on neo-liberal thinking. In the same way, as indicated above, the social

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democratic idea of educational individualization as a tool for engineering a class-less society transformed into individualization based on human capital theory and centered on individual choice and accountability. As the critique from researchers discussed earlier in this chapter indicates, the same development seems to have affected the meaning ascribed to the concept of the competent child. Originally used as a way to ascribe value to children’s lives and rights as individuals in the present, as capable beings in their own right, the idea of the competent child may also have proven to be easily incorporated into contemporary neoliberal educational thinking and its discourse of learning. The autonomous, actively participating and rights bearing child, emphasized within the sociology of childhood from the early 1990s (McNamee 2016), seems to have been transformed into a constantly self-aware, self-evaluating and self-critical child. In the context of Swedish education, the pupil-centered and individualized character of education and the concurrent idea of the competent child are firmly incorporated into an educational discourse where the role model of the day is the entrepreneurial learner. This is a learner who, by way of constant re-evaluations of his/her own capacities and possibilities, is able to constantly transform in light of the demands of the labor market. The development of the self-awareness necessary for shouldering such a role and the techniques needed to develop it seem to have become ever more important within contemporary educational systems, in Sweden and elsewhere. As we have shown in this chapter, this development is accelerated by the increased use, in schools, of ICT-technology and digital platforms aimed to produce the self-evaluative skills needed in order to become a ‘good’ entrepreneurial learner. The introduction of electronic platforms and digital methods of education is often implemented, so goes the argument, in order to promote the freedom of the individual learner. By using such techniques and methods, educational power relations are thought to become more equal and flexible. In this way, the rhetoric connects easily with the progressive agenda of educational equality, not least in the sense of increasing the influence of children over their own education. Proponents of increased use of digital technology in schools often argue that they entail transformative powers, and that the introduction of such technologies are unproblematic, not least since educational subjects always may be


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considered to have been affected by the use of different kinds of technologies. Others are more skeptical and argue that such digital technologies, without due consideration and evaluation, may threaten educational institutions by turning teaching and learning into digital transactions that may disrupt the role of teachers and transform learning into a far too instrumental activity. In such case, fundamental educational goals, such as socialization into the core values of society, are downplayed as education becomes focused too much on the acquisition of narrow skills perceived to be vital qualifications within the context of contemporary knowledge-­economies (Biesta 2006). However, it is not our intention here to discuss whether digital methods are right or wrong but rather to understand where the limits of freedom for children is drawn. As has been indicated in the discussion above, the use of digital platforms as tools for competent children to master and manage their own learning processes in some kind of educational freedom, at best assisted by teacher-guides, may also be considered as, above all, a ‘freedom’ to engage in techniques of self-evaluation. The platforms, however, are not only for the use of the child in question, but are intended to make it possible for parents and teachers to assess and monitor the educational, social, physical and emotional development of the child. In this way, the competencies of the child are used as an indirect and internalized form of governance as the child must shoulder the responsibility of his/her own learning, social interactions and health from a very early age. What Lupton and Williamson (2017) have called ‘dataveillence’ has become a normal feature of our contemporary everyday lives. It takes place all the time, and we are more or less aware of it in different situations. Some of it is out of our control, such as traffic cameras or drones, and some of it we may choose to use voluntarily, such as software to monitor our own health, self-tracking devices or different social media platforms. In a number of studies, this increase in our digital visibility has been discussed in terms of a ‘post-panoptic’ kind of surveillance. As Steeves and Jones (2010) argue, to be a child is, and has always been, in many ways, about being under surveillance. The introduction of new technologies, of course, implies new possibilities and risks in relation to such surveillance. In relation to the usage of such technologies in schools, we have tried to discuss a few of the risks involved and the consequences

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they may have for children. As we have argued, the platforms are used in order to give pupils a kind of freedom to manage and evaluate their own learning and development. However, as the use of these platforms increases, the freedom to avoid them disappears. This is, of course, not the fault of the digital platforms themselves, but has everything to do with how they are being used and why. The argument of this chapter is that, like many other progressive ideas, fundamental to the educational system developed during the golden years of Swedish social democracy, the concept of the competent child has been hijacked by a neo-liberal educational discourse centered on the construction of entrepreneurial learners. Such entrepreneurial learners are constantly self-evaluating subjects characterized by the ability to adapt to new social demands and requirements during an endless process of life-long learning, dictated by the ever-changing nature of the global marketplace. Consequently, the child must, from an early age, adapt to such a system and develop the skills to engage in this process of constant self-evaluation. In this way, the freedom of the selfevaluating child becomes very limited.

References Ambjörnsson, R. 2012. Ellen Key: En Europeisk Intellektuell. Albert Bonniers Förlag. Arnesen, A.-L., and L.  Lundahl. 2006. Still social and democratic? Inclusive education policies in the nordic welfare states. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 50 (3): 285–300. Biesta, G. 2005. Against learning. Reclaiming a language for education in an age of learning. Nordic Studies in Education 25: 54–66. ———. 2006. Beyond learning. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers. Bloch, et al. 2003. Governing children, families and education. Restructuring the welfare state. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Brembeck, H., B. Johansson, and J. Kampmann. 2004. Introduction. In Beyond the competent child. Exploring contemporary childhoods in the Nordic welfare societies, ed. H. Brembeck, B. Johansson, and J. Kampmann, 7–32. Roskilde: Roskilde University Press. Brunsson, N., and K. Sahlin-Andersson. 2000. Constructing organizations: The example of public sector reform. Organisation Studies 21 (4): 721–746.


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Burman, A. 2014. Pedagogikens idéhistoria. Uppfostringsidéer och bildningsideal under 2500 år. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Carlgren, I., K. Klette, S. Mýrdal, K. Schnack, and H. Simola. 2006. Changes in Nordic teaching practices: From individualized teaching to the teaching of individuals. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 50 (3): 301–326. Dahlbeck, J and Lilja, P. 2018 The unexpected alignment of progressive ideals and the commercialization of education in entrepreneurial learning. Philosophy of Education 2017 (ed. Ann Chinnery). Donzelot, J. 1979. The policing of families. New York: Pantheon Books. Edgren, H. 2015. Folkskolan och grundskolan. In Utbildningshistoria, ed. E. Larsson och J. Westberg, 114–130. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Foucault, M. 1977. Discipline and punish. The birth of the prison. New  York: Vintage Books. Hirdman, Y. 2006. Det tänkande hjärtat. Boken om Alva Myrdal. Stockholm: Ordfront. Kampmann, J.  2004. Societalization of childhood: New opportunities? New demands? In Beyond the competent child. Exploring contemporary childhoods in the Nordic welfare societies, ed. H. Brembeck, B. Johansson, and J. Kampmann, 127–152. Roskilde: Roskilde University Press. Key, E. 1900. Barnets århundrade. Stockholm: Bonnier. Kryger, N. 2004. Childhood and “New Learning” in a Nordic context. In Beyond the competent child. Exploring contemporary childhoods in the Nordic welfare societies, ed. H. Brembeck, B. Johansson, and J. Kampmann, 153–176. Roskilde: Roskilde University Press. Larsson, J., A. Löfdahl, and H. Pérez Prieto. 2010. Rerouting: Discipline, assessment and performativity in contemporary Swedish educational discourse. Education Enquiry 1 (3): 177–195. Lundahl, L. 2002a. From centralization to decentralization: Governance of education in Sweden. European Educational Research Journal 1 (4): 625–636. ———. 2002b. Sweden: Decentralization, deregulation, quasi-markets – and then what? Journal of Education Policy 17 (6): 687–697. ———. 2005. A matter of self-governance and control: The reconstruction of Swedish education policy: 1980–2003. European Education 37 (1): 10–25. Lupton, D., and B. Williamson. 2017. The datafied child: The dataveilance of children and implications for their rights. New Media and Society 19 (5): 780–794. Myrdal, A. 1935. Stadsbarn. En bok om deras fostran i storbarnkammare. Stockholm: Kooperativa Förbundet.

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Myrdal, A., and G. Myrdal. 1934. Kris i befolkningsfrågan. Stockholm: Bonnier. McNamee, S. 2016. The social study of childhood. An introduction. London: Palgrave. Nilsson, J-O. 1994. Alva Myrdal. En Virvel i den Moderna Strömmen. Stockholm: Brutus Östlings Bokförlag Symposium. Oftedal Telhaug, A., O. Mediås, and P. Aasen. 2006. The Nordic model in education: Education as part of the political system in the last 50 years. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 50 (3): 245–283. Steeves, V., and O.  Jones. 2010. Surveillance, children and childhood. Surveillance & Society 7 (3/4): 187–191. Svensson, L.G. 2002. Professionella villkor och värderingar. En sociologisk studie av akademiker i 1990-talets Sverige. Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet. Tzimoula, D. 2008. Eidola. Gender and nation in the writings of Penelope Delta (1874–1941). Lund: Media Tryck, Lund University.

Commentary on Chapter 3: A Reflection on ‘After the Century of the Child’ by Lilja and Tzimoula Patrick J. Ryan

I read Lilja’s and Tzimoula’s chapter with an ear for silences. I asked myself what might be more resonant in a Canadian study of student competent agency. Three comparative questions about law, assimilation and religion came into my mind. 1. Do the structures of law and policy-making in Sweden and Canada shape differences in the ways students have been positioned as actors in schools? Political parties, ministries, and intellectuals move the narrative in Lilja’s and Tzimoula’s chapter; from a North American perspective the courts, private institutions, and non-governmental associations are absent. The invisibility of law and voluntary action might result from evidentiary choices, but it seems safe to suggest that governmental rule has been exercised in different ways in the two countries. If so, we might

P. J. Ryan (*) Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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ask if these structural differences explain variations in the articulation, circulation, legitimation of student’s claims to participation and self-­ determination in schools. I think they do, at least in part. If we look at the law in Canada, the turning-point occurred with the legal Americanization of the country through the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter did not merely name rights and responsibilities that had always been part of Canadian culture. It fundamentally altered the relationship between individuals and the state, broke the monopoly of ruling parties and government ministries over law, and enhanced prototypically American approaches to social reform. This reconstitution of the Canadian state has had observable consequences for childhood policy and practice (Mandel 1994). Historically, Canadian courts have been reluctant to speak on issues of student participation and discipline in schools. When it heard cases, the bench rarely framed them as questions of rights possessed by individuals or as members of groups. Consider Ruman versus Lethbridge School District [1943]. In February 1943, two Alberta Jehovah Witnesses, aged 9 and 11, refused to salute the flag during a mandatory school convocation. They were sent home by the principal in accord with a war-time school policy. The students and their parents sued. Alberta’s high court translated the facts of the dispute into the question of whether the district had exceeded their authority under the Province’s educational statutes. They had not. The individual rights of students to self-determination were illegible; their claim could not be fully written into legal discourse. Similar disputes were adjudicated by high courts in the United States, notably during WWI (See Troyer v. State, 1918, Ohio Supreme Court) and Vietnam (See Tinker v. Des Moines, 1969, United States Supreme Court). Unlike the pre-Charter Canadians, the Americans framed the question as a balance between fundamental freedoms of political and religious expression against public good and order. American legal logic began to alter Canadian discourse on student rights in the late twentieth-century, and it came into full maturity with the Supreme Court ruling in Multani versus Commission Scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys [2006]. While at a Quebec school in 2001, twelve-­ year old Gurbaj Singh dropped his kirpan (a ceremonial knife worn by Sikh men) indiscreetly from under his clothes. This innocuous accident

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set off a series of rule-making negotiations at the local level which resulted in some student codes of conduct prohibiting the kirpan outright. The dispute travelled all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada which translated the facts of the case into the question of whether a ban upon the kirpan was a violation of the students’ Charter of rights to freedom of religion. It held the school board had violated a fundamental freedom of students which could not be saved by the ‘reasonable limits’ clause of the Charter. By focusing on the process of dispute resolution, we might open-up interesting comparative questions. How does Swedish educational culture articulate dissent? In Canada, we can document a movement towards recognizing students as persons possessing the rights of citizenship. However, the trajectory is more ambiguous than the narrative of social democratic liberation from tradition followed by a neo-liberal backlash. In Canada, ironies persist within the Anglo-American legal tradition, and they display the paradoxes within liberalism itself. The most obvious case in-point would be the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2004 ruling on corporal punishment. This ruling increased criminal and civil exposure for schools or teachers who corporally punish a student. Here we have a significant difference in structures of law. In Sweden, the 1979 statutory prohibition of corporal punishment of all children is an important international marker. In Canada, a statutory protection for any adult in a parental or teaching relation who punishes a child as a means of correction remains on the books. The Supreme Court upheld this section of the code in 2004, but ‘read-down’ the statute to exclude teachers, effectively outlawing corporal punishment in any school. This may sound convoluted to those from a civil code tradition, but the legal process and its underlying logic in Canada carries important implications for generational relationships. In 2004, the majority of the Canadian Supreme Court had refused to accept the general language of children’s rights offered by the plaintiffs (and over 100 voluntary associations). The plaintiffs had asked whether a federal statute that prima facie violated the age discrimination clause of the Charter, by protecting adults who punish children corporally, could be saved by the ‘reasonable limits’ clause? If posed that way, the answer almost surely would have been ‘no’. Instead, the majority used children


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dependency on their parents to translate the question into whether ­parents had a right to raise their children without state interference. This legal manoeuvre deeply divided the Court (6–3), but it signals for us the fact that an older (Lockean) tension between families and the state in English-speaking countries retains the ability to erase questions about children’s rights as self-possessing citizens. When parental rights to liberty from the state come to the fore, the rights of children to participation and self-determination are almost as invisible today as they were in Ruman versus Lethbridge in 1943 (Skyes 2006). The shadow of the law and the power of parenthood hang over all discussions of student rights in Canada. Like Americans, we have become a litigious people. That admitted, the common law is not a neutral site for the essential truth to be determined. Common courts produce adversarial truths, adjudicated case-by-case, rather than a truth condensed into a small catechism pronounced from a ruling party or packaged as a new paradigm by experts. Legal practices in the English tradition order ongoing differences, they do not resolve them. This may be a sticky way to sustain a conversation about how to ‘program’ children’s engagement. Or just maybe, the English tradition makes the contradictions inherent in such efforts more obvious. This leads us to a second comparative point of silence. 2. Has the assimilation of diverse cultural groups, indigenous peoples, or migrants been as important a part of the history of student individuation in Sweden as it has in Canada? The obvious answer is ‘no,’ but I wonder if there might be more to this question in light of ongoing controversies about migration and settlement in numerous continental European countries. Canada has long understood itself as a nation of migrants established through British and French colonialism. And until the second-half of the twentieth-century, the Canadian approach to population management was decidedly more Eurocentric (or Anglo-centric) than that of its often-­ maligned southern neighbour. Nevertheless, religious, language, ethnic, or racial conflicts have never been far from the surface of Canadian educational practices. The constitutional settlement of 1867 that created the

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country could not have happened without explicit protection of state funding for separate Roman Catholic schools, precisely because the assimilating and homogenizing force of children’s education was recognized. Today, Canada is the only country in the world to have held a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for state crimes against children and youth as a group. Canada’s TRC was about schools—aboriginal residential schools. These schools physically separated children from their families and communities, purportedly so they could be individuated and homogenized into a nation-building project: ‘to take the Indian out of the Queen’s red children.’ After a century, the project collapsed under decades of protest about language loss, poor facilities and care, mistreatment, physical abuse, including rape. However, the closure of the schools did not lead directly to the TRC. The Canadian state constructed the Commission to rationalize the financial risks as they lost case after case in the new millennium. The TRC removed the dispute from the common law and insulated the state from fundamentally changing its relationship to indigenous peoples, as the discourse moved away from the law towards a public display of personal anguish (Neizen 2013). This said, we can see a golden thread connecting the TRC to a larger Canadian legal discourse on students and schools. It shines through the very title of Commission’s first major report: They Came for the Children (2012). The TRC perspective is from the point of views of parents and indigenous communities. Because the report positioned the residential schools as a form of cultural violence (‘genocide’ was the term) resulting from colonialism, it could not fully consider the policy relative to modern schooling or generational violence as such. The first narrative (contest between adults over childhood) has far more traction and it won the day. In fact, the report’s critique of corporal punishment of students was entirely consistent with the line of thought on the sanctity of parental rights that saved corporal punishment as a general protection in Canadian law. This irony seems to have entirely escaped public comment in Canada. It reminds us that whenever children are the victims, it is likely that adults will push the agenda as plaintiffs. We might suspect that other attempts to establish inalienable rights to self-determination and participation for students in the context of comprehensive compulsory schooling may be vexed with serious internal contradictions.


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What might be the root of the problem in Canada and is any part of this root shared in Sweden? Residential schools were part of a colonizing project, but this is not where either their pedagogy or their techniques emerged. The sources lay in the English Reformation, which leads us to a third noticeable silence in Lilja’s and Tzimoula’s narrative: religion and/or the theological. 3. Does the production of subjectivity through childhood education in Sweden or Canada retain a theological element? Or to put it a little more provocatively: What would happen if the twentieth-century social democratic narrative of Swedish educational history discovered it retained Lutheran roots? Some may shrug and say, Sweden is a secular state defined by the task of progressively cutting such roots. Or a Canadian might say, religion is authoritarian; what could it have to tell us about the discourse of student competent agency? I pose the question, because these are unconvincing responses—at least for the English-speaking world—for two reasons: (1) early-modern shifts in English educational practices created through the Reformation have not only survived, they helped constitute the secular governmental state; and (2) these practices (whether they are currently recognized as ‘religious’ or not) are precisely how schools produce and shape student-subjectivity. Exploring these two points well is beyond the scope of this reflection. Here, I only wish to open a door upon a discussion about the limits of the social democratic narrative of a neo-liberal backlash. The twists and turns of our present might be much older than we think (Foucault 2009; Qvarsebo and Axelsson 2015). Geneva had its influence on English theology spectacularly with the Puritans, but it was a Lutheran from Strasbourg named Martin Bucer, exiled to Cambridge, who did the most to bring a reform theology which moved the English beyond the small concerns of Henry VIII. It is worth restating the two Lutheran tenants that have animated English Christianity for centuries: sola scriptura and sola fide. A Christian must be a competent reader of scriptures. The English needed their own Bible, and they would create a majestic authorized version as one of the founding pieces of their proud literary tradition. Why? The disposition of the soul could not be

  Commentary on Chapter 3: A Reflection on ‘After the Century… 


negotiated through rituals, or indulgences, or prayers for the dead. Faith and faith alone, the internal transformation of the soul, was the only authentic road to salvation. In these two simple theses, we find the grounding for the 17th Century English revolution in education. It is no accident that mediaeval ossuaries and crypts were emptied out and the chantry houses seized by reformers in England making way for grammar schools that began to dot the English landscape. Indeed, many of these places for keeping bones and praying for the dead became school rooms and houses. They give us the most pointed institutional examples of the early-modern re-orientation of Christianity from a sacramental religion centred on a cult of the dead towards a pedagogical religion centred on literacy, catechism, and belief. What does this have to do with competent agency or student participation or citizenship? Everything. Two-child centred educational practices in Canada will briefly exemplify how far we haven’t come. In Canada, it is common for elementary students to be placed in circles or tables that face each other. This arrangement of desks is often pictured as liberation from rows of desks facing the teacher. It may be so, but it is also a return to a spatial concept implemented in Late 18th early 19th Centuries American Sunday Schools modelled on the British Lancastrian or Monitorial system. When children are placed in circles to face each other, they cannot know when they are being watched. So, they learn to watch themselves. Hierarchical observation is the cardinal technique for producing the selfmonitoring subject. It is much more effective than bolting students into rows or giving them lists of rules (Ryan 2011). Individual education plans (IEP) are also presented as a liberation from standardized tests or the power of a teacher handing-down marks. They may be, because they demand that students participate in a form of secular confession. What is the curriculum of the IEP? It is the student, rather than the work. The substantive content becomes ancillary, as if it was the mere ritual displaced by the authentic event—the learning ‘process’ as a narrative of conversion. Recounting the process of transformation takes centre-stage even if it is ultimately ineffable. Stanley Fish called these recursive texts ‘self-consuming artifacts,’ and the paradigmatic character for the spiral of reflexivity they foster was John Bunyan’s 17C ‘Christian’ of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian may have been the first


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‘life-long learner.’ Today, self-consuming IEPs are produced in a volume so awesome they could never be printed, circulated, or read by the public in Canada. But that is no longer their limited sphere. Like Bunyan’s Christian, we are all on a journey about ourselves (Sjoberg 2015; Fish 1972; Ryan 2017). There is something unfair about listening for silences. Lilja and Tzimoula might say, write your own paper. I offer these reflections on law, assimilation, and religion in the hope that naming points of discontinuity might help us find something new in our shared, but multiple histories of childhood and youth.

References Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11. Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v Canada (AG), [2004] SCC, 1 S.C.R. 76. Fish, S. 1972. Self-consuming artifacts: The experience of seventeenth-century literature. Berkeley: University of California Press. Foucault, M. 2009. Security, territory, population: Lectures at the College de France, 1977–78, trans. Burchell, G., ed. Arnold I.  Davidson. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Mandel, M. 1994. The charter of rights and the legalization of politics in Canada. Toronto: Wall and Thompson. Multani v Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, [2006] SCC, 1 S.C.R. 256. Niezen, Ronald. 2013. Truth & indignation: Canada’s truth and reconciliation commission on Indian residential schools. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Qvarsebo, J., and T.  Axelsson. 2015. Are we constructing Lutherans, people with values, or US citizens? In Foucault and a politics of confession in education, ed. A. Fejes and K. Nicoll, 146–158. London: Routledge. Ruman v. Lethbridge School District, [1943] Alberta Sup. Ct., 3 W.W.R. 340. Ryan, P.J. 2017. The ‘government of heroic women’: Childhood, discipline, and the discourse of poverty  – ‘Kontrolle durch heroische Frauen’: Kindheit, Disziplin und der Armustsdiskurs. Bildungsgeschichte – International Journal for the Historiography of Education 7 (2): 173–190.

  Commentary on Chapter 3: A Reflection on ‘After the Century… 


———. 2011. Discursive tensions on the landscape of modern childhood. Educare Vetenskapliga Skrifter 2: 11–37. Sjoberg, Lena. 2015. Confession of an individual education plan. In Foucault and a politics of confession in education, ed. Andreas Fejes and Katherine Nicoll, 62–75. London: Routledge. Sykes, K. 2006. Bambi meets Godzilla: Children’s and parents’ rights in Canadian foundation for children, youth, and the Law v. Canada. McGill Law Journal 51 (1): 131–165. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District [1969] USSC, 393 U.S. 503. Troyer v. State, 1918, Ohio Supr. Ct., 21 Ohio N.P. (n.s.) 121, 124. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2012. They came for the children: Canada, Aboriginal Peoples, and Residential Schools Winnipeg.

4 Pencil Box Journey: Old Colony Mennonite Children, Education, and Schooling Wendy A. Crocker

Plate 4.1  Old Colony Mennonite pencil box on display in Ontario classroom

W. A. Crocker (*) Faculty of Education, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



W. A. Crocker

It is just a small wooden pencil box with a sliding lid adorned with a transfer of a red rose. However, this particular artefact is a powerful “identity text” (Cummins and Early 2011) that represents the educational experiences of a child of Old Colony Mennonite heritage who began her schooling outside Cuauhtémoc, Mexico. At the age of ten, she and her family travelled by car to southwestern Ontario to make a life in that Mennonite community. Her pencil box accompanied her to the large public school that she attended, first as a student and then as a teacher. It now rests on a counter in her classroom, a poignant reminder of her educational journey. OCM children constantly negotiate between demonstrations of what it means to be Mennonite and the representations of those beliefs and teachings within a non-Mennonite dominant culture—a different world in southwestern Ontario. Nowhere is this negotiation more evident than at school, where the interface (Levinson 2007) of being Mennonite and the dominant culture intersect.

Introduction In this chapter, I describe the case of the Old Colony Mennonite (OCM) children who, for reasons of faith and family, often find themselves located among several different constructs of childhood as represented by education and schooling. I am making a clear distinction between education and schooling because to be an OCM child means having to negotiate among these often-contested notions of power. The OCM represent a minoritized culture (McCarty 2002), defined as those who are marginalized by power relations and processes within the larger society. Many are from homes where Low German is the first language–a spoken patois that is rarely written or read (Epp 1999). Many OCM children attend school in both Ontario and in Mexico, and the education delivered in these two systems is distinctly different. Further, the home serves as a place of schooling where children are taught their role in the family and in the larger Mennonite community. OCM children have, in the words of Barbara Rogoff (2003), “a foot in two worlds, but who live one life” (p.  361). From my context as the non- Mennonite former principal of a school in rural southwestern Ontario with a large population of OCM, I describe the different educations of this transnational (i.e. those who regularly

  4 Pencil Box Journey: Old Colony Mennonite Children… 


travel from Ontario to Mexico) population. I use the Old Colony Mennonite pencil box to highlight the schooling experiences of the OCM children as they move across two countries, public and private education, and “home schooling”, and demonstrate the ways in which these children are capable and competent negotiators of their Mennonite identity.

Funds of Identity In this work, I take identity to mean the understanding of the “history, society and culture that affect the specific ways in which [we] define ourselves” (Esteban-Guitart 2016, p.  43). A learner is connected with the world—“the product of the products we produce” (Ratner 2006, p. 13). The notion of funds of identity is centred on three ideas: (1) Identities are distributed among numerous artefacts and settings. We use the voices and stories of others as well as these tools to define ourselves. (2) Identities or acts of identification can be materialized, scribed, or encoded into tangible artefacts or tools. (3) Mechanisms involved in the process of acts of identification are “acts of recognition” (Gee 2000). OCM use several markers as outward demonstrations of their belief to be “of the world yet apart from it”. Mennonites are most commonly recognized by their traditional dress, and the use of Plautdietsch or Low German as their spoken language.

Who Are the Old Colony Mennonites? The OCM are one of three branches of the Low German speaking, conservative denomination of Mennonites (Reimer 2008). When thought of as a continuum, the most liberal are those of the Kleine Gemeinde, followed by the Rheinlander, with the Old Colony being the most conservative or orthodox in its adherence to the teaching of the Lutheran Bible. The religious persecution of early Mennonites in Europe in the 1600s led the early Gemeinde (faith community) to meet in unmarked places to worship. The oole Ordnunk (Ordunung; Hedges 1996) was created as the text by which the Mennonites would live, work, and worship but was never written


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down for fear of being discovered and the community persecuted. Thus, many of the most conservative traditions or practices associated with daily life are passed down by word of mouth through the bishop to the pastors of each church, and from the pastors to the men as the head of each household (Crocker 2013a). As a continuation of the church hierarchy, the bishop uses the pastors to enact his decisions about the many forms of activity in the colony, from what is acceptable woman’s work (Epp 2008) to how farming will be conducted by the colony, through to issues related to education (including the architecture of school buildings) and the language of instruction in the village schools (Redekop 1989; Roth 2011). Low German-speaking Mennonites (LGM) live in communities throughout rural southwestern Ontario where there are several areas of settlement of first- and second-generation OCM families. While it is impossible to generalize across a diverse culture, those who identify themselves as Mennonite either by faith, church, culture, or tradition outnumber those of the dominant culture in some areas. Their founder, Menno Simons, preached the need for adult baptism and pacifism from his literal translation of the Lutheran Bible. Central to his vision was the ability of his followers—now the Mennonites—to live a life on earth that prepared them for the life everlasting but only as a member of the Gemeinde. Salvation was, in accordance with the ordnuung, given to the group and not the individual. Thus, life on earth was tied directly to the Gemeinde and afterlife. This adherence to Gemeinde on earth for salvation in heaven is a key tenet in the Mennonite faith and is foundational to understanding the OCM. Not only does the Gemeinde require large tracts of land to settle as a colony and a place to practice their religion without persecution but also a location where they can be free to establish their own education system with High German as the language of instruction (Crocker 2013b).

Settling in Mexico In 1922, a large diaspora of OCM left Manitoba, Canada for a land holding in Mexico that would house their entire colony. Known for generations as a farming people first in Europe and Russia and then

  4 Pencil Box Journey: Old Colony Mennonite Children… 


on the Canadian prairies, the Mennonites created successful farms and orchards on largely drought-ridden tracts of land sold to a group of elders by the Mexican government under the priviligium. This agreement between the Mexican authorities and the senior churchmen also guaranteed the rights of the Mennonites to practice their faith unhindered by the government, and to operate an education system that was in keeping with the Ordunung. However, several years of extreme drought in Mexico pushed the OCM back into Ontario to find work in order to sustain their farms in Mexico. A pattern of transnational living was established where OCM families would leave their property in Mexico in the late spring and arrive in southwestern Ontario as the asparagus crop was being harvested. Families would rent property in the area, and work in the Ontario crops of strawberries, and summer fruits and vegetables leaving again for Mexico at the end of the September apple harvest. For some time now, members of the OCM have experienced the tensions of living a transnational life, and the children have learned to negotiate, not only what it means to be a Mennonite, but also how that identity is constructed and shaped in different educational and schooling contexts.

Plate 4.2  Slate, math tables, and pencil box in a dorf school outside Cuauhtémoc, Mexico


W. A. Crocker

Education for OCM Understanding the role of community to the OCM is paramount to appreciating their view of education. The Ordunung prescribes that the father (as head of the household) is responsible to prepare children for their future role in the Gemeinde. Additionally, the school has a primary function in the education of the children to become “good Mennonites”— that is, to become baptized members of the OC church. There is a traditional saying, “As the school, so the Church” (Fretz 1945, p. 26) meaning that if the education of the next generation fails in its ability to instil the beliefs and tenets of the Mennonite church, it would cease to exist. This adage underscores the importance of education to the OCM. However, it is not just any education, but rather the very specific schooling according to the Ordunung. Many colonists fear that too much education will interfere with salvation (Quiring 2009). According to several writers and researchers on the OCM, education is about preserving their uniqueness (see Hedges 1996; Quiring 2009). According to Hedges (1996), The school doesn’t play the role of helping to attain the goals of public service or upward economic mobility or higher social status. Instead teaching a child to read and write in High German and in a script used by few others in the world reinforce the boundary between the Jemeent (i.e., religious, believers) and the Welt (i.e., world) and the uniqueness of the internal structure of the Jemeent. pp. 168–169

It is held by those most adherent to the Ordunung that school should prepare children for life in the church, largely for their baptismal day, when they will recite the catechism and the questions in front of the Gemeinde (Quiring 2009). Hertzler (1971) described the need for OCM to make their history and identity clear, “to become and remain a people of God”, and “in part to counteract the influence of society” (p.  18). As such, the curriculum—what is taught in the school, how, and by whom— is prescribed by the Ordunung and enacted by the elders. Therefore, the education of OCM children takes place both in the home and in the school—both in Mexico and in Ontario.

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The Pencil Box in Cuauhtémoc, Mexico The call to “be a good Mennonite” is demonstrated in all aspects of conservative OCM schooling in Mexico. The dorf (village) schools are the most conservative of the schooling available to children on the campos (i.e. the areas in Mexico settled by Mennonites and not Mexican nationals). The children walk to the local school building—a rather non-descript one-story structure that is often difficult to discern from the houses that surround it. Inside, the one large room is punctuated by several small windows, each draped with white net. The front of the room is dominated by the teacher’s desk located on a dais and backed by a large chalkboard. The children are seated in front on long benches each with a desktop—girls on one side and boys on the other. The curriculum is based heavily on reading and writing in High German and uses the Bibel (Bible) and catechism as text. Computational math skills are taught and drilled. Children use slates and chalk, and there is a focus on rote learning. In the Old Colony, the school is an echo of the church with similar building structures, seating orientation separated by gender, and recitation of prayers and hymns. The school year often extends for six months and is scheduled so that children can work with their families at the busy times of the year (Quiring 2009). While education in dorf schools is available to every child, some parents elect to send their children to newer “system” or “committee” schools so named because they reflect more closely the educational system in the United States. As recently as 2011, Amish teachers from Ohio came to Cuauhtémoc with the express task of supporting the OCM teachers and upgrading the curriculum (Old Colony Mennonite Support 2011). Many of the system schools organize students into classrooms by age along a central hallway. There is a kitchen where hot lunches are made and served, a meeting hall with the traditional benches on either side of an aisle, and separate washrooms for boys and girls—a far cry from the cold running water, and outdoor flush toilet in many dorf schools. Inside the classroom, the children are seated at desks although still organized by gender. The teachers employ more 1980s tools of instruction including the use of consumable workbooks and other texts for


W. A. Crocker

reading. Lessons are taught in High German, but are often discussed in Low German—the language of everyday speech—to ensure that the children understand. As in the dorf schools, High German is introduced through Bible stories and prayers, another reminder that the purpose of education is to serve the Old Colony Church. Education for OCM children also takes place in the home where the values of being Mennonite are transmitted and taught by siblings and parents.

“Home Schooling” There is no place for homework in the Mexico school practices of OCM children. Indeed the school day is planned with an early arrival and afternoon dismissal so that the children can help out with the chores on the land and in the home. Outside of school, OCM emulate the work of their more senior, same-gender family members (Crocker 2013c). The girls perform chores expected by the Church and their families including learning home and child care, sewing, and baking. These are the same chores that their mothers also undertook as children. While the girls are inside the home, the boys are outside—in the barn, on the land- or learning how to work with other non-Dietsche (English people) to conduct business on behalf of the family. This division of labour, referred to by Rogoff (2003) as “gendered apprenticeship”, follows the expectations laid out in the Ordunung and is an important kind of education for OCM children both in Mexico and during their time in Ontario. However, the work of the children with their family and their responsibilities in the home, are often not considered when the families migrate to Ontario. Here education takes on a new meaning and emphasis. In the following sections, I describe how schooling changes for OCM children once they leave Mexico and how the Gemeinde tries to retain its structure and values in a new place.

The Pencil Box Comes to Ontario The transnational patterns of the OCM suggest that the children would be educated in both Mexico and Ontario. However, the shape and purpose of this education is vastly different. Some OCM are able

  4 Pencil Box Journey: Old Colony Mennonite Children… 


to send their children to private, fee-paying schools that echo the schooling in Mexico. Dietsche religious schools are private and unaccredited—meaning that the teachers are not certified, nor is the curriculum provincially approved. However, OCM parents are comfortable with and confident in the education provided by these schools owing to “what is and what is not imparted to their children” (Gingrich 2016, p. 92). Most use the “Christian Light Education” curriculum prepared by Virginian Mennonites that offers basic reading, writing and mathematics delivered in a wrapper of “Christian education” that many OCM parents feel is not present in the Ontario public school system. It is interesting to note that while many OCM identify as such because of their affiliation with the Old Colony Church and therefore adopt a  particular view of education, new arrivals in Ontario may forego their association with the church but retain control over their children’s education (Quiring 2009). Being a child in Ontario means you attend school. As a result, OCM children are registered in public schools where “language, education, and literacy problems” (Quiring 2009, p. 99) exist because of the contrast between schooling in Mexico and in Ontario. The funds of knowledge (Moll et al. 1992) that the children have acquired as members of the OCM Gemeinde are suddenly insufficient to help them to negotiate their way in Ontario schools. The demands made upon OCM children who attend public school and participate in at least two very different cultures and Discourse communities (Swales 1998) are significant. For these children, as noted by Luke and Kale (1997), “the differences that children bring to classrooms are not simply idiosyncrasies …They are the products and constructions of the complex and diverse social learning from the culture(s) where children grow, live and interact” (p. 16). The binaries are often stark. Children arrive at climate-controlled school buildings in their traditional clothing; read picture books and not the Bible; and hear English as the language of instruction and not German. Low German (Plautdietsch) —the first language of OCM—is spoken, and only recently written and read (Gingrich 2016, p. 29), but many children have never seen Low German in a text. Instead, their language is relegated to recess and English is “privileged” (Kress 2005). While some OCM children who attended committee schools in Mexico


W. A. Crocker

are familiar with being grouped by age and not with their siblings, for many being apart from other members of the family in different grades is challenging. Then, there is the curriculum that is replete with subjects (e.g. art, music, dance, drama) that have had no place in the schooling received in Mexico. A further tension is the lack of apparent “Christian values” as illustrated to the OCM by the lack of prayers, reference to the Bible or catechism, and the universality of beliefs demonstrated in the school as dictated by the Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy (2009). It may be argued that public schools afford OCM children alternative life views and options that may not be open to them as members of the Gemeinde. Often, these opportunities are seen as a “threat to their way of life” (Crocker 2013c, p.  148). As reported by Good Gingrich (2016), there is a tension: A deep ambivalence about preserving or transmitting their traditional way of life, language that undermines the structure and relationships of the nuclear and extended family, as well as the Dietsche culture and religious heritage (p. 178).

However, as Good Gingrich (2016) goes on to point out, parents are also proud of the accomplishments of their children in Canada that I too, witnessed in my position as a principal. It was in this role that I observed the ability of the children to draw on their funds of identity (Esteban-­ Guitart 2016) as OCM particularly in relation to the markers of dress and language.

OCM Children as Negotiators According to Frankel and Fowler (2016), “the way we think about children shapes how we act toward them, defining the practices that we follow” (p.  25). It would be relatively easy, then, to use lenses of gender, oppression, and even faith to blind viewers to the ways in which the children of this cultural group operate in a way that could be considered as a cultural “Third Space” (Bhabha 1990). Thinking about third space is applying a construct from postcolonial, sociolinguistic theory proposes a

  4 Pencil Box Journey: Old Colony Mennonite Children… 


metaphoric, temporary place for those with cultural difference to adapt to new and different cultural expectations. I use the markers of dress and language to illustrate ways in which some OCM children use third space to negotiate between what it means to be an OCM and demonstrations of the dominant culture. Dress  OCM dress is dictated by the Ordunung. The women’s dress is a text that can be read to tell of her origins, her marital status, and her proficiency at the tasks (e.g., needlework, sewing) that are celebrated by the OCM community as important for creating a good home. Girls of school age (i.e. 8–10) are taught to sew the dresses without use of a paper pattern or fastenings such as zippers or buttons as part of what I have referred to as their “home schooling”. Sewing a woman’s pleated dress is a skill that has survived over the centuries, with patterns learned by memory and handed down through the generations. The design of the dress is such that it can be worn by infants, girls, and women in progressively larger sizes. Additionally, an easing of the pleats will accommodate pregnancy, while the apron top provides modesty for a breast-feeding mother. The design is still worn comfortably by women in old age. The material tells its own story with dark patterns and prints being selected by the Old Colony married women, while the brighter coloured prints are usually for the younger girls and unmarried women. When they are baptized, the women wear a chocolate brown dress with a neck tab that looks much like a cravat. Often this is the same dress that is worn, without the neck tab, as their wedding dress. If they are fortunate to have a different wedding dress, it will be black and following its wearing on the wedding day will be worn each Sunday to the Old Colony church as sindeosche or designated “Sunday-like”. In Ontario, OCM newcomers to public schools are often noticeable by their dress. Not only does it adhere strictly to what the Ordunung expects—right down to the dazzling white ankle socks and dark shoes— but the girls’ hair is also carefully plaited for school. However, as these children spend more and more time in Ontario, their dress becomes more relaxed. While OCM mothers will continue to dress traditionally, the children will often wear more “western-style” clothing (i.e. leggings,


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sweat pants, and shirts) with their dresses. However, even in the third space, girls’ dress doesn’t include licenced images like Mickey Mouse, Ninja Turtles, or Flora—although the boys sometimes sport sweatshirts emblazoned with sports teams or logos over their traditional plaid shirts. In winter, the negotiation goes further and includes wearing leggings under dresses for warmth, and sometimes stretches to sweatpants and a matching top. As OCM children spend more and more time in Ontario in school where the curriculum is more active, the weather more extreme, and the price of ready-made children’s clothing much less than the cost of material, traditional dress often becomes less prescriptive. I have also observed older students, who had been in Ontario several times, leave sweatshirts and other western style clothing in their school locker to put on during class-time, and then quickly change into the traditional dress from home before leaving on the bus at the end of the day. As people with agency in their own right, these children exercised a choice to look more like their peers at school—unbeknownst to their parents—and then re-­ don the traditional OCM dress for their return home. This change of clothes speaks to more than just wanting to be like their Ontario peers. It also illustrates the OCM child’s understanding of dress as a marker that can be adapted according to setting or expectation. OCM children draw on their funds of identity and understand that the way they dress is distributed among the ways that they are viewed by others to define themselves (Estaban-Guitart 2016). Further, the traditional OCM dress is itself an “identity tool” that is a tangible expression of belonging to two different worlds, with two different sets of expectations. In instances where clothing was changed at school, and then changed again to return home, the OCM children were demonstrating their understanding of the dress as an important way of belonging to each world. Negotiating English Language  Nowhere are the negotiation skills of OCM students more evident than at the school—the “interface” (Levinson 2007) of home, school, and community literacies and in the art of communication. OCM are often overwhelmed by the amount of English in Ontario schools. With a first language of Plautdietsch that is predominantly an oral tradition, and a history of education based on

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listening and rote learning, OCM students are sometimes challenged by the demands to communicate with school officials, teachers, and other children. They are bombarded by signs, books, official forms, and a spoken language that is not easily understood by many members of the LGM. Often, older children who have attended English-speaking schools act as translators for their parents switching between languages (English and Low German; Gregory 2005) to support their understanding. On other occasions, established members of the OCM community in the area accompany families to register for school and help with the language. OCM children often demonstrate differences in their social communication (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills, hereafter BICS; Cummins 1979) and their skills in academic literacy (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency; Cummins 1979). They engage in social interactions in English (e.g. greetings and goodbyes, communication of basic needs) and are often able to “fool their teachers” with their oral proficiency because their writing and reading skills (e.g. print literacy; Purcell-­ Gates et  al. 2004) are more limited. OCM children, used to an oral language tradition, absorb spoken language quite readily and as a result often have BICS skills that belie their lagging print literacy. During class instruction, there is often evidence of translanguaging —that is using the conventions of more than one language to communicate meaning (Garcia 2009). In this case, a blend of Plautdietsch, English, and sometimes Spanish is used by students. Further, extensive use of gesture and ­illustration helps meaning to be conveyed and understood. In terms of language, OCM children use the third space to create scaffolds between their traditional literacies of Low German and expectations of reading, writing, and speaking (i.e. school or print literacies) in Ontario schools. I have described how OCM children actively navigate speaking English by drawing from their repertoire of several literacies—reading, writing, listening, speaking—from across several languages. However, in spite of the agency demonstrated by the OCM children to bring what they know to a new context, not all of their negotiations are successful. Educational practices often differ from the expectations of policy. School personnel can be trapped by legislation into viewing OCM students from a deficit


W. A. Crocker

perspective (i.e. in terms of what they are unable to do; Heydon and Iannacci 2008). Where teaching practices enable students to demonstrate their understandings across multiple ways of meaning-making (Kress 2003), policy often restricts those practices to narrow definitions of reading and writing. A glaring example is the large-scale assessment of reading, writing, and mathematics conducted in Ontario (i.e. EQAO, 1996) as a demonstration of literacy. In the shadow of these restrictive policies, OCM students are sometimes inappropriately placed in remedial classes that are an instructional mismatch for their challenges with learning to read and write in a new language. In turn, their placement in the class and the stigma that is often associated with those programmes is applied to the children who are seen as “slow” as opposed to English Language Learners (ELL) who are capable and competent learners with multiple literacies.

Conclusion In this chapter, I have outlined the ways in which OCM children draw on their funds of knowledge (Moll et  al. 1992) and funds of identity (Esteban-Guitart 2016) to negotiate the stark differences between their educational contexts in Mexico and in Ontario. I have described some of the ways that I observed the OCM children negotiate their path between two very different educational lives: as students in the schools in Ontario and “scholars” in the traditional schools on the colonies in Mexico. I have illustrated their use of third space as a transitional place where the children are viewed as capable and competent as they experiment with practices of language and dress—two cultural markers of what it means to be Mennonite. When viewed through a lens that positions them as capable and competent beings, OCM children are seen as active negotiators who construct their identity from “multiple experiences and relationships that are enacted within places and spaces…as hybrid…complex…and shifting as a person moves from space to space and relationship to relationship” (McCarthy and Moje 2002, p. 231). They simultaneously honour the traditions of what it means to be Mennonite while adapting to the Canadian context.

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And what of the pencil box? It is another example of how an identity tool (like dress or language) remains constant but how its meaning changes according to context. The wooden box with its sliding lid and red rose transfer is always a pencil case—regardless of whether it is on a school desk in Mexico or in Ontario. However, it is imbued with meaning and can signal both difference and belonging. When in Mexico, the pencil box is a common school accoutrement carried by many children. As such, it symbolizes belonging and the expectations and traditions of being Mennonite. In Ontario, however, the simple wooden box bravely holds on to its difference in a sea of Miss Kitty, Superheroes, or pencil cases of coloured plastic. It serves to remind the teachers that the owner of the pencil box is a negotiator: a child who is both “within but apart from” the dominant culture. Sitting on the desk of an OCM child, the wooden box whispers, “I am Mennonite, and there is more to my story”.

References Bhabha, H. 1990. The third space: Interview with Homi Bhabha. In Identity, community, culture, difference, ed. J. Rutherford, 207–221. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Crocker, W.A. 2013a. Telling tales out of school: Principals’ narratives of the relationship between school literacy and home literacy practices of a minoritized culture. Doctoral dissertation in Educational Studies. The University of Western Ontario, London. ———. 2013b. More than A, B, C: Old Colony Mennonites and the challenges of Ontario public education school policy. Transnational Social Review 3 (2): 193–210. ———. 2013c. “Home” schooling. In Mothering Mennonite, ed. R. Epp Buller and K. Fast, 142–161. Bradford: Demeter Press. Cummins, J.  1979. Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research 49: 222–25l. Education Quality and Accountability Office Act 1996. Retrieved from http:// Last Accessed February 2018. Epp, R. 1999. The story of low German & Plautdietsch: Tracing a language across the globe. Hillsboro: The Reader’s Press.


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Epp, M. 2008. Mennonite women in Canada: A history. Winnipeg: University of Winnipeg Press. Esteban-Guitart, M. 2016. Funds of identity: Connecting meaningful learning experiences in and out of school. New York: Cambridge University Press. Frankel, S., and J. Fowler. 2016. How to take your school on a journey to outstanding: Five building blocks to maximize children’s social learning potential. Church Stretton/Shropshire: EquippingKids. Fretz, W. 1945. Mennonite Colonization in Mexico: An introduction. Akron: The Mennonite Central Committee. García, O. 2009. Education, multilingualism and translanguaging in the 21st century. In Multilingual education for social justice: Globalising the local, ed. Ajit Mohanty, Minati Panda, Robert Phillipson, and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, 128–145. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan. Gee, J.P. 2000. Discourse and sociocultural studies in reading. In Handbook of reading research, ed. M.L. Kamil, P.B. Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, and R. Barr, vol. III, 195–207. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum. Gingrich, L.G. 2016. Out of place: Social exclusion and Mennonite immigrants in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Gregory, E. 2005. Guiding lights: Siblings as literacy teachers in a multilingual community. In Portraits of literacy: Issues in family community and school literacies, ed. J. Anderson and M. Kendrick, 21–41. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum. Hedges, K.L. 1996. Plautdietsch and Huuchdietsch in Chihuahua: Language, literacy, and identity among the Old Colony Mennonites in Northern Mexico. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Yale University, New Haven. Hertzler, D. 1971. Mennonite education: Why and how? Scottdale: Herald Press. Heydon, R., and L.  Iannacci. 2008. Early childhood curricula and the de-­ pathologizing of childhood. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Kress, G. 2005. Before writing: Rethinking the paths to literacy. Oxford: Routledge. Levinson, M.P. 2007. Literacy in English gypsy communities: Cultural capital manifested as negative assets. American Educational Research Journal 44: 5–39. Luke, A., and J. Kale. 1997. Learning through difference: Cultural practices in early language socialization. In One child, many worlds: Early learning in multicultural communities, ed. E. Gregory, 11–22. London: David Fulton. McCarthy, S.J., and E.B.  Moje. 2002. Identity matters. Reading Research Quarterly 37 (2): 228–238. McCarty, T.L. 2002. A place to be Navajo. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum & Associates.

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Ministry of Education. 2009. Ontario’s equity and inclusive education strategy. Toronto: Queen’s Printer. Moll, L., C. Amanti, D. Neff, and N. Gonzalez. 1992. Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory Into Practice 31: 132–141. Old Colony Support. 2011. Called to Mexico: Bringing literacy and hope to the Old Colony Mennonites. Walnut Creek: Carlisle Printing. Purcell-Gates, V., E.  Jacobson, and S.  Degener. 2004. Uniting cognitive and social practice theories. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Quiring, D. 2009. The Mennonite Old Colony vision. Steinbach: D.F.  Plett Historical Research Foundation. Ratner, C. 2006. Cultural psychology: A perspective on psychological functioning and social reform. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum. Redekop, C. 1989. Mennonite society. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Reimer, M.L. 2008. One quilt, many pieces: A guide to Mennonite groups in Canada. Waterloo: Herald Press. Rogoff, B. 2003. The cultural nature of human development. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Roth, J.D. 2011. Teaching that transforms: Why Anabaptist-Mennonite education matters. Scottdale: Herald Press. Swales, J. 1998. The concept of discourse community. College Composition and Communication 49 (2): 21–32.

Commentary on Chapter 4 (Response 1): Integration and Negotiation in UK Schools Clare Claxton

I share this response as an experienced school leader, having worked with children across the age range. The communities that I have worked in have largely been in areas where the level of immigration, particularly from Eastern Europe, has been a significant feature of community evolvement over recent years. Families have moved into the area in search of work in the agricultural and food processing sectors and this has seen an increased number of children arriving in school who speak English as an additional language (EAL). Wendy A. Crocker’s chapter offers an interesting opportunity to contrast the experiences of Mennonite children in Canada with children who arrive from a variety of Eastern European cultures to our schools in the UK. Although I recognise that the views below are limited to the schools that I have worked with and know of, they do raise some relevant issues about the school experience of immigrant children in the UK.

C. Claxton (*) Orchards CofE Primary School, Wisbech, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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One System of Schooling The biggest difference of course is that OCM children have three strong cultures to negotiate: home, school in Mexico and school in Ontario, whereas students in the UK have essentially only to adapt to English schooling. The influence of Saturday schooling in England by students’ own community leaders, where it even exists, is largely ceremonial and celebratory rather than dictatorial as with the OCM community. Children therefore have only one approach to school to engage with. That said, they still need to find a way to establish a place within this new environment. So, whether they are entering a different system (having attended school in their home country) or are starting school for the first time (albeit in a language that they are not use to), there are in my opinion three main factors that determine their response. First, the quality of the induction programme—meaning, is the child given work at the right level for his/her level of oracy and academic ability and do they have an adult who they can use as a point of reference and who they trust? Secondly, how quickly they learn the art of ‘translanguaging and gesture’ within, but particularly outside the classroom. Thirdly, how the young person’s image fits that of stereotypical norms for the age group. It might be that in a primary school context, integration is that bit easier because children often play ‘made up games’ that have no particular rules and as the children are usually taught by a single class teacher, it is much easier to get to know their individual needs. This is in contrast with secondary schools where integration means that students will happily work alongside other students from different cultures in the classroom but can usually be found socialising in home language groups outside the classroom. That said, I have seen many ways in which this process of integration can be encouraged. Examples include a school choir where a beautiful Gaelic song was mastered by all (perhaps a clever ploy by the teacher to get all her students singing in a common language?) and the Free Running Club where Eastern European students taught English students some of the physical skills associated with the discipline of Free Running.

  Commentary on Chapter 4 (Response 1): Integration… 


Family Attitudes to School It is also important to recognise the impact of family attitudes towards school and how children come to engage in it. One of the major differences that stands out to me between OCM integration into schools in Ontario and Mexico compared to that in England is that parents of EAL students wish them to have a good education, to master English so that they gain good employability skills and make their way in the world. In the recent past, I had an extended conversation with a local recruitment agency who said that compared to ten years ago, the most upwardly mobile workers within the food processing industry (prevalent in the area in which I work) are nearly all from Eastern Europe and it is now more common for a senior manager to be from Eastern Europe than UK born. The fundamental purpose of education in Mennonite communities is to educate their children to take up their place in a very regulated, gender-­ segregated community, completely different from mainstream philosophy in the UK. In Mexico, OCM schools are led by members of their own community but in Ontario the system is more in line with mainstream English education system where every child must strive to be the best they can be with the expectation that girls perform equally well as boys. This is in complete opposition to the view of the colonists who ‘fear that too much education will interfere with salvation (Quiring 2009). Cultivating independent learners who are also creative thinkers is highly prized by western education systems since this is what the best universities and apprenticeship managers are seeking in their students. Indeed, the government legislates that schools must teach careers education from Year seven upwards through which all young people are given the opportunities to decide what career they wish to pursue. The Eastern European families absolutely share this philosophy but it is not uncommon for children to attend Saturday school run by their own community to learn more about their own culture. However, there are a number of faith schools in this country which buck the ‘inclusive’ trend and have survived and thrived for several generations. In this respect could an OCM school thrive in England?


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My reflection on this question is that it would be very difficult for an OCM school to thrive in England since there is no history of this type of community in either a city or rural area. In England, you will find particular faith schools such as Jewish schools in areas of North London and Islamic schools in the suburbs of Leicester. These are known to be thriving communities populated by people of different faiths. However, these areas are not closed off and people from outside of these faith groups will commonly visit these small communities to absorb aspects of culture and to sample different types of national cuisines. Not ever having worked in one of these specific communities, my experience of migrant families settling into local communities is that actually nursery education and subsequently the school is a focal point of support for the integration. If the culture is one of inclusivity, which current educational legislative frameworks also value highly, the family will feel valued, aspects of their culture are joyfully celebrated and friendships emerge between people from different communities.

A Commitment to Integration The desire of Eastern European families to work hard and integrate is impressive; this means that there is a real drive to ensure that rather than cultures being held exclusively for their own members, they are shared with the wider community as customs brought from their native land are nurtured and celebrated; local supermarkets import favourite food items. In rural towns, most indigenous families would say they are friends with families from Eastern Europe. In this respect, I would consider what is written above to be their Funds of Identity; this appears to be very different from OCM families whose beliefs are neatly expressed by Rogoff as having ‘a foot in two worlds but who live in one’. Although there is a strong sense of their own culture migrants in England, in the areas I have worked, have arrived in small family groups, sometimes with only one parent and their child(ren) from a variety of different European countries. Here there is simply less opportunity for them to operate as OCM families who are in the majority is some SW Ontario communities—size does matter. However, elsewhere in England

  Commentary on Chapter 4 (Response 1): Integration… 


there are now many settled migrant communities with third generation British born children who have maintained their culture whilst being integrated into English schools. That said, third generation Pakistani communities are far more western in outlook than their parents and grandparents. Perhaps this is because they hold schooling in England in high esteem in terms of improving their children’s future life chances. This philosophy differs greatly from that held by the OCM community where future life chances are dictated by Gemeinde philosophy. In her essay the author quotes Good Gingrich who sums the tension up as ‘... attending school (in Ontario) requires (OCM) children to learn a language that undermines the structure and relationships of the nuclear and extended family as well as the Dietsche culture and religious heritage’. The difference is that the translational nature of this OCM community, combined with the rural nature of their business also contributes to their children not becoming integrated with other students in mainstream Ontario schools. Speaking from the perspective of school leadership in a rural migrant town, attitudes have changed markedly even within the last 20 years. Years ago, migrants would come and go, being employed by growers and pickers. However, the rise of the food processing industries has brought additional permanent opportunities for EU migrants. There was a phase when factions of the community resented the success of migrants in these employment opportunities. This manifested itself in their voices being heard through the rise of political parties in the area, for example, UKIP (a far-right populist movement in the UK). However, over time local business and community leaders have voiced their opinions about the need for migrant workers to ensure the success of their local businesses, thus bringing a degree of balance to the debate about inward migration. Obviously, the vote to leave the European Union has raised a number of questions, both for us in school and also for migrant families. In the town, there has been no consistent response to Brexit amongst the migrant community. At school level, migrant employees are still not sure as to whether their particular circumstances will allow them to stay or mean that they need to leave. Business leaders are only just getting to grips with what Brexit will mean for them and therefore how their business models will need to change. From the migrant families I talk with on


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a regular basis, there is undoubtedly a sense of ‘limbo’ combined with a desire to stick with their current employer—a definite ‘wait and see’ philosophy until there is more clarity about their continued future prospects in the UK.

Negotiating Cultures I am constantly amazed by children’s ability to adapt and negotiate their way in British cultures—clearly this is the same for OCM children for example placing western style clothes in lockers to wear during the school day. The difference is that in England, children from different cultures, but who live in close proximity often become friends and socialise outside school. This was more apparent in a primary than a secondary context. The feature of ‘translanguaging’ and gesture is, in my experience, commonplace and very inspirational. Sadly, the part of the essay that refers to those children whose levels of Oracy in English are good enough to fool their teachers into thinking they have mastered the language resonates with what is to be found in some classrooms in England. The children often speak several different languages with different members of family or friends—they have confidently mastered the skill of acquiring communication skills in different languages which then fools their teachers until an extended piece of unaided writing is called for. This is when their lack of skill becomes all too apparent and often at too late a stage to be remedied before the time to sit public exams. As in the case study, putting EAL students in the lowest sets happens in this country where provision for them is weak or misunderstood. As the author puts it, teaching English to those for whom it is not their first language requires a systemic approach beyond the scope of her essay. I totally agree with this and it is ‘happen-chance’ if an EAL child receives good teaching in this country despite the erstwhile but often inaccurate efforts of many teachers and teaching assistants. The system mitigates against systemic change because there just is not the money available given all the competing pressures head teachers find themselves facing. In terms of how one might respond to this, there does not seem to have been any systematic research on the best way to teach children to

  Commentary on Chapter 4 (Response 1): Integration… 


read and write in English in the most expedient manner possible without losing the all-important integration with English students in a school context. Were this to be the case, it might be apparent, for example, that the amounts of money I know are commonly used in providing ‘catch up’, or the time of a bilingual teaching assistant, are of little value. In this respect, the starting point might be to research students whose integration was successful and ask for their views on what worked and what did not. My experiences in this regard suggests that secondary-school aged migrant students who have also experienced a non-British education system are much better at giving a ‘system analysis’ when compared to their English peers. In my view, properly funded, good quality research is the way forward. Despite the budgetary limitations in funding currently perceived, ideal integration models, much can be achieved by school leaders simply promoting the right ethos. It costs very little to help families feel comfortable coming into school or nursery; to support them to complete start up paperwork; to ask for members of the community to translate key documents and to celebrate aspects of their own cultures. On beginning leadership in one school where there was no budget set aside for this purpose, clocks were installed in reception giving the time of day in all the students’ home countries; Google translate was used for school documents and though not always accurate was much appreciated; our receptionists became great at ‘translanguaging’ and of course our students were there to welcome students and their families in their own language. There was a culture of encouraging people to speak and write English but to also encourage them to continue to speak and write in their first language so they retained their bilingual skills. The net effect of this ‘no-cost’ way of operating was families who felt comfortable coming through the school doors and students who rapidly gained confidence in a new environment. Despite these positive gains, it is my belief that there is still a long way to go before students are confident enough to publicly express the enthusiastic pride in their own heritage expressed with the adults they trust. Perhaps this has much to do with their rapid acquisition of ­translanguaging and gesture skills from which the need to conform to the social norms of their peers quickly becomes apparent!


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References Quiring, D. 2009. The Mennonite Old Colony vision. Steinbach: D.F.  Plett Historical Research Foundation. Rogoff, B. 2003. The cultural nature of human development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Commentary on Chapter 4 (Response 2): Considering Belonging Through ‘Display’ Julie Walsh

In this response, I apply Janet Finch’s concept of displaying families (2007) to the lives of migrant families living in the UK, with a particular emphasis on family young. Writing in 2007, Finch develops David Morgan’s (1996) influential idea that the contemporary family expresses relationships, not via biology or co-residence, but through the “doing of family practices”, which he defines as the “little fragments of daily life which are part of the normal taken for granted existence of practitioners” (1996:190). By engaging in these practices, families are able to represent the family-like quality of their relationships (1996: 186). For Finch, however, families also need to be seen to be ‘doing’ these practices if the relationships concerned are to be understood as familial. This is achieved via family display, which she describes as, “the process by which individuals, and groups of individuals, convey to each other and to relevant audiences, that certain of their actions do constitute ‘doing family things’ and thereby confirm that these relationships are ‘family relationships’”. In so doing, Finch argues that contemporary families are fulfilling a need to J. Walsh (*) Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



J. Walsh

display “this is my family and it works” (Finch 2007: 67). By drawing on the narratives of migrant families living in the north of England, this chapter shows that, in the context of migration, family display can help migrant family young feel that they ‘belong’ to a transnational family. The empirical data presented is taken from research conducted in a Northern UK city, Hull, between October 2012 and September 2013. The overall aim of the study was to consider the significance of display for migrant families and included the completion of ten case studies with migrant families living in the city. Family adults were primary migrants from various countries, with diverse migratory backgrounds, and included: EU migrants from Slovakia and Poland, international students from Bangladesh and Malaysia, asylum seekers and refugees from Nigeria and Kurdistan, and economic migrants from China. Nine of the ten families included family young under the age of 18, four of whom were over the age of 3. Consequently, a multi-method approach was employed to explore the combined experiences of family adults, young people and children, and to facilitate the, “investigation of the tacit everydayness of families’ lives” (Jamieson et al. 2011: 6). This included an initial family group interview and subsequent one-to-one interviews with those over the age of three. As such, multiple familial perspectives were represented: children were recognised as agentic individuals, whilst also being situated and understood “within their families” (Seymour and McNamee 2012); the experiences of very young children were expressed via other family members; and one-to-one interviews facilitated family adults being heard.

Practices and Displays? It is necessary to provide an explanation of the difference between a ‘practice’ (Morgan 1996) and a ‘display’ (Finch 2007) and to outline the approach adopted in this chapter. The difference can be subtle, but analysis indicates that family displays can take two forms, those which are clearly such, and those which are less obvious and might, initially, appear as a ‘practice’ (Walsh 2015). The first takes place when family members selectively present elements of their life, in this case to those in the country of origin, with the intention of showing that their migrant family

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‘works’. Saman (father and Kurdish refugee), for example, receives a gift of gold jewellery from his brother living in Kurdistan. The jewellery is for his dual-heritage daughter (age three) and, because Saman knows that this gift of gold symbolises kinship in Kurdistan, he ensures that his daughter wears it, and that his Kurdish family know this; he selectively displays that his culturally mixed family follows Kurdish familial norms. The second form of display is less obvious, but helps to maintain and develop familial relationships (here transnationally), and indicate that these relationships remain high quality and significant; Ivana, for example, regularly Skypes her mother in Slovakia whilst she is preparing dinner for the family because, “If I don’t ring [meaning Skype] my Mum at least twice a week, she will be mad. She will be worried something happens to me, so I got really, really regular contact with my Mum”. This is a family display because, for Ivana, this everyday activity affirms to her mother that she is a significant part of her life—my transnational family works—whilst also displaying that her family is functioning well—my UK based family works. For Walsh, then, in the context of migration, “what might be a ‘taken for granted’ practice when families are co-­resident becomes a display” (Walsh 2015: 342).

 eographical Separation from Family Children G and Migrant Family Display Finch argues that “the fluidity of family over time” results in contemporary families experiencing specific periods of change that require them to redefine their membership and show that these “relationships thus configured do really ‘work’” (Finch 2007: 70). In the study, participant accounts show that one such period is when children are present in, or are born into, a migrant family. For family adults, the geographical separation from family children can be challenging, and this prompts displays intended to develop and/or maintain transnational familial bonds. Hiwa (a father and Kurdish refugee), explains that this is because, in Kurdistan, the separation of generations within a family is difficult because adults are, “very connected to the young” (Hiwa, father, Kurdish refugee).


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Similarly, Chyou, (mother and Chinese economic migrant) states that such separation is problematic because, in her home country, “grandparents look after the little one”. The drive to develop and nurture quality relationships with family children living in another country, subsequently, leads to an increase in transnational displays, allowing families to show that these are still family relationships. This is exemplified in the changes that occur in transnational communication when a child is born: Sana (Hiwa’s wife) talks about the recent birth of her son, Aso, and how this has affected the contact her UK based family has with her husband’s parents living in Kurdistan. As new grandparents, they want to reconfigure their relationships with their son and his wife and begin one with Aso. As a result, they display family by focusing their attention on their new grandchild and increasing the frequency of their interaction with their UK based family. Here, Skype is the platform that allows relationships to be expressed—the “enabler of display” (Walsh 2015)—and Sana reports that since Aso’s birth, Hiwa’s parents are more concerned with Aso. Where is Aso? They want to see him […] Hiwa’s father, Aso’s grandfather, he is always just come to see Aso really. They are not concerned with Hiwa!

(Sana, Mother, recently married to, Hiwa, a Kurdish refugee). Ruta (14 years old, Polish economic migrant), provides a second example of when the birth of family children prompts changes in the nature of transnational family displays. For her, the arrival of a baby niece and nephew, in Poland, has led to more frequent transnational contact and, she is, “just, like, more in touch with family, so I see the children”. By increasing her use of Skype, visiting Poland more regularly and her sister sending electronic photographs of the youngsters to the UK, familial connections are displayed and Ruta is able to develop her relationship as an aunt. These examples of a shift in family display show that, for these transnational families, the development and maintenance of quality relationships with young relatives in other countries is paramount and necessitates investment. This remains the case, irrespective of the family’s country of origin or migrant status, and when families are able to display successfully across national borders, geographically separate families can maintain a sense of familial belonging. Consequently, children in the study that engage in these displays do express a strong sense of being a member

  Commentary on Chapter 4 (Response 2): Considering… 


of their transnational families. Ruta, for example—and her brother, Lech—talk affectionately about relatives living in Poland, including siblings, grandparents, nieces, nephews and uncles. Similarly, Matus, lives in the UK with his mum and younger brother, but includes “my grandad, grandma, uncles, aunties and cousins” (Matus, age 11, Slovakian economic migrant) when he names family members, all of whom live in Slovakia. Here, then, for these young people, family display is an activity of contemporary transnational families that successfully supports them in expressing ‘belonging’ to their transnational family.

 ransnational Familial Belonging: The Role T of Enablers of Display There are, however, a number of factors—or ‘enablers’ of display (Walsh 2015)—that influence the success of transnational displays in supporting “the continually evolving nature of the relationships” in question (Finch 2007: 69). Polish born siblings, Ruta and Lech (age 14 and 17 respectively), for example, came to the UK when they were seven and ten and speak English fluently, but describe Polish as their first language. The age of these siblings, their ability to speak Polish fluently, and their migration status as EU residents mean that they are able to visit the country of origin without a visa or parent and they do so during most of their school holidays. Consequently, these young people are agentic in displaying their relationships independently of parental influence; Ruta, for example, recounts that she Skypes family members in Poland as a way of letting transnational family members “know that she cares”. Similarly, Lech, states that trips to Poland support him in maintaining relationships with family members by “just talking with them. Spend time with people and do normal stuff”. Whilst the success of these displays is, in part, dependant on their mother (Sylvia) financing and organising transnational visits, it is a combination of the sibling’s age and language competency, that allows them to act with autonomy and ‘display family’ in order to develop quality, independent transnational relationships. By contrast, when family display is not assisted by a parent, and children are relatively young, transnational familial relationships suffer. Daniella (age eight), for example, came to the UK as a pre-verbal infant.


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Her mother, Magda, has encouraged her to learn Polish, because, “basically, my Mum, she can’t speak English […] so it could be nice if she will remember” (Magda, mother, Polish economic migrant). Daniella, however, expresses more affinity with English culture, and resists learning her mother’s first language, stating: I hate speaking in Polish because I don’t like it. In English I love speaking because I’m much better because when I speak Polish, I sometimes get words wrong. (Daniella, age eight, Polish economic migrant)

As Magda prefers to communicate with transnational family members via the telephone, and she avoids using Skype, this is also the only medium made available to Daniella. Given that Daniella’s ability to speak Polish is limited, she is unable to speak with her grandmother during Magda’s weekly telephone call to Poland—her display of family. Furthermore, despite being EU citizens and, therefore, being able to move freely between the UK and Poland, Magda and Daniella do so infrequently, due to limited household finances and because Magda prefers to spend holidays in the UK. Although Daniella’s grandmother does visit the UK twice a year, their lack of a shared language means that, during these visits, interaction between Daniella and her grandmother is limited, with Daniella reporting that: “My grandma […] she says, ‘I can’t hear you’ when I speak in English”. Whilst the visit is, in itself, Magda’s mother ‘displaying’ her familial bond with her daughter and granddaughter, the scarcity of further displays, results in Daniella’s relationship with her grandmother lacking familial quality, and her having a limited sense of her broader transnational family. Discussion presented here, thereby, indicates that family display is one strategy employed by migrant families to maintain transnational familial bonds (Walsh 2015), and also a sense of belonging to the transnational family unit. Further, the presence of children in the transnational family is shown to be significant and, for family adults, the incentive to engage in family displays is heightened when children are present, or born into, the geographically separate extended family. Family displays are supported—or ‘enabled’—by technological mechanisms (such as Skype and the telephone) and family visits to either the country of origin of the

  Commentary on Chapter 4 (Response 2): Considering… 


migratory home. When successful, transnational family members are thereby able to show that their familial relationships remain high quality and that their family ‘works’. When specifically considering family young a number of factors should be taken into account. Some families are, for example, less able to display freely when their migration status impacts on their ability to travel freely between countries. Significantly, the data presented show that families, on the whole, are able to negotiate such barriers and it is other factors that are more influential in the success of family display in securing a sense of transnational family belonging for family young; indeed, as noted by Walsh, “where parents facilitate family display, or, alternatively, children and young people are old enough to act independently, intergenerational relationships with those in the country of origin are either strong or, for the very young, have the potential to be so” (Walsh 2015: 356).

References Finch, J. 2007. Displaying families. Sociology 41 (1): 65–81. Jamieson, L., R.  Simpson, and R.  Lewis, eds. 2011. Researching families and relationships: Reflections on process. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Morgan, D. 1996. Family connections. Cambridge: Polity. Seymour, J., and S. McNamee. 2012. Being parented? Children and young people’s engagement with parenting activities. In Learning from the children: Childhood, culture and identity in a changing world, ed. J.  Waldren and I. Kaminski, 92–107. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Walsh, J. 2015. Displaying across Borders: The role of ‘family display’ in maintaining transnational intergenerational relationships. In Family change in times of de-bordering of Europe and global mobility, ed. I. Juozeliuniene and J. Walsh. Vilnius: Vilnius University Press.

5 Contexts of Twinship: Discourses and Generation Kate Bacon

Introduction: Research on Twins There are around 10,000 multiple births each year in England and Wales—around 1 in every 65 births. Due to the increase in technologies to assist conception (such as IVF) and the fact that women are having children later in life, the number of multiple births has been on the increase from the 1970s (McKay 2010). Most research on twins has been concerned to investigate the influence of heredity and environment. Traditionally, this utilises the ‘twin method’ whereby researchers compare identical and non-identical twins in order to see how much the environment shapes the phenomenon under study (Mittler 1971). Although criticised for assuming that the influence of the environment is the same in the two types of twins (for instance see Ainslie et  al. 1987; Zazzo 1978), the classic ‘twin method’ has been used by medical geneticists and researchers to test how far diseases are genetically determined. Psychological studies have examined the role of genetics and ­environment K. Bacon (*) University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



K. Bacon

in determining temperament, personality and cognition (see Kozlak 1978; Newman 1942). Whilst some of the psychological/psychoanalytical studies (Burlingham 1952; Koch 1966) reveal glimpses of how parents and the general public think about twins, their main focus remains on charting the development of twins and (often problems with) their identity formation. Anthropology has examined the cultural beliefs and customs relating to twins (mainly in non-Western societies) and demonstrated how ideas about twins are culturally variable. Amongst other things, twins have been variously associated with adultery, animalistic reproduction, mystical powers and God-given faculties. In some cultures, they confer special honour; in other cultures they invite fear (see Corney 1977 for an overview). In contrast to anthropology, sociology has paid little attention to twins. Indeed, although the sociological study of sibship is a growing area of contemporary sociology, there are still relatively few empirical sociological studies of twinship. Taking a sociological perspective to twinship means examining twinship as a social and (from my perspective, taking account of the influence of anthropology too) also a cultural phenomenon. This involves examining how cultural ideas and social attitudes shape twinship, how twinship as a social identity is built up and established as meanings are played out and negotiated in everyday life. It involves examining how broader social processes and changes as well as micro-level interactions shape twins’ experiences of being twins. In her book Exploring Twins, Stewart argues that twinship is ‘an irreducibly social phenomenon’ (2003: 150). She considers the social consequences of twinship for families and twins and includes one chapter reviewing findings from her UK-based empirical studies of parents’ and the general public’s attitudes towards twins. My book Twins in Society (2010) relays findings from another UK empirical study conducted with 15 parents of twins, 12 child twins, 9 adult twins and 5 siblings of twins. The project examined how twins negotiate their identities as they move through the life course and also paid specific attention to representations of twinship in popular culture and parenting guides (for parents of twins). This chapter utilises aspects of this research to demonstrate how taking a sociological perspective can reveal how twinship is shaped for twins and

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by twins. To set the scene for this discussion, the chapter begins by introducing two parents that I researched: Clare and Anthony. The chapter then returns to discuss the key themes highlighted by this case study.

Clare and Anthony Anthony and Clare were parents to non-identical eight-year-old twins, Ash and Harry. They all lived in a three-bedroom house on a housing estate on the edge of a town in the North of England. Anthony and Clare were both working in manual jobs, doing shift work. In many respects, their views on parenting and ideal family life might be described as ‘traditional’. For Clare, an ideal family was parents with two children: one boy and one girl. For Anthony, gender was important here—‘obviously men want boys’. Anthony and Clare wanted their children to be kept ‘as young and innocent’ (Clare) for as long as possible ‘in like a little cocoon’ (Clare) (Bacon 2010: 57). They didn’t really like them playing outside on the street in case hanging around with the other children that came to ‘congregate’ (Clare) there meant they ended up taking the blame for something and getting into trouble. However, they did not want them to be so cocooned that this innocence prevented them from becoming independent individuals. They worried they were being too overprotective. Whilst they valued their twins’ closeness—recounting examples of how Ash and Harry liked to be together, chose to share a bedroom, sometimes still wanted to sleep together and missed each other when they were apart— they also sensed that too much dependence could be problematic. Although they were glad they weren’t identical, Clare decided to dress her twins ‘the same’—in identical outfits. ‘I always dress them alike’. Whilst, both Clare and Anthony worried that they were not treating them like ‘individuals’ Clare told me ‘I just like to see ‘em in [the] same clothes’ (Bacon 2010: 72). Growing up was envisaged as a process that would modify these expressions of togetherness and sameness. Clare supposed that as her twins ‘get older they will change’. One aspect of this change would be when her children objected to wearing the same clothes: ‘until they say “oh I’m not wearing what he’s wearing” I’ll continue to do it’ (Bacon 2010: 72).


K. Bacon

Another aspect would be spending less time together as they move into different classes at comprehensive school and get their own friends and eventually move out of home. For these parents, growing up also meant getting older, more capable and more knowing but Clare and Anthony saw themselves as taking a leading role in deciding exactly what was appropriate for their children to see and know. For instance, they prevented their children from watching a film rated 12 year olds because it was deemed ‘not suitable’. Their decision was final—as Clare put it, that was the ‘top and bottom of it’. Anthony felt comfortable with Ash and Harry playing on the play station or watching TV programmes that contained some violence ‘as long as they can distinguish which is fact and fiction’. At the same time, he said that ‘where sex and swearing come in, you know, they’re not an age group where they can take that on board.’ ‘When they need to know about things like that we’ll tell ‘em, it’s as simple as that’ (Bacon 2010: 57).

Exploring Dimensions of Context As Frankel (2017) notes, in order to fully understand children’s everyday lives it is important to examine the way in which the wider context of society, including the socially constructed nature of childhood, shapes interactional settings and the practices that take shape there. This case study illustrates how twinship is contextualised by a range of social structures and processes. First, it shows how parents work with and utilise various discourses of childhood and twinship to inform their views on how they should raise their children and be ‘good parents’. Central to these parents are discourses about childhood innocence, development and becoming. Second, it provides insight into how inter-generational relationships between parents and children contextualise children’s agency— the extent to which children can shape their own lives and the lives of other people. Thirdly, we catch glimpses of how the experience of twinship is also shaped by a range of material conditions (including the economic capital of parents and the organisation and use of physical space within the home) and broader social changes such as the growing child-­ centeredness of family life. The next sections explore these in more detail.

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Discourses of Childhood and Growing Up Discourses are collections of ideas that help to bring meaning to the social world and shape the knowledge we have about it. This includes knowledge about childhood and twinship. As Foucault (1980) notes, there is a close relationship between knowledge and power. Discourses can be used to control behaviour, they shape how we think, feel and act. Some discourses may also be deemed more ‘legitimate’ than others and through their domination, take the status of ‘common sense’. Discourses of childhood and twinship are products of culture and history and as such can vary over time and space. Research within Childhood Studies (see James et al. 1998; Hendrick 2015) has highlighted a number of dominant (Western) discourses of childhood including children as evil, innocent and naturally developing. The evil child is innately wilful and requires adult regulation and control to keep them on the ‘right’ path. These children should avoid ‘bad’ places in case they fall into bad company (James et al. 1998). From its mythological foundation in the Christian doctrine of Original Sin, this discourse has persisted over time—through the religious Puritanism of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Poor Laws and Dickensian novels of the nineteenth century. It is also very much a feature of our contemporary belief system too—evident in the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act’s removal of the presumption of doli incapax and contemporary public concerns about the dangers that children (as well as adults) present in public space. We can also see glimpses of this in Clare’s worries about the other kids off the street that ‘come and congregate’. Created and sustained by educational, legal and health policies, the discourse of the innocent child arguably remains one of the most dominant images of childhood, at least in public (Jenks 1996; McNamee 2016). It is at the forefront of Clare and Anthony’s ‘public’ account too. Historically associated with Rousseau and the Romantic poets (although, it extends beyond this) this discourse pictures children as having a natural goodness that places them closer to nature. Adults should learn from this and cherish it in their children. ‘Devoid of all morality in his actions, [the child] can do nothing which is morally bad and which merits either punishment or reprimand’ (Rousseau 1979 [1762]: 92). In contrast, adult


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society can corrupt children. Children, Rousseau argued, should be left to mature in a natural and orderly way moving from relying on sensual experience to intellectual and analytical thinking and later, moral reasoning. Adults are tasked with regulating the environment that children grow up in, in order to ensure that they do not encounter things beyond their comprehension. Rousseau warns the adult that ‘You will not be the child’s master if you are not the master of all that surrounds him’ (1979 [1762]: 95). This image of childhood therefore positions the child as being different to adults, requiring special treatment and care (Jenks 1996). Central to this image of the innocent child are notions of dependency and development. Dependency defines the child as different, Other and ‘in need’ (Hockey and James 1993). Yet ‘Childish dependency on parental care is expected to give way at a certain age to independent adulthood’ (Hockey and James 2003: 167). In Western societies, Individualistic, knowledgeable independence is the marker of adult status and the achievement of full personhood. Children achieve this, so the story goes, by progressing through a series of stages at particular ages. During the nineteenth and especially twentieth centuries, children became the focus of scientific attention. Their bodies were weighed, measured and observed. Piaget, who was very much influenced by Rousseau’s ideas, was an influential twentieth century developmental theorist. He carried out a series of experiments on children in order to construct a theory of how children’s thinking skills develop through four distinct stages—from thought driven by sensory perception to rational, abstract and hypothetical thinking (Woodhead 2013). He also suggested that children confused fantasy and reality (Piaget 1929, 1930). Even though development ‘is neither a precise concept, nor a neutral one’ (Woodhead 2013: 109), notions of ‘age and stage’, ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ development (including children’s inability to distinguish fact from fiction) have filtered down to the level of common sense (Sharon and Wooley 2004). It is evident that these discourses feed into and shape how Anthony and Clare parent their children. The significance that they attribute to age for assessing their children’s levels of competence and skill, as well as what is appropriate and inappropriate parenting practice are evident. Their concerns to cherish and protect

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their innocent children reflect Western cultural obsessions with constructing the child as a symbol of dependency and the shift from children being economically valuable to being symbolically and emotionally priceless (Zelizer 1985). Adults invest huge amounts of time and emotion in their children’s childhoods and they construct idealised notions of childhood that help them to sustain some belief in stability amidst the change and uncertainty that characterises many other aspects of social life and social relationships (Gillis 2003; Giddens 1991). Children are now seen as ‘unequivocal sources of love, but also as partners in the most fundamental, unchosen, unnegotiated form of relationship’ (Jenks 1996: 107). Thus, whilst Anthony and Clare’s account may be ‘personal’ to them, they also reflect much broader public issues and social patterns.

Discourses of Twinship and Growing Up These related ideas of innocence and dependence parallel discourses of twinship. Twins are commonly imagined as being the same, close and together (Bacon 2010). In her two-stage study, Stewart (2003) collected the views of 100 parents of twins and then the views of 302 members of the general public. Her findings revealed how we tend to associate twins with identicalness—not only do parents commonly get asked if their twins are identical, but as a general population we also tend to associate the word twins with the word ‘identical’. Reflecting this, Clare told me that ‘people obviously do think that they should be [the same], they do everything the same way and they react the same way which they are surprised when they don’t… people do think that they should be exactly the same…’. In everyday social life, twins are often talked about as ‘two-­ peas in a pod’, ‘joined at the hip’ or ‘soul mates’. They are also depicted by the media and advertising as the same—for instance, to show the benefits of using one product brand over another or to promote the value of two-for-one deals (see Bacon 2010). Describing the stereotype of ­twinship, Leonard (1961: 301) writes, ‘[t]wins look alike, think alike. They never fight. They have a closer relationship than any other known to mankind’.


K. Bacon

When these discourses are positioned alongside discourses of childhood it becomes apparent that twinship (with identical twinship representing the very epitome of twinship) is an intensification of the symbol of the child. Whilst children are thought to have the seeds of individuality and are also deemed to be dependent on their parents, twins are commonly thought to lack individuality by virtue of being ‘twins’ and are assumed to be dependent on each other as well as their parents. Being a twin then, is constructed as another way of being a child; but a more ‘childish’ child (Bacon 2010). This explains why 17% of the 302 respondents in Stewarts’ (2003) study also associated the word twins with ‘babies and children’. It may also explain why so many twins feature in children’s literature. On the one hand, social expectations about how twins should grow up are not completely different to other children. They still hinge around children growing up to become independent individuals. On the other hand, there are also some important differences. First, theories about how twins grow up relate not just to children’s relationship with their parents but also their relationship with each other too. Ideas about how twins grow up therefore also incorporate how sameness, togetherness and closeness are to be managed across the life course. Although many of the parents I spoke with dressed their children the same, or alike and kept them together in one bedroom as babies and sometimes as young children too, they also envisaged a time when this would end because their children would develop their own (different) tastes and personalities and be old enough to have a say in these decisions. Second, related to this, this construction of twinship (two same-­ looking, close children) means that twins potentially face a series of more intense contradictions as they grow up: whilst they are expected to be the same as children (especially young children) they are expected to become different and whilst they are expected to be together, they are expected to become independent (see Bacon 2010). Whilst twin sameness and togetherness might be admired and cherished in early childhood, normative life course timetables suggest that these should ideally be kept in check by parents and teachers and increasingly diluted over time in order to ensure that twins progress towards adulthood successfully (see Bacon 2010).

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Adults who present as ‘twins’ may thus become the source of social stigma. As Rachel (aged 20) explained to me when talking about some twins that attended her university, ‘it’s a bit weird. When you’re 20 you really should have your own identity rather than being a twin’ (2010: 96). Similar sentiments are reflected in popular media accounts of some adult twins too. For instance, my recent examination of tabloid representations of the pop duo ‘Jedward’ (see Bacon 2016a) revealed how they were often represented as Other, ‘freaks’, ‘children’ and ‘jokers’/‘a joke’. Failure to complete this developmental process towards individuality and independence successfully will, so the story goes, result in a series of ‘problems’. Research reveals that concerns over the ‘problems’ of separation are common amongst teachers and parents. Summarising research conducted on teacher’s attitudes in the UK, USA and Australia, Tully et al. (2004) note that teachers often believed that separation was necessary if the twin relationship was stifling the development of the twins’ individuality and independence. The main reason that teachers listed for keeping twins together was that twins could also provide each other with a valuable source of support. In relation to parental attitudes, Segal and Russell’s (1992) research in America found that slightly more parents said that their twins should be placed together during the early grades than apart. Parents of identical twins were also slightly more likely to favour this than parents of non-identical twins. The main reasons given for keeping twins apart related to opportunities to develop individuality, independence and individual abilities, as well as the opportunity to eliminate competition or comparison by others. The main reason for keeping them together was that twins could provide each other with a sense of security amidst change. Similarly, Preedy’s research in the UK found that the main reason given by schools for keeping twins together was because twins were seen as a source of support to each other or because of parental request. The main reasons given for placing them in different classes were ‘parental request, to develop independence, dominance of one twin by the other and restriction of one twin by the other’ (Preedy 1999: 74). In line with this, parenting guides encourage parents to think about whether to keep their children together as they move through school— separation at secondary school is usually advised in order to avoid problems linked to over-reliance, excessive competitiveness and the academic


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under-development of one twin. Recent guidance from TAMBA (Twins and Multiple Births Association) suggests that: In the beginning, as long as the children enjoy each other’s company and are not overly competitive, they are likely to benefit from starting together. Having siblings in the same class usually makes it easier to settle in – especially if they don’t know the other children. They can be separated later – and often are by the age of eight. (TAMBA 2015)

We can pick up some of these concerns in Anthony and Clare’s accounts too. This section has examined some of the discourses of childhood, twinship and growing up that shape and frame parenting practice and one aspect of the social context within which twins experience being twins. The next part of this chapter explores another dimension of this family context by examining inter-generational relationships between parents and children and the intra-generational relationships between siblings.

Generation and Power Scholars within Childhood Studies—notably Berry Mayall and Leena Alanen—have pointed to the importance of recognising generation as both a structuring principle of social organisation and a lived social process. Generational inequalities are embedded within the economic, political and cultural realms of society and therefore children—as a social group—may be said to have different experiences and life chances to ‘adults’ (Alanen 2001). Adults have divided up the social order into two major groups – adults and children  – with specific conditions surrounding the lives of each group: provisions, constraints and requirements, laws, rights, responsibilities and privileges. (Mayall 2000: 120)

However, generation does not just exist and operate at the level of ‘structure’. Rather, as Alanen (2001) reminds us, it is something that is done, lived and reproduced and thus something that necessitates agency.

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The notion of generationing, as an adjective, allows us to capture generation as a social process; it defines generation as a practice rather than as a ‘thing’. Hence, through ‘childing’ practices’ and ‘adulting practices’, people become constructed as ‘children’ and ‘adults’ (Punch 2005). Generation also operates horizontally as well as vertically. Different generations of children experience different kinds of childhoods. Today we fear that young people will be worse off than their parents, less likely to own property and more likely to carry huge debts into adulthood. Both dimensions shape the kinds of experiences that twins have.

Inter-generational Relationships In line with their emphasis on childhood innocence, Anthony and Clare’s ‘childing’ and ‘adulting’ practices upheld a strong adult-child boundary founded on difference: parents were parents and children were children. This principle of social organisation was almost taken-for-granted. Rules relating to age appropriateness commanded authority because adult parents had made them: ‘that’s top and bottom of it’ (Clare); ‘it’s as simple as that’ (Anthony). This inter-generational division was further legitimised by notions of age-related competency and development. For Anthony, then, being eight meant not being able to take on board information about sex and swearing but being a parent meant he could assess and decide when the ‘right time’ would be. Whilst for now, Anthony and Clare made many key decisions that shaped their children’s everyday social lives, including what clothes their twins should wear, more room for choice would emerge with time as their children’s competencies to make decisions and their personalities developed. Just how far this reflects broader social patterns relating to adult-child relationships in families is difficult to establish. ‘Modern childhood is often portrayed in terms of enhanced democratic relationships between parents and children with the assumption that children’s negotiating power has increased over time’ (Jensen and McKee 2003: 1). The actual extent of this development is debateable and certainly variable. Research suggests that social class, gender and age may all be significant factors shaping power relations between parents and children. For instance,


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Lareau’s (2002) research suggests a more equal relationship may be more prevalent amongst middle class families. My research (2010) (although small in scale) suggests that democratisation may be more established in families when children are older because they are deemed more competent to make decisions (and sometimes mistakes). In her research on UK childhoods, Mayall (2002) found that children and young people tended to see their mothers as the person who managed the household and interacted with children and that girls were generally more restricted in their use of public space (see Bacon 2016b for a fuller overview). Certainly, children remain ‘highly dependent on their parents’ material resources’ (Mayall 2002: 47) and this shapes the context within which childhood and twinship happens. Non-intact families are more likely to be unemployed and children in lone parent families remain one significant social group ‘at risk’ from being in poverty. Indeed, their risk of falling into poverty has increased since 2010–11 to 2015–16 (see Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2017). Whilst twins and triplets are more likely than singletons to be born to parents who are married and living together (so we might expect this to have a protective effect against low incomes and deprivation) more parents of multiples say they are financially worse off compared to parents of singletons and they are more likely to use up some or all of their savings compared to families with singletons. Mothers with multiples consider returning to work later than mothers with singletons and are also less likely to work than other mothers. Child care is a significant issue. Whilst the proportion of parents paying for childcare is about the same for parents of multiples and parents of singletons, parents of twins pay double. There are no additional state benefits for families with twins and multiples and multiple birth children are more likely than other children to be living in families on a lower income (McKay 2010). Parents make decisions about the family home—they choose, buy or rent houses and, in my study (Bacon 2010) they tended to decide how to initially allocate bedroom space too—opting to keep their child twins together as babies and (sometimes) small children. According to Punch (2005), this kind of ‘resource power’ (control over children’s access to income, material goods, time and space) enhances parents’ ‘legitimate authority’. The latter is conferred to parents by children because they expect their parents to know more and to protect them. Hence, their

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parents’ authority is justified by their generational location and social position in the family. For twins, parents’ resource power potentially feeds into whether or not they have to share a room or not, shapes how much time they spend together at home and their social experiences of being twins inside and outside the home. In my study (Bacon 2010) 15-year-old twins Hannah and Charlotte shared a bedroom in their three-bedroom house. Mum Caroline had her own room and she did not want to put Charlotte and Hannah’s younger sister Ellie in a room with one of the twins ‘because of the age gap’; she reasoned that ‘boyfriends’ could not be in the same room as ‘dolls’ (see Bacon 2010: 74). Sharing a room was a source of much frustration for Hannah and Charlotte and they found other ways to get their ‘own’ space by naming and claiming objects and sections of space in their bedroom. Hannah especially, searched out space where she could be alone in private—choosing the bathroom because ‘there’s a lock on [the door] and no one can get in’ (Bacon 2010: 141). They also often spent time apart from each other at school and after-school with their own friends.

Intra-generational Relationships As Charlotte and Hannah’s experiences start to illustrate, another important relationship that shapes twins’ lives is their relationship with each other. Research examining sibling relationships have a different character to parent-child relationships. Punch’s research (2001, 2005, 2008a, b and McIntosh and Punch 2009) demonstrates that sibling relationships tend to involve more disputes, bargaining and the use of physical power. Notwithstanding these general differences, sibling relationships vary and change. Amongst other things, gender and ‘perceived’ age-hierarchies between children, structure sibling relationships (see Bacon 2012 for an overview). Within parenting guides and psychological research, twins’ relationships are often depicted as being more intense than sibling relationships. My research (Bacon 2010) found that, in some respects, twins’ relationships with each other shared many characteristics with sibling relationships: they encompassed a mixture of feelings and functions ranging from


K. Bacon

intimacy, comfort and support to irritation and conflict (Dunn 2008; Punch 2008b). In other respects twins’ relationships may be different to siblings’. Twins may have to share the attention of their parents (Pulkkinen et al. 2003), be encouraged to act the same (Koch 1966) or be referred to as a pair (Kozlak 1978). All these things make the social situation of being a twin ‘unique’ and may influence their relationship with each other. For example, Koch suggested that identical twins may develop close relationships with each other because they are expected to be close and may be given more areas of common experience. Similarly, Kozlak (1978: 115) noted that since twins are ‘dressed alike and possess physical similarities, [they] learn to behave as twins and identify with each other’. Unlike singleton sibs, twins occupy the same generational location— usually born minutes apart. If notions of age and stage separate singleton children from one another, then they also situate twins at ‘the same’ age and stage. Thus, in my study (Bacon 2010) Mike (a father to twins) said twins were different from singleton children because singleton children were ‘at different stages’ (Bacon 2010: 56). In this sense, their shared generational location affirms their sameness. Caroline’s insistence that ‘dolls’ could not be in the same space as ‘boyfriends’ reveals how parental interpretations of the significance of age and generation can help to shape the kinds of spaces provided for twins at home and the kinds of relationships that they develop with each other within and through them. For twins, sharing is a significant (and for older child twins especially, often a frustrating) aspect of their social experience. Sharing a bedroom often meant that they could not always use space and objects in the ways they wanted to. Amongst other things, the (female) twins recalled disputes over which music to play, sharing make up and borrowing/taking clothes. Sharing a room also restricted their ability to achieve privacy, manage the information or images they revealed about themselves and to make self-determined choices about their own embodied experiences— such as going to sleep. Liam explained that sharing a room with his brother sometimes meant he could not watch what he wanted on TV or read a book with the light on without his brother complaining that he needed the light off in order to go to sleep (see Bacon 2010). Sometimes key changes—such as moving into separate bedrooms— were instigated by one of the two twins. These ‘instigator twins’ who

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pushed for change, were named with consistency and were always the older of the two twins. But being the oldest does not necessarily give twins (or siblings) automatic access to power. Reflecting findings from research about siblings (see Edwards et al. 2005; Punch 2008a), my twins study showed that in their everyday dealings with each other power moved between twins in different situations rather than always remaining consistently with one person.

Exploring Dimensions of Agency The final part of this chapter now turns to focus more centrally on children’s agency. Although the meaning of agency is disputed, here I utilise Mayall’s (2002: 21) definition: A social actor does something, perhaps something arising from a subjective wish. The term agent suggests a further dimension: negotiation with others, with the effect that the interaction makes a difference – to a relationship or to a decision, to the working of a set of social assumptions or constraints.

Agency involves action and initiating change (with intended and unintended consequences). It cannot be separated from structure, rather it is through agency that individuals respond to, reproduce, modify and potentially transform structures around them (Frankel 2017). To begin this section, the chapter returns to finish off the case study of ‘Anthony & Clare’ by turning to examine their children’s narratives: ‘Ash and Harry’.

Ash and Harry Although Ash explained that he was ‘stuck’ in the house all day, both Ash and Harry valued the experience of togetherness that being a twin brought. For Ash, it was the activities they did together at home (forming clubs, playing on the play station) that made being a twin ‘special’. Similarly, for Harry being a twin made him feel ‘happy’ because he had someone to play with. These young twins also played up their sameness. During my first interview with them, they encouraged me to participate


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in a game of ‘spot the difference’—lining themselves up alongside each other, side by side, with Ash remarking ‘You can hardly tell our clothes, that they’re different’ (Bacon 2010: 96). They were wearing identical outfits and Ash, like his mum Clare, told me that it was his mum that made these decisions. Whilst Ash and Harry both recognised that they had some physical and ascetic differences (different hair, Harry wears glasses) in their pictures they chose to emphasise sameness. Ash drew a picture of himself with his brother but rubbed out his initial version of his brother’s nose in order to make it appear the same as his own. Harry also drew pictures of them both dressed in identical Nike T-shirts.

Interdependence and Connection In her book Personal Life, Carol Smart (2007: 28) reminds us of the importance of acknowledging the embeddedness of agency: ‘To live a personal life is to have agency and to make choices, but the personhood implicit in the concept requires the presence of others to respond to and contextualize those actions and choices.’ This case study shows how Ash and Harry’s experiences of being twins are shaped by them and for them. Whilst they enjoyed being together at home, using this time and space to develop games and clubs with each other, this togetherness was also something created and controlled by their parents. Whilst they used their agency to display and present particular identities to me, parents also provided the resources for this identity work. In these instances of interaction at home, Ash and Harry actively drew my attention to notice sameness that otherwise would not have been obvious. For instance, drawing pictures allowed them opportunities to present a version of self that may not have been immediately (if at all) observable. Indeed, they did not actually look physically similar to one another. Lining themselves up against each other allowed them to emphasise the only sameness that could be physically observed—their clothes. To make any aspect of this ‘line up’ feasible, they needed to work together and use each other as human resources.

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Meaning-Making Seeking to outline a more ‘active’ perspective on twinship, Stewart draws on Goffman to highlight how twins can be conceptualised as meaning-makers: In the drama of twinship, the relevant actors are twins who, according to the model, may perform in face-to-face interaction, create impressions, manipulate perceptions and seek to control their audience. (Stewart 2003: 156)

According to Goffman (1969), actors make use of various props and settings to present their identities to others. One key resource that twins use in this respect is their clothes. Many of the older child twins that I spoke to wanted to distance themselves from notions of twin sameness (see Bacon 2006). Peter told me, ‘it’s good to be different’ and his twin brother Ian said that whilst it was ‘like a law that you have to wear the same clothes’ as twins, ‘I don’t like to’ (Bacon 2010: 97). Although, as Ian told me, ‘we do have the same clothes’ they chose not to wear them at the same time because ‘people treat you more like one person’. Dan explained that he and his twin brother Liam wouldn’t go out wearing the same thing ‘unless it was a joke or something’ and Charlotte said that whilst she did not mind being dressed in the same outfits as her sister when she was ‘little’, she would not like this now she is ‘older’ (see Bacon 2010: 97). This contrasts quite sharply with Ash and Harry’s account and reveals how older twins were more likely to present themselves as and draw attention to the value of difference. These twins rejected the significance of dominant discourses of twin sameness for shaping their own lives. Instead, they drew on dominant discourses of growing up (which affirm that they are growing up ‘successfully’) to inform their actions and to try to modify and shape how others saw them. (For a fuller consideration of how twins use their bodies, space and talk to negotiate their identities, see Bacon 2010).


K. Bacon

Generagency This chapter has shown that a significant dimension to children’s agency is how it emerges from and operates within generational relationships. For instance, Ash and Harry’s agency and their capacity to reproduce dominant discourses of twin sameness and togetherness required intra-­ generational interdependence and was facilitated by inter-generational decisions about dress and children’s access to space inside and outside the home. Leonard (2016) captures these dynamics in her notions of generagency and inter- and intra-generagency. Generagency is agency within generational contexts—‘the term encapsulates the structural positioning of childhood while simultaneously acknowledging children’s active agency in generational relationships’ (Leonard 2016: 132). Inter-­ generagency relates to how children (and adults) intervene in and shape everyday social life as they take up and perform their roles as ‘children’ and ‘adults’ and as the inter-generational ordering of social life affords them varying degrees of power and control. Intra-generagency examines how children (who occupy the same structural position) negotiate the generational order. It helps us appreciate that though they may share a common structural location, they do not experience being children in the same ways and some will have more agency than others. Agency, then, is not something that we simply possess. It is something that is achieved through our connections with others. Some contexts and relationships may provide more opportunities for stronger expressions of agency than others. As Klocker notes: ‘thin’ agency refers to decisions and everyday actions that are carried out within highly restrictive contexts, characterised by few viable alternatives. ‘Thick’ agency is having the latitude to act within a broad range of options. It is possible for a person’s agency to be ‘thickened’ or ‘thinned’ over time and space, and across their various relationships. (2007: 85)

For instance, children’s agency may be potentially thickened if parents afford children meaningful decision-making power and if siblings cooperate with and agree to the organisation, use and reclassification of ‘shared’ space. Agency may be thinned if parents establish rigid and hierarchical

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generational relations and siblings dominate and overpower their other sibs. Class, gender, ethnicity, age and disability are social divisions that will help to structure the degree of agency that groups of children and adults have.

Conclusions This chapter has shown how twins’ lives, identities and relationships are shaped by social and cultural contexts. Twins live out their lives against a cultural backdrop that stereotypes them as being ‘the same’, together and close and this makes being a twin different to being a sibling. These dominant discourses of twinship run parallel to dominant discourses of childhood and, as such, twinship is constructed as another, but more intense, way of being a ‘child’: dependent and lacking individuality. Parents of twins and twins themselves variously utilise these discourses, as well as understandings of growing up, to inform their actions. Sometimes their actions reproduce these dominant discourses and sometimes they challenge them. Inter-generational relations between parents and children and intra-generational relations shape and inform twins’ experiences and identity work and provide varying degrees of opportunity and constraint. Adults as well as other children can thicken and thin children’s agency. In drawing attention to this, this chapter confirms the importance of seeing agency as relational, interdependent and emergent.

References Ainslie, R.C., K.M. Olmstead, and D.D. O’Loughlin. 1987. The early developmental context of twinship: Some limitations of the equal environment hypothesis. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 57 (1): 120–124. Alanen, L. 2001. Explorations in generational analysis. In Conceptualizing child-­ adult relations, ed. L. Alanen and B. Mayall, 11–22. London: Routledge. Bacon, K. 2006. ‘It’s good to be different’: Parent and child negotiations of ‘twin’ identity. Twin Research and Human Genetics 9 (1): 141–147. ———. 2010. Twins in society: Parents, bodies, space and talk. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


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———. 2012. ‘Beings in their own right’? Exploring children and young people’s sibling and twin relationships in the minority world. Children’s Geographies 10 (3): 307–319. ———. 2016a. Tabloid constructions of twinship. Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth. University of Sheffield, 5–7th July 2016. ———. 2016b. Children’s use and control of bedroom space. In Families, intergenerationality, and peer group relations, eds. S.  Punch and R.  Vanderbeck, T. Skelton (editor-in-chief ) Geographies of Children and Young People 5, 1–21. Singapore: Springer. Burlingham, D. 1952. Twins: A study of three pairs of identical twins. London: Imago Publishing Company Ltd. Corney, G. 1977. Mythology and customs associated with twins. In Human multiple reproduction, ed. I.  MacGillivray, P.P.S.  Nylander, and G.  Corney, 1–15. London: W.B. Saunders Company Ltd. Dunn, J. 2008. Sibling relationships across the life-span. In Putting sibling relationships on the map: A multi-disciplinary perspective, ed. M.  Klett-Davies. London: Family and Parenting Institute. Edwards, R., L. Hadfield, and M. Mauthner. 2005. Children’s understandings of their sibling relationships. London: National Children’s Bureau. Foucault, M. 1980. Power/knowledge. Hemel Hampstead: Harvester / Wheatsheaf. Frankel, S. 2017. Negotiating childhoods. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Giddens, A. 1991. Modernity and self-identity. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Gillis, J.R. 2003. Childhood and family time: A changing hisorical relationship. In Children and the changing family: Between transformation and negotation, ed. A.-M. Jensen and L. McKee, 149–164. London: Routledge. Goffman, E. 1969. The presentation of self in everyday life. London: Penguin. Hendrick, H. 2015. Constructions and reconstructions of British childhood: An interpretive survey, 1800 to the present. In Constructing and reconstructing childhood, ed. A. James and A. Prout (Classic Ed.), 29–53. London: Routledge. Hockey, J., and A. James. 1993. Growing up and growing old. London: Sage. ———. 2003. Social identities across the life course. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. James, A., C. Jenks, and A. Prout. 1998. Theorizing childhood. Cambridge: Polity Press. Jenks, C. 1996. Childhood. London: Routledge. Jensen, A.-M., and L. McKee. 2003. Introduction: Theorising childhood and family change. In Children and the changing family: Between transformation and negotiation, ed. A.-M. Jensen and L. McKee, 1–13. London: Routledge.

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Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). (2017). Child poverty by family type. Available at: Last Accessed 28 July 17. Klocker, N. 2007. An example of ‘thin’ agency: Child domestic workers in Tanzania. In Global perspectives on rural childhood and youth, ed. R. Panelli, S. Punch, and E. Robson, 83–94. London: Routledge. Koch, H.L. 1966. Twins and twin relations. London: University of Chicago Press. Kozlak, J.B. 1978. Identical twins: Perceptions of the effects of twinship. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations 5 (2): 105–130. Lareau, A. 2002. Invisible inequality: Social class and childrearing in black families and white families. American Sociological Review 67 (5): 747–776. Leonard, M.R. 1961. Problems in identification and ego development in twins. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 16: 300–320. Leonard, M. 2016. The sociology of children, childhood and generation. London: Sage. Mayall, B. 2000. Conversations with children: Working with generational issues. In Research with children: Perspectives and practices, ed. P. Christensen and A. James, 109–124. London: Falmer. ———. 2002. Towards a sociology of childhood: Thinking from children’s lives. Buckingham: Open University Press. McIntosh, I., and S. Punch. 2009. “Barter”, “Deals”, “Bribes” and “Threats”: Exploring sibling interaction. Childhood 16 (1): 49–65. McKay, S. 2010. The effects of twins and multiple births on families and their living standards. Birmingham: University of Birmingham in association with TAMBA. McNamee, S. 2016. The social study of childhood. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Mittler, P. 1971. The study of twins. London: Penguin Books. Newman, H.H. 1942. Twins and supertwins: A study of twins, triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets. London: Hutchinson’s Scientific and Technical Publications. Piaget, J. 1929. The child’s conception of the world. Savage: Littlefield Adams. ———. 1930. The construction of reality in the child. New York: Basic Books. Preedy, P. 1999. Meeting the educational needs of pre-school and primary aged twins and higher multiples. In Twin and triplet psychology, ed. A. Sandbank, 70–99. London: Routledge. Pulkkinen, L., I.  Vaalamo, R.  Hietala, J.  Kaprio, and R.J.  Rose. 2003. Peer reports of adaptive behaviour in twins and singletons: Is twinship a risk or an advantage? Twin Research 6 (2): 106–118.


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Punch, S. 2001. Household division of labour: Generation, gender, age birth order and sibling composition. Work, Employment & Society 15 (4): 803–823. ———. 2005. The generationing of power: A comparison of child-parent and sibling relations. Sociological Studies of Children and Youth 10: 169–188. ———. 2008a. Negotiating the birth order: Children’s experiences. In Putting sibling relationships on the map: A multi-disciplinary perspective, ed. M. Klett-­ Davies, 30–49. London: Family and Parenting Institute. ———. 2008b. “You can do nasty things to your brothers and sisters without a reason”: Siblings’ backstage behaviour. Children in Society 22 (5): 333–344. Rousseau, J.-J. (1979) [1762]. Emile or an education. New York: Basic Books. Segal, N.L., and J.M. Russell. 1992. Twins in the classroom: School policy issues and recommendations. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation 3 (1): 69–84. Sharon, T., and J.D.  Wooley. 2004. Do monsters dream? Young children’s understanding of the fantasy/reality distinction. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 22 (2): 293–310. Smart, C. 2007. Personal life. Cambridge: Polity Press. Stewart, E. 2003. Exploring twins: Towards a social analysis of twinship. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. TAMBA. 2015. Twins or more at school: Together or apart? Available at: https:// Last Accessed 25 July 16. Tully, L.A., T.E. Moffitt, A. Caspi, A. Taylor, H. Kiernan, and P. Andreou. 2004. What effect does classroom separation have on twins’ behaviour, progress at school, and reading abilities? Twin Research 7 (2): 115–124. Woodhead, M. 2013. Childhood a developmental approach. In Understanding childhoods: A cross disciplinary approach, ed. M.J.  Kehily, 99–149. Bristol: Policy Press in association with The Open University. Zazzo, R. 1978. Genesis and peculiarities of the personality of twins. In Twin research: Part A: Psychology and methodology, ed. W.E. Nance, vol. 24, 1–11. New York: Alan R. Liss. Zelizer, V. 1985. Pricing the priceless child: The changing social value of children. New York: Basic Books.

Commentary on Chapter 5: Understanding the Discourses of Childhood and Agency Nadine Ivankovic and Lindsay Izsak

Work Experience: Our New Lens of Childhood ‘Childhood is a time of innocence, play and development, where adults’ role is to protect, provide for and advocate on behalf of children everywhere’. This was the image of the child we offered when we were asked to define ‘childhood’ in our first class that was introducing us to the Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s, Western University. Now, several years since that first class, having graduated university and both currently working in various childhood related fields, we would describe childhood in a very different way, as we apply a very different social lens. We now have a much more participatory view of childhood, where children are viewed as individuals who should be offered resources and equal opportunities to express themselves and be included in all matters that impact their lives. This perspective can face much resistance in wider society due to the fact that children’s development, play and proN. Ivankovic • L. Izsak (*) King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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tection commonly outweigh any opportunities for children to ­demonstrate agency themselves. We have come to recognize this resistance throughout our personal and professional lives, as well as the positive impacts that fostering child agency can have. We will highlight these moments through the experiences we have had in education, recreation, non-child related fields of work and other organization. In this chapter response, we will use our own personal experiences to further question how we can work to change society’s perspective of childhood so the importance and benefit of children’s agency is appreciated. We will begin by examining our perspectives of the discourse of childhood and how this lens has given new meaning to our roles when working in various child related fields. We will then follow this by analysing personal experience from our own childhood to provide examples of agency and the factors that may contribute to it. Overall, these personal accounts will support Bacon’s conclusion that agency is continually evolving and influenced by the relationships and experiences children have at home and in their community.

Education One of the most familiar adult controlled, child related environments is school; it plays a key role in society and childhood today. In the school environment it is not common for children to be given a significant amount of agency or power within the classroom walls and when they are it is commonly deemed as chaotic or unorganized. This means that adults have significant amount of power and control over children’s time and space. This is present through the schedules and practices that are commonly used within each classroom. These practices tend to go unquestioned, as they are such a familiar part of our own childhood. School is an environment that we both have experience working in as Educational Assistants. Through our understanding and appreciation for children’s agency and participation, we now both question the necessity of the use of some of these common practices that we have seen implemented regularly.

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Working in schools, having had my view of childhood questioned, it has not only led me [Nadine] to examine the practices used but also to further examine the structure of school as a whole. Recess at school is thought to be a period of time for children to be free from adult and academic constraints; to offer children a break to reset their minds and bodies. However, recess, rather than being an opportunity for some ‘freedom’ is a time of control. Adults decide when recess should happen, its length and frequency, the physical boundaries students must remain within and the types of behaviour that are acceptable. Through working in a number of different schools, it has become apparent that recess is by no means a guaranteed right provided to students. I have personally been asked to stay in or to supervise students during recess and lunch hour on many occasions in order for them to complete work or reflect on undesired behaviours they took part in. If a student is in trouble, it is up to the adult authority figures discretion to determine if a recess (break time) is deserved or not. In many of these cases, adults who have taken away this time state that they are angry to have wasted their own break time and put the blame back on the students. This illustrates the unfair adult-child power dynamics present within schools, something that I [Nadine] find difficult to ignore on a regular basis. This makes me constantly aware of imbalances that occur through the teachers’ practices and languages towards children. My [Lindsay] experience working in a school environment was a year prior to attending King’s University College. During this year, I worked in a small grade three classroom, consisting of only eight students. A common practice at this school was the use of line orders when walking through the hallways. Students were instructed to check the list by the door and stand on the corresponding number by their name. The main purpose for this practice was to ensure that students respected each other’s personal space and walked through the hall quietly and responsibly. Each week the order would change, with students being strategically placed in the line to ensure that they followed the rules. This was a practice that I always felt created more challenges than it aimed to solve, but did not examine why until I was attending university. In contrast, the grade four teacher took a much different and arguably less popular (in the eyes of her colleagues) approach. Her students were still expected to walk down the


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hall quietly and responsibly but she did not use the line order practice. Instead there was an understanding that they could walk next to a friend and quietly chat together, by doing so they would show the teacher that a line order was not needed to be implemented. These students did tend to walk down the hall in a quieter manner than the other classes. When reflecting on this school practice with a childhood agency perspective, it is clear that the teacher’s increased rules and control only led to students to be more resistant, making the practice ineffective. Students commonly argued if someone was on the incorrect number, or would try to jump ahead so they could walk next to their friends. This would lead to stopping, readjusting the line or giving reminders that we had to walk quietly. The grade four class had significantly less expectations placed on them, instead they had the same expectations as any adult walking in the school. These students valued this respect they were given. This highlights that societies’ belief that increasing rules and control will increase order and safety for children, does not always hold true. Instead, we should be providing children with a greater understanding about why certain rules and guidelines are in place for everyone to follow and create a more balanced environment.

Recreation I [Lindsay] have spent countless summers working in various roles at summer camp and continue to work in a similar field supporting camps in my current career. As a camp counsellor one of the first tasks you have is to plan daily schedules for each day of camp. This typically means planning themes, games and crafts for 15-minute intervals throughout the day. Planning fun schedules for the day was always one of my favourite things to do as a counsellor. What I find interesting about this now is the fact that all this is done at the start of the summer, before you meet any of the children attending. Day camp is for children; however, everything about the camp is planned without them. Of course, these schedules are not set in stone, often times as the weeks go on campers will request their favourite games and plans will get shuffled around. When this happens it

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offers children some agency; should the counsellors choose to listen? Similar to schools adults are the ones with the power and control within these spaces. With an understanding of child participation practices it is easy to question why children are not included more often in planning their own summer. The resistance to their inclusion in this environment is likely due to a lack of time and desire to be more efficient. It is a struggle I continue to face with planning strategies for individual children to attend overnight camp; I commonly meet with only the parents, due to constrictions around scheduling, lengths and focus of meetings. Overall, it is a matter of altering our priorities and the strategies we use to better invite children into these processes. Through visiting a number of different camps, I have also noticed that there tends to be two ways of planning activities. One very structured, and the other much more flexible. This particularly stands out through the comparison of two types of camp talent shows put on for parents. One talent show was very polished and structured, the skits and songs seemed to be mostly planned by the counsellors for each of their camper groups. In comparison, the other talent show looked a little more disorganized, rehearsed skits were accompanied by improvised performances by campers. During my first few years working at camp, I would have likely agreed that the first talent show was the ideal goal. However, as my understanding of childhood has changed, so did the way I viewed these approaches. The second talent show, although less polished was always enjoyed more by children and offered them more control over their performances. Overall this example highlights the continual emphasis recreational programmes place on impressing children’s parents to ensure that they view the programme as being fun, organized and productive. Similar to what Bacon discussed in the previous chapter, adults have the resources and therefore power to choose— in this context, which camp their child attends. It appears to me that oftentimes camps feed into this understanding of parents’ power by ensuring activities are planned to look good in their eyes versus what is desired or enjoyed by the children who attend. Overall, activities that are very structured and polished merely place more restrictions and rules on children, thus decreasing their agency. In order to increase


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children’s agency we must shift the focus back to them and not be afraid to look a little bit messy!

Restaurants I [Nadine] have been serving in restaurants as a part time job for a number of years, both prior to and after studying childhood in university. I find it to be particularly interesting to reflect on how my experiences with children in this space have evolved since my involvement in the Childhood and Social Institutions Program. Although I have always loved children, and recognized, to some degree, the importance of their inclusion, my early restaurant experiences were different to how they are now. Once I began the Program at King’s, I began to recognize the importance of authentic involvement and participation of children in each and every experience and environment that they find themselves in. More specifically, I became aware of the way that adults (parents, servers etc.) often ignore or avoid children throughout the restaurant experience. I believe however, that restaurants are a space that children can participate and have a voice, free from the usual fears of safety and protection that commonly exist. Ultimately, I see no reason that children should not be involved in the dining process and personally find their exclusion unfair. Through simply speaking directly to children, initiating their involvement and providing the opportunity for their full participation, I often saw an immediate difference in how the parents, children and restaurant staff felt about their experience with children in a restaurant. The positive impacts of this can be seen through taking the time to speak directly to children, as seen in a recent work based experience. A table of four children and the parents came and sat in my section at the pub I am currently working at. These children were very loud and rambunctious; the parents appeared embarrassed and exhausted. During the beginning of the meal, the mother began ordering for the children and repeatedly telling them to quiet down and listen. The children began yelling over the mother’s voice regarding what they would like from the menu, I then turned and directed the drink orders to each individual

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child. Through doing this, rather than the parents attempting to calm down the children so they could speak for them, everyone was able to enjoy and participate in the process together. This positive experience not only led the children to request to return to the restaurant, but also the parents feeling so appreciative that they searched out the manager and an online form to provide a positive review regarding their experience and service. I think it is important to note that all I did was simply involve these children and treated them just as any server would treat any adult, but because it was a child it was considered above and beyond my role. In the restaurant industry, many servers do not enjoy serving children as it is often deemed more work and not worthwhile. This example illustrates that involving children in this space is in the best interest of the children, parents, servers and restaurant as a whole. In addition it also shows that children’s participation should be considered in all spaces, not just those directed related to children. (I have commented more on this—see Frankel 2018.)

Organization and Career Goals It is very clear that the education and appreciation for childhood participation and advocacy has greatly influenced the type of organization and career I [Nadine] would like to pursue. This became evident through an interview experience I had. During this interview, at a woman’s shelter, it became evident that my values and viewpoints on children did not match with theirs. Throughout the interview process, I had mentioned children’s involvement and participation in my responses; I was quickly and firmly corrected on these statements and reminded that women and their rights are the priority. Therefore, it became apparent to me that children’s needs and rights were met by focusing on that of the mother’s and that there was no need to extend the same approach to children individually. Although I can appreciate the focus on protection, I also believe that informing children as to how their life is impacted or some degree of what is occurring in their lives and how it will affect them is absolutely necessary. I feel that in this way, this organization is failing to make the


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recognition that children hold an awareness of what is going around them and they deserve a chance to ask questions and process what is going on. Instead it appears that children are deemed insignificant in the process. In conclusion, our understanding of the discourses of childhood has caused us to consider children’s rights in all aspects of our personal and professional lives. In our first Childhood related course, we read “The Private Worlds of Dying Children” by Myra Bluebond-Langer, it was this book that truly opened our eyes to children’s true understanding of the world around them and how they work to integrate themselves into the adult directed world they find themselves living in. After gaining this understanding, it became simple for us to follow the next steps of examining and analysing children’s inclusion or lack of it within society today. It also made us realize that many aspects of society do not offer the chance for adults to extend these participation and inclusion opportunities to children even in small ways. A great deal of effort is needed to remove this resistance and ensure that organizations that work directly or indirectly with children do so in a manner that recognizes the position of children. This knowledge and our experiences have shaped our decision-making processes in terms of the employment, volunteer and career goals we have. We understand and recognize that this perspective of childhood is not popular and extremely difficult to implement in the roles we will find ourselves in, but also see the value and importance of being at the forefront of this movement. By helping to make small advancements in this direction, we will help to push against this resistance of children’s participation one step at a time (as such we were both involved in developing a framework presented in Frankel 2018).

Analysing Agency in the Home In the chapter Context of Twinship: Discourses and Generation, Kate Bacon describes discourses as “collections of ideas that bring meaning to the social world and shape the knowledge we have about it”. Through examining the discourse of twins as being seen as the same and close to each other, she highlights the impact that popular discourses can have on

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actions, beliefs and behaviours towards specific groups of people. Threaded within this chapter are also images and discourses of childhood and clear examples of how these images impact children’s agency. Ultimately, she illustrates that discourses are embedded within society, culture, experiences and relationships. This has been evident through many of the examples we have shared surrounding the impact that adult power dynamics have over children’s inclusion in various aspects of their lives. Bacon concludes in the previous chapter that agency is “relational, interdependent and emergent”; it is ever evolving and changing based on individuals experiences and relationships. This underlines the importance that childhood discourses must be flexible, evolve and adapt in society over time. Overall, in order for children’s agency to be increased in society, we must better understand the present and contrasting views of childhood and why change would be a positive step forward. There is a common belief that age is the basis for determining the amount of agency a child experiences either at home or in the community. A clear of example of this would be seen in Bacon’s conversations with parents, where they expressed an understanding that children would be able to receive more information or make their own choices as they become older—for example, whether or not they wish to dress the same as their twin. This supports the image that children are innocent beings, where agency develops with age and maturity. However this image does not match with the definition of agency that Bacon provides, as this view of agency is fixed and reached only at a certain point in time. If we are examining agency as something that is fluid, which can be thickened and thinned by adults and children, there are more factors in place than merely age. To expand on this, we will examine various factors in our own family life and childhood that impacted our own agency. Bacon discusses that societies’ most commonly practised belief is that age is the root of agency; agency is achieved when a child passes through various stages towards adulthood. Growing up as the oldest of three siblings (all two years apart), I [Nadine] was continuously provided with more choices and control over my own life and that of my younger siblings. I often heard my parents make comments such as “you have to listen to your sister, she’s older than you”. From my viewpoint, as the oldest child I was certainly provided with the most agency in my family in every


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aspect of my daily life. As a result, I was given the most freedom to make choices but also had to take on more responsibilities. Ultimately, my expectations were set much higher than that of my younger siblings, and as a result, if we all took part in something that was deemed inappropriate I was held accountable to a higher degree. This was stressed not only to benefit myself but also to set a strong, positive example for my younger siblings. Despite being given this extra voice and power, it was still something that was given to me by adults. This supports the notion that is constantly ingrained in children growing up, that you must always respect and listen to those older than you; they have more life experience. This emphasizes that the factor of age alone did have a direct correlation to the level of agency that I was given and expected to portray as a child. However, it is also important to further discuss how significant changes in family dynamics can “thicken or thin” the amount of agency experienced by children and how these changes may take place regardless of age or birth order. If age is the true deciding factor of children’s ability and right to participate, this would mean that growing up as the youngest of three siblings, I [Lindsay] would have been provided less agency than my brother and sister who were three and six years older than me. In my family, there was much more prominent factor that influenced my agency growing up. At a very early age my brother was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Anxiety Disorder. As a result much of my parents’ attention was focused on my brother and his needs. Our family schedule was filled with appointments with doctors, teachers and attending his recreational activities to ensure he was well supported in all areas. As a result, my sister and I were counted on to be trustworthy and responsible. As we demonstrated our ability to do so we were given more opportunities to make our own choices and be independent. This was seen as a way to help our parents manage their own busy schedule. My brother’s needs were always something that was present within my life while growing up; there was never a time when my parents had to sit down to explain why my brother was different or why he was given more attention at times. Therefore, in my life experience, age was never the primary factor to my opportunities to participate, but

  Commentary on Chapter 5: Understanding the Discourses… 


rather my parents need to balance a busy schedule and my ability to demonstrate my own responsibility in different ways. Major life events, such as divorce can also greatly influence or alter this struggle of childhood participation. This is something I [Nadine] ­experienced at the age of 14, an age when gaining control and independence is considered to be an important and desired milestone by children. Reflecting back to this experience, it is evident that this divorce caused a shift in my parents’ viewpoints of me and my siblings. As a result of the divorce, we were suddenly deemed to be more incompetent and vulnerable. When it came to adults providing us with knowledge surrounding the divorce or including us in decisions that directly impacted our lives, choices, such as where we were going to live and when, were made for us. For example, the purchase and finalization of a new family home was made without any awareness, consultation or involvement from myself or my siblings. We were deliberately left out of these significant decisions, until a time that the adults deemed appropriate or necessary. In contrast, times of heightened emotions, when it was least beneficial, were the exact moments that my parents let down their guard and we, as children, were brought into the conversation and arguments between parents. These were times when we did not wish to be included. However, we would have appreciated inclusion in constructive conversations to provide meaningful contributions in the matters that impacted our lives and family. Through our differing personal experiences, it is apparent that agency can be increased or decreased, dependent on circumstance and adult perceptions. For example, sudden experiences of divorce exaggerate the need for protection by adults, thus limiting the agency children are granted. This all stems from society’s emphasis on the Romantic Image of the child and adults task to ensure children experience a safe and positive childhood. In this chapter, Bacon discusses that the discourse of twins runs parallel to that of childhood and intensifies the “symbol of the child”, causing them to be viewed as a more “childish child”. Similarly we believe that the more interrupting and sudden an experience is deemed to be in a child’s life, the greater likelihood that the child’s agency will be further limited. We have also shown that other factors, such as age, responsibility and differing family dynamics can all play a role in increasing or decreas-


N. Ivankovic and L. Izsak

ing the agency children have. Agency is not something fixed but rather influenced in different environments by different factors. Overall, the most prominent factor of children’s agency in the home and society continues to be adults’ notion of best interests of the child, and their need for protection. Agency is only given in environments that are stable, constant and deemed safe and appropriate.

Conclusion After completing the Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College, at the University of Western Ontario, we recognize and appreciate the values and perspectives that we were taught. It has not only challenged us to gain an understanding of the discourses of childhood but also has become a crucial part of our daily personal and professional lives. Through examining these experiences and analysing how the various factors can influence children’s level of participation in various environments, it has been shown that adults hold the key to childhood agency. We must work to change this power imbalance through helping the adults who work with children to better understand and appreciate a differing discourse of childhood. We believe that when children’s true abilities are recognized within society, childhoods in the future will look very different.

References Bluebond-Langner, M. 1978. The private worlds of dying children. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Frankel, S. 2018. Giving children a voice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

6 The Art of Belonging Sam Frankel

Exploring Belonging This chapter examines how relevant the notion of belonging is to exploring children’s everyday lives. It does so with an ambition to further our understandings of children’s agency, as we consider how notions of ‘fitting in’ offer a means to highlight a process of reflection and refraction that lies at the heart of agentic meaning making. As such it provides an opportunity to examine the importance of relationships and how children interpret these in the different spaces they find themselves in. This chapter will, therefore, encourage us to move away from viewing children and belonging in terms of group membership. Rather it will focus on the quality of the relationships, as interpreted through the child’s own emotions or feelings. The desire to embrace emotions and not to avoid them means a greater recognition by the researcher of children in S. Frankel (*) EquippingKids, Church Stretton, Shropshire, UK Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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terms of their ‘personal lives’. This chapter will not be able to look at every dimension of this, but what it will do is consider how an interpretation of relationships that lie at the heart of a sense of belonging offer a means to reflect on the nature of ones’ actions and how these can be used to assert or re-assert a sense of ‘connection’. As part of exploring this, the chapter will draw off theories around ‘display’. The definition of display that Finch (2007) offers, drawing from the work of Morgan, reflects that sense in which certain actions can be reflected on in terms of how a group might ‘come to do family’ (73). The nature of these actions in the context of relationship building provides an interesting focus for a discussion around belonging. It also allows us to consider the extent to which certain actions in other spaces, might carry particular meaning that could be linked to understandings of how, for example, we ‘come to do school’.

A Social Agent A central concern in the academy has been the relationship between the individual and society, is it society that shapes us, or do we shape society? Within this, is the individual merely a robot, controlled by the whims of the social forces that surround them, or is the individual autonomous, and if so what does that mean? The nature of this debate has of course centered around adults however, the development of childhood studies has offered us a means through which we can start to consider this question in the context of children’s lives. Here is not the place to expand on this unnecessarily, for there are other places one can look (e.g. Jenks 1996); however, I will refer to a recent framework that formed part of an investigation into children and morality as it explored the way children negotiate their everyday lives (Frankel 2017). What this study allowed was a deeper consideration of this connection between the individual and society and perhaps more importantly the processes that frame the way in which the individual comes to respond to those social parameters or forces that surround us all. At the heart of this argument was the interconnection between structure and agency, as it looked to build on the thoughts of Adrian James (2010) and his metaphor of a piece of ‘fabric’. What James did was

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c­ onsider how these ‘threads’ might be seen to make up a ‘fabric of childhood studies’ (492). Here the weft, which are the stronger threads which run lengthwise, reflect structure and are entwined with the ‘warp’ that represents the individual child. What this illustration so neatly does is that it highlights the value of interacting with this connection between these two elements that frame social experiences. Socialization theories are an example of a way of thinking about the child, which has had a dominant place in practice (Corsaro 2005; McNamee 2016). A traditional socialization model based on the theories of Talcott Parsons (1951) reflects a clear line of causality between those social forces and the nature of the individual child and the adult they become. With strict adherence to Durkheimian principles, Parsons argues that the child was a product of the social settings that they were exposed to. As such, those social codes or messages would be effectively transferred as long as they were clearly reflected in these contexts and the child was ‘normal’. The child was, therefore, simply a product of the social settings they were part of. The individual child was not seen as having a capacity that allowed them to respond or interact with those defining social forces. However, as thinking has developed within childhood studies, we have grown more aware of the active nature of the child, and as a result the need to look at this interaction between the structure and the individual in a different way (a powerful example of this is literature focused on the generational order (Mayall 2002; Alanen 2011). What Allison James does as a closing contribution to the discipline (2013) is to explore whether we can re-interpret socialization such that we see it in a different light. Fundamentally, this perspective reflects the notion of the fabric above, as James seeks to set the scene within which the child as a social agent comes to make decisions and act in the settings that they find themselves in. As such, the structure starts to take the form of an interactive stage set, within which the individual comes to ‘present’. Indeed, whether it is a presentation of self or indeed a display of self will be considered in the next section—the point here is that context becomes relevant, not as a definer of individual meaning making but as an influencer of it. As James says, ‘it means assuming that children grow up in society, not outside it and in some marginal and separated childhood zone’ such


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that rather than us being able to pre-determine (as Parsons did) how children might become ‘[it] means therefore also embracing the uncertainty and ambiguity of the growing up process and, in the end, having perhaps to wait and see how it is that children do eventually turn out’ (James 2013: 174). However, in presenting this challenge James suggests another—how do we see a re-interpreted notion of socialization? In doing so she highlights how ‘it [an updated notion of socialization] also entails recognizing that because children are participants in the social world, what they do or say can have an effect on other people, ideas, events…’ (ibid). Indeed, it is that sense of children making a wider contribution to structure that so often is forgotten. The framework below, introduced earlier and which grew out of these theories, acknowledges the need to recognize structure and what it brings to an ability to understand the context that the individual child finds themselves in. Here structure is constantly being examined and interpreted through the prism of the self. Part 1 Structural

Part 2 Agentic

Context Interactional Image of Practices Setting Child

Personalised Meaning Action/ Reflection Making Reaction

Part 3

Additional Factors?


Structure-agency framework

What the framework highlights is the extent to which a consideration of structure allows us to focus in on the construction of multiple childhoods. These childhoods which are spatially situated will inform the nature of the practices that are employed—consequently the experiences of the child. This sits alongside a definable reflective process in which the individual comes to make meanings that inform their actions and

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r­eactions. However, the process must involve a third part—one that acknowledges the extent to which children are re-assessing structure and therefore can be part of re-shaping the nature of structure itself, creating a new basis on which those processes of agency draw from. What the framework demonstrates is a model in which the individual child is constantly reflecting and refracting the social world through the prism of their personal life. Belonging, therefore becomes, something more than an assumed membership of a group, but rather an active process of understanding and sense making, as explored further below.

Personal Lives What the framework does is it positions the individual in dialogue with the social world around them. As such, it demands a recognition of self, not as a product of socialization but as a feature of it. One’s perception of self has value in and of itself as it becomes the membrane through which the individual comes to establish meanings and makes sense of the world around them. It demands, therefore, a focus on the nature of one’s personal life, and with this should come the confidence for the social scientist to engage with emotions and feelings, which have often been the preserve of other disciplines. That ‘I’ and ‘Me’ dialogue that has been around for some time in philosophical debate (Mead 1934) has an enhanced value here as we consider the capacity of the individual to determine how they position themselves in light of the setting they are in. Even in the most extreme settings, the argument has been presented that the individual is far from being ‘defined’ by their context (Rapport 2003), rather action is the result of the individual social agent, making meanings through an internal dialogue that sees the individual assessing context in light of the self. As such, the case is made for a focus on the process of reflection and refraction to inform the way the individual engages with and in a given space. In drawing from the work of Cohen (1994), Rapport’s examination of this leads him to conclude that ‘social scientists should work towards “giving people back” their individual consciousness, their selfhoods’ (Rapport 2003: 253).


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If this is to be more than a limited ‘call to arms’, then it is necessary that we are able to find some way of defining what we are talking about when we are considering the ‘self ’. There is no getting away from the fact that this is a challenge to many within childhood studies (for more see Frankel 2017). With specific reference to the sociologist Smart highlights how engaging with the self means ‘overcoming a long-standing dispute’ (Smart 2007: 41), in which the sociologist recognizes the value of their claim (in contrast to the psychologist) to analyze the individual. Indeed, Smart’s work on ‘Personal Lives’ helps to flesh out what sits behind an examination of the self and particularly the nature of the self in dialogue with the settings that they are part of. It is through five overlapping themes ‘imaginary, memory, biography, embeddedness, relationality’ (Smart 2007: 37) that Smart offers a means to start unpicking the self as these elements are used to frame meaning making. For example, Smart refers to the way in which we use memory and how this may be seen as a ‘conscious process, what is recalled may come with layers of meaning and significance, of emotions and desires, which go beyond the simply rational or conscious’ (Smart 2007: 39). What is notable here is the extent to which Smart starts to offer the social scientist permission to recognize that we too have a right to consider emotions and feelings, as we seek to place them within a process of meaning making. Allison James (2013) endorses Smart’s approach in the context of children. In presenting her re-considered approach to socialization referred to above, James seeks to consider the application of a personal life approach to children as a means of furthering our understanding of their everyday lives. What is evident in this is the extent to which it connects feelings and emotions to relationships that are defined and shaped within given spaces. Indeed, in this consideration of belonging, the nature of relationships and how one comes to position the ‘I’ in relation to the ‘Me’ are of particular significance. Much of the writing on belonging reflects an assessment of identity through membership of particular groups (Cohen 1986). Here the challenge is to see whether we can re-assess that consideration of belonging through an examination of one’s personal life seen in this dynamic relationship to the space one finds themselves in. Indeed, at the heart of a consideration of belonging is an assertion of similarity or difference as a

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defining feature of membership of a particular group. Belonging, however, is more than just a personal assessment of membership it also reflects a desire to maintain and preserve a level of membership through what Goffman calls ‘presentations of self ’ (1969). As such a desire to belong can inform meaning making as the individual seeks to act in ways that accentuate their sameness (often through confirming their difference to others). Notably, an individual can be part of many different groups and therefore have a range of memberships all requiring a different assessment of similarity and difference (Frankel 2012).

Introducing ‘Display’ In the past, the level of belonging has been quite rigidly assigned to the child in terms of defined memberships of groups (e.g. Pollard 1985). Here, however the focus will be more on the way in which a consideration of belonging can provide a focus on the nature of the relationships and the skill of the child, as a social agent, to manage these relationships. I will consider this through looking at two articles that sit alongside, Smart’s work on Personal Lives. What these articles invite is a consideration of the way in which one’s personal life comes to be presented or here ‘displayed’, begging the question for the context of this chapter of if and then how a personal life forged in the home comes to be displayed in other settings. These articles allow an extension of Goffman’s view of the presentation of the self and invite a more subtle and nuanced consideration of the self in the context of different spaces framed by a range of relationships. Finch defines display as ‘the processes by which individuals, and groups of individuals convey to each other and to relevant others that certain of their actions do constitute “doing family things” and thereby confirm that these relationships are “family” relationships’ (Finch 2007: 73). If this is the case at home, it is interesting then to explore the extent to which the notion of display is ‘performed’ in other settings as a means of ‘doing school’ for example, or as part of managing one’s place within ‘peer’ relationships out in the local park (as well as other spaces and other relationships). In presenting her thoughts, Finch makes the role of the social


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agent in constructing meanings that allow them to assess their membership within the space of home clear. Reflecting on Morgan’s work (1996) she says, ‘the emphasis is on social actors creatively constituting their own social world, which means that an individual’s understanding of ‘my life’ is subject to change over time and is deeply rooted in individual biographies’ (66). Indeed, if social agency is accepted and it is recognized that children are making meanings in different spaces, then there is no reason why this understanding could not be applied beyond the realm of the home. Not only do these thoughts have relevance here from a theoretical perspective, but they also make sense in terms of the practicalities of being part of and managing relationships. Indeed, Finch makes it very clear that a key part of considering the notion of display is rooted in an assessment of relationships, when she says, ‘The focus is on the quality of relationships, and how they are expressed in practical actions, rather than who is counted in or out of membership’ (70). Here, the focus for analysis shifts from merely a consideration of whether one is defined as part of a group but rather the quality of the relationships that bind them. This is highly significant in the discussion to follow. In order to manage one’s place within a setting, the individual is therefore having to think about how they invest (or not) in the relationships that surround them. Finch argues that ‘in a world where families are defined by the qualitative character of the relationships rather than by membership and where individual identities are deeply bound up with those relationships, all relationships require an element of display to sustain them as family relationships’ (71). It is, therefore, through display that we might look to understand the way in which children choose to act in the context of managing a relationship, recognizing that at times some of those relationships may need more intensive work than at other times (Finch 2007). The final theme in Finch’s argument is that ‘display’, those practical actions used by the individual, actually reinforce what it means to be ‘family’. Indeed, would the examination of this for the child at school or beyond offer further insights as we seek to identify the nature of actions through which the child asserts and re-asserts, and affirms and reaffirms their place within this space through recognition of the different relationships that define it?

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With more specific examination of the child, what James and Curtis (2010) show is this connection between display and personal lives. With reference to Smart, they suggest that she argues that the idea of the “personal” has to be understood as different from that of the individual since it is predicated upon a degree of self-reflection and also connectedness with others’, rather than some notion of ‘an autonomous individual who makes free choices and exercises unfettered agency’ (2007: 28). Thus, arguably, the kinds of activities involved in family display are also core to the experience of personal life; they are the means through which people embed their own, unique experiences of family life within cultural ‘ways of responding and ways of knowing (2007: 51). (James and Curtis, 2010: 1166)

As such they build up a picture that highlights the place of narrative as part of this process of the individual making sense of their place within the family, as individuals continually draw on the wider cultural perspective in order to shape their own unique sense of ‘belonging’. Here, as we turn to look at some conversations with children, the aim is to explore this notion of ‘display’ further and to consider how it might have application to this investigation of belonging. This will include a consideration of whether display offers a useful tool for thinking about children in other spaces outside of the home, and how it might allow us to highlight certain activities that can be used to help inform the way in which children not only make sense of belonging but also act to manage it.

Method The discussion which follows relates to qualitative research carried out in schools in England. This data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with 20 children in three schools. The interviews were conducted in pairs from children who had expressed an interest in taking part. The children were 10 and 11 years old, except for one who was ‘nearly 10’. The interviewees moved figures around a pre-drawn board that invited them to think about belonging in a range of spaces, including home, school, clubs, online, and other spaces they felt were important. This included their views on Brexit, which are considered in the


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conclusion1. In each of these, I simply promoted the children with follow-­up questions based on the responses that they shared. Notably, the children in two of the schools were from very disadvantaged communities in a town that is surrounded by agricultural land. Many families have come to this town in order to find jobs on the land or in related food processing industries. The town has attracted many from Eastern Europe. The third school is in rural area of the country over 150 miles west of the other two schools in a more mixed socio-economic community. Indeed, it was interesting as we transcribed and shared these interviews between colleagues in the UK and Canada that there was an expectation that the children from the first two schools were ‘middle class’, and this was certainly not the case. Indeed, the class dynamics that sit through these discussions may be an interesting area for future focus. These discussions were paired with similar conversations that took place with children in Canada. For the purposes of this chapter, however, we are simply focusing on an initial investigation of the UK interviews.

Discussion The investigation of the data below seeks to look at the way in which the individual comes to make sense of belonging as part of a process of individual reflection in the context of a range of different relationships in multiple spaces. It is an investigation that points to belonging as more than simply being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of a group. Rather, the question of whether we ‘fit in’ raises a range of emotions in the individual through which we make regular assessments about our connection to those within a definable space. Belonging is therefore better explained in terms of a continuum or scale in which we feel as though we are accepted and connected, and thus fit in at one end, and where we feel separate and an outsider at the other. Our actions can therefore be explored in the context of positioning ourselves on that scale. Through looking at those acts of display, we can cast light on the agentic process as the child seeks to inform their place in spaces such as the home, but also as will be suggested, in other settings as well.

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Understandings of Belonging It makes sense to start by considering the way in which the children came to define belonging. As part of an opening question about what they thought belonging was, the children drew on two recurring themes to support their explanations. One of these was ‘friends’ and the other was ‘the space’ they were in. However, this only painted part of the picture. For alongside these explanations were a set of personal feelings and emotions. Belonging from these opening conversations, was much more than simply being with a friend in a particular place; it was about how that made the children feel. Belonging was something you felt! SF Matt Fay SF Fay

Is belonging something you could feel? Yeah Like you feel you belong somewhere So what does it feel like? How do you know you belong? Because it’s when you feel accepted and you feel like everybody is kind to you Matt I think it’s somewhere that you actually fit in and calm down. Like if you are worried or something they’ll be people to support you every step of the way to just calm down and help you… This conversation highlights how interpretations of belonging can easily be linked to space, but ultimately it is about how one feels in that space that is important. Here, Fay uses the term ‘accepted’ in order to define belonging, a feeling she links to an action ‘[when] everybody is kind to you’. Belonging is more than membership; it is about the way in which one is left feeling as they reflect on interactions with others. Matt’s response reiterates this. Yes, belonging has a spatial connection for Matt, but belonging in that space is explainable by how he feels. ‘Fitting in’ for Matt was linked to being able to ‘calm down’. The notion of calming down is immediately linked to the actions of others, people who ‘support you’ and ‘help you’. It is through an assessment of the setting and the actions of others that the individual forms an opinion, expressed through a feeling, which allows one to place oneself on a continuum of belonging.


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Importantly, being at the upper end of that continuum is not something that is constant, but rather is a reflection of those moments when everything comes together, as summed up here, ‘I think it means… everything fits together, you just click and you’re in the right place, everything falls in place’. The idea of ‘things’ ‘clicking’ is important. It highlights the extent to which belonging has to be worked at, a theme that emerges as this discussion continues. However, it also stresses the individual nature of belonging and the agentic processes that are used to make sense and draw meaning from the spaces and interactions that the individual is part of. The personal nature of belonging was summed up by other children who concluded that belonging to them was about being helped ‘[friends and family] were nice to me, I felt belonged’, this was expressed with reference to the feelings of being ‘loved’ and ‘comfortable’. Through these positive relationships, the individual recognizes how that makes them feel, which allows an assessment of how they are positioned within that group. As stated here, ‘Having friends and people that you feel safe with and are kind to you and you feel like you have a connection’. The notion of connection is helpful in that it allows one to muse on the extent to which an assessment of belonging reflects those more traditional themes around similarity and difference. Indeed, that desire to be connected, to be in communion with those who were ‘similar’ (in the broadest terms) was not to be underestimated as a feature of belonging. This consideration of similarity and difference was reflected in an assessment of others. With reference to feelings, Fay, whom we met earlier, offers an example of an ‘outsider’ as she shares a time when she felt she did not belong. Talking about being out in her town, she said, ‘you see loads of things about people getting killed and all that, like on the news…but you don’t really see that happening. But sometimes I was going to the shop and there was this man, he had a beer bottle in his hand and he was drinking it and he was by himself and he was really creepy’. Creepy reflected the feeling that attached itself to meeting someone who had a bottle in their hand. This feeling resulted in Fay questioning her sense of belonging, as she found herself outside of a relationship in which there was any expectation of connection. Indeed, the extent to which belonging reflects this constant dialogue around self is important. Here it calls attention to a

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c­ onsideration of how one’s perception of ‘self ’ changes when they find themselves outside of a known and positive relationship and the extent to which this results in a sense of vulnerability and powerlessness. It is a way of thinking about your own identity that the children were keen to avoid. In describing a move from the city to the country, this boy explained how he felt as though he belonged more now as a result of not facing a constant challenge due to the threat posed by ‘nasty kids’. He said in London, there’s always like nasty kids there and here there isn’t any at all! I know that for a fact…you feel more safe up here as well because in London you hear like things about robberies and stuff and you don’t want that stuff to happen to you so you can move up here and you’ll feel safer.

Notably, the ‘outsider’ was all but invisible within the home, apart from the odd sibling. It highlights the special nature of home (discussed more below). However, as well as using an assessment of others as ‘outsiders’, children were also well aware of the threat of becoming an outsider yourself. As this comment highlighted, you wanted to find those spaces ‘where you can fit in and you don’t feel like the odd one out… you’re treated the same as everybody else in the team…’. It is a theme that emerges in the conversation about school below, where the individual finds themselves in the context of both a space and a set of relationships in which they are simply not able to present themselves in a way that allows them to feel accepted for who they feel they are. This contrasts with the essence of the positive interpretations of feeling as though you fit in above, where belonging is defined in terms of the individual being the version of themselves that they wish to be, such that ‘everything falls in place’.

Doing Belonging One of the intriguing aspects of the articles referred to earlier was the extent to which we might identify actions within the context of relationships that help to define the nature of the relationship themselves (see earlier discussion). In the following section, I want to play around with


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this notion of how actions reflect ‘doing’ within a particular space and the extent to which this can be connected to efforts to maintain belonging through a desire to promote positive relationships. This will be considered in relation to both home and school. What emerge are two spaces in which the child as a social agent acts in different ways in order to manage their belonging.

Display at Home Home offered a strong basis for the children to feel they could present an authentic version of themselves, where in the context of relationships in which they felt ‘connected’ they were ‘accepted’ for who they were. A key ingredient of this was the familiarity of the relationships, as one child explained, home ‘is something you’re use to…it’s all you’ve known, like to be with your family’. It was clear to these children that it was not ‘home’ as a geographical setting that was the key, but rather the nature of the relationships they found there. Tom I feel like if I was in another family I would feel different and I wouldn’t know anyone else and my feelings would be much more different Ed I think because you just know with family that it’s all swings and roundabouts. You could go out your way to help them and in return they’ll do it for you on a separate occasion when you need it as well. Tom’s comments highlight how one is ‘known’ within the context of a unique set of relationships. Home, here offers that level of personal understanding that encourages the positive feelings linked to belonging that were shared above. What is more, as Ed explains, that because of these special relationships, even taking into account ‘swings and roundabouts’, your family will still be there for you. This is an important reflection on the home. Indeed, the children painted a picture of the home in which one is able to explore that sense of self with a level of confidence. It reflects the particular nature of the home, that despite ups and downs within relationships, there seems to be an element of ‘damage limitation’

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that surrounds interactions in the home and ‘limits’ movement on that belonging continuum such that even when the interaction is negative, this does not necessarily result in a significant shift in one’s sense of belonging. This has an important implication in terms of a space in which children can learn about themselves. Here, Mike reflects on the extent to which his parents have been able to provide him with support in managing his anger, which has reinforced that sense of belonging he feels at home: ‘I used to have like this anger thing where I used to take anything out on my parents but now I know that I can talk to them and they’ve helped me through it so I don’t really have it any more’. Display in the home might, therefore, be characterized both in terms of those positive family activities, touched on below, but also importantly in the acts of reparation that follow dispute or disagreement. Indeed, in managing this low level of conflict ‘display’ offers a means for looking at the nature of activities used by particular families for rebuilding relationships and reinforcing them. This encourages further consideration of this perceived ‘protection’ to one’s belonging in the home, where relationships seem to reflect a level of elasticity that retains a togetherness between family members even when relationships are ‘stretched’. Display in the home is also characterized through not only being known but knowing others and as such being able to act at appropriate times and in appropriate ways. The following extract draws this out in relation to having a laugh, but perhaps more importantly it highlights the essential ingredient that can be associated with display linked to belonging in the home—the act of spending time together. with mine they like a joke and I know when they’re like jamming a joke and when it’s a good thing or a bad thing because me and my mum are just like each other and we go out a lot because like next week I’m going camping and I find when we go camping we get along and we know about each other a lot more because we talk

Others have discussed the value of time (Christensen 2002). However, including a focus on display moves these discussions away from simply being about time to being about the opportunities that time creates for investing in relationships. It is not just the time for a ‘camping trip’ but


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time within the mundane elements of home life also offers opportunities for display as children demonstrate their commitment to those relationships, which as a result reaffirm their sense of fitting in. In these conversations, the children were very aware of the pressures of time and the extent to which these might limit opportunities to be together. The following extract highlights this, as well as that notion of ‘elasticity’ within relationships (discussed above), such that despite an argument the family can move past this to a moment where Anna is able to recognize that she belongs. Like on weekends. You know when you don’t really get much time with your family because you’re at school from 9 o’clock and as soon as your parents get home from work you’ll have your tea, you’ll sit down and watch a bit of TV with them and then you’ll have to go straight to bed and it feels like literally 15 minutes that all it feels like. But on the weekends, it feels like a lot longer because we don’t have school and you just get along with your family. And when you’re like, watching movies with them - like sometimes in my family we will, on Saturday or Sunday, we’ll go to the shop and buy some treats, sweets and chocolate, and ice cream and then we’ll come home and pick a movie, like we just recently watched a Disney film, and we had some disagreements on what film we wanted to watch and that caused a bit of an arguments but as soon as I said can we watch …we’ve made an agreement and we literally just watched the film and then afterwards we act like there hasn’t been an argument at all over what film we would pick.

Anna reflected on some challenges in her family. She talked openly about the regularity of adult arguments within the home. However, despite this, here Anna presents a narrative that offers opportunities in which Anna, despite these arguments, can re-assure herself of her sense of belonging through the meaning she attaches to a variety of activities that to her ‘display’ how her family ‘do family life’. Other children talked about activities linked to food and how again the important aspect was not an explosive moment of fun but simply being together. Georgie When I’m eating Milly yeah. When you’re sitting at the table and you’re all talking and like you talk about school ‘how was your day?’ or ‘guess what, your dad’s going to book Aladdin next week’

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Georgie Or your dad talks about really boring stuff that you don’t care about SF How often does this happen? Georgie twice a week Milly we have our big meal together every Sunday but we get together during the week to do stuff together Sitting through Dad talking about something boring was simply part of ‘doing’ family and although this did not happen every day it was as an activity that Georgie recognized was an important way to reinforce relationships. Here simply sitting and listening offered an opportunity for display; however, there were plenty of more active ways in which this could be done. The following example highlights an interaction in which the notion of a board game is seen as an effective way of defining an ‘act’ that could reinforce family belonging. For Alan, board games were clearly a regular part of family life, although for his friend Tim this was not so clear. In fact, it seemed as though Tim, after hearing Alan mention it, recognized the value of board games as a way of presenting his family life. This activity was offered as an example of moment in which they felt they belonged. Alan We have a game night we play together…It’s when you play board games as a family Tim I play monopoly and everything SF do you? So how often do you do that? Tim I…I do it about 20 times a year Alan Every Friday night Board games were clearly a feature of Alan’s family life. For Tim, however, this was perhaps not so common. From Alan’s explanation, board games offered a good way to reflect on what it meant to ‘do’ family life. Tim recognizes this and looks to draw off this particular activity too in order to help him strengthen the presentation of his own family. For Tim, the assessment of how often he plays such games might also suggest that a moment of time is enough to create that opportunity through which display can happen. Indeed, many of the examples shared by the children reflected those moments of time. These ‘times’ have become important as


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the activities they allow for offer ways in which the children have come to reflect on what it means to be a family. A drive to maintain connection, expressed in terms of how the children felt, helped them to define where they were on that continuum of belonging. Relationships were key to the way in which the children reflected on belonging at home. Time created opportunities that led to activities through which the quality of those relationships could be maintained or furthered. The notion of display and doing home or family can be seen in the context of investing in these relationships as members of a family (whatever that looks like) find ways to spend time together and through this create experiences that allow the individual to feel that they are in the right place—a place where they are known, understood, accepted and ultimately connected.

Display at School Within the home there were ways to display through which relationships could be encouraged, maintaining positive personal perceptions of self and thus belonging. But how does this play out at school? The examples that the children gave, through which to display ways of reinforcing relationships within the home, linked to a range of different definable activities that came through spending time together. Although relationships remained key to the way in which the children talked about belonging at school, the time and therefore the opportunity for activities to promote relationships was somewhat restricted. Not only that, but the nature of the relationships in school seemed to be without that ‘special’ quality within the home such that one was far more vulnerable to more dramatic movement on that continuum of belonging. An awareness that one’s position could easily fluctuate saw the children undertake more risky behaviors as driven by their desire to ‘fit in’. This extract highlights some important features of relationships in the context of school. One, that it is mainly through relationships with friends that the individual is able to assert (to themselves) their sense of belonging, two that display is focused, by default, on ‘play’, third that relationships at school can be unpredictable and fourth that is important

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to be aware of strategies you can use to manage that unpredictability and reinforce or repair relationships when necessary. Abi

Mike SF Mike

SF Mike SF Mike SF Mike SF Mike

I’ve got loving friends—so I am off school for a day they’ll like come up to me and make sure that I’m ok when they help you through stuff and—like if you’re having a hard time at home and they know that you’re having a hard time, and they just want to make you feel happy at school I like to be with my friends. They’re nice, and they like to play with me and I like to play with them, from what I’ve gathered. are you sometimes not so sure? with my friends at school I fit in with them, but with my friends who are at the high school sometimes it gets confusing because you don’t know what they’re talking about when they say about things. And then you get confused. And then a couple of minutes later you understand again. So how does it make you feel when you’re a bit confused …? quite funny to be honest so it’s ok is it—you don’t mind? it make me want to make a joke so why would you want to make a joke? i’m not really sure, it’s a natural reaction so when you’re feeling not sure about your place in the group, you might try and make a joke? yes or try and be funny

Mike and Abi highlight the important place of friends in their lives. School allows access to ‘friends’. Abi describes her friends in the most effusive way, expressing clearly their value to her in managing elements of the day to day. Interestingly Mike’s assessment of his friends is linked more directly to play; however, it is his comments about what happens when he is with a different group that particularly adds to our discussion here. This group is still his ‘friends’ but they talk about stuff that Mike does not fully understand and as a result he is left questioning his sense of self, he is left feeling disconnected. As a result, Mike looks for a way to repair that doubt that is raised. He looks for strategies he can employ in


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order to be able to ‘display’ actions that will re-affirm his sense of belonging. Mike looks to manage this through the act of being funny. At home, in an earlier example, being funny was shared as an activity to further relationships, but notably this was presented in the context of interactions where one knows the other well. Without such good knowledge of the other, a feature of any relationship outside of the home, and here particularly with a group of older ‘friends’, making a joke becomes a potentially precarious strategy as Mike makes himself vulnerable to the chance that his ‘friends’ might not find his joke funny. However, it is a desire to act in a way that restores his sense of belonging with the group that encourages him to take the risk. It provokes thinking in relation to a wide range of issues linked to peer interaction and the way in which children choose to act in order to maintain a friendship (Frankel 2012). It highlights how real that fear of being disconnected is and how this was far more of an issue outside of the home. Although bullying was talked about in a number of different ways, in all the examples, it was discussed in relation to the challenge it presented to the individual’s perception of self, which as suggested above, meant questioning where one was positioned on the continuum of belonging. The following example not only touches on the challenges linked to other children but also to adults too and links back to the discussion about perceptions of being an ‘outsider’ that were raised earlier. SF Is school a place where you belong? Kate Yeah. But there can be things that can stop you, like bullies, and just really mean people. And sometimes you can get teachers that don’t like you. Ali Yeah sometimes you feel like teachers just want Kate to get you out of the school Ali they just get you in trouble constantly SF have you experienced that? Both no Kate but I’ve seen it {at old school] we had to call teachers sister, so we would have to say sister felicity and she didn’t like someone she kept getting them in denotations and time out, and ringing their parents and blaming them for stuff. but they didn’t do anything wrong

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SF Ali

SF Ali SF Ali


[explained how she and her family had done to New Zealand and how she had attended school there] sometimes [fitted in] sometimes you wouldn’t feel like you fitted in because some people were really mean. what kind of meanness? they oddly laugh at you, like because I used to get the bus, and like if you would miss your bus stop they would just laugh at you when you were walking off the bus and have to walk back down to where your bus stop was What changed this? my parents went to the school and they talked to the teachers and they seemed to help [then she described how they moved back to the UK and she fitted in quickly] plenty of friends… everyone was kind what make you feel like you fitted in? Everyone was kind and if you wanted to play games with them they would want to play as well. It was really nice

This example highlights the extent to which opportunities to ‘display’ in ways that furthered relationships were closed down, both to those children who were the focus of adult attention and to Ali facing the comments and stares of her fellow pupils. In these situations, Ali lost the opportunity through which she might have sought to build relationships. Not only that but the feelings that this created had an impact on her sense of self and as a result her sense of belonging, creating the potential of a downward spiral toward the bottom of that scale of ‘fitting in’. As one of the other children, Georgie, in a separate interview so perceptively reflected, ‘if you’re not feeling happy…people pick up on that…and then you’re like an outsider’. As such the narrative that develops for Ali in the context of school is one linked to her as an outsider, as someone without the connections that others have. Carrying such a perception of self into a space creates a very different basis for the type and nature of ‘display’ that might be used. In these extracts, we have seen examples of two different extremes, reflecting ways in which children have come to manage that fear of being an ‘outsider’. From Mike and his efforts to take the risk and act in an overt way to re-establish relationships to Ali, who actually finds herself in a situation where she is simply not able to do very much,


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such that the best strategy is to become as invisible as possible, placing oneself outside of possible interactions. It highlights an area of important inquiry around those internal narratives that we might hold in different spaces (discussed more in Frankel 2012) and the extent to which those then come to define our interaction in such spaces, such that the individual comes to play out a role that furthers a sense that they do not belong, where changing the narrative might be the only way to bring about effective change. Notably, it was adults that helped to re-structure the opportunities through which Ali was able to reposition herself and create a new sense of identity in school. The role that adults play in creating opportunities for display is a discussion for further investigation, although it is beyond the scope of this chapter. Notably, real change for Ali only occurred when she went to a new school in a different country. For Ali, the change of school offered opportunities to invest in new relationships; through ‘play’ she found others that were ‘kind’ and she thus ‘fitted in’ quickly. Indeed, ‘play’ was clearly the central activity through which children could further those all-important relationships at school, such that so much of ‘doing school’ can be summed up by those fleeting chances children have to engage with their peers. It is not that play (which in many aspects is significantly controlled by adults) should not offer such opportunities; however, it was notable that there were no other activities that the children talked that might be linked to ‘display’ in the context of developing positive relationships in school and in affirming their position within this space. This raises further questions, for example, about the way children value learning (see the response that follows this chapter). ‘Doing’ school becomes quite tightly defined within the context of peer relationships, and highlights the extent to which schools might need to think more widely about both the value of play and how children feel about themselves and their ability to influence relationships in other spaces within a school environment. Indeed, a key part of defining belonging in this chapter reverberates around the notion that the individual feels accepted for who they are. This reflection on school demands that we ask whether children do feel this at school recognizing that it is not good enough for this to be merely associated with activities out on the playground. Throughout their interaction with peers (and indeed

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with adults) children are presenting a version of themselves that can be accepted or not and therefore there is a constant sense of vulnerability. Exploring belonging in terms of the opportunities it provides through which the individual can feel ‘connected’ perhaps offers a more insightful way of understanding school-based interaction, recognizing that this space currently only seems to allow children to present themselves in very defined and restricted ways.

Display in Other Spaces How children acted to further relationships in the context of maintaining belonging was different depending on the setting. However, that said there were also similarities. Already we have seen the place of feelings and the role of relationships as features of defining belonging both at home and school; however, these were also key to perceptions of belonging online. Interestingly, online was a space where the children felt they could belong. The reasons provided below, demonstrate again the relevance of relationships to interpreting a sense of belonging. SF Chris James SF James Chris James

When do you feel like you belong online? Always Always Always? Why? Because we have great friends, we can play games With each other, we can talk online, text We can message

It was interesting that the boys also used the breakdown in ‘relationships’ as a tool for reflecting those moments when they did not belong. SF James Chris James

So do you ever feel like you don’t belong? Uh, when people send me messages swearing and… and being mean to us and saying, look at me cyber bullying


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Both James and Chris, as well as a number of the other children, highlighted ‘online’ as a space where they felt they could invest in meaningful relationships. Part of this included, as with school, an awareness of a level of risk as they presented a version of themselves to others that they did not always know well. However, rather than the children worrying about this they simply related a range of strategies they used, or would use, in order to limit the risk an ‘outsider’ might pose. The level of awareness the children shared reflected a side to the debate about children’s place online that is less overt. Rather than the children talking about being online in terms of the wealth of illicit opportunities it created, they talked about it like the other spaces, as a setting where they could meet with friends, which made them feel good about themselves. It is not without recognizing their potential vulnerability that might be linked with this, but the children were all too aware of the possibility of being ‘preyed on’ and offered sensible suggestions for how they would act in such a scenario. Although more investigation of our data around online interaction is needed, it seems to suggest that the notion of representing a sense of identity in a virtual space is similar to that in other spaces. Based on these conversations, the children displayed themselves to the adult researcher as possessing a very high level of awareness about how to protect their sense of identity online. However, there is certainly a discussion to be had about how expected activities, employed to reinforce a relationship, could put children at risk. As seen above, spaces outside home and school offered opportunities for belonging. As part of these conversations, the children also drew attention to fact that the nature of the activities through which belonging was asserted, in the context of friends, did not just need to be linked to ‘play’ but rather could also be linked to skill-based performance that was valued by the others. For example, children’s sense of belonging to a sports club offered a further example where friendships were often limited by the fact that you only saw those there once a week; however, what this space did offer was a chance to do something that you were ‘good’ at and through that it allowed opportunities to establish that sense of connection. Milly said ‘well I have a lot of friends at swimming and we’re really good friends and we have a really good time together even though we’re doing a lot of hard work and it hurts’. Here Milly reflects on an out-of-school

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club she attends and despite the obvious limitations talks very positively about her friends, bonded together through ‘hard work’. A similar conversation was had in relation to Esther’s experience at her judo club. It was in doing what you were ‘good’ at that the children were able to draw from in asserting a sense of their belonging. That demonstration of skill also offers an interesting contrast to school. School was never presented as a space in which the children talked about demonstrating a skill as part of explaining their sense of belonging. Again, it raises questions about the nature of the opportunities that are created and the meaning that the individual comes to give these within the context of understanding their place within a particular setting.

Concluding Thought In all spaces, children demonstrate their capacity as meaning makers as they reflect on different interactional settings to make judgments in relation to their sense of self that informs actions and reactions (reflecting the theoretical discussion at the start of this chapter). At the center of this exploration of belonging is the importance of relationships and the strategic steps children then take in order to maintain or further the quality of those relationships. These steps reflect actions, which at times see children take calculated risks. At other times, very mundane and routine activities display ways in which those relationships are maintained and in which ‘home’, ‘school’, being ‘online’ (as well as others), to some extent, come to be ‘done’. What this reflection of display has shown is the individual processing the setting (where it is, who is in it, and what its culture is) and as a result seeking to act in ways that further their connection to that space as they build relationships in which they feel known and accepted. However, what display also points to is the extent to which these actions come to inform and shape the nature of the setting itself as the individual child becomes part of defining the structure within which interactions come to take place. An investigation of belonging therefore is far more than a consideration of membership; it is an opportunity to examine the way in which the individual, through the lens of their personal life, reflects on structure


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through their capacity as a social agent. It is as a result of a realization of this process that the search for time and the opportunities it creates becomes of note. Those opportunities create the possibility for actions, through which the individual can ‘display’ certain practices in certain ways to establish, maintain, and repair relationships that through the feelings they espouse, instill a sense of belonging. As such, this chapter has highlighted the extent to which feelings must form part of our enquiry as social scientists. For in examining those feelings we can start to make sense of the way in which the individual comes to interpret the social environment they find themselves in, and subsequently how they then act to negotiate it. The contrasting ways in which the individual comes to pursue belonging in different settings merely highlight the importance of examining the interrelationship between structure and agency (contextualizing childhoods) as part of making sense of both children and belonging, but more widely the way in which children come to experience their everyday lives, with implications for the policies and practices we develop within our social institutions.

Note 1. Here, we acknowledge the funding for this research provided through the Faculty Research Grants Committee at King’s University College at Western University, Ontario.

References Alanen, L. 2011. Generational order. In The Palgrave handbook of childhood studies, ed. J.  Qvortrup, W.  Corsaro, and M.  Honig. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Christensen, P. 2002. Why more “quality time” is not on the top of children’s lists: The “qualities of time” for children. Childhood and Society 16 (2): 72–88. Cohen, A.P., ed. 1986. Symbolising boundaries. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ———. 1994. Self consciousness: An alternative anthropology of identity. London: Routledge.

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Corsaro, W. 2005. The sociology of childhood. 2nd ed. California: Sage. Finch, J. 2007. Displaying families. Sociology 41 (1): 65–81. Frankel, S. 2012. Children, morality and society. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ———. 2017. Negotiating childhoods. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Goffman, E. 1969. The presentation of the self in everyday life. London: Allen Lane. James, A.L. 2010. Competition or integration? The next step in childhood studies? Childhood 17 (4): 485–499. James, A. 2013. Socialising children. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. James, A., and P. Curtis. 2010. Family displays and personal lives. Sociology 44 (6): 1163–1180. Jenks, C. 1996. Childhood. London: Routledge. Parsons, T. 1951. The social system. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Pollard, A. 1985. The social world of the primary school. London: Holt Rinehart and Winston. Mayall, B. 2002. Towards a sociology for childhood. Buckingham: Open University Press. McNamee, S. 2016. The social study of childhood: An introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Mead, G.-H. 1934. Mind, Self and Society: From the standpoint of a social behaviourist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Morgan, D.H.J. 1996. Family connections: An introduction to family studies. Cambridge: Polity Press. Rapport, N. 2003. I am dynamite: An alternative anthropology of power. New York: Routledge. Smart, C. 2007. Personal life. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Commentary on Chapter 6: Questioning Schools: The Role of Belonging in Shaping Practice Sam Frankel

Introduction An important feature of this response is to consider directly the extent to which childhood studies offers an insight, here through the notion of belonging, that can have practical application in the way in which we come to make sense of, in this case, children’s school experience and the practices that we as adults might employ in this space. The relevance of this is connected to the growing concern over levels of wellbeing in school. Indeed, this section is offered as a self-written response to the previous chapter as it draws off another piece of related research. In this chapter, we looked at qualitative data gathered from 20 children in the form of interviews. This response reflects on a growing body of data of a more quantitative nature, gathered through questionnaires with over 800 children in eight primary schools in England as they S. Frankel (*) EquippingKids, Church Stretton, Shropshire, UK Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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explored any links between wellbeing and learning (more detail on this research can be found—see EquippingKids 2017). The processing of this data is a work in progress; however, I engage with it here as it offers an additional dimension that adds to the themes raised in the previous chapter.

Getting Practical The focus of this response is to consider the extent to which the discussion in the previous chapter has relevance for school-based practice. As such it embraces that need for us to be increasingly vociferous about the value of childhood studies as a tool for driving positive outcomes in key settings where children spend their time. As part of celebrating 25 years of the journal Childhood, former editors offered their perspectives on the journey of the discipline (Cook 2018). Amongst these, Virginia Morrow argued that if childhood studies is to fulfil its potential, then we must question our motives. Are our ambitions (as scholars within this field) to generate a theoretical discussion that sits within the academy or is it to offer a framework for thought that applies to the wider (practical) world within which children live their everyday lives? In presenting this challenge, she highlights the work of Michael Freeman and the extent to which his work has been able to cut across the divide between the academic and practitioner, such that the ideas of both have combined to create real change within the legal system in England and Wales. Here is a small effort to start a journey to place such thinking directly in the context of schools.

Belonging and Wellbeing The tables below show how happy children felt at home, in the classroom, and on the playground (Table 1), followed by how they assessed their sense of ‘fitting in’ in relation to these spaces (Table 2). What is clear is the connection between how one feels and one’s sense of fitting in, themes we have already explored based on the qualitative


  Commentary on Chapter 6: Questioning Schools: The Role…  Home Playground Class 0%

73 51



6 10

17 34




Very happy



Quite happy




Not happy





Table 1  How happy do we feel in the classroom, at home, and on the playground? Home Playground








Class 0%





Very happy



Quite happy




Not happy





Table 2  Do we ‘fit in’—in the classroom, at home, and on the playground? Home Playground Class 0%


21 43




36 48




Very helpful



Quite helpful

60% Not helpful







Table 3  How helpful to our learning, is being in the classroom, at home or in the playground?

data from earlier. However, it also highlights the extent to which spaces at school are not only different (between the playground and classroom) but are also significantly behind home as spaces where children feel happy and fit in. It is notable that these results were not from schools where home life was perceived by the teachers as always positive. Indeed, many of the senior leaders in these schools were very clear on the challenges that the children faced at home and were surprised that home came out, in all areas, better than school. It was particularly surprising that the classroom stood out as the space where children were most uncertain about how they felt. Indeed, our understanding of the classroom was further compromised by the fact that when asked about where they learn best, the children’s responses placed home just ahead of the classroom (Table 3).


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There is clearly a correlation between how one feels and a sense of fitting in but there also seems to be a connection that needs to be explored further between wellbeing and attitudes to learning. Can the response to learning at home be connected to the positive way in which the children felt within that space? Indeed, analysis of other data in this initial report seemed to suggest that the higher your sense of wellbeing (both in terms of happiness and fitting in), the more you were likely to value your learning. At this stage of the analysis, one can’t make that link conclusively but it does encourage a number of reflections (see the report for more).

Challenging Classroom Culture What was clear in relation to the way in which the children talked about ‘doing’ home as part of re-affirming a sense of belonging was that there were definable activities within the home through which the act of investing in relationships could be done. At school, however belonging was defined primarily in relation to peer relationships. Those peer relationships take place in spaces where, in the context of the classroom, interaction between children is subject to very specific rules, limiting the quality of interaction. The other space where children are able to ‘do’ school, in terms of investing in peer relationships, is on the playground, which, for a number of reasons is a complicated and tricky space to navigate. Part of the question here is whether there actually needs to be a different narrative in relation to school—where doing school is not simply summed up by the somewhat fraught task of having to manage peer relationships (and relationships with adults) through limited interactional opportunities, but rather whether greater value can be placed on activities connected to learning? The desired result being that a connection is created between activities that promote learning (as part of these situationally based relationships) and thus boosting a child’s feeling of happiness and as a result their sense of belonging. This invites schools to consider the way in which time is used to further relationships and the extent to which learning itself can be presented in ways that reflects skill ­development that children can feel ‘good’ about. Of course, this sits uncomfortably alongside a model of schooling in which adults are focused

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on results and where value is placed on achievement as defined by performance. In a model in which value is placed on ‘getting it right’, ‘getting it wrong’ puts the individual at a significant risk, with the potential for the individual to find themselves, at worst labelled as an ‘outsider’, or in current school terminology ‘disadvantaged’. It is not that disadvantage should not be acknowledged; it is the interpreted meaning that the label carries for the individual that can be so damaging (Guardian 2017), potentially propelling children down that continuum of belonging. Indeed, if we are to embrace the themes from the previous chapter, then we need to be recognizing disadvantages in learning for all, recognizing that the learning process demands constant occasions in which we make ourselves vulnerable. It is by creating a culture in which there is value attached to that risk and to recognizing our individual and collective disadvantages as a learner that becomes important. As a result, those elements of learning should come to carry meaning and create increased opportunities through which one might ‘do’ school.

Concluding Thought Through recognizing those theoretical frameworks introduced at the start of the chapter and the importance of the reflection and refraction that takes place by the individual in key settings, we can start to use the notion of belonging as a means for furthering effective practice in schools. Here, we as adults must note the importance of children being able to develop an increased connection to that space, as they are encouraged to value a range of actions that allow them to feel confident about who they are as they ‘display’ ways to further relationships and increase their sense of belonging.

References Cook, D. 2018. Past, present and futures of childhood studies: A conversation with former editors of childhood. Childhood 25 (1): 6–18.


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EquippingKids. 2017. Guardian. 2017. Working class children get less of everything in education – Including respect, November 21, EQFggOMAM&client=internal-uds-cse&cx=007466294097402385199: m2ealvuxh1i&usg=AOvVaw3j6B_RUPGAtMtgsOa99Vye.

Part II

7 Reflections on Global Citizenship Narratives in Canadian Higher Education Through International Experiential/Service Learning: Moving Towards New Practices for Youth and Global Poverty Engagement Allyson Larkin

Volunteers Unleashed, a recent documentary by Canadian filmmaker Brad Quenville, traces the experiences of a young group of volunteers, mostly North American, making their way to Tanzania to spend two weeks volunteering in medical clinics and orphanages. Inspired by the opportunity to travel and to “get as far out of my comfort zone as possible”, the film captures the youths’ sense of adventure and excitement as they are greeted at the airport by their Tanzanian chaperones and make their way for the first time through the streets of Arusha. They are clearly inspired to be travelling across the globe and motivated to make a difference in the world. Yet, while there has been an extraordinary growth of voluntourism over the past two decades, this growth has also triggered a growing backlash, particularly within the education and development fields of research, that is critical of the commodification of poverty as tourism and seeks to A. Larkin (*) King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



A. Larkin

deconstruct the effects of power, race and gender within and on host communities through volunteer tourism practices. As a researcher and practitioner of international experiential or service learning (IESL), the educational complement to voluntourism, my research explores the dynamics and intersections between race, inequality, knowledge, privilege and citizenship as they are perceived and produced through transnational education, including IESL. Over the past two decades, the field for IESL has become contested as a site for the reproduction of privilege through asymmetrical relations with host communities that favour or advantage university participants. Triggered by similar recognition of the privilege that race, citizenship, affluence and education afford university IESL participants, my research is concerned with IESL practices that continue to facilitate or normalize relations with host communities in order to provide global educational opportunities for Canadian university students. Specifically, how do these IESL partnerships introduce students to host communities? Do they position them as the Other, in need of care, service or resources from a well-endowed university participant? Is there attention drawn to the ways in which poverty is produced within the community? Is attention given to the all-too-often invisible structural and systematic ways that geopolitical relationships sustain unequally (Larkin 2013, 2015)? My research seeks to understand the ways in which IESL practices may reproduce narratives of global citizenship that avoids encounter with the ongoing social, political and economic relationships that have constructed global inequality and poverty. In this paper, I will reflect on the influences that public narratives of global citizenship education exert on IESL practices within Canadian universities and consider strategies to reframe the practice in response to the exploitative effects of IESL documented in the research literature. Here, I will address the challenges that IESL poses global citizenship education in the Canadian context. First, I will consider how narratives of global citizenship seek to promote an ideal that aligns with the Canadian imaginary of a benevolent, politically neutral and multicultural citizen. Here, the images of healthy, white students, similar to those in Quenville’s documentary referenced above, are framed as a net-positive force for

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good in the world. Their subjectivity as global citizens is left unquestioned, and they exist as discrete individuals with no relationship to global poverty networks. Next, I will consider how IESL pedagogies may be complicit with the production of inequalities in a global context. There is a growing prevalence within the field of global development and voluntourism of the role for the individual to have a direct impact on poverty amelioration. Popular social movements, such as the Me to We organization and WE Days, present international volunteering in highly individualistic, self-­ help language with little critical analysis of structural and systemic poverty production. Yet, although there is a theoretical critique to be made of the commodification of international voluntourism and IESL, it is equally problematic to summarily dismiss the desire and potential for youth to exercise agency for change. Responding to the challenge to reduce global inequality, I will consider alternative practices to IESL— specifically work by Anaya Roy (2012), whose work on pedagogies of encounter, a theoretical framework, suggests ways of framing youth interest in and desire for global social justice, which may bridge the gap between critique and contemporary IESL practices.

 aiveté or Knowledge? Framing a Critical N Context for IESL and Global Citizenship One of the key critiques levelled against IESL practices is its educational value. Does IESL reinforce Canadian exceptionalism and benevolence, or does it engage youth in an in-depth analysis of the structural roots of global poverty and inequality? In Quenville’s film, the naïve enthusiasm of the volunteers is contrasted against the youth’s lack of knowledge of the relationships, contemporary and historical, that link global inequity to many of the privileges that they enjoy, including but not limited to international mobility as leisure and travel. For example, in an early scene, a large group of white, young, predominantly female volunteers make their way down the street to get Tanzanian shillings from bank machines and to purchase local cell phones, (typical first steps for firsttime volunteers), while in the background locals stare as the youth count


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their large stacks of money, marvelling at having TZ 200,000 shillings in their hands. Next, equipped with cash and cell phones, the film then moves on to capture some of the volunteers first days on the job. Two young women are taken to a preschool to teach English to young Tanzanians; with no instruction, no understanding of Swahili, the local language, they proceed to play and try to communicate with the children. Watched uncritically, the scene seems innocent and benevolent: a picture of well-intentioned youth, travelling across the world and giving their time and attention to poor children. The visual representation of this gap is underscored by the poverty and inequality that frames every scene. While the teenage volunteers speak to their desire to travel and to make a difference in the world, ordinary life in urban Tanzania plays out with scenes of street vendors, incompletely constructed buildings, and perplexed stares by locals watching the filming. In later scenes, it becomes clear that the volunteers have lost interest in their placements, and are instead focusing on partying and safaris. With little to no training or cultural preparation prior to their arrival, Quenville problematizes the youth’s fascination with travel and volunteering within the context of globalized capitalism and the growth industry of voluntourism. This documentary speaks to the growing gap between discourses that promote global travel and voluntourism as a pathway to global citizenship for Canadian youth and the consequences for communities that play the role of host for these experiences. In the current context of relatively cheap global travel and ease of border mobility for most Canadian youth, globe-trotting is often conflated with global citizenry through the act of voluntourism (Tiessen and Heron 2012). The gap between the privilege afforded to some affluent youth who can afford to travel and offer their services as volunteers, however, is underscored by the background of poverty, inequality and race that frames the experience. The film dives deep into the socioeconomic, racial and political contradictions that voluntourism seeks to downplay. In a quick cut to an interview with Pippa Biddle, whose blog post, “The problem with little white girls (and boys): Why I stopped being a voluntourist,” identified the racial, class and cultural inequities that facilitate participation in voluntourism. Pappi’s selfcritical argument reflexively engaged her own position, ­contending that

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for white people, race is invisible, rendering their bodies and actions invisible. She claims, white people aren’t told that the color of their skin is a problem very often. We sail through police checkpoints, don’t garner sideways glances in affluent neighborhoods, and are generally understood to be predispositioned for success based on a physical characteristic (the color of our skin).

 lobal Citizenship, IESL and Canadian Higher G Education Within the context of Canadian higher education, global citizenship narratives align closely with higher education’s goals for internationalization and intersect with calls to increase student participation in global learning opportunities. There is a broad literature that critiques and analyses the implications and interests embedded in Canadian higher education internationalization (Beck 2012), but a survey of this literature is outside of the focus in this chapter; however, it is critical to acknowledge the discourses of global citizenship that correspond to the type of graduates universities are seeking to produce. For example, one Canadian university offers a global-ready graduate a certificate that recognizes intercultural competency: Contemporary globalized society favours university graduates with global and intercultural competencies, and University North’s Global and Intercultural Engagement Honor will recognize and reward students’ experience and engagement in such activities during their time at here. Once achieved, the Honor will appear on the student’s official transcript upon graduation. The structure of this program allows students to incorporate both curricular and extracurricular activities. Students awarded this honor will be global-ready graduates: they will have the skills required to navigate an increasingly globalized reality, both professionally and personally. (university website)

Responding to the needs of impoverished or disenfranchised Others is one of the key narratives of global citizenship in Canadian higher education.


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In this story, the image of an empowered community of Canadian youth is ready to act on the world. The image of well-prepared, action-­oriented youth is closely linked to the production of Canadian youth as an entrepreneurial workforce. In their survey of global citizenship education, Shultz and Jorgenson contend that the growth in global citizenship education programmes on Canadian campuses are frequently deployed as marketing strategies, designed to attract students who seek to prepare themselves for work in a competitive global workforce. At this point, the incorporation of neoliberal, private sector interests act as a bridge between notions of global citizenship and Canadian higher education internationalization aspirations. Thus, through participation in IESL, Canadian youth prepare themselves to be subjects in a global economy that highly values international education experiences (Beck 2012).

Idealizing Canadian Youth: Narratives of the Global Citizen on Canadian University Campuses Who is a global citizen in the Canadian context? Narratives of global citizenship on Canadian campuses promote an image of an individual whose personal and social responsibilities transcend the local and expand the boundaries of an individual’s identity to embraces the values of an imaginary global community (Jefferess 2012). The image of a borderless identity, facilitated by ease of mobility across international borders, is supported by university programmes that provide students with global learning opportunities, often with significant institutional financial support. Jefferess argues that youths who volunteer internationally are drawn by the lifestyle quality and values intrinsic to this image. Narratives of global citizenship appeal to a loosely defined set of values and principles that claim to identify some individuals as members of a hopeful, cooperative and engaged human community that transcends the borders of the nation-state. Within this group of citizens ready and able to act, there must also exist a community of others who are in need of being worked on. This group in need is typically racially and ethnically

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Other than the majority white youth who participate in IESL programming. The effect of the racialized difference that exists between host communities and university participants acts to undermine efforts within some host communities to respond to their needs or aspirations themselves. Mahrouse contends that the intentions of specifically white, transnational volunteers or activists may, consciously or not, disrupt efforts to build solidarity within communities marginalized by poverty or conflict. For example, white university youth who enter into impoverished communities may be seen as experts, bringing with them solutions to persistent problems. The presence of the influence and authority of the university participants disempowers the local community. It is the intersection of the global citizen narrative and IESL practices that are under critique in Canadian higher education. Here, appeals to global citizenship identify an active citizenry, ready to respond to those who make up the community of damaged citizens (Tuck 2009). The relationship between these two communities is grounded on notions of active versus damaged citizens: the active citizenry is intellectually superior to and prepared to assume the responsibility to care for a single planet that is increasingly threatened by violence and environmental degradation. In contrast, the damaged citizen is a member of communities who are framed as oppressed, disenfranchised or broken (Tuck 2009). Tuck argues that in damage-centred research, one of the major activities is to document pain or loss in an individual, community or tribe. Though connected to deficit models—frameworks that emphasize what a particular student, family, or community is lacking to explain underachievement or failure—damage-­ centred research is distinct in being more socially and historically situated. It looks to historical exploitation, domination and colonization to explain contemporary brokenness, such as poverty, poor health, and low literacy. Common sense tells us this is a good thing, but the danger in damage-­ centred research is that there is a pathologizing approach in which the oppression singularly defines a community. Here’s a more applied ­definition of damage-centred research: research that operates, even benevolently from a theory of change that establishes harm or injury in order to achieve reparation. (p. 413)


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This ends-justifies-the-means approach to research suggests other motives at work in the relentless commitment to promoting IESL and global citizenship education. The broader socio-economic context exercises a powerful influence in the ways that pedagogical opportunities are marketed to potential student participants. Critical researchers identify the link between the global political and economic interests of the Canadian state with the production of global citizenship narratives. Working from a decolonizing and postcolonial perspective, Andreotti (2016a, b) critiques the nationalism that runs through IESL and global citizenship literature. She argues that the persistent notion of Canadian exceptionalism has masked the reproduction of colonial relations through global citizenship education. In fact, “these tendencies mobilise (in different ways and degrees), identities that dissociate the creation of the Canadian state and Canadian nationalism from the historical and systemic reproduction of injustices locally and abroad” (p. 102). Relying on a Canadian identity defined by benevolence and innocence, narratives of global citizenship evade critique of acts and events that challenge these values. Drawing on work by Thobani, Andreotti argues that the notion of an exalted Canadian citizen is one who “relies on the concealment of the colonial violence at the core of the national project. In other words, for Canadians to be produced as naturally, benevolently superior, the national master narrative necessarily needs to foreclose its own construction as well as the violence it engenders” (in Andreotti 2016b, p. 103). Ultimately, it is the individual and his or her choice that sustains participation in IESL programmes. Promoting an image of a positive, well-­ meaning person through volunteering is key to the global citizenship experience. Vrasti (2013) argues that youth participation in international volunteering is an exercise of power, and a “well-intentioned attempt to make “ourselves into moral subjects of our own actions,” as a way to “engage in cultural fantasies that allow some people to affirm their sense of self by taking a detour through other people’s version of everyday life” (p. 3). Vrasti’s conclusions frame IESL and the desire to become a global citizen as ideals that are ultimately responding to a need to produce an image of oneself as socially responsible, defined as kind and caring, yet ultimately not responsible for the violence or inequality that persists in impoverished communities.

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Even as recognition of the links between poverty and wealth production take hold in mainstream discourses, new strategies are emerging that combine the power and attraction of oversimplified global citizenship narratives to attract and inform youth of their role respond to global poverty and inequality. One example combines celebrity, rock style concerts with appeals to be the change in the world. Sponsored by Free the Children and Me to WE, WE days is an annual, cross-Canada tour that draws thousands of youth (primarily middle-school age), to large sports stadiums where pop culture stars put on mini-concerts interspersed with motivational-style presenters whose talks are designed to attract youth to participation in global service trips (Jefferess 2012). He points to the popular Me to We campaign, which he contends “reframes humanitarianism and global citizenship education in the terms of the self-help industry. The 2010 catch phrase for We Day, ‘shameless idealists,’ appeals to a desire for (post)consumer feelings of fulfilment and distinction” (p.  18). It aligns with neoliberalism’s reliance on the preferences and desires of individuals to engage in poverty-awareness activities while carefully avoiding critique of the sources that produce inequalities. More recent strategies to engage youth build on innovation in social media and technology and include gaming, apps and contests that centre on solving global poverty. The alignment between higher education narratives of the power of youth to make a difference are mirrored in a recent addition to the Government of Canada Global Affairs website. A new a ‘youth zone’ page allows children from 9–12; youth 13–16 and young adults, 17+, to find age appropriate ways to engage in global development. A quick click on the “Free rice” game app allows young plays to test their knowledge in languages, math, science and art history. For every correct answer, ten grains of rice will be donated the World Food Programme ­( youth-jeunes/pl_nine-aaneuf.aspx?lang+eng). Although this site was removed shortly after its release, the design of games and apps to engage youth in response to global citizenship and poverty issues continues to follow developments in the marketplace. Similar gaming strategies to respond to global poverty are increasing on Canadian campuses. Annual competitions on campuses allow university students to compete for cash prizes based on their solutions to global


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problems. Students design solutions to trenchant global issues and then compete for the prizes in juried contests. Framing the students as global experts, youth are empowered to use their recently acquired knowledge and creativity to produce solutions to solve distant problems, foreclosing knowledge of the roots of inequality. From tourism to gaming, poverty is an effective marketing strategy within Canadian higher education to engage with youth.

 eframing the Problem: Towards a Pedagogy R of Global Citizenship As Encounter The GlobalPov Project, (Roy et  al. 2016), housed at the University of California Berkeley, engages with critical global poverty education through developing new conceptual frameworks that challenge youth to think about global citizenship, inequalities and role for youth in resolving social issues. Led by Ananya Roy, the GlobalPov Project is a multidisciplinary approach to thinking about and responding to global poverty and injustice. The first challenge is to rethink how we respond to poverty. Shaw Crane (2015) argues that “much of hegemonic poverty knowledge theorizes impoverishment as a problem to be solved: a lack of resources, services or gadgets…Poverty, (is) framed as a deficiency of people or of place or incomplete inclusion into a prosperous and benign global market” (p. 347). Further, it is an unethical practice of education and global programming that make invisible the relationship between prosperity and poverty. Focusing on how poverty is produced is critical to understanding how citizens are linked to one another through global markets and institutions. Roy et al (2016) challenge IESL practitioners’ global citizenship educators to reconceptualise anti-poverty education as “anti-colonial struggles, civil rights campaigns and grassroots efforts to bring about social change” (p. 175). She argues, in this context, that the poor are agents of their own emancipation and producers of knowledge; they are the active citizens asserting their own response to poverty and inequality (Roy 2015). This model rethinks the poor or the damaged citizenry and asks:

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What if rather than seeing the poor as outside of the project of development, we acknowledge that they are a product of these very modes of intervention? What if we understand the poor as the revolutionary subject—not the disenfranchised in need of intervention and help, but the marginalized and oppressed poised to make history? (Roy et al. 2016, p. l75)

Reframing the epistemological frameworks for understanding poverty repositions the role of the poor and the relationship for Canadian youth to them. Roy and colleagues at the GlobalPov Project acknowledge the growing number of millennial youth who want to act on global poverty and argue that they have a role to play in poverty education. Youth from this generation “are the ubiquitous presence in the global conscience that is marshalled to attend to each new global crisis, each new human disaster…” (p.  5). Critically optimistic, this approach to global citizenship education suggests that through renewed pedagogy, IESL can tap into the energy and optimism of youth who want to ameliorate poverty in the world, yet who are informed by “forms of poverty knowledge in the crucible of volunteerism, charity, aid advocacy and humanitarian engagement” and potentially transform the ways in which they encounter, engage and understand with the poor (p. 5). New forms of poverty knowledge open the way for a new understanding of the possibilities of poverty, including seeing people in poverty who are “productive” and “generating truth claims” (Roy et  al. 2016, p  5). Rethinking the poor as active agents and producers of knowledge that addresses their particular solution is not naïve hope, rather it is “a particular kind of hope---that is grounded in an analysis of structures of power as structures of power” (p. 174). Higher education and IESL practices are relations of power, not benevolence. Seen as interactions that produce power over and knowledge about Others positions IESL participants from Canadian universities within a larger network of relationships that are undeniably embedded in the production and maintenance of global poverty and inequality. In contrast to the benevolent volunteer, seen through a lens of complicity, the ethical foundation for IESL relationships is radically altered. Engaging a lens of complicity in global citizenship education and IESL practices pushes the boundaries that neutralized, market-driven


A. Larkin

and voluntouristic approaches may foreclose. It demands persistent critique of our activities and actions towards Others in recognition of our embeddedness in a broader global set of political and economic relations. Acknowledging complicity makes visible how we are all participants in an ongoing project of global capitalism that produces university volunteers as consumers of poverty in the same way that they are consumers of travel. Considering global relations through a lens of complicity is not a strategy to foreclose the practice of IESL or the notion of a global citizen; rather, it strategizes potential ways to produce knowledge and to engage with others differently.

 esire for New Knowledge and a More D Equitable World This chapter began with a consideration of the interplay between the competing desires among Canadian youth to see oneself as a participant on the global stage to effect social change while simultaneously producing an image of oneself as adventurous and benevolent. Canadian higher education is able to capitalize on this narrative by incorporating neoliberal suggestions that international experience is essential to defining oneself as globally competent in an increasingly globalized economy. These narratives align well with notions of the national identity of Canadians, which is deeply entrenched in narratives of multiculturalism, global peacebuilding and social responsibility (Andreotti 2016b). It is only when the narratives that exclude the colonial and exploitative roots of the state are made visible that a more authentic and holistic encounter with global poverty and injustice has the possibility to occur. Encouragingly, the youth in Quenville’s documentary, eventually begin to experience deep discomfort due to a growing recognition that they really do not understand the culture or have the skill set to contribute meaningfully to their host community. Their desire to make a difference becomes much more ambiguous as they begin to question exactly why it is even possible for them to be in the community in the first place. As a practitioner and researcher in this field, I continue to believe that students and faculty are capable of more than globe-trotting, and that if

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they are challenged to engage with the complexities that throughout history have vastly privileged some while continuing to exclude Others, there is the potential for a critical hope that they can be the millennial force for change envisioned by the GlobalPov Project. Building on the ideas of Eve Tuck (2009), perhaps it is time for a moratorium on educational programming and research practices that exploit damage, and instead seek ways to engage with pedagogies that celebrate the surviving of communities and create opportunities for the production of new critical knowledge.

References Andreotti, V. 2016a. The world is my classroom: International learning and Canadian higher education, edited by Joanne Benham Rennick and Michel Desjardins/Globetrotting or global citizenship? Perils and potential of international experiential learning, edited by Rebecca Tiessen and Robert Huish. Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d’études du développement 37 (1): 113–117. ———. 2016b. The educational challenges of imagining the world differently. Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d’études du développement 37 (1): 101–112. Beck, K. 2012. Globalization/s: Reproduction and resistance in the internationalization of higher education. Canadian Journal of Education 35 (3): 133–148. Jefferess, D. 2012. The “Me to We” social enterprise: Global education as lifestyle brand. Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices 6 (1): 18–30. Larkin, A. M. 2013. Internationalizing Canadian higher education through north-­ south partnerships: A critical case study of policy enactment and programming practices in Tanzania. Unpublished doctoral dissertation December 2013, University of Western Ontario. Larkin, A. 2015. Close encounters of the other kind: Ethical relationship formation and International Service Learning education. Citizenship Teaching & Learning 10 (2): 143–155. Roy, A. 2012. Ethical subjects: Market rule in an age of poverty. Public Culture 24 (1): 105–108. ———. 2015. Introduction: The Aporias of poverty. In Territories of poverty: Rethinking north and south, ed. A.  Roy and E.S.  Crane, 1–38. Athens: University of Georgia Press.


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Roy, A., G. Negrón-Gonzalez, K. Opoku-Agyemang, and C. Talwalker. 2016. Encountering poverty: Thinking and acting in an unequal world. Berkeley: University of California Press. Shaw Crane, E. 2015. Theory should ride the bus. In Territories of poverty: Rethinking north and south, ed. A.  Roy and E.  Shaw Crane. Athens: The University of Georgia Press. Tiessen, R., and B. Heron. 2012. Volunteering in the developing world: The perceived impacts of Canadian youth. Development in Practice 22 (1): 44–56. Tuck, E. 2009. Suspending damage: A letter to communities. Harvard Educational Review 79 (3): 409–428. Vrasti, W. 2013. Volunteer tourism in the global south: Giving back in neoliberal times. London: Routledge.

Commentary on Chapter 7: Volunteer Work and Global Citizenship in Sweden Peter Lilja and Despina Tzimoula

In her chapter ‘Reflections on global citizenship narratives in the context of Canadian education and international experiential and service learning’, Allyson Larkin raises important questions concerning the promotion and consequences of ideals of global citizenship in the context of Canadian higher education. More specifically, she aims to problematize taken-for-granted assumptions about ‘the discourses of global citizenship that correspond to the type of graduate universities are seeking to produce’. By using the contemporary example of voluntourism in order to discuss idealized discourses of the global citizen and Canadian youth within the Canadian higher education system, she points to how this kind of globe-trotting is often conflated with ideas of a global citizenry as well as to the oppressive and exploitative nature of such practices. In this comment, we aim to, very briefly, address similar questions in relation to the context of Sweden. There are, of course, major differences between the higher education systems of Sweden and Canada, not least P. Lilja • D. Tzimoula (*) Department of Children, Youth, Society at the Faculty of Education and Society, Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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in relation to international experiential and service learning, which is not a prominent concept within Swedish higher education. However, ideals related to global citizenship and international solidarity play a significant role in Swedish self-understanding and within Swedish foreign policy. As a result, there are numerous state-sponsored programs within Swedish higher education aimed to promote international cooperation and exchanges motivated by much the same arguments that underline the Canadian higher education programs discussed by Larkin. Using the example of volunteer work, we will give a short historical background to Sweden’s international commitments in relation to developing countries as well as a brief sketch on how such commitments are organized within contemporary Swedish society. Based in a traditional social democratic ideal of international solidarity, a very important part of Swedish foreign policy has been focused on various aid programs in developing countries. Since the 1950s, such efforts have, largely, been funded and directed by state agencies even if Swedish international aid work dates back to the end of the nineteenth century when it was primarily run by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (Jonsson 2012). Throughout this period, volunteers have played a significant role within such international efforts. From the very beginning, women made up a significant part of Swedish volunteers. ‘The Florence Nightingale effect’ positioned non-profit social work organizations as areas well suited for women. Being based on idealistic and altruistic sentiments, aid work provided a space of freedom for women without involving the risk of losing respectability (Skegg 1997). As aid work became international, other groups were also involved. Some of these were celebrated explorers (Jonsson 2012) that took upon themselves to spread the image of the colonial project through living in exotic places and reporting on the way of life of ‘the others’. Later, after the decolonization, anti-racist travel accounts became a way of establishing new relations to peoples of former colonies (Edman 2017). A third group of early international aid workers were the missionaries whose intentions were to travel to foreign places and save ‘the heathens’ (Jonsson 2012). These were not separate groups, as for example, many missionaries were women seizing the opportunity for freedom from gendered restrains offered by the opportunity to engage in idealistic service, aimed at the salvation of others.

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During the turbulent twentieth century, characterized by two world wars and the following cold war between the two superpowers, international aid work developed into an important organizational field (Jonsson 2012). The need for more volunteers resulted in organized training and screening of prospective volunteers according to suitability and at the end of the Second World War, the establishment of the United Nations (UN) and its subsections established international aid work as an important field within international politics. Following this, state initiatives in terms of both organization and funding increased. At the same time, focus for international aid efforts changed from war-afflicted areas into larger development and aid projects in the developing world. Inter-governmental organizations as well as NGOs turned their focus on issues like mass poverty, inequality or environmental disasters. As Jonsson notes (2012: 219) ‘new organizations grouped under the heading of the ‘solidarity movement’ evolved, focusing on long-term development projects in African, Asian, and Latin American countries. It is against this background, and in close cooperation with the UN, that Sweden established its first government body specifically formed to work with issues of international development—the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). The Swedish Foreign Ministry is also supporting a number of NGOs dealing with multilateral aid and development, such as the Swedish Red Cross and Save the Children. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, Swedish volunteer work was largely organized by SIDA or some of the other NGOs and the number of volunteers engaged in international development projects peaked during the 1970s. Today, however, the priorities of Swedish international aid have changed, becoming more focused on targeting the policy processes of the receiving countries. Consequently, the need for doctors and other kinds of volunteers within state-sponsored aid programs have more or less disappeared. In spite of this, interest in going away as a volunteer is once again increasing among Swedish youths, leaving the field open for new kinds of commercial organizations to provide such opportunities. Like in the case of Canada, this has resulted in a commercialization of volunteer work in Sweden as well, partly due to an increasing interest in ‘globe-trotting’ among Swedish youths, but also because volunteering is still considered as a way to qualify for work at SIDA or the Ministry of


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Foreign Affairs. Like in many other sectors of Swedish society, the commercialization of international volunteer work may be understood against the background of New Public Management influences on welfare services in general, making it possible for aid-work travel agencies to enter an already established discourse based on norms of solidarity and altruism, but also of freedom and adventure. The narrative of aid work and the role Sweden has played in the world throughout several international disasters is a narrative that is still attractive—and not very hard to reformulate in commercial terms. As a result, the concept of voluntourism is an established phenomenon in contemporary Swedish society. According to Jonsson (2012), the main reason for the attractiveness of going away as an international volunteer among Swedish youths seem to be the idea of going on a quest for new and more real first-hand experiences of the world coupled with the opportunity to make a difference in circumstances of poverty and global inequalities. One way to accomplish this is to turn to some of the commercial actors providing volunteer travel; another is to engage in some exchange programs organized as part of the Swedish higher education sector. On the website of Sweden’s largest commercial travel agency specializing in voluntourism, the key argument for why someone should go on a volunteer trip is the opportunity to make a difference. The overall idea of the travel agency, as they describe themselves, is to contribute to making the world a better place for children and animals and to create a bond of understanding and a sense of responsibility among young people for the need, on a global scale, to take care of each other. In this sense, voluntourism is marketed as a new form of traveling, a form that is not exploiting ‘the other’, but as a way to experience the world and, at the same time, give something back. In this way, as is argued by Jonsson (2012), such companies are using older and established narratives of international aid work in order to market their products. At the same time, they are challenging ‘the fields growing trend towards professionalization and exclusivity created by selection processes’ by offering the opportunity to take part in aid and development work to all who are able to pay. In this way, voluntourism becomes associated with an increasingly educated and resourceful middle class, capable of utilizing the

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opportunities of access to international experiences opened up by the commercialization of international aid work (Jonsson 2012). Even if the programs aimed to increase the level of internationalization within Swedish higher education does not include volunteer work as their primary objective, they do touch upon questions and ideas of global citizenship and is often directed to cooperation and exchanges with countries in the developing world. Closely associated with a longstanding tradition of international aid work, founded upon ideas of international solidarity, many of the state-sponsored programs, for example, the Linnaeus-Palme program, are directed toward cooperation with low to mid-income countries. Whether they are set up to accomplish joint projects and exchanges between Swedish higher education institutions and similar institutions in the target countries, or if they are geared toward enabling Swedish students to conduct a minor field study abroad, they tend to be framed in much the same ways as the advertisement for going on a volunteer trip. Just as Larkin indicates in her chapter, the inherent discourse of global citizenship in such programs is centered on the idea of a positive and well-meaning person or institution, reaching out to developing countries with the ambition of getting experiences of another way of life as well as of a desire to contribute to making the world a better place. As we have already mentioned, the continuing state funding of such programs are a continuation of a longstanding Swedish tradition of political engagement in questions of international development. However, it is not hard to interpret another rationale for higher education institutions and students to engage in these programs. Within the context of contemporary Swedish higher education, heavily influenced by the logic of New Public Management, internationalization has come to be a political buzzword. Engaging in internationalization programs and being associated with an international, or even global, profile is vital for universities in terms of branding and marketing. Likewise, even if it may not always be the only reason, students (and teachers) are tempted to take part in efforts of internationalization because it is conceived as meritorious and as a competitive advantage for their future careers. In other words, despite the differences in organizational structure, there are obvious similarities between developments in Sweden and


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Canada. As higher education as well as international aid work becomes permeated by the economic logic underpinning New Public Management reforms, the idealistic character of international volunteer work as well as higher education programs of international cooperation are reframed in favor of ideas of global citizenship as above all entrepreneurial. At the same time, and possibly also enforced by the growing industry of voluntourism, neo-colonial perceptions of relations between the global north and the global south, of developed and underdeveloped, rich and poor, may be involuntarily maintained. In this way, Larkin’s discussion of discourses of global citizenship within Canadian higher education is equally valid and equally important in relation to the Swedish context.

References Edman, A. 2017. Between Utopia and home: Swedish radical travel writing 1947–1966. Lunds Universitet, Historiska Institutionen. Jonsson, C. 2012. Volontärerna. Internationellt hjälparbete från missionsorganisationer till volontärresebyråer. Diss. Linnaeus University dissertations 82/2012. Växjö: Linnaeus University Press. Skeggs, B. 1997. Formations of class and gender: Becoming respectable. London: Sage.

8 Children and Death in the Canadian Context Eunice Gorman

Introduction Despite our best efforts to shield younger generations from death and grief in Canada, children routinely encounter death. Whether it is the loss of a beloved family pet; the death of a grandparent or parent; the terminal illness of a classmate; the sudden death of a teacher; a celebrity death or acts of terrorism, violence, war or natural disasters or the teachable moments that occur on the evening after dinner walk when they see a dead bird in the park, children will be challenged to respond to loss. Furthermore, when we expand our understanding of grief to include illness, bullying, parental divorce or separation, moving, changing schools or other life experiences that cause grief, children cannot escape this very normal response to change that is unwanted or heartbreaking. Whether we experience death as children, or as adults, sorrow makes children of us all according to RalphWaldo Emerson. E. Gorman (*) Department of Interdisciplinary Programs (Thanatology) at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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Children are often referred to in the literature as the forgotten mourners (Corr and Corr 1996). Their grief may be discounted, minimized, misunderstood or even viewed as inconsequential to the adults in their life (Doka 1989). The very young are at the mercy of the grownups in their life. They cannot direct their support, guarantee sufficient explanations, drive themselves to an age-appropriate support group or register themselves for grief camp. They must hope that the people in their lives will be able to discuss dying, death, loss, transitions, change and grief in ways that are meaningful to them. In the existing literature, the most important variable beyond who is supporting the child, and how willing they are to provide what the child needs, is the developmental stage that children find themselves in at the time of the death or loss. However, more clinicians and researchers are finding that grief responses are complex and multifactorial and cannot be reduced to an understanding of developmental stages. Canadian children are further challenged given the vast expanse of the country with rural, remote and remote North children lacking access to services that might better support them in their loss experiences. Moreover, multicultural influences mean that even mid-size Canadian cities are diverse in language and religious groups, making it extremely difficult to provide information and outreach to all who might benefit. Additionally, the Indigenous peoples of Canada have needs that are unique and sometimes in conflict with the care that can be provided to children in the school, community and health care systems. This chapter will discuss the responses to death, how children come to a full understanding of death, outline ways that children react to loss, discuss challenges and creative supports for children and adolescents who are grieving within the Canadian milieu and argue that relying solely on developmental stage theories to understand children and death is inadequate.

The Dying Child Dying children historically have been viewed as vulnerable, hypersensitive, unaware of the severity of their illness and in need of protection (Sisk et al. 2016). In the 1950s, these beliefs often led to children being

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kept in the dark about the terminal nature of their disease. In the 1980s, this reluctance to disclose bad news to children was effectively turned on its ear and hospital cultures shifted toward full disclosure. Moving forward to the present day, we have over the years gained an awareness of the complexity of truth-telling and therapeutic privilege but not without some significant changes in how we view ill children. Indeed, our view of children has moved from a place of passive recipients of care to autonomous, active agents who have a right to discuss the risks, benefits and treatment options available to them. This transition did not just happen; indeed, it is still something that is wrestled with today. In her groundbreaking book The Private Worlds of Dying Children (1978) Bluebond-­ Langner uncovered a range of denial, deceit and rare moments of honesty among the parents and professional caregivers of dying children. She named the practice of mutual pretense or an unspoken consensus, or agreement, where each party sees that the child is dying but pretends otherwise, thus denying the child the opportunity to have open and honest discussions. The dying child is still sometimes viewed sentimentally, bereft of agency or dimensionality. Denying children’s rights to active participation by engaging in protectionism or paternalism impinges on the child’s participation rights to full knowledge and self-­determination. Communicating bad news to children and their parents remains challenging. Although guidelines exist regarding communicating bad news to pediatric patients some clinicians still find this very difficult and therefore not all children will be presented with clear information about their illness progression or prognosis (Bates and Kearney 2015). The struggle to balance avoiding minimizing, telling the whole truth, saying nothing or passing the task along to someone else still exists today (Munoz et  al. 2014). Parents traditionally have taken on decision-making roles and the brunt of tough discussions yet more and more we understand children’s ability and right to assent, dissent or consent to treatment. In Canada, the age of consent varies across the provinces and territories, but it is recognized that even very young children have the capacity to be included in care discussions. Bluebond-Langner (1996) argues that the meaning of the child’s illness is woven into everyday life and moves from unfamiliar terrain to something the family and the child become expert in. Hence,


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even young children on a cancer unit will understand, because they have become expert and learned the ebb and flow, and language of the hospital that if their chemo buddy is not there as usual either their blood levels were not okay, they have been readmitted, something has happened in their family to postpone the appointment or they are dead. This is borne out by Rosengren and colleagues who found in a study of three- to sixyear-olds that their understanding of death encompassed affective, cognitive, scientific, biological and religious dimensions. Clearly these children exhibit more advanced understanding than previously thought (Rosengren et al. 2014). Likewise, the child who has been raised on a farm knows death and has seen death. Or the child who has acted, in part, as a caregiver for their increasingly frail grandparent who lives with her and her family comprehends the finitude of life. Personal experience of death yields a more realistic understanding of death in children (Bonoti et al. 2013). This experience, exposure or education about death in their surroundings or from their parents and caregivers is extremely important (Bluebond-Langner et al. 2007). Parents’ behavior, their reasoning, emotion, decision-making, illness information and responsibility taking with, and for, the child models responses and informs their dying child. Just as adult fears and misconceptions can be transferred onto the child, so too can openness and a willingness to encourage and welcome the dying child’s voice. Silencing a child can shortcut the possibility of fulfilling a dying wish, open treatment conversations, a chance to say goodbye or to participate in leaving treasured objects to loved ones or engaging in other activities meaningful to the child (Honeyman 2016). If we kept such information from an adult, it would be shocking, ethically challenging and in some cases, land the professional in court. Moreover, clinicians with anxiety, fear, limited training about delivering bad news and communication difficulties participate, maybe unwittingly, in denying children’s personhood and their rights to be informed and to participate in their care. Their fear of children suffering and dying has an impact on the child and family. Nondisclosure fails to mask the salient and distressing aspects of the diagnosis, illness or disease experience (Caflin and Barbarian 1991; 169). Children know when they do not feel well or when they feel worse or when they cannot go home or participate in their activities of

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daily living fully. Just as we have the thought cross our mind when we are seriously ill that we may die so too do children. Honeyman (2016) notes that these avoidance techniques and the pull to maintain a protective stance can lead to diagnostic retranslations adding to what may already be confusing and distressing.

Children and Grief Families often struggle to talk about death with children especially if they are trying to make sense of their own emotions when a family member is gravely ill (Sutter and Reid 2012). Despite many decades of shifting awareness about death in North America and exhortations to be more open and communicative, children are not always told that their parent is dying or that death is imminent; sometimes only becoming aware of this (if at all) a few hours before the death (Bylund-Grenklo et al. 2015). By failing to involve children in the dying process we rob them of access to external supports, an opportunity for a final conversation or a chance to say goodbye (Kelsey and Generous 2014). Furthermore, we make an expected death, crisis enough, into what feels to the child a shocking, sudden loss. Softing et al. (2015) remind us that if we inform children about death we recognize them as grievers, legitimizing their equal status as part of the family, and promoting the view that they too are important. They can ‘see for themselves’, say goodbye and begin to prepare for the coming loss. That being said, children respond to the loss in unique ways. And they do respond despite misguided beliefs of yesteryear that children do not grieve. Even the youngest child will sense when a primary caregiver is absent or the people around them are sad. In the early days following a loss, during the more acute phase of grief, they may respond with tears, sadness, shock, apathy, decreased ability to function, restlessness, sleep disturbances, irritability and physical signs and symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches and lack of appetite or an overwhelming need to eat to find comfort or to fill up the hole inside them created by the loss of the person they love (Chowns 2008; Christ 2000; Gilroy and Johnson 2004; Schonfeld and Quackenbush 2009). Typically, children grieve in short


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bursts; at a funeral, for instance, one moment a child may be laughing and playing with other children or helping hang up coats and the next minute be overcome with sadness and then again after a time be found contently coloring in a corner. Their school work may suffer. Things that used to bring them joy such as time with friends or after-school activities and hobbies may lose their appeal. They may become messier and more forgetful, for instance, leaving their gym equipment, lunch or assignments at home so that they can return home once they arrive at school to check on the people left at home, perhaps their surviving parent. They may become isolated, withdrawn, refuse to sleep alone, have nightmares or become accident prone (Baker et  al. 1992; Pearlman et  al. 2010; Renaud et al. 2015). Some children may become physically aggressive, develop psychosomatic illnesses, engage in risk-taking and in older teenagers there may be evidence of promiscuity as a way to feel something and get comfort from being physically close to another human being (Corr and Balk 2010; Gray et al. 2011). Their school performance may suffer to the point where there are expelled students or dropouts. And in some rare cases, serious issues with eating disorders, complicated grief, depression or psychiatric diagnoses can develop (Dyregrov and Dyregrov 2013; Kaplow et al. 2010). Almost any response to grief can be considered within normal parameters and only begins to verge on troubling when the length of time and the intensity are more exaggerated or long term. As time passes the intensity of feelings may abate somewhat but as the shock wears off and the realization of the profound changes the loss has wreaked in their day-to-day life dawns, all the previously mentioned responses may reappear over time. As children age and develop, they will revisit the loss and respond again in more mature ways; this is often referred to as regrief. Furthermore, the death of a person who holds a unique position in the child’s life, a relationship, for instance, that is one of a kind like a parent (Biank and Werner-Lin 2011; Fearnley 2010) or a sibling (Stikkelbroek et  al. 2016) often creates lifelong sorrow that is revisited at important junctures throughout the young persons’ life. If children have been given the opportunity to participate in rituals, funerals or other culturally significant activities at the time of the death, or whether they have been sheltered from things that the adults in their life feel might upset them, it will have an impact on their grieving (Softing et al. 2015).

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Children do not simply walk through preordained stages or phases checking off accomplishments and milestones as they go. Developmental stages are fluid and permeable and do not tell the whole story of where children find themselves on the continuum day to day. Grief is cyclical and often revisited throughout the lifespan and children may reconsider their loss as if they are younger or older than their years and maturation. In short, a seven-year-old is not a seven-year-old. Children possess unique, rich inner lives as they go out into the world. Children have agency in sociocultural and legal contexts (McNamee 2016). They possess emerging autonomy, resourcefulness, capabilities, personality, competence and an ability, especially in somewhat older children, to reach out and find what they need especially in the digital age that we live in. Some individual characteristics that are important to consider include gender identity, age, dependence, health status and self-concept. Situational characteristics to consider include cause of death, duration of illness, place of death, involvement in the illness and death-related events, or the child having a sense of failing health and death being at hand as opposed to a death that is sudden, unexpected and tragic in nature, while environmental considerations include living space, family environment, parent-child communication, parental grief and family functioning. We must consider more than developmental stage. Loss does not occur in a vacuum; a child may have concurrent stressors or losses that make coping with another loss seem like an insurmountable challenge. A child who is neglected, abused, living in poverty, in poor health, dealing with current family separation or crises, moving homes or schools or any other challenging situation will cause further difficulties and potentially interfere with the child’s ability to grieve. Family systems theory adds another layer of contextual considerations to children’s responses to death and loss. Families are becoming more complex with adoptive parents, foster parents, grandparents, stepparents, blended and single parent families and other ways of providing adult care to children. It has been a long-held belief that if a member of the family unit dies, there will be an immediate change in routine, rules, boundaries and the ongoing relationships of the people left behind. Much depends on the surviving parent’s ability to support and remain connected to the child while they themselves are grieving (Werner-Lin


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and Biank 2013). The temperament of the child, aspects of their families and characteristics of their wider social environments all provide potentially protective factors that can lead a child to be able to cope with loss and death. There are often multiple secondary losses and much depends on what emotional, financial and relational resources exist to support the caregiver(s) and child(ren). With changes in religion, culture and funerals and as Canada becomes more multicultural and diverse, it can sometimes be confusing to know what to do in the face of a crisis such as death or serious loss. If family members misguidedly believe that silence is golden or that children cannot be exposed to the truth of the death or are disinterested in rituals and ceremonies they may do a disservice to their children. And they may not be alert to the child who would benefit from professional help.

(Digital), Information Age Canada is firmly ensconced in the digital age. The arrival of the Internet in 1974, the first webpage in 1991, mobile phones in 1996, Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and Twitter in 2006 have made the private public and culture participatory (Andrews 2011; Burgess and Green 2009; Cross 2011). Children and most certainly adolescents can access information about grief, loss, death and any other concern or lived experience that they have questions about. Paradoxically, this opportunity to over share has many young people feeling isolated or bombarded by information to the point where shutting it out feels self-protective and necessary (Bonitos 2011). The invention of the digital self has become routine for children as young as preteens. It is important to note that not all children and adolescents have access to computers, smartphones, technology or other ways that they may reach out if there are no services available or if their families do not see the need or are reluctant to find help outside their community or extended networks or simply unaware that assistance for their grieving children exists. So even if we as adults shirk our responsibilities to provide information about dying and death, children will, and do, find it for themselves from very young ages. Children are of course exposed to violence, even cartoonish violence in video games,

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Saturday morning cartoons, children’s literature and TV shows and programming (Arnup 2013; Northcott and Wilson 2016). Children may be exposed, on the one hand, to movies with zombies and vampires while at the same time having little personal exposure or experience with death in their day-to-day lives. Children can and do know the difference between what is seen in early Saturday morning programming and what happens in their schoolyard or in their house. They can tell the difference between fantasy and reality (McNamee 1998). Recent attempts over the last 40 or so years to gently explain issues around illness, death, divorce and crisis on such shows as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street have changed children’s exposure to tough subjects and may leave young viewers feeling less confused.

 anada and Its Challenges to Supporting C Grieving Children In North America, we tend to value rugged individualism, competition, communication, Judeo-Christian values, Protestant work ethic and a deep desire to avoid suffering. Progress, looking toward the future and independence are highly valued by many, sometimes to the detriment of being in the moment and sitting with sadness or confusion. Children are influenced by the culture they live in and societal messages they receive. For instance, although many attempts have been made to expunge such sayings as ‘big boys don’t cry’ or ‘now you need to be the man of the family’ from the vernacular, these statements still find their way into conversations with young people. Canada, not unlike the rest of North America, is characterized by a mobile society where relatives are often far-flung, and smaller nuclear families are more likely to outnumber extended families. There is a higher life expectancy, and a decreased experience with death. With over 36 million people living in Canada, just over 45% of the population is single, separated, divorced or widowed (Stats Canada 2016b). This potentially means that children may have only one adult they can count on to support them in their time of distress. While Canada


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has the second-largest landmass, the low population density means that this averages out to 3.3 people per square mile (Stats Canada 2016b). There are over 170 different languages and dialects spoken in Canada. There are 618 separate and unique First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities in Canada (Stats Canada 2014) with almost 1.3 million people. Of those million plus Indigenous peoples, 56% live in larger urban centers but the other 44% may in fact live in rural, remote or remote North communities that often lack services to support grieving children that are readily available to those people settled in urban centers. A large proportion of Indigenous peoples is under the age of 14 years (Stats Canada 2016c). Moreover, because of the vastness of the country and the likelihood that people in rural areas will need assistance, we should remember that dual relationships in these smaller communities may mean that people are reluctant to seek help if they are struggling because they will know the people running the bereavement group. The doctor who you wish to talk to about your ongoing sadness and resulting school problems may be your next-door neighbor; the mother of the family you babysit for, your soccer coach or they may play cards with your parents and this may cause you to wonder about the strength of their ethical and professional commitment to confidentiality or if it is safe to speak to them. Canada ranked 25th in children’s well-being among the 41 richest countries. Canada has a higher than average rate of child homicide and suicide rate among those countries. Recent statistics state that 22% of teens reported mental health issues in the previous week and Canada ranked 31st for teen suicide (Bains 2017). From July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, 260,056 Canadians died. On average, that is almost 600 people a day. Each of these deaths sends ripples through their families, friend groups, communities and workplaces. Children are among those impacted and if we imagine that each of these 600 deaths per day is somehow linked to a child’s relative, we can see how widespread grieving children are in our schools and communities. Of those who died, most died in intensive care units, emergency rooms or hospital wards. Some died in long-term care facilities or nursing homes, hospices, palliative care units, or in their own homes. Death in North America tends to be secularized, medicalized, professionalized and bureaucratized and as a result is often hidden from view. The death of a child continues to be

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unexpected. However, children are faced with death in their families, their classrooms, their communities and neighborhoods. Up until recently children were not necessarily exposed to the world of hospitals with their prohibitions against children under the age of 12 visiting, or restrictive ICU policies, and so it might be the case that a child would not have the chance to visit a gravely ill grandparent, sibling or parent on a regular basis during their last days of life. There remains the stigma related to the type of death; for instance, if a child knows a loved one has died by murder or suicide, they may feel even more isolated and unable to discuss what has occurred. Palliative care in Canada is a relatively new development starting in the 1970s with regional residential hospices beginning in 1983 with the advent of Casey House in Toronto for people living with HIV and AIDS. Along with the development of palliative care and hospice came the sense that bereavement care or support following the death of the loved one was a critical part of supporting people including children after the death of someone close to them. This change in the way people are cared for at the end of their lives has brought with it a growth in self-help groups, bereavement education and sensitivity to the needs of mourners, particularly children, and facilitated a push to recognize vulnerable grievers.

Indigenous Peoples The impact of the Indian Act of 1876, the reservation system, residential schools, the 1960s scoop, the child welfare system, the impact of historical trauma, multigenerational grief and displacement and the consequences of loss of culture and language cannot be underestimated when considering Indigenous children and grief in Canada. The stories of Indigenous peoples in North America from the 1400s have been ones of survival, adaptation and trying to hold on to their culture in the face of missionaries, European settlers and the resulting illnesses and changes to their way of life (Bombay et al. 2014). First Nations peoples have had to endure ongoing challenges since that time. As a result, intergenerational trauma continues to have a lasting impact on children and their families, even for those who may not readily fully


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know their history, traditions, rituals or the cultural assault on their way of life. First Nations people are connected to nature, their Ancestors, the Creator and the sacred. Much of their culture revolves around sacred medicines, ceremonies and ways of being in the world that value kindness, balance, family and stories (Health Canada 2011). First Nations people value children and see them as uniquely connected to the Creator and the spiritual world. Family often means not only mother and father, brothers and sisters, but extended family and those close to the family who are considered aunties and uncles. Hardships and health disparities remain visible in First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities. Indigenous children are 12 times more likely to be placed in foster care than non-­ Indigenous children Stats Canada and Turner (2016). And the number of children in care with Children’s Aid Societies is much higher than might be expected (Adelson 2005). Those children who are taken into foster care experience vulnerabilities in emotional, behavioral and neurobiological development, social relationships, and struggle to stay connected to vital history and traditions (Chambers and Burnett 2017). Indigenous youth are twice as likely to complete suicide as non-­ Indigenous youth which speaks to the ongoing grief and ripple effect of historical losses, the lack of understanding of the power of strengths-­ based traditional practices and Elders and community based developed and supported programs with Indigenous values, beliefs and language at their core. These high rates of suicide are thought to be linked to issues of food security, lone parenting, grandparent or foster care involvement, low self-esteem, hopelessness, low self-worth, limited employment opportunities, isolation, marginalization and unfair media representations. The lack of access to, or awareness of, Indigenous identity, language, food and rituals are also important to consider. Imitation, contagion or accidental suicides are ravaging some Northern reservations and communities. The ongoing impact of poverty, community isolation, dilution of rituals especially those devoted to dying and death, less than optimal children’s health, racism and oppression continue to take their toll on the emotional and physical well-being of Indigenous communities (Blackstock and Trocme 2004; Kirmayer et  al. 2007; McQuaid et  al. 2017; Smylis and Adomako 2009). While much is changing with the

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advent of redoubled efforts to coordinate, enhance service delivery, build prevention models and programs and promote Indigenous identity in ways that are culturally meaningful and appropriate in traditional languages as indicated, there is much to be done to support those living in remote and remote North communities (see Bruno’s Chap. 9 in this volume). Nelson and Wilson (2017) state that the overemphasis on substance abuse problems and suicide can have negative implications and impact on the discussion of how best to approach and address suicide in First Nation’s communities. They argue that instead it is important to stress the ongoing impact of colonialism, historical trauma, the intergenerational impact of residential schools and the 1960s scoop. They also remind us that programs and service developed for, and by, and delivered by Indigenous peoples are the most effective in meeting the needs of Indigenous people and youth. It is important to note that suicide is not unique to Indigenous peoples, of course, it is sadly more common among young people than ever before despite concerted efforts to address life stressors, anxiety, depression and mental health issues in the larger community.

Immigrant and Refugee Experience In 2015–2016, 320,000 immigrants and 37,000 returning emigrants came to Canada. In 2011, the foreign-born population was just under seven million people representing almost 21% of the total population. The largest sources of immigrants during the last five years were Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean and Central and South America (Stats Canada 2016b). Most people who immigrate to Canada live in Ontario, British Columbia, Québec and Alberta in the nations ribbon of major urban centers nestled close to the US/Canada border. While many immigrants speak English or French as their mother tongue, many speak Chinese languages, Tagalog—the language of the Philippines, Spanish or Punjabi (Okrainec et al. 2017). Two-thirds of the Canadian population self-identify as Christians while slightly over one million people identify as Muslim, while Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jewish people make up smaller segments of the population. More than seven million people, or


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nearly one-quarter of the population, reported no religious affiliation. Among the Group of Eight (G-8) countries Canada has the highest proportion of foreign-born residents at 20.6%. Children aged 14 years and less than that account for almost 20% of the newcomer population. As a result, Canada is becoming a more multilingual and diverse society. And while social and health services are provided in English and French (the two official languages of Canada), it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach out to people who speak one of the over 170 different languages and dialects represented in the Canadian mosaic. People from other cultures often feel vulnerable and experience a limited sense of belonging, and disillusionment, with their traditional roles within the family seriously undermined upon settling in Canada. They may be confronted by oppression, discrimination, prejudice, power imbalances and a medical system that is deficit-based. Their children may learn the new language of their adopted country more quickly and act as interpreters and offer entry into communities through their schools and networks and some parents may feel left behind (Caxaj and Berman 2010; Oxman-Martinez et al. 2012). The immigrant experience is often complicated by multiple losses, the stress of resettlement, poverty or financial concerns, changes in self-esteem, while survivor guilt especially for people from countries that are torn apart by torture or war is not uncommon. If death enters the lives of new immigrants and refugees, there may be multiple complications; they have already lost so much, and an additional loss may put families at risk. Moreover, children may take on caregiving roles and community and system negotiations on behalf of their parents and families given that they are perhaps more connected and better English speakers. In this case, children may not have the opportunity to fully grieve a loss because they are charged with assisting others. Among the people immigrating to Canada, many are bringing with them the shadow of the life they left behind. For instance, elderly Jewish people and their families live with the ongoing ripple effect of the Holocaust, while Ukrainians and Eastern Europeans live with the Holodomor and still others live with a history of genocide, ethnic ­cleansing, war, torture and tragedy in their homeland. The ongoing effects of these tragic histories have an impact on family life, child

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rearing, how illness and death is viewed and potentially every facet of day-to-day life. Immigrants and refugees have already faced multiple losses and continue to face language barriers, fear of the authorities or asking for assistance and reduced family support if the extended family, friends and loved ones remain overseas and adding yet another loss can severely compromise the family and as a result the children. Problems with language have an impact on access, treatment, follow-up, help seeking and health outcomes.

What Are We Doing Right? Canada has been a leader in developing supports for grieving families and children. Numerous attempts to promote school curriculum related to loss and grief have been made over the years. Dr. John D. Morgan of King’s College, London, Ontario, along with a group of funeral directors worked to develop curriculum for schools in Ontario in the early 2000s. They involved the Ministry of Education, educators, and a US consultant Dr. C Corr to develop a 46-page booklet outlining helpful hints for teachers, children and their families along with books, videos and classroom resources. In addition, the Roots of Empathy training program based on Gordon’s 2005 book of the same name is made available throughout the school system. Initially, the program was meant to teach empathy to extinguish bullying, but as a side-effect discussions about trust, caring and nurturance readily transfer to supporting and understanding a grieving classmate. Rainbows programs are offered for grieving children in schools with ongoing training opportunities for volunteer and teaching staff alike. The Thanatology program at Western University in London, Ontario is the only one of its kind in Canada. It offers degree programs, minor, major, honors specialization and certificate programs in death and dying and have a dedicated course in children and death that appeals to many students especially those hoping to attend teachers’ college. There is a grief culture if you like, academic interest, research, conferences devoted to learning more about grief and how best to support the dying and the bereaved of all ages.


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We are extremely fortunate to have many world class tertiary children’s hospitals across the country. Here you will find Child Life Specialists (Bieckert and Kelsey 2017) trained to provide exemplary child-focused information and support. Teachers and staff specialize in supporting the dying child or their siblings, along with in house libraries that have holdings from graphic novels, illness narratives, films, books and story time as well as internet resources focused on illness death and grief (Akerman and Statham 2014). Health care providers understand the importance of asking children what they know, including them in discussions, being careful of language and jargon use, encouraging the expression of emotions and offering the opportunity for continuing conversations with the grieving or dying child (Cole 2016).Moreover, Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD), prevention, postvention and follow-up programs are now available in most schools in urban areas when a suicide, tragic accident or community crisis has occurred with every effort made to reach out to rural, remote and remote North communities in order to provide timely and compassionate care. As a country, we have embraced the concept of compassionate communities which promotes including all people in the community from the most disenfranchised to those well-served, from cradle to grave, with a special emphasis on excellent end-of-life care. Bereavement groups for children and their families have sprouted up across the country, often tied to a hospice, palliative care unit, funeral home or organization such as Bereaved Families of Ontario. Bereavement camp programs like Camp Kerry and Camp Erin flourish. The Max and Beatrice Wolfe Children’s Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), The Lighthouse Peer Support Programs for Grieving Children and hospital-based programs (Sickkids, Camp Ooch and others) to name a few utilize such creative things as memory boxes, hand molds, educational books, expressive arts, play therapy, art therapy, legacy work and creation of linking objects to assist a child or adolescents to make meaning of the loss and create a way to continue to remember and maintain an internalized attachment to the person who has died. Children’s hospices exist across the country, with Canuck Place in British Columbia being the first to open, with many following, offering unique support to families of dying

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children and specialized care for the dying child. The Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) and many other services and professional interest groups exist and seek to build our understanding of children’s grief, the dying child and how best to reach out to families struggling with death or the impending death of a child. In addition, exemplary and award winning online resources have been created through the Canadian Virtual Hospice, (see e.g. As well there are many online training courses about children and grief, for teachers and professionals who are unable to access specialized education in their own communities. These activities and trainings are undertaken with an eye to cultural, religious and age-appropriate toys, books, dolls, dramatic play, puppets and other tools. Every attempt is made to cross language and cultural barriers by including people from various religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. However, services do vary across the country. Many programs will be funded and allow for a child, and their family if desired, to attend without payment; but this also means that there is a large network of services that rely heavily on fundraising and the possibility of donor fatigue can mean the difference between offering a full program of groups’, or camps’, expressive arts programs, memory work and legacy activities and only providing a few of the many excellent programs they have developed. We know that resilience and post traumatic growth are possible and we build programs around our belief that children are capable of healing and health even in the face of great sadness and heartbreak. Children are complex, unique individuals whose growth and development is not readily or easily categorized or understood by relying solely on cognitive, developmental, psychosocial stages or attachment theory. Contextual, societal, familial, cultural, religious and individual factors play crucial roles in how each child will make sense of, and grieve, the loss or death of someone they love or face their own impending death. Children’s grief is multifaceted and intricate with each child responding in ways that are deeply personal and reflect who they are as well as what they have been taught and how they are cared for and supported. While culture, language, landmass, Indigenous outreach, and finding financial resources needed to address ways to better support grieving children, their friends and families, Canada recognizes the need to support all


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children who have suffered a loss or death but especially to be exquisitely aware of those who may not readily come forward acknowledging always that context matters.

References Adelson, N. 2005. The embodiment of inequity: Health disparities in Aboriginal Canada. Canadian Journal of Public Health. 96: 545–561. Akerman, R., and Statham, J. 2014. Bereavement in children: The impact on psychological and educational outcomes and effectiveness of support systems. Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre Working Paper 25. Woburn Square London. Available on Last Accessed 18 Apr 2018. Andrews, L. 2011. I know who you are and I saw what you did social networks and the death of privacy. Toronto: Simon and Schuster. Arnup, K. 2013. Death, dying and Canadian families. Ottawa: Vanier Institute of the Family. Baker, J.E., M.A. Sedney, and E. Gross. 1992. Psychological tasks for bereaved children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 62: 105–116. Bains, C. 2017. Canada ranked 25th on children’s wellbeing amongst rich countries UNICEF. The Globe and Mail, June 14. Bates, A.T., and J.A. Kearney. 2015. Understanding death with limited experience in life: Dying children’s’ and adolescent’s’ understanding of their own terminal illness and death. Current Opinions in Supportive Palliative Care 9 (1): 40–45. Biank, N.M., and A. Werner-Lin. 2011. Growing up with grief: Revisiting the death of a parent over the life course. Omega 63 (3): 271–290. Bieckert, K., and M. Kelsey. 2017. Transforming the pediatric experience: The story of child life. Pediatric Annals 46 (9): 345–351. Blackstock, C., and N.  Trocme 2004. Community-based child welfare for Aboriginal children: Supporting resilience through structural change. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and Center of Excellence for Child Welfare, University of Toronto. Bluebond-Langner, M. 1978. The private worlds of dying children. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ———. 1996. In the shadow of illness: Parents and siblings of the chronically ill child. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Bluebond-Langner, M., B.J. Bello-Belasco, A. Goldman, and C. Belasco. 2007. Understanding parents approaches to care and treatment of children with

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cancer when standard treatment has failed. Journal of Clinical Oncology 25 (17): 2414–2419. Bombay, A., K. Matheson, and H. Anisman. 2014. The intergenerational effects of Indian residential schools: Implications for the concept of historical trauma. Transcultural Psychiatry 51: 320–338. Bonitos, N. 2011. Information bombardment: Rising above the digital onslaught. Hamilton: IICR. Bonoti, F., A. Leondari, and A. Mastora. 2013. Exploring children’s understanding of death through drawings and death concept questionnaire. Death Studies 37 (1): 47–60. Burgess, Jean E., and Joshua B. Green. 2009. YouTube: Online video and participatory culture: Digital media & society. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bylund-Grenko, T., U. Kreicsbergs, C. Uggla, U.A. Valdimarsdottir, T. Nyberg, and G. Steinbeck. 2015. Teenagers want to be told when a parent’s death is near: A nationwide study of cancer bereaved youths opinions and experiences. Acta Oncologica 54 (6): 944–950. Caxaj, C.S., and H. Berman. 2010. Belonging among newcomer youths intersecting experiences of inclusion and exclusion. Advances in Nursing Science 33 (4): E17–E30. Chambers, L., and K. Burnett. 2017. Jordan’s Principle: The struggle to access on -reserve health care for high needs indigenous children in Canada. American Indian Quarterly 41 (2): 101–124. Chowns, G. 2008. ‘No, you don’t know how we feel’: Groupwork with children facing parental loss. Groupwork 18 (1): 14–37. Christ, G.H. 2000. Healing children’s grief. New  York: Oxford University Press. Claflin, C.J., and O.A.  Barbarian. 1991. Does telling less protect more? Relationships among age, information, disclosure and what children with cancer see and feel. Pediatric Psychology 16 (2): 169–191. Cole, E. 2016. Empower children to cope with their grief. Nursing Standard May 25th 30: 39, pp. 18–22. Corr, C.A., and D.E. Balk, eds. 2010. Children’s encounters with death, bereavement and coping. New York: Springer. Corr, C.A., and D.M. Corr, eds. 1996. Handbook of childhood death and bereavement. New York: Springer. Cross, M. 2011. Bloggeratti, Twitteratti: How blogs and twitter are transforming popular culture. New York: Praeger. Doka, K. 1989. Disenfranchised grief: Recognizing hidden sorrow. Guilford: Lexington Books.


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Dyregrov, A., and K. Dyregrov. 2013. Complicated grief in children—The perspectives of experienced professionals. Omega 67 (3): 291–303. Fearnley, R. 2010. Death of a parent and the children’s experience: Don’t ignore the elephant in the room. Journal of Interprofessional Care 24 (44): 450–459. Gilroy, C., and P. Johnson. 2004. Listening to the language of children’s grief. Groupwork 14 (3): 91–111. Gordon, M. 2005. The roots of empathy: changing the world child by child. Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers. Gray, L.B., R.A. Weller, M. Fristad, and E.B. Weller. 2011. Depression in children and adolescents two months after the death of a parent. Journal of Affective Disorders 135 (1): 277–283. Health Canada. 2011. A statistical profile on the health of first nations in Canada. Ottawa: Health Canada Publications. Honeyman, S.E. 2016. ‘Lies we tell sick children: Mutual pretense and uninformed concern in cancer narratives’ The Lion and the Unicorn. Baltimore 40 (2): 179–195. Kaplow, J.B., J. Saunders, A. Angold, and E.J. Costello. 2010. Psychiatric symptoms in bereaved versus nonbereaved youth and young adults: A longitudinal epidemiological study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 49: 1145–1154. Kelsey, M.P., and M.A. Generous. 2014. Advice from children and adolescents on final conversations with dying loved ones. Death Studies 38 (5): 308–314. Kirmayer, L.J., G. Brass, T. Holton, K. Paul, C. Simpson, and C. Tait. 2007. Suicide among aboriginal people in Canada. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation. McNamee, S. 1998. Youth, gender and video games: Power and control in the home. In Cool places: Geographies of youth cultures. McNamee, S. 2016. The social study of childhood: An introduction. London: Palgrave Macmillan. McQuaid, B.A., O.A. McInnis, C. Humeny, K. Matheson, and H. Anisman. 2017. Suicide ideation and attempts among First Nations people living on-­ reserve in Canada: The intergenerational and cumulative effects of Indian Residential Schools. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 62 (6): 422–430. Munoz, A., M.T.  Sastre, P.C.  Sorum, and E.  Mullet. 2014. Lay people’s and health care professionals’ views about breaking bad news to children. Child: Health and Development 46 (1): 106–114. Nelson, S.E., and K. Wilson. 2017. The mental health of Indigenous people in Canada: A critical review of research. Social Science and Medicine 176: 93–112.

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Northcott, H.C., and D.M. Wilson. 2016. Dying and death in Canada. 3rd ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Okrainec, K., G.L. Booth, S. Hollands, and C.M. Bell. 2017. Language barriers among the foreign-born in Canada: Agreement of self-reported measures and persistence over time. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 19 (1): 50–56. Oxman-Martinez, J., A.J.  Rummens, J.  Moreau, Y.R.  Choi, M.  Beiser, L.  Ogilvie, and R.  Armstrong. 2012. Perceived ethnic discrimination and social exclusion: Newcomer immigrant children in Canada. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 82: 376–388. Pearlman, M.Y., K.D.  Schwalbe, and M.  Cloitre. 2010. Grief in childhood: Fundamentals of treatment and clinical practice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Renaud, S., P. Engarhos, M. Schleifer, and V. Talwar. 2015. Children’s earliest experiences with death: Circumstances, conversations, explanations and parental satisfaction. Infant and Child Development 24 (2): 157–174. Rosengren, K.S., P.J.  Miller, I.T.  Gutierrez, P.I.  Chow, S.S.  Schein, K.N. Anderson, and M.A. Callanan. 2014. Children’s understanding of death: Toward a contextualized and integrated account. New York: Wiley-Blackwell. Schonfeld, D., and M. Quackenbush. 2009. After a loved one dies: How children grieve and how parents and other adults can support them. New York: New York Life Foundation. Sisk, B.A., M.  Bluebond-Langner, L.  Wiener, J.  Mack, and J.  Wolfe. 2016. Prognosis disclosure to children: A historical perspective. Pediatrics 138 (3): 1–21. Smylis, J., and P. Adomako 2009. Indigenous children’s health report. Centre for Research on Inner City Health. Softing, G.H., A. Dyregrov, and K. Dyregrov. 2015. Because I’m also part of the family: Children’s participation in rituals after the loss of a parent or sibling. Omega Journal of Death and Dying 73 (2): 141–158. Stats Canada. 2014. Aboriginal stats ———. 2016a. Census of the Population CANSIM 051-0037. ———. 2016b. Immigration Numbers for 2015-2016 CANSIM 051-0004. ———. 2016c. Insights on Canadian Society: Living Arrangements of Aboriginal Children Age 14 and Under. Retrieved From: pub/75-006-x/2016001/article/14547-eng.htm. Last Accessed Oct 2017. Stats Canada 89-653-X. 2016. Aboriginal peoples survey 2012 past year suicidal thoughts among off reserve First Nations, Metis and Inuit adults 18–25: Prevalence and associated characteristics. October 13.


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Stats Canada, and A.  Turner 2016. Insights on Canadian Society: Living arrangements of Aboriginal Children aged 14 and under. 75-006-X April. Stikkelbroek, Y., D.H.M. Bodden, and E. Reitz. 2016. Mental health of adolescents before and after the death of a parent or sibling. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 25 (1): 49–69. Sutter, C., and T. Reid. 2012. How do we talk to the children? Child life consultation to support the children of seriously ill adult inpatients. Palliative Medicine 15 (12): 1362–1368. Werner-Lin, A., and N.M. Biank. 2013. Holding parents so they can hold their children: Grief work with surviving spouses to support parentally bereaved children. Omega 66 (1): 1–16.

Commentary on Chapter 8 ‘Children and Death in the Canadian’ Context Esme Turner

I read Eunice Gorman’s insight into children and death in the Canadian context with interest. Many of the themes explored are relevant to my work as a physiotherapist in a children’s hospice in England. The hospice supports life-limited or life-threatened children and their families, prenatally until the age of 25 years, providing holistic, child-centred care. It also supports bereaved families after a child’s death and bereaved children after a close family member’s death. The importance, but complexity, of communicating openly and appropriately with dying children is explored in Children and Death in the Canadian Context. Practice in the children’s hospice setting supports the shift towards children being active agents who participate in decision-making around their physical and emotional care at a level controlled by them. Their level of participation is fluid and can change day to day, week to week or over the longer term and is led by the child, supported by their family and professionals. This open and child-centred communication can help in safeguarding the

E. Turner (*) Hope House, Morda, Oswestry, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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child’s emotional health and ensure that information given is timely and appropriate. Children and death in the Canadian context discusses the experiences of children who are cognitively able and verbal. Only a small proportion of the children cared for at children’s hospices in the UK have a diagnosis of cancer. In 2012, Together for Short Lives (a leading UK charity in paediatric palliative care) sampled children across the West Midlands, a central area of England, to see which disorders were most prevalent in life-limited/threatened children. They found that congenital and chromosomal disorders or static encephalopathy (e.g. severe cerebral palsy) were most common. These life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses in children often have a long trajectory and physical impairment as well as intellectual disabilities can be profound. Out of the 250 children we currently support at the hospice, 200 are non-verbal or have some level of learning or communication disability. In this response, I will focus on the barriers to participation in children who have communication/learning difficulties and who are also life-limited or life-threatened.

Voice Children who are non-verbal or have communication/learning difficulties can face huge challenges in being heard. Firstly, despite evidence to the contrary, society still seems to perceive children’s opinions, thoughts and feelings as having less weight than those of an adult (Frankel 2018). Secondly, these children have non-curative conditions and are dying. The general public may be challenged by the idea of children dying and find it complex and distressing. To overcome these feelings, people can remove themselves from the issue so that they do not have to come face to face with and therefore deal with their emotions. Thirdly, these children have disabilities. People with disabilities are often assumed to be non-­ competent, with decisions being made in their best interests by others rather than by them or in conjunction with them. Finally, many life-­ limited/threatened children are unable to explore the world with independence. They are reliant on other people involving them in or bringing experiences to them. The reasons stated above added to by physical

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b­ arriers of access often experienced by children with disabilities in public places can result in life-limited/threatened children being dismissed and segregated. This all has an impact on how their ‘voice’ is perceived and their ability to be heard. It has been documented in the literature and is evident within our hospice setting that children at the end of their lives show symptoms of distress; such as sadness, loneliness, difficulty talking about their emotions and a feeling of panic (Kersun and Shemesh 2007). There is no evidence to support that children with communication/learning disabilities do not feel the same distress although there has been an assumption in the past that children with learning disabilities do not experience the emotional response to loss and grief as others do. Grief behaviours exhibited have been considered as a part of the child’s behaviour associated with their learning disability, rather than an alternative normal human response (Oswin 1991). Joanna Grace (The Sensory Projects) wrote that ‘a person’s ability to communicate is not dependent on them being able to master certain skills, it is dependent on our ability to listen and communicate responsively.’ In order to listen and communicate responsively we must take time in the following ways: • Time to learn about the child’s unique communication style. Learn their language. Their communication style deserves universal respect at all times. • Time to get to know how the child responds in different environments and with different people. Children with communication/learning difficulties often benefit from a quiet, distraction-free environment that allows you both to concentrate and tune into each other. • Time for the child to process and respond. Communication is a two-­ way exchange; reciprocal and responsive. • Time to create opportunities for communication. For instance, giving the child choice creates opportunity for communication. • Time to ensure the physical comfort of the child. Ensure that their head is supported; it is very difficult to communicate if you are looking at your lap or up at the ceiling. Likewise, a child who is in pain or distress may not be able to make or indicate choices.


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• Time for repetition. Repetition and routine can lead to predictability, anticipation and greater participation. • Time spent in building a trusting relationship. Play together. Learn about what is important to the child. A relationship needs to develop to allow the child to express their emotions. • Time spent gaining insight from those who know the child best. • Time invested in the giving of important information. Conversations conveying key aspects about a child’s condition or management need to respect the above statements about the importance of time. • Time is equally important in building trusting relationships and communicating responsively for children without additional communication/learning needs, who may struggle to process the complex information given to them about their condition and their resulting emotions. (This list was inspired by thinking presented by Doukas et al. 2017). Towards the end of a child’s life or during periods of deterioration there is often a pattern of increased medical appointments and the introduction of new interventions and medications. Families may become anxious or emotional and complex conversations may be held in ear shot of the child. All children have the potential to pick up on these changes and draw their own conclusions. This is a time when participation of the child is key to allay fears and reassure as well as to explain the next steps in appropriate language. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Appointments still occur where medical professionals do not speak to or acknowledge the child, let alone include them in the conversation in an appropriate manner. Often, time, or lack of it, in all its above-mentioned forms is the main barrier.

Choice and Participation We all make hundreds of choices on a daily basis, from what clothes to wear, what activities to participate in, to whom we want to spend time with and communicate with. These choices are important in defining us as individuals, but they go beyond this—they allow us to shape our own

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future. Many of the children who access the hospice are limited in their ability to make choices. They rely on others to act in their best interests, making them passive receivers of care. Their needs are often pre-empted, giving them limited reasons to communicate. The opportunity to practice communication is then missed by both parties. Children with communication/learning difficulties that are life-limited/threatened have the same right to make choices and have control as anyone else and often have more need to exercise it as they face a complex, unknown future. It is our responsibility to find ways to involve them appropriately in all decision-making whether it is what T-shirt to wear that morning or where they want to spend their final days. It is also our role to use this information gained from their own preferences to support them emotionally, improving their quality of life. For a child with communication/learning difficulties to participate, it is important to ascertain their level of receptive cognition. For a child with less severe communication/learning difficulties, it may be fairly easy to assign them to a traditional stage of development. It is worth always being mindful that a child who is life-­ threatened/limited is likely to have more insight into dying and death than other children of a similar developmental level. Children who cannot speak may well have understanding of speech ‘receptive comprehension’ and be able to access their ‘voice’ through assistive technology (e.g. eyegaze). Jonathon is an example of a young man who has found his voice by eye pointing and spelling out words. He is an intelligent and articulate young man with severe cerebral palsy, very limited intentional movement and complex medical needs. He is able to participate in all areas of his life, thanks to his and his family’s determination to find a way for him to communicate. He is currently petitioning parliament in the UK for all children with severe neurological impairment to be given the opportunity to learn to read, allowing them to be active participants in their own lives (for more see Other ways of supporting participation and choice are as follows: • Providing children with the choice between objects (objects of reference) and carefully observing their response. • Providing a child with the choice of activity by showing them photos of the activities and again carefully observing their response.


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• The use of switches to control a toy/object or to choose a recorded response. • Using Makaton (or similar signing and/or symbols) to support spoken language. If used successfully, these communication aids can be then extended to be not just functional or directional, but to allow a child to comment on or about their life. This opens up channels for emotions to be explored and information shared about their prognosis as appropriate. Joint working with a speech and language therapist is essential in maximising a child’s ability to communicate and therefore participate. For children to participate and express preference and emotions they do not have to have a high level of receptive cognition. At many children’s hospices, children with learning/communication difficulties are able to participate and benefit from the non-verbal communication of sensory play, music therapy and aquatic therapy.

Examples in Practice Sensory play involves creating playful opportunities for the child to explore the world around them with all their senses. It supports open-ended opportunities for creativity, helps the formation of memories and can have a calming effect on an anxious or frustrated child. It also creates a fantastic platform for learning the child’s language and building a trusting relationship. Sensory play should be guided by the child and supported by the adult. In this way, it allows the adult to learn from the child’s reaction what is important to them, through what senses they prefer to explore and learn and what experiences stimulate different emotions. Sensory play in the form of sensory stories can be used to introduce new concepts or medical treatments. Sensory stories follow a simple verbal narrative that is supported by sounds, objects, pictures and smells. Repetition of these stories is key to the child showing greater responsiveness and participation as well as forming memories.

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The following case study gives an example of a sensory story being used to introduce a new piece of medical equipment. Sarah has a neurodegenerative condition and is non-verbal. She communicates through facial expressions and movements of her arms and hands. She was becoming more unwell with chest infections and it was decided she needed a machine to help her to cough. Sarah can get very anxious about new things and changes to her routine and this can affect her compliance and increase her and her family’s level of stress. A sensory story was created explaining simply the benefits of using the machine, alongside demonstrating the noise and air blowing sensation of using the machine.

To begin with, Sarah was anxious and covered her ears when the machine was turned on during the story. After repetition of the story over several weeks she no longer covered her ears and smiled in anticipation of the noise. The machine was at first demonstrated on her doll, at relevant parts of the story, and by the third week, Sarah was happy to use the machine herself. The use of the sensory story gave Sarah familiarity with the machine and also an element of control in when she felt comfortable to transition from looking and listening, to watching it being demonstrated, to using the machine. Music therapy, in children’s hospices, seeks to impact emotional well-­ being and facilitate self-expression (Hodkinson et al. 2014). Children who are non-verbal or have communication difficulties often respond well to opportunities to communicate through music. Music therapy sessions built on time and trust explore and alleviate feelings of fear, pain and loss through meaningful musical interactions. These sessions have at their centre repeated opportunities for the child to express choice and experience control. The following case study explores participation in music therapy for a child with a life-limiting condition who is non-verbal. Tim is a 17-year-old boy with a degenerative disorder. He has been attending music therapy in a hospice during respite visits for 8 years. The trusting


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relationship between Tim and the Music Therapist in a quiet environment where Tim can be heard, enables Tim to explore and express his feelings. The Music Therapist allows time for Tim to respond or to initiate. Tim is able to do very little for himself and tolerates significant medical interventions to alleviate increasingly frequent and difficult to diagnose pain. Most things are, by necessity, done for Tim. Music Therapy offers Tim an opportunity to respond readily in the live, improvised music. He is able to experience a rare sense of being in control and of making choices. Tim indicates his choice of ‘more’ by vocalising, smiling, laughing and engaging in eye contact. When Tim is in pain or is unhappy, he is still able to communicate using the music to acknowledge the difficult feelings as well as the happy ones. The Music Therapist can verbally reflect on the shared music to further support Tim. The Music Therapist is trained in the skills required to assess which sounds Tim responds well to. Tim favours the mellow, resonant sounds of the violin, low pitched chime bars and the singing of the therapist accompanied by guitar. Tim has high muscle tone but when responding to these sounds his tone can noticeably reduce and his sense of awareness and responsiveness increases. His smiles and body language are clear indicators of his preferences. It is unclear how much Tim understands about his prognosis. It is likely that he will pick up on the changes in voice pitches and tones when family or staff are discussing his illness or levels of pain in front of him during stressful times. We all sense fear and distress in others and this is no different for young people with severely restricted communication skills. Learning to ‘hear’ the young person in these situations is vital to involving them in the process. (Alison Acton. Music Therapist)

Another opportunity for children with communication/learning difficulties to express choice and take control is during aquatic therapy sessions. During these sessions, the children are supported and so they are floating on the surface of the water. The majority of children who access the hospice have limited intentional movement and are wheelchair users. Being in the water gives them physical freedom away from the effects of gravity, allowing exploration of their own movements. Many children appear to enjoy playing with the increased control they have over their bodies in the water. These sessions are led by children, their movements

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are followed and facilitated and their stillness respected. They may move rapidly for several moments and then lie still. The stillness is often intense, with full body relaxation, their breathing slowed and their eyes shut. This mutual stillness and silence is held until the child opens their eyes and starts to move again. As the child is held in the water by an adult, there is a close physical contact and an increased ability to connect with the child. Eye contact is easy as both people are in close proximity to each other. Subtle changes in tone and movement can be detected in the child and adult’s body, both of which positively impact on responsive communication for both. There is also mutual trust in place. The adults must trust their skills and trust that the children will relax and children in turn have to feel this respect in order to trust that the adults will keep them safe. The following case study explores a child’s participation in aquatic therapy session with me. Freya, a young lady with communication and learning difficulties was accessing the hospice for symptom management. She was experiencing increased pain and distress. Her family were struggling. She was attending frequent hospital appointments and had an increasing number of medical interventions to manage her symptoms. Many changes were being made, most of them out of Freya’s control. As part of her symptom management, to help reduce her pain and muscle spasms, I took Freya into the pool regularly. In the pool, she had control over her movements and she appeared to use these movements to communicate emotion. Freya spent the first 10 minutes of the session forcefully moving her full body with an intense look on her face, then followed a period of total calm, eyes shut, body totally relaxed. When Freya started to move again, her movements had changed, they were now ordered and fluid, Freya also expressed joy—smiling and laughing (particularly when her whole head and most of her face were submerged under the water!). I interpreted this session (cautiously) as Freya letting out her frustration by moving her body forcefully, in the same way another child might have a tantrum or stamp their feet when they feel out of control. Once this emotion was dealt with, the still period could represent her reflection, then a greater sense of calm and playfulness.


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Aquatic therapy became a part of Freya’s day at the hospice. Freya was able to communicate when she wanted a session by looking towards the pool door—this was tested to be intentional communication by the fact that she turned her head to look towards the pool even when her chair was moved away, and continued to do so until she went into the pool. In this manner, Freya was not only able to communicate choice and control in the pool but also able to take some control of her symptom management by deciding when she had an aquatic therapy session.

Concluding Thought The activities explored above are designed to gain greater participation of children with communication/learning difficulties who are life-limited or threatened in the children’s hospice setting. There are many other activities and strategies that can be used. It is important to get to know children as individuals and to give them a choice of what works effectively for them. Involving families in these activities can be important. Families with a life-limited/threatened child carry an emotional and physical burden. Seeing their child empowered and engaged can provide opportunities for positivity amongst seeing and dealing with their child’s physical deterioration. The communication strategies and activities suggested also have relevance to children with communication/learning difficulties who have experienced the death of a family member or friend. Children with communication/learning difficulties are more likely to experience a peer or friend dying as the majority attend special schools which by their nature have a much higher percentage of pupils with life-threatening/ limiting conditions. Sensory stories, written about the family member/ friend, can help the child to remember and express their emotions. Stories could include favourite music, smells (shampoo, soap or perfume used), familiar objects (favourite necklace, scarf or jumper) and photographs. Eunice Gorman discusses, in Children and Death in the Canadian Context, that the most important variable in a child’s experience of death is who is supporting the child and how willing they are to provide what the child needs. Like all children faced with their own death, children

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with communication/learning difficulties need to be supported by people who know them well, can communicate responsively with them and support them to participate fully in their short but meaningful lives. This allows discussions of death, dying, grief, transition and loss to be conducted in a way that is relevant to the child.

References Doukas, T., A. Fergusson, M. Fullerton, and J. Grace. 2017. Supporting people with profound and multiple learning disabilities http://www.thesensoryprojects. Last Accessed April 2018. Frankel, S. 2018. Giving children a voice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Hodkinson, S., L. Bunt, and N. Daykin. 2014. Music therapy in children’s hospices: An evaluative survey of provision. The Arts in Psychotherapy 41 (5): 570–576. Kersun, L.S., and E. Shemesh. 2007. Depression and anxiety in children at the end of life. Pediatric Clinics 54 (5): 691–708. Oswin, M. 1991. Bereavement and mentally handicapped people. London: Kings Fund Report KFC81/234. Together for short lives. 2012. The big study for life-limited children and their families: How well are the palliative care needs of children with life limiting conditions and their families met by services in the West Midlands? Together for short lives (online). Available: professionals/projects/ Accessed March 2018.

Further Information Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Jonathon. Music Therapy in Children’s Hospices. 2005. Jessie’s fund in action, ed. Meredes Pavlicevic, Jessica Kingsley Publications. Orr, R. 2003. My right to play – A child with complex needs. Debating play series ed. Bruce, T. London: Open University Press.


E. Turner

Supporting people with profound and multiple learning difficulties- core and essential standards. 11/Standards-PMLD-h-web.pdf Supporting the Child and Family in Paediatric Palliative Care. 2007. Erica Brown. Jessica Kingsley Publications. The sensory project. Joanna Grace.

9 Lives Lost, Voices Unheard: Examining the Importance of Youth-Led Research Amidst One Community’s AdultCentered Responses to Youth Suicides Tara L. Bruno

According to the most recent national data, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15–24 years in Canada, representing between 18 percent and 25 percent of all deaths in this age range since 2000 (Statistics Canada 2012). Many of these deaths are often attributed to pre-existing mental health disorders, particularly depression (Gagnon et al. 2009; Nock et al. 2013). Indeed, suicide has often been believed to be an individual problem with dominant explanations for suicides stemming from psychology and biology. However, despite these traditionally individualized and medicalized views, suicide and mental health are intimately connected with communities and social experiences. As sociologist Émile Durkheim (1897/1979) argued in the late nineteenth century, there is significant evidence to support the social causes of

T. L. Bruno (*) Department of Sociology at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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suicide. More specifically, Durkheim argued that groups of people who lack connection and a healthy sense of belonging are likely to experience higher rates of suicide than those who feel a sense of belonging and connection. He further argued that social regulation in the form of norms, knowing what is expected or acceptable, also protects against suicide. On the other hand, experiencing normlessness or anomie, as Durkheim called it, increases the risk of suicide. Thus, in communities or groups lacking a sense of belonging and a defined set of social expectations or norms, the risk of suicide is sociologically inevitable, regardless of any biological and psychological risks. Despite Durkheim’s expansive research on the sociological significance of suicide over a century ago, societal factors are often overlooked or undervalued in explaining or understanding suicide. Often communities, families and individuals alike rely on individualized explanations such as mental health, developmental differences and the general inability to cope with stress when trying to explain why someone may have taken their own life. While these explanations are important to consider for each individual, sociological factors still play an important role in understanding the collective experiences of young people’s lives. When multiple people living in close proximity all turn to suicide, influences beyond the individual must also be examined. The purpose of this chapter is to examine one community’s recent experience of dealing with the loss of several youth who took their own lives, while offering an overview of some of the community-based and youth-led research initiatives immediately following the dramatic increase in youth suicides in 2016–2017.

Losing Youth to Suicide In a small south-western community in Ontario, Canada, the beginning of 2016 was marked by a series of tragic youth suicides. Official reports in the first half of 2016 indicated that as many as five young people had died by suicide and there were 17 known attempts in the previous six months (The Canadian Press 2016). By the end of 2016, six young people had taken their lives. Unofficial reports suggested that these estimates

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were only part of the story, with some people indicating there had been even more suicides and close to 40 attempts (Strapagiel 2016). Though there is no way to know the exact number of attempted and completed suicides in any given community, a single suicidal youth should be the cause for great concern. In a community with just over 5000 young people aged 13–24 years (Statistics Canada 2017), five completed suicides in less than six months resulted in several individual and community responses. Some began to wonder, what was going on with youth in this community? Was this an epidemic? Officials from the Canadian Mental Health Association said that it was suicide contagion (The Canadian Press 2016), while other rumors suggested that there might be a suicide pact with some youth in the community. Yet, others insisted that this was a result of inadequate health care and a lack of adequate resources in the community for youth who were struggling with mental health issues (Ireland 2016). Many pointed at the schools for the lack of mental health education and supports being provided to youth (Rieti 2016). For months, few bothered to ask many of the youth what might be going on in their lives. Agencies and schools rallied together for community meetings, all with the intention of trying to educate parents and educators about mental health and youth, identifying more publicly what resources were available to youth and their families in the community, while also hoping to bring an end to young people taking their lives. Three meetings were held over the course of six weeks, one in mid-May, one at the end of May and one at the end of June. Yet, youth were not actively involved in these community conversations. In fact, for the community meeting held in June, it was recommended that youth should not attend as it was only intended for parents and educators (OECYC 2016). At the height of the crisis in May 2016, one community member started a Facebook page for youth suicide prevention (The Canadian Press 2016). The intention behind starting the page was to provide a forum of youth support and allow youth the opportunity to speak about their concerns. One of the early themes that emerged from the discussions on the Facebook page was the lack of support from schools. With the support of the three Facebook page administrators and several other community members,


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students rallied together for a student walkout (CBC News 2016). Hundreds of students left their classes to support each other and share their stories and frustration about their perceived lack of concern from the school boards. Students from all five high schools, ranging across three different school boards, demanded that the schools take more responsibility and offer mental health education and support to students. Several other community events and initiatives were launched in the community, some led by adults and others by youth. In the meantime, there were multiple agencies and individuals working to better understand the suicide crisis through information gathering and dissemination. The reports that were written and the events that unraveled in the weeks and months following these tragedies offer interesting insights into what might be going on in the lives of young people in this community, as well as the way in which communities might better support and include youth in the conversations concerning their well-being. The following section outlines some of the ways that one community in crisis attempted to mitigate and better understand the loss of young people by involving youth and their voices in the community’s response to youth suicide through research.

Involving the Youth in Community Conversations Through Research Over the course of 2016 and 2017, there were four known community research initiatives that examined youth mental health and/or suicide. Each of these initiatives involved youth or their voices in different capacities, but all shared the premise that youth experiences and opinions are an important part of understanding mental health and suicide among young people in the community.

The Youth Voice Report: Mental Health and Suicide The Youth Voice Report: Mental Health and Suicide was released to the community in September 2016 (SPCO 2016). This report was the first

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known attempt to systematically understand youth and their struggles with mental health and suicide using youth perspectives. The research contained in the report is founded on grounded theory using content analysis of a collection of youth posts from the aforementioned Youth Suicide Prevention Facebook page that was created at the height of the suicide crisis. The report does not reveal how many youth posts were examined. There is also no indication of a timeline for when the posts were taken from the site. However, given that the Facebook page did not start until the end of May 2016, we know for certain that none of the posts preceded this date; we can also reasonably ascertain that the analysis would not have included any more than three months of youth posts given the publication date of September 2016. The report itself serves as an important starting point in understanding youth mental health in the community and provides some insight into the experiences of young people and their understanding of the suicide crisis. The four themes that the report highlights from the Facebook page include: stigma/shame, bullying, connection and community involvement and words of encouragement and support. The themes that emerged from the youth posts on Facebook are not mutually exclusive; indeed, there are important overlaps that exist between the individual level experiences and the community. With respect to stigma and shame, young people feel embarrassed or get the sense that they are burdening people with their problems when they reach out for help, even from people with whom they usually have a close or trusting relationship. Part of the embarrassment about their mental health or thoughts of suicide comes from the experiences of being bullied both in person and virtually through social networking sites. According to the report, the youth find it hard to open up to people about their struggles when they have experienced bullying. Sometimes the experiences of bullying center on perceived aspects of difference whether it be sexuality, gender, social class or cultural background, which can in turn lead to mental health difficulties. Alternatively, in some instances, mental health issues have been the reason why someone was bullied. This further reinforces the negative experiences and stigma of living with a pre-­existing mental health issue.


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While feeling ashamed and being bullied are often viewed as individual, subjective experiences, the broader community still plays a role in how to minimize these feelings and experiences through community connections and involvement as well as providing words of encouragement and support to youth. The two themes of community connection/ involvement and words of encouragement/support that are examined in the report tend to reflect the more deeply rooted issues in the community. The youth posts revealed that many young people do not feel that they have a connection to the broader community, and they do not feel as though there are any supportive and safe spaces where they can go to relax and just have fun with their peers. Though it is mentioned in the report that many youth felt that a youth center with youth programming would be good for the community, the authors of the report claimed that a youth center might not be necessary to provide community connections for youth. Although this may be true, this simply reinforces the theme that was revealed from the youth posts: that they do not feel encouraged or supported in the community. One of the core issues that the youth raise in their posts is that adults do not understand their struggles, and that even well-intentioned adults seem to take over any attempts for youth to have their voices heard. This was an ongoing issue with the Facebook page, where adults (many of them parents) thought that they could provide their insights and opinions as being superior to the youths’ opinions. In many cases, this led to adult posts being removed and attempting to refocus on youths’ posts. In response, a separate Facebook page was created for parents to post. While adults are still able to comment on and post in the youth page, the content is mostly restricted to topics that the youth may find useful or supportive. This allows the youth to have a forum where they can post what is bothering them without fear of being ridiculed by adults or parents. Drawing on the various themes derived from the youth Facebook posts, the report concludes with several recommendations, some of which are directly challenged in the report, and others that do not appear to be reflective of the youth voices or themes that were conveyed in the report. Among the seven recommendations, three suggestions targeted schools as a space where young people should be encouraged to connect with others, where trained mental health professionals should be widely

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available, and where greater awareness about mental health as a social issue rather than an individual problem should be fostered. There were also several community-based recommendations in the report. The first suggests that young people should be given opportunities to be involved in service design and delivery, while also being encouraged to speak about issues that they experience in the community through various avenues, including memberships on school groups and the city’s youth advisory committee. The second community-specific recommendation focuses on the possibility of having spaces where youth can gather and engage in activities together. Another recommendation suggests increasing the youth-­specific resources in the community, while another related recommenda­tion was to use technology as a means of improving access to resources. Finally, it was suggested that the city have more local emergency services for youth in crisis, as the existing service model requires youth to be removed from their communities or sent home without proper supports in place for mental health care. Interestingly, the community member who created the Facebook page and the other administrators and moderators for the page were not authors on this report nor were they consulted in the creation of the Youth Voice Report. Rather, an independent council comprised of volunteer community members conducted the analysis. Thus, it is important to recognize that this report may not be a clear reflection of all the posts from the Facebook page which may include comments or posts that were deleted by the original person posting, posts that were responded to but later removed because of the nature of the discussion, or even posts that never made it to the page as there is a vetting process for posts on the page. Another limitation of using the posts from this page is that there is a broad membership, with adults, youth and even people living far outside of the community. It would be difficult to ensure that all of the comments included in the analysis actually reflect the experiences of youth in the community. Having youth involved in these conversations about what is lacking in their lives and their community is certainly progress beyond no youth involvement. However, youth involvement through analyzing their posts on Facebook and providing membership on various committees does not provide young people with a sense of being in control of the decisions


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being made about their lives. In order to more fully empower young people in the community, youth need to be actively engaged in these decisions, not merely consulted or analyzed by adults (Arnstein 1969; Hart 1997; Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health 2018). Young people need to be provided the power to make decisions and provide solutions that adults in the community may or may not be aware of or necessarily support (White 2014).

 ccess to Mental Health Services: A Situational A Assessment From October to December 2016, public health officials conducted a second, mixed methods study in the community. This study focused not on the youth voices or perspectives, but instead examined three aspects of service access: the number and types of mental health services in the community, people’s understanding of what these services provided and the accessibility of the services based on people’s social location and understanding of the services (Gibbs 2017). To determine the number and types of services being offered in the community, five publicly available online sources were examined and a database of organizations providing mental health and social support services was created. During the same time frame, various texts including reports and local newspapers were searched for relevance using the terms “mental health.” Only sources that were directly related to the community were included in the final set of sources to be analyzed. For both the reports and the news articles, there were no date restrictions on the sources to be included for the analysis. In the end, there were eight reports and 60 news articles that ranged from 2008 to 2016. Using discourse analysis, the second more qualitative part of the data collection was ­conducted to better understand people’s understanding of services in the community as well as service accessibility. The key findings from the quantitative data that was collected indicated that there are 221 services available to the community being offered by 45 different organizations. Of the total number of services being offered, 44 percent (97 of the 221) were for youth aged 13–25 years old,

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24 percent (52 out of 221) were for children aged 0–12 years old and 18 percent (40 out of 221) were for families. For the remaining services, it was unknown or unclear which population was being served. There were several different types of services identified in the community, including but not limited to support groups, counseling, crisis or emergency services, suicide and self-harm and various forms of medical treatment. Though the number and range of services available in the community is certainly not limited, the report notes that finding accurate information about the services can sometimes be a challenge, as the information can be inconsistent across various sources. The inconsistencies in the information provided and the places where this information can be found are significant barriers for people who are in need of the services. The discourse analysis of the community reports and news articles further highlighted how the community understands the services being offered. The findings revealed that despite the many services, there still are not enough services available for the number of people who need help. Moreover, the existing services, though many of them are available to youth, do not address the actual needs of young people in the community. Simply having existing services available does not mean that the services are applicable to the youth seeking services. This is something that many sources felt was problematic with programs and services being offered through the schools. Regardless of the number of services and programs available and even promoting awareness about what is available, if young people do not feel as though services are applicable to their lives and experiences, there is less chance they will seek out the services. Ultimately, this encourages the community, schools and organizations to feel justified that they are doing all they can with the services they are offering; unfortunately, the services are just not being utilized. This ultimately leads to inaction in the community and frustration by those who are in need of support and services. The situational assessment of mental health services in the community resulted in three main recommendations. The first suggestion is to make sure that accurate and consistent information about programs and services is available across various online and other public sources. The second recommendation emphasizes the need to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and suicide by being more supportive and open in the


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community conversations, as well as other contexts such as at school and workplaces. The final suggestion is to improve access and ultimately the uptake of services through potentially new and innovative forms of service delivery. This mixed methods situational assessment clearly identified several different types of resources available in the community while also identifying issues with how the services are communicated to the public and their limited relevance to youth especially. Simply having access to services is not helpful if the resources are found to be ineffective by the clientele, in this case youth. Moreover, while academically and perhaps politically, the discourse analysis and the use of discursive devices is an interesting way of making sense of the public’s understanding of services and service utilization in the community, it is unlikely that many members outside of the academic community would understand these discourse references and the role that discursive devices play in shaping community understandings. When such fascinating ideas cannot be translated to the community in a useful and jargon-free manner, this is particularly problematic. It simply reinforces the idea that not everyone will be capable of understanding what is happening in the community, except the experts.

 paces to Go and People Who Know: Photovoice S Project In early 2017, a third collaborative community research endeavor was launched using photovoice as the methodology. Various agencies, school boards and service providers worked together to develop a research strategy that was intended to capture the experiences of young people living in the community through images taken by youth on their electronic devices, followed by small focus group sessions about what the images represented (SPOLC 2017). Photovoice is a variation of participatory action research where those who are most impacted by a particular social issue are given the opportunity to use imagery instead of traditional written or spoken methods to convey their experiences and thoughts (White 2014; Aldridge 2012).

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In this case, young people in the community were recruited through various community connections. Two facilitators met with small groups of youth to explain the project objectives, after which youth were given a defined period of time to take photos of their lives that addressed any of the key areas of the study. The five focus questions that the young people were asked to capture in their photos were the following: 1 . What is something you do that helps you feel better? 2. What helps you have a good day? 3. What makes you have a bad day? 4. What could make programs and services in [name of town] better? 5. What does a good program or service look like? After youth submitted their digital photos, two facilitators met with the youth to discuss their images and how they related to the original focus questions. The compiled findings from this research project were released to the community in October 2017 through a display at the local art gallery. Interestingly, the two general themes that emerged from the photos had nothing to do with individualizing or pathologizing mental health or suicide risk for the youth. Instead, the themes that young people identified as being important in their lives and communities focused on people and spaces. With respect to people, youth felt that social support was especially important. This support can come in many different forms and does not have to involve any specific type of service provider or expert. According to the analysis of the images and focus groups, youth simply want a sense of connection with other people and they want to know that they are being accepted and supported in ways that they find helpful, not necessarily in ways that traditional clinical treatment might prescribe. The youth also indicated that they would find social support helpful if it was coming from people who understand what they are experiencing and people who can provide positive influences on their mental health. They want to have a sense of meaning and belonging that is founded on unconditional acceptance and love from people who understand them. The youth also emphasized the importance of their own role in their mental health. They expressed wanting to have relationships founded on


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mutual dependence, where they know that there are others who can rely on them too. They further expressed that knowing more about themselves, having a better sense of what they were capable of accomplishing, and knowing more about how and where to get help when they are struggling are also important. With respect to theme surrounding spaces young people access, there was a general sense that many of the spaces youth in the community encounter are either stressful or unwelcoming. The youth felt that existing clinical services and educational programs focus on moralistic expectations that are not helpful. Instead, the youth expressed that these existing services and programs can actually make things worse for them. They also discussed that participating in virtual spaces can be stressful. They cannot disconnect and feel as though their engagement with peers online is dissatisfying. Young people do not want to experience services or communities that are restrictive, and would appreciate having access to safe spaces that include various cultures, ages and abilities. Currently, there is a general sentiment that the community spends far more time and money developing sport complexes that are restricted to those who can afford to access these spaces. There also seems to be a general feeling that the downtown needs to be revitalized to make the city feel more open and promising. As it stands, the boarded up store fronts and empty spaces in the downtown make the city feel closed and lacking options. The youth further suggested that having more natural spaces in the city for people to go and engage in unstructured activities would be helpful to their mental health and well-being. Evidently, young people in this community, like others, are increasingly being disconnected from their communities because of a lack of desirable and youth-friendly spaces, which is having a detrimental impact on the healthy development of young people (Loebach 2013). Clearly, the young people who participated in this photovoice project have plenty of practical and meaningful suggestions to offer when it comes to improving mental health in the community and by extension preventing future youth suicides. Though the project display at the art gallery did not provide any recommendations for future action, the voices and images provided by the young people should signal to the community and various service providers that there are plenty of ways in which

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youth can be better supported and the community improved. Most of these options would not require much financial commitment from the community, aside from providing safe spaces for youth to feel welcomed, valued and supported. Indeed, many of the suggestions offered by the youth simply require the community to listen to more young people, support them, and most importantly, involve them in the community conversations. Part of this will require a change in the current adult-­ centric planning, while the other part will involve changing people’s negative, ignorant or conflicting attitudes about mental health and realizing the significant value of young people contributing to and belonging to their community.

WE ARE Youth Project The author and two colleagues lead the fourth research project in the community. While the research projects reviewed thus far all involved various agencies and councils in the community, the coordinators for the WE ARE Youth research project are not currently affiliated with any of the agencies or councils in the community; however, the author does reside in the community. The impetus for this project came from the voices of youth who expressed in person and through various social networking sites that the community was not doing anything to prevent more suicides from happening (Ireland 2016). As with any academically driven research, a proposed plan and proper ethics approval was needed to begin any work with the youth; thus, the project could not be launched when these concerns from youth in the community arose initially. However, the process of proposing the project and receiving ethics approval did begin at the time of the initial suicide crisis in May 2016. Given the obvious need to better understand young people’s experiences from their perspectives and to involve them in the conversations about youth mental health and suicide, the research coordinators for the project proposed using participatory action research methods to direct the entire project. This method was chosen to ensure that young people would be the focus of the project and to hopefully engage and empower them to better understand and act upon the mental


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health challenges that they were seeing among their peers and perhaps experiencing themselves (Armstrong and Manion 2015; Schneider 2010). Final ethics approval to begin recruitment of youth in the community was granted in mid-September 2016. A local college campus kindly offered for our group to use classroom space for our weekly meetings over the course of three months. Unlike the other community research projects, where there was no youth involvement or the youth involvement began after the research objectives and methods were already decided, this research was fully committed to youth being involved in and guiding the process at every stage. The first step was to connect with some young people who might be interested in committing their time to the project. By January 2017, six youth from three different schools in the community agreed to participate in the project. At the first meeting in the beginning of February, the youth discussed whether or not it was important to recruit additional young people from the community to help with the project. Everyone agreed that more youth from different backgrounds and schools would help develop a stronger team. As a result, three additional youth agreed to join the project and started attending the meetings in the following weeks. Over the months of February, March and April, the lead coordinator and two senior undergraduate students held weekly sessions with the youth. Following the existing literature on participatory action research and mental health, the first couple of meetings focused on getting to know one another, building a rapport, and exploring different aspects of the youths’ lives and experiences that they expressed were important for understanding mental health and suicide risk among their peers. As anticipated, after the first couple of meetings a few of the youth no longer had the time to invest or were no longer interested in continuing with the project. Given the competing demands in young people’s lives, including work, family, school and peers, taking on another responsibility may not have been in the best interests of some of the youth. Beyond these demands, a couple of the youth also expressed that they did not feel they were capable of continuing with the project because of the sensitive subjects we were going to be discussing, including mental health and suicide.

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At the third meeting, a social worker from one of the local school boards came to speak with the youth about strategies for safely and effectively helping a friend in crisis. This session was held to ensure that the youth were given the opportunity to talk to a professional about how they might deal with peers who are struggling once they actually started collecting data from their peers. Moreover, the youth were quite vocal in the first two meetings about schools creating challenging and stressful situations for young people, and so it was suitable to have school involvement in the early phases of the project to help build an institutional and personal connection, even if the youth did not end up focusing their research on schools. After these introductory meetings, the research team meetings involved the lead coordinator, two research assistants and five youth advisors. Three of the advisors came from one of the public high schools in the community: two of them were still attending the school, while the other had recently left the school before graduating. The two other advisors came from a Catholic high school, with one of them still attending school and the other no longer attending. The next couple of meetings involved brainstorming and discussing ways of knowing with the youth advisors. The initial process of exploring what the youth wanted to know about mental health and suicide among their peers required multiple brain-storming sessions. The key areas that they identified as being important in young people’s lives included the following: • • • • • • • • • •

Family School Work Peers Bullying and cyberbullying Social media and online experiences Childhood experiences of trauma Substance use Mental health, suicide and self-harm Community response to the crisis and youth mental health


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After mapping out the different aspects of youths’ lives they thought were important to understand to better address mental health and suicide in their community, the lead coordinator ran a session on ways of knowing and different methods of collecting information. After these sessions, it was clear that the youth were divided on how best to gather information from their peers and what they might want to do with the information once it was collected. The youth collectively expressed that they did not feel comfortable using observational methods and they thought their peers would not be interested in focus groups. They also expressed that they wanted to do something different than the photovoice project that was already being undertaken by another group in the community. Eventually, it was collectively decided by the youth that they would create both an interview schedule and a survey. The original intention behind selecting two different methods was to allow youth advisors to collect information from their peers using whatever method their peers felt most comfortable with participating. Over the course of two sessions, the youth worked in small groups to come up with different questions that addressed each of the key areas that they were interested in exploring. They worked through various issues with open- and closed-ended questions and learned to identify what kinds of questions would be more suitable for an interview versus a survey. Each group had a chance to contribute to the compilation and creation of both the survey questions and the interview questions. The lead coordinator in consultation with the two research assistants reviewed the youth-created questions, making sure to edit questions for clarity and format. By the next meeting, all of the questions were ordered and written in traditional survey and interview schedule formats for the youth to have a final review. The lead coordinator then discussed the importance of using reliable and validated measures for surveys so that the youth understood the importance of being able to accurately measure what they actually intended to measure with the questions they were asking. It was also discussed why it might also be important to include measures that already exist from other studies, so that they would have some way to compare their results with other research. At this point, some additional questions were added to the survey with the approval of the youth in each of the key

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areas to ensure that appropriate and comparable measures were being used for the survey. Each of the three project coordinators reviewed the final version of the survey after it was entered into our institutional online survey software called Qualtrics. This survey software provides optimal protections for survey participants and their responses, while also having the added benefits of being completely digitized. Data collection can be collected either with or without an Internet connection. With the help of the lead coordinator and one of the research assistants, each of the youth advisors had the software and the password-protected survey loaded onto their personal devices. When a youth’s device was not compatible, they were loaned an iPad to collect data. The survey was piloted with each of the youth advisors to determine if the length would deter others from completing the survey and to catch any final errors or glitches with the survey. Some minor adjustments to questions were made, and the survey was finalized for data collection outside of the research team. For the interview format of data collection, an interview schedule was created to parallel the themes covered in the survey. Again, using the questions derived from the youth, a series of open-ended questions and probes were put into order and formatted for wording and clarity. After the youth reviewed the interview schedule, each of the project coordinators reviewed the interview schedule and provided valuable inputs based on their expertise in the areas covered and their knowledge and experience with interviewing. Once the interview schedule was finalized, there was a separate meeting held to go over interviewing strategies and what to do in different types of scenarios, especially dangerous or uncertain situations. Over the summer of 2017, each youth advisor was asked to go out into the community and find five other youth with whom they could practice conducting the survey and interview. While not all of the youth actually completed this part, there were still a few who did manage to get responses for the survey, and one youth advisor conducted multiple interviews. Some of the youth did not feel comfortable with the process of sitting down and interviewing people, while others simply could not find the time to complete any surveys or interviews because of other life obligations, including work, school, peers and family.


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In the middle of the summer, the lead coordinator and one of research assistants met with the youth advisors to discuss their future plans or aspirations for the project. The youth discussed that they wanted to do something more and that they would like to find alternate ways of recruiting and meeting with peers in the community. They devised various ideas and one suggestion was to arrange a meeting to discuss recruitment with the administrators of the Youth Suicide Prevention page on Facebook. When the youth indicated that they wanted to continue with the project and recruit more youth to participate in the survey and interview, the lead coordinator set up a meeting with the Facebook page administrators and started the process of renewing the ethics approval to continue with the project and revise the recruitment strategies. In September 2017, four of the youth advisors, one of the research assistants and an adult community member represented the WE ARE Youth project at the World Suicide Prevention Day event for the community. Though only two potential youth research participants were recruited at this event, it served as an opportunity for the youth to meet with others who are also passionate about suicide prevention. The event also provided a more public forum for local agencies, service providers and school representatives to ask questions about the project and how to get involved. Although the findings of the youth project are yet to be determined, as data is still being collected, there is still plenty of knowledge to be gained from the process of engaging with the youth advisors as members of a research team over the past year. These young people have committed themselves to this project over the course of the last year, which is commendable given the competing demands that they face in their everyday lives. They are prime examples of what youth can contribute both individually and collectively when they are given the opportunity to actively participate as equal members in a small group endeavor within their community. While the project has progressed through various phases, it was not without many challenges for the lead coordinator. As is often the case with participatory research, relational dynamics and learning to deal with the complexity of multiple young people’s lives were especially challenging (Askins and Pain 2011). One of the more significant challenges was

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learning to adapt to the strengths and varying contributions of each of the youth advisors. Some of the youth are quite outgoing and can easily communicate their ideas in meetings, while some of the others are timid and agreeable. Balancing the voices of different youth and encouraging the contributions of those who are less inclined to offer their feedback in the group setting was initially challenging. However, as relationships with each of the youth were built, the lead coordinator and the two research assistants tried their best to find ways of hearing the voices of all the youth. Interestingly, some of the more outgoing youth were also the ones who had the most difficulty with recruitment and collecting data. One youth felt the experience was too overwhelming and anxiety producing to continue with data collection but continued to attend meetings and was involved in the project in other supportive ways. Another one of the more outgoing youth did not explicitly express any discomfort, yet they never actually met with anyone to conduct any interviews. Surprisingly, one of the quietest youth advisors seemed to be the most motivated and committed to recruitment and data collection. Although these examples are simply anecdotal impressions of some of the youth advisors involved in the project, it has forced the lead coordinator to question assumptions about what types of youth might be the most committed to research over a lengthy period of time. Moreover, it has helped the lead coordinator realize that although not all youth will enjoy every aspect of the research process, there are other ways to involve the youth in the project that may still give them a sense of belonging, contribution and hopefully empowerment. In addition to the differences in communication, there was an obvious inequity with respect to the amount of data being collected by each of the youth and levels of commitment to the project. As a boss or a parent, this is usually addressed with disapproval or a clear set of expectations being conveyed. However, as lead project coordinator for community research that is attempting to empower youth through active participation, it was difficult to know what expectations were appropriate and to whom they should apply. With such a diverse range of experiences among the youth advisors, it was challenging to know who was capable of certain tasks and who was not. Moreover, if a particular youth indicated that he/she could not handle doing something, how does one make it so that the youth is


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still actively engaged, but not causing further difficulties for the young person’s mental health? After all, the project is focused on mental health, and so it would be rather contradictory to compromise one’s mental health while being involved in the project. Relational dynamics in this type of research are tricky to manage. On the one hand, it is ideal if the youth all contribute equally and are active participants in the conversations and work demands. On the other hand, there are times when the lead coordinator and two research assistants have taken on a significant portion of the work to ensure that the project objectives are still moving toward the desired goal.

Learning from One Community’s Tragedies As this chapter has illustrated, the community responses to young people’s experiences with mental health and suicide come from a variety of different sources. Some of the research endeavors in the community, though well-intentioned, do not fully capture the complex lives of young people and only one of the research projects attempts to actively engage youth in the entire research process. The Youth Voice Report, conducted by the social planning council, derived several themes from Facebook posts on a locally run suicide prevention page, yet failed to consider the limits of using these posts. Moreover, youth were not actively involved in the creation of this report, even though its central focus was on the youth. The Access to Mental Health Services did not necessarily focus on youth in particular, though the findings indicated that there is a clear shortage of consistent, appropriate and accessible services for young people in the community. The last two research projects discussed explicitly involved young people in the process. The photovoice project was the first known collaborative attempt to better understand the experiences and service needs of youth through research involving youth. Founded on the principles of participatory action research, this photovoice project actively involved youth in the data collection and as research participants. However, it is unclear if the project involved youth in the early planning stages or in the actual formulation of the final display at the local art gallery. Some

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important questions to ask are: whether or not the youth felt the focus questions were important for understanding mental health? Did the final results and conclusions made by the collaborative team accurately convey the general experiences of youth in the community? And perhaps most importantly, does having a display of the photos at a local art gallery make the youth feel as though something is actually being done in the community to help young people? These are questions that can only be answered by the youth. The final research project, though still in progress, attempts to actively engage youth in the research process from the beginning stages to the end. The WE ARE Youth project continues to involve the young people in the process through whatever means each of the youth advisors is capable of at any given time. The process has been slow compared to the other research projects that have been disseminated to the community. However, a clearly defined timeline for the project is yet to be determined by the youth. The lead coordinator intends to continue to support the youth with the research until they are satisfied that they have accomplished their goals. The end goals for the lead coordinator is to provide the youth with some sense that something is being done in the community to help them and their peers, and show them that there are people in the community who want to help them make sense of what is happening in their community with their peers. Actively involving young people in research can be challenging, especially when adult-centric thinking pervades one’s idea of what research should look like and who should be the researchers (Ergler 2017). Far too often, adults believe that they should be the ones making all of the decisions and weighing in on how the community should be functioning. Even in communities that have youth advisory groups, there is still an implicit assumption that the adults will make the final decisions. This pseudo involvement of youth in the community and community decision-­making disempowers young people. Youth need to know that their contributions are valued and will be taken seriously. Otherwise, youth advisory groups serve no meaningful purpose beyond providing pretentious youth engagement. Youth are capable of making responsible and valuable contributions to their communities, if given a chance and with proper guidance. Although


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the process of involving youth may not sit well with many adult stakeholders in the community, there needs to be some vocalization from the rest of the community (young and old) that there is support for youth being actively engaged in the decisions that are affecting their lives.

References Aldridge, J.  2012. The participation of vulnerable children in photographic research. Visual Studies 27: 48–58. Armstrong, L.L., and I.G. Manion. 2015. Meaningful youth engagement as a protective factor for youth suicidal ideation. Journal of Research on Adolescence 25 (1): 20–27. Arnstein, S.R. 1969. A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Planning Association 35 (4): 216–224. Askins, K., and R. Pain. 2011. Contact zones: Participation, materiality and the messiness of interaction. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25 (5): 803–821. CBC News. 2016, June 7. Woodstock, Ont., high school students hold walkout following teen suicides. CBC News. Toronto, CBC/Radio-Canada. Retrieved from Last Accessed Jan 2018. Durkheim, E. 1897/1979. Suicide: A sociological study. New York: Free Press. Ergler, C.R. 2017. Advocating for a more relational and dynamic model of participation for child researchers. Social Inclusion 5 (3): 240–250. Gagnon, A., S.I. Davidson, P.N. Cheifetz, M. Martineau, and G. Beauchamp. 2009. Youth suicide: A psychological autopsy study of completers and controls. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies 4 (1): 13–22. Gibbs, L. 2017. Access to mental health services in Oxford County: Opportunities for system improvement for children, youth and families. Woodstock: Oxford County Public Health. Hart, R. 1997. Children’s participation: The theory and practice of involving young citizens in community development and environmental care. New  York: Earthscan. Ireland, N. 2016, June 7. What needs to happen next to deal with Woodstock, Ont., suicide crisis? CBC News, Toronto, CBC/Radio-Canada. Retrieved from Last Accessed Jan 2018.

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Loebach, J. E. 2013. Children’s neighbourhood geographies: Examining children’s perception and use of their neighbourhood environments for healthy activity. Electronic thesis and dissertation repository. Western University. Nock, M.K., J.  Green, I.  Hwang, K.A.  McLaughlin, N.A.  Sampson, A.M.  Zaslavsky, and R.C.  Kessler. 2013. Prevalence, correlates, and treatment of lifetime suicidal behavior among adolescents: Results from the national comorbidity survey replication adolescent supplement. JAMA Psychiatry 70 (3): 300–310. OECYC. 2016. Important Invitation: Follow-up meeting for parents, caregivers, service providers and educators regarding suicide [Letter]. Woodstock: OxfordElgin Child & Youth Centre. Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health. 2018. Levels of youth engagement (Hart’s ladder). Retrieved January 31, 2018, from http:// Last Accessed Jan 2018. Rieti, J.  2016, June 7. Woodstock, Ont., suicide crisis driven by depression, disconnection, students say. CBC News. Toronto, CBC/Radio-Canada. Retrieved from Last Accessed Jan 2018. Schneider, B. 2010. Hearing (our) voices: Participatory research in mental health. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. SPCO. 2016. Youth voice report: Mental health and suicide. Woodstock, Social Planning Council of Oxford. Retrieved from Last Accessed Dec 2017. SPOLC. 2017. Spaces to go & people who know: Understanding the mental health and wellbeing needs of children, youth and families in Woodstock [Photovoice]. Woodstock Art Gallery, Woodstock ON, Suicide Prevention Oxford Leadership Coalition. Statistics Canada. 2012. Table 102-0561 – Leading causes of death, total population, by age group and sex, Canada, annual. ———. 2017. 2016 Census Catalogue Number 98-400-X2016003. Ottawa, ON. Strapagiel, L. 2016, June 6. This Ontario community is facing a suicide crisis and young people say they’re not being heard. BuzzFeed News. Canada. Retrieved from irRwR6PpO. Last Accessed Feb 2018.


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The Canadian Press. 2016, June 6. ‘Suicide contagion’ feared in Woodstock, Ont., after string of youth suicides. Global News. Toronto, Shaw Communications. Retrieved from Last Accessed Jan 2018. White, J. 2014. Expanding and democratizing the agenda for preventing youth suicide: Youth participation, cultural responsiveness, and social transformation. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health 33 (1): 95–107.

Commentary on Chapter 9 ‘Lives Lost, Voices Unheard’ Sally McNamee

In this commentary, I aim to reflect on the findings so well-described by Bruno in her chapter and to contextualize the issue of youth suicide in relation to the work of child advocates in Canada and the children’s commissioner in England. Bruno’s work clearly demonstrates the lack of youth involvement in attempts to address the tragic loss of lives in the local context, which does not truly serve the young people in that community; and that adult-centric approaches are disempowering for youth people. Given that the Child Advocates and Commissioners are charged with representing the voices of (particularly vulnerable) children and young people, it will be illuminating to see exactly what these offices are doing in respect to youth suicide. It has been frequently noted that participatory work with children and young people requires a commitment to meaningful participation rather than mere tokenism (e.g. Hart 1992). In order to make children’s participation meaningful, Sinclair (2004) contends that attitudinal barriers on S. McNamee (*) Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



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the part of both young people and adults need to be addressed (see also Lansdown 2011). Using participatory research tools, Hart argues that ‘the participants not only transform some conditions related to a practical problem in their lives, but they also educate themselves about their general situation, thereby empowering themselves more generally for future action’ (Hart 1992: 16). This is what Bruno’s research does and as such her chapter offers a long overdue perspective on the issue of youth suicide in a particular local context. In the Canadian context, there has as yet been no appointment of a Federal Child Ombudsman or Children’s commissioner. Instead, a provincial approach is taken with child advocate offices in ten Canadian provinces. While the advocates share a common mandate to support the rights of children and to promote youth voice, in effect each office works independently (Frankel et  al. 2016; Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates, This means that the approach to advocating for children and young people is at best piecemeal and is largely dependent on the individual Provincial Advocate’s focus. In England, however, the appointment of the Children’s Commissioner in 2004 ensures that one office has oversight of the charge to represent the voices of children and youth. However, in a previous paper, it was argued that the Advocate’s offices in Canada need to shift their understandings of childhood closer to those of the ‘new’ social study of childhood in order to really move beyond lip service or rhetoric. Participation as a concept for pre-new paradigm understandings of the child is restricted. It offers participation as nothing more than lip service or rhetoric to a protection and provision model that is keen to try and do what’s best for the child. It offers a defined hierarchy in which participation sits firmly as a final factor for consideration once protection and provision have been achieved. However, recognizing children’s agency inverts this model completely, […]. For participation can now not be seen as a subsequent follow on from protection and provision, rather participation becomes the only foundation on which effective protection and provision can be achieved. It is only by engaging with the child that we can overcome adult assumptions about children’s best interests and start to engage with children on a level that really starts to ask them what is in their best interests and offers models through which this can be converted into practice. (Frankel et al. 2015: 43–44)

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Having prefaced this commentary in terms of youth voice, in the following pages, I aim to explore approaches to youth suicide through an examination of the publications and web pages put out by the Ontario Child Advocate and the English Children’s Commissioner. This exploration allows consideration of not simply the approaches to the particular issue of youth suicide, but to an understanding of the conceptualizations of childhood employed—are they focused on protection and provision, or is child and youth participation integrated in their work? Given that Bruno’s chapter so eloquently speaks to the need for youth voices in issues that concern them, and knowing that the community organizations who responded to the issue in that small town generally were adult centric, what does the approach look like in the wider (Provincial or Country level) context? In Canada, it is the phenomenon of youth suicide in Aboriginal communities or on First Nation Reserves that has garnered most news coverage and government attention, given that suicide and self-harm is the leading cause of death for First Nations youth and adults, particularly male youth (126 per 100,000 for Indigenous young males vs. 24 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous young males ( resource/indigenous-suicide-prevention/). The youth suicide ‘cluster’ which occurred in the small town which Bruno discusses also happens among First Nations communities. For example, the Attawapiskat indigenous community in Northern Ontario suffered a suicide crisis in 2016 when community leaders declared a state of emergency. There had been more than a dozen suicide attempts in a single night and more than 100 in the previous seven months (https:// A year later, little had been done in terms of access to mental health workers. Health Canada reports that they are: Working with national Aboriginal organization on an evidence-based national strategy to address suicide prevention. A key element of the strategy is to support community-based solutions to youth suicide, which is rooted in the evidence regarding what is most likely to be effective in preventing Aboriginal youth suicide. ( first-nations-inuit-health/health-promotion/suicide-prevention.html)


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As Bruno discusses, however, community-based approaches need to involve young people themselves. The appointment of mental health workers is not in and of itself sufficient. What has been outstanding, however, is the 1996 ‘Horizons of Hope’ report based on the work of First Nations young people, and which provided 38 recommendations addressing issues of youth suicide. This led to the Ontario Advocate’s office working with young people to form the ‘Feathers of Hope’ forum which created, with young First Nations people, reports and action plans. One of these reports advised that governments and leadership of First Nations communities need to invest in giving young people the skills to support and counsel their peers, and the young people themselves called for training to do this (https://www.provincialadvocate. ). The work to put together the Feathers of Hope report was carried out in 2013. In 2016, as discussed above, youth suicide was still inadequately addressed at all levels. There remains little evidence that peer support training is being facilitated. In the English context, it was reported in 2017 that the youth suicide rate was at the highest in 14 years, with the rate being higher for young males than for females ( suicide-children-teen-Prince-William-Prince-Harry-Duchess-CambridgeHeads-together). However, the youth suicide rate in England is one of the lowest in the developed world ( pdf/RC14_eng.pdf ). A report produced in July 2017 noted that there needed to be more support available for young people affected by bereavement from suicide in addition to increased mental health provision in colleges and universities ( research/centreforsuicideprevention/nci/reports/cyp_2017_report.pdf ). There was no discussion of peer training or support in this document, rather, the discussion was framed in terms of service provision. The Children’s Commissioner for England has a mandate which focuses on wellbeing and vulnerability. A search of their website found one publication which mentioned youth suicide dated October 2017, but perusal of the report found only two mentions of the term, one of which was in the ‘contents’ pages. The other mention was related to a brief statement that the research found that young people cite suicide and

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self-harm as strategies for coping. Clearly, there is a lack of attention to the issue of youth suicide in the English context, which is perhaps a result of the comparatively low youth suicide rate in that context. The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF)/Innocenti report card 14 ‘Children in the Developed World’ shows that the country with the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world is New Zealand. Of the 37 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and EU countries analysed, Canada has the sixth highest rate, while the UK has the sixth lowest rate ( ). Like Canada, New Zealand has an indigenous population that this suffers from the effects of colonization and assimilation practices ( The discussion presented here on suicide rates and approaches to the problem from Children’s Advocates and Commissioners reveals that Canada has taken a more directly focused step towards dealing with the problem of youth suicide—at least in First Nations communities. In neither context are the bodies charged with advocating for children and youth who are proactive in addressing youth suicide. In both the Canadian and the English contexts, the mandate for their work is to focus on vulnerable young people. In this discussion of youth suicide, how much more vulnerable do young people need to be before their needs are met? Before their request for peer-peer training is addressed? Bruno’s chapter is groundbreaking in the implementation of research which explicitly focuses on peer training and support. It deserves the attention of a wide audience, and particularly requires the attention of the very offices meant to be facilitating young people’s voice and participation. As far back as 2007 the Final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights ( rep10apr07-e.pdf ) pointed out that Canada is failing in its obligations under the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as exemplified by the title of the report ‘Children: The Silenced Citizens’. It is disappointing to report that still, in practice and in policy, little has changed. This commentary argues that in order to initiate meaningful change, children’s voices and perspectives need to be taken seriously. It is possible to


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divest ourselves of our adult-centric approach to engagement and participation of children and young people. All that is required is our commitment.

References Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates. Index.asp?langid=1. Last Accessed 27 Mar 2018. Davis, M. 2017. Children committing suicide hits 14-year high. https://www. Last Accessed 3 April 2018. Frankel, S., S.  McNamee, and A.  Pomfret. 2015. Approaches to promoting ideas about children’s rights and participation: Can the education of undergraduate students contribute to raising the visibility of the child in relation to child participation in Canada? Canadian Journal of Children’s Rights 2 (1): 26–47. Frankel, S., S. McNamee, A. Pomfret, and R. Birnbaum. 2016. ‘Life, Survival and Development’ for Canadian Bar Association’s – Children’s Rights Toolkit, Ottawa, Canada. Government of Canada. Suicide prevention. Last Accessed 28 Mar 2018. Hart, R.A. 1992. Participation: From tokenism to citizenship Innocenti Essays No. 4 (UNICEF). pdf. Last Accessed June 2015. Illmer, A. 2017. What’s behind New Zealand’s shocking youth suicide rate? Last Accessed 27 Mar 2018. Indigenous Suicide Prevention, Centre for Suicide Prevention. https://www. Last Accessed 27 Mar 2018. Lansdown, G. 2011. Every child’s right to be heard: A resource guide on the UN Committee on the right of the child General Comment No. 12 Save The Children Fund, UNICEF. Office of the Ontario Child Advocate Together we are … Feathers of hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan. initiatives/feathers-of-hope/foh-report.pdf. Last Accessed 15 Apr 2018.

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Russel, A. 2017. 1 year after suicide crisis, Attawapiskat still lacking mental health resources. Last Accessed 15 April 2018. Sinclair, R. 2004. Participation in practice: Making it meaningful, effective and sustainable. Children and Society 18: 106–118. Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. 2007. Children: The silenced citizens: Effective implementation of Canada’s international obligations with respect to the rights of children. Final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. April, Committee/391/huma/rep/rep10apr07-e.pdf. Last Accessed 15 Apr 2018. The University of Manchester. 2017. Suicide by children and young people. July, prevention/nci/reports/cyp_2017_report.pdf. Last Accessed 16 Apr 2018. UNICEF Office of Research  – Innocenti. 2017. UNICEF Report Card 14 ‘Building the future: Children and sustainable development goals in rich countries’ Last Accessed 30 Mar 2017.

10 Britain, Brexit and Belonging and Concluding Thoughts on Contextualising Childhoods Sally McNamee and Sam Frankel

Introduction This chapter will attempt to draw together the themes present throughout the book and to provide some concluding comments. Firstly, though, we would like to discuss some recent research with children which focused on questions of belonging in relation to children’s thoughts on Brexit. The research which provided the data for Chap. 6 by Frankel also incorporated a set of questions explicitly relevant to the English school children—questions about Brexit. Did children understand the issues? How S. McNamee (*) Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] S. Frankel EquippingKids, Church Stretton, Shropshire, UK Childhood and Social Institutions Program at King’s University College, Western University, London, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,



S. McNamee and S. Frankel

did they feel about it? Did their feelings about Brexit map on to their feelings about belonging? Paired interviews were carried out with more than 20 children in two schools in England. All of the English children, notably ten- and 11-year-olds from very mixed socio-economic backgrounds, had heard of Brexit, but most of them said at first that they didn’t really understand what it was about: they had heard about it on the TV, or heard parents talking about it. However, as they continued to discuss the issue it became clear that they were able to consider many of the issues and provide some thoughtful responses. Drawing on the in-­ depth interviews, then, this commentary explores children’s views on Britain, Brexit and Belonging. There were two important themes which came out of the interviews: children talked about the economic implications of the Leave vote and they discussed issues around immigration, thereby encapsulating the predominant themes presented in the media and in general conversation. Belonging as a concept was only obliquely touched on in these discussions, but it is present throughout as a background to their views. This research responds to the argument of Healey and Richardson (2016) who, reflecting on issues of belonging in the context of European citizenship, argue that “As yet, there are few empirical studies that examine the ways in which children might reflect on their own perceptions of belonging in wider social or civic groupings” (p. 442). Their own study took one approach to this, and here we present another.

Immigration and Economy It has been noted that the vote to leave the EU was motivated in large part by anti-immigration sentiments on the ‘leave’ side, and economic fears on the ‘remain’ side (Hobolt 2016). In that context, the following excerpt is interesting to consider, as responses to our questions about Brexit reflect these twin concerns. In this first excerpt, the two boys had begun to talk about racism as a feature of the discussions around Brexit. Asked to elaborate, this conversation ensued thus: M1:

I don’t think we should leave because we need to take our fair share of immigrants because otherwise other countries

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M2: Interviewer: M1: M2:


will be over-run and we’ll be sitting back in our glory which is kind of unfair. Also, people say it’s bad that we give all this money to the EU and we don’t get all of it back, but also we’re helping other countries who aren’t in such a good state as we are and I think that’s good […] because people think that people coming from other countries ‘they’re not British, they shouldn’t be allowed in’, they believe it’s their country. Yeah, and it’s their own to keep forever and they don’t really want anybody else coming in. And what’s not good about that view? Um. Well, it’s completely wrong. Because everybody is equal, there’s no ‘better’ or more powerful. We’re all pretty much exactly the same. They deserve to be treated the same (School 2, Interview 3).

In another interview, the children also touched on the fears of immigration which dominated the public and media discussion: M:

 eople have voted out of the EU just for all these, like, Syrians that P are coming in and they need a home and I mean I know like all the air forces and everything are doing all they can, but to be honest it’s not their fault it’s not our fault—well it’s a bit of our fault, it’s the government’s fault really. (School 1, Interview 3)

However, this child went on to try and place the immigration issue into a wider international context that, despite the blurring of facts, demonstrates a desire not only to engage in the discussion, but also reflects many of the wider themes related to immigration that influenced the Brexit vote—concerns about England being ‘full’. M: People are fighting to get in to save their own lives, I mean, people have children here. It’s unfair for other people and children from like Syria refugee camps to be surrounded and they can’t go into other countries, I mean like, say for India they don’t have … they have the least amount of people I think it is, or well countries that have the least amount of people, why can’t they send them there? I mean, it’s unfair. I mean, I’m not saying it’s unfair for us because loads of people are coming in, but once England


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has had its limit I mean, there are loads of other countries that they could go in. that they can speak the same language. And they don’t even have to learn English.

Economic issues concerned many of the ‘Remain’ voters, as mentioned above, and here we have children drawing on those narratives of keeping the status quo. One child expressed that the vote to leave could even be harmful: Interviewer: W  hen I said do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, you said leaving is a bad thing. So, why is it? M2: I’m not really sure, I think it’s … I don’t know. Interviewer: That’s ok. It just doesn’t seem quite right to you? M2: It doesn’t seem … it seemed fine before, but then we’ve dropped so much money and lost – did we drop down from 4th to 6th richest country overnight, or something? Which wasn’t too good! (School 2, Interview 3)

In the following extract, the children not only reflect on the wider economic consequences, but also the local implications. These children live in an area of the country where much of the work was related to agriculture and food processing, and while it might be seen that the children are merely parroting the words of their parents, what is happening here is that they are reflecting on the contexts of their daily lives and presenting to the interviewer their interpretations. Interviewer: W  hat do you think about leaving the EU? Do you have a view on it? M: A bit. Interviewer: What’s your view? M:    Hasn’t the pound dropped? Interviewer: It has, yeah. So is that a good thing or a bad thing? M: If you’re being paid by the people who paid for the corn in England, it’s a bad thing. But if you get paid from people abroad it’s kind of a good thing because they pay you a bit more pounds for their EURO and things. I think. I’m not sure.

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S o in general do you think it’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing? M: No Interviewer: A bad thing? M: Yeah (School 2, Interview 5)

Children’s views were not only about immigration and the economy, however. For some children, it seemed that they felt a responsibility to remain, demonstrating in our view a thoughtful approach to responsibility. Many children identified Europe as somewhere that they felt that they belonged: F1:

 eah, I mean I feel I belong with Europe, leaving it would Y be quite a huge change Interviewer: So what makes you feel like you belong to Europe? F1: Well! I’m not really sure really! [pause] I don’t really know why. F2: It’s something … somewhere that we live really. It’s like if you live somewhere and you feel like you belong in that house. We both live in Europe. So we feel like we belong there.

While one child was fine with Brexit as long as it meant that English soccer teams could continue to play in Europe, as we can see from the excerpts from interviews, children’s views are thoughtful and considered. Hence, why aren’t their voices incorporated in decision-making?

Children’s Voices As mentioned, most of the children when asked said that they didn’t know much about Brexit. One interview with two girls was outstanding in their discussion of children’s lack of knowledge about Brexit. As mentioned above, many of the children said that they didn’t know what it was, although some parents had tried to get children involved. Asked if it was important that children know about Brexit, one girl said, “Sort of, because we’re going to grow up. Whatever choices they make we might


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have to live with” (School 2, Interview 1). Her partner pointed out that sometimes children were wiser than adults, and continued, “Leaving the EU they haven’t told us anything. Not a child. […] And we should really know because we could also make our own decisions”. These children explicitly address what the problem is for children—they don’t know about it because no one discusses it with them. The lack of children’s engagement in current affairs is not a reflection of their competence to understand issues or to comment on them. Rather, it reflects adult ideas of what adults think children should know. Our data show that even when children said that they didn’t know much about Brexit, they were still able and keen to express opinions. It has been found elsewhere that 75% of people aged 18–24 years voted Remain “in other words, the strongest sense of European identity was found in the young” (Healy and Richardson 2016: 444). Our research would seem to indicate that even very young children seem to possess a sense of the EU somewhere that we ‘should’ belong: as one child said “it’s everybody’s responsibility to actually just stay in the EU” (M, School 1 Interview 3). In their briefing paper for the post-Brexit Government, several children’s charities noted that children had had no say in the EU referendum, and recommended four points to be taken into account in decision-­ making around the negotiations to leave. One of the recommendations was that Government should commit to ensuring that children’s voices are heard in decisions about leaving the EU—although this essential point was expressed as follows: The Government should consult with experts and organisations representing children and young people about a more effective way to give children a meaningful say in decisions relating to Brexit. It should then establish formal processes for engagement with young people before the Brexit bills begin their passage through Parliament. (National Children’s Bureau, The%20impact%20on%20children_0.pdf )

From our perspective, the ‘experts’ on children are children themselves. More than 20 years after the United Nations Convention on the Rights

  10 Britain, Brexit and Belonging and Concluding… 


of the Child (UNCRC), children’s voices are clearly still reliant on adult facilitation. It is telling that no such engagement has been sought on behalf of the Government (see Coram, February 2017), although the Welsh Government has stated a commitment to asking for children’s views reflecting that country’s commitment to the UNCRC—a laudable move, but one which was hailed by Tories as ‘a desperate tactic’ (http:// If consulting with children is viewed with such scorn by those in power, the need for ­academic literature on children’s voices and the wholehearted commitment of NGOs who work to raise children’s voices remains vital.

Concluding Thoughts This has been the partial aim of this book. It is amazing to us that although the ‘new’ social study of childhood has been vibrant since the early 1990s we still have to provide this sort of critique towards adults who are lacking commitment to childhood. Another aim was to bring together a disparate set of scholars working in very different academic areas and whose work may not necessarily be based in the social study of childhood, in order to explore the varied contexts of childhood and youth and to seek out common themes where they exist. The commentaries on the chapters provide reflections from academics and also from practitioners, and the hope is that they provide ways of seeing academic theory in practice. The collection of chapters and commentaries that are presented in this text has focused on many common themes, including voice, agency and belonging. Voice and agency have long been central to the ‘new’ social study of childhood’s analysis of children’s experiences and everyday lives. The importance of building off voice in order to improve outcomes can be seen as a theme that sit at the heart of many of the chapters. They are also explored in the context of policy in Chap. 3 to its value in exploring communities in Chap. 9. In Ryan’s response to Chap. 3 we hear about silences rather than voice, but these silences nicely broaden our ability to recognise and engage with the structural frameworks that underpin children’s place in education as Chap. 3 and the commentary on it detail that despite progress, there have been a variety of steps taken that seem to


S. McNamee and S. Frankel

reflect other ways that adults are able to instil a further level of what might be called silent control, indeed a tightening of surveillance. Voice was also a major theme in the responses as we looked to engage with a number of practice-based assessments. What the responses showed was the place of children’s voices in relation to, for example, inclusivity (Chap. 4, Commentary 1), to the experience of children in restaurants (Chap. 5 Commentary), through to children in school (commentary on Chap. 6), to children seeking to have some say in their medical treatment (Chap. 8 commentary). All these illustrations (and others including the introduction to this concluding chapter) provide significant and telling examples of the extent to which, institutions continue to limit how children’s voices come to be heard. Thus, part of the challenge here is—can a greater awareness of ‘contextualised childhoods’ offer a basis on which these settings can explore change? It is through a re-imagining of the long-held approach to practice that protection and provision leads to effective participation that can offer a basis for this change. Through recognising children’s potential to participate we, as adults, can further our understanding of what their needs are and how we might be able to support them to manage and avoid potential risks (see Frankel 2018). Questions of generation and generagency are providing further depth to the analysis of childhood. The generational approach, drawing on Feminist analysis, allows us to see children’s structural positioning in society as the result of generation, or the adult domination of society. What is useful in this approach is that it does not separate the two categories child and adult, but sees them as relational. The generational approach looks at relations between children and adults in any social setting, enabling us to see the way in which childhood is constructed. (McNamee 2016: 36)

Leonard usefully added to this analysis the concept of intra and inter-­ generagency, and which Bacon draws on in her chapter, which allows us to see not only the ways in which we can consider power imbalances between adults and children, but also between children themselves. In addition, ‘newer’ theories of family are beginning to appear within childhood studies in terms of Morgan’s (2011) on family practices and the work of Finch

  10 Britain, Brexit and Belonging and Concluding… 


(2007) and others on display. This analysis is nicely presented in the chapter by Frankel (Chap. 6) and in Walsh’s response to Chap. 4. The ways in which children ‘display’ family membership shines through many of the examples in this book, but can be seen also in the Brexit discussion, above. In their conversations about Brexit, children are drawing on their familial context and representing it in interviews, thus revealing not only a display of family, but also the competence to switch between contexts— home, school and the interview situation. In terms of scale, and reflecting the importance of employing a geographic perspective (McNamee 2016), we have heard from and about childhood and youth in contexts ranging from the individual to the global. As has been pointed out, and extremely relevant to this text, “where some children remain static in the family home well into adulthood and others are in positions of forced migration, a spatial focus provides an appropriate heuristic lens to interrogate […] the limits of their individual agency” (Seymour 2015: 159). Drawing the notion of intra-­ generagency into this spatial analysis can be seen reflected in Larkin’s contribution to this volume where the differences between the young people who see themselves as ‘making a difference’ through global voluntourism stand in stark contrast to the recipients of those mainly well-­ intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful interventions. In addition, this analysis also sheds light on the experiences of children from Old Colony Mennonite communities who migrate to Canada from Mexico (Crocker, Chap. 4 this volume) and who come up against not only cultural differences in being, but in terms of inter-generagency in their communications with adults in school. The contexts of childhood are not only limited to place and space, but it is vital to consider the ways in which structure and agency frame those contexts, and how the child negotiates these. James’ (2010) analogy of weaving cloth, developed by Frankel’s framework (2017), shows us the “empirical value of weaving structure and diversity together is that we can chart how children’s experiences are framed at a macro level by commonalities that make them different from adults before exploring children’s agency and diversity, or childhood as structure. In this way, we can see children as not simply constrained by, but also as enabled by structure” (McNamee 2016: 179). Contextualising childhood, therefore, requires us


S. McNamee and S. Frankel

to consider structure and agency. It also however requires us to consider how, when and why these ‘threads’ may shift into and out of focus at particular times and in particular places in the everyday life of the child.

References Children to be asked views on Brexit by Welsh Government. 2018, 19 March. Last Accessed 16 Apr 2018. Coram. 2017. Brexit: Children’s rights at risk or future opportunity in the global area? At Coram%20commentary%20on%20Brexit%20and%20the%20rights%20 of%20children1702%20(1).pdf. Last Accessed 16 Apr 2018. Finch, J. 2007. Displaying families. Sociology 41 (1): 65–81. Frankel, S. 2017. Negotiating childhoods. London: Palgrave Macmillan. ———. 2018. Giving children a voice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Healy, M., and M. Richardson. 2016. Images and identity: Children constructing a sense of belonging to Europe. European Educational Research Journal 16 (4): 440–454. Hobolt, S.B. 2016. The Brexit vote: A divided nation, a divided continent. Journal of European Public Policy 23 (9): 1259–1277. James, A.L. 2010. Competition or integration? The next step in childhood studies? Childhood: A Journal of Global Childhood Research 17 (4): 485–499. McNamee, S. 2016. The social study of childhood: An introduction. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Morgan, D. 2011. Rethinking family practices. London: Palgrave. National Children’s Bureau. The impact of Brexit on children: Key policy recommendations for the new government. At default/files/uploads/Brexit%20-%20The%20impact%20on%20children_0. pdf. Last Accessed 16 Apr 2018. Seymour, J.  2015. Approaches to children’s spatial agency: Reviewing actors, agents and families. In Children’s spatialities: Embodiment, emotion and agency, ed. A. Hackett, L. Procter, and J. Seymour. London: Palgrave Macmillan.



Aboriginal, see Indigenous Agency children as social agents, 142–145, 147, 154 discussion of, 5 generagency, 124–125, 270 processes of, 3, 7, 145 structure-agency dialogue, 7, 10 Alanen, Leena, 116, 143 Application (of theories), 8 Authority, 11, 13, 19, 27–29, 41, 47, 64, 77, 117–119, 131, 183, 211 Autonomy, 48, 50–52, 57, 103, 142, 149, 199, 203 B

Backdrop, 5, 7, 125 Behaviour, 111, 131, 137, 200, 221

Being-becomings, 50 Belonging, 7, 46, 84, 87, 99–105, 141–166, 169–173, 210, 232, 241, 243, 249, 263–272 Bluebond-Langner, Myra, 136, 199, 200 Brexit, 95, 149, 263–272 Bullying, 18, 160, 163, 197, 211, 235, 245 C

Canada, 2, 3, 6, 9, 15–18, 63–70, 76, 82, 91, 150, 191, 193, 196–199, 204–207, 209–211, 213, 231, 232, 255–257, 259, 271 Capability spaces, 4 Career (vocational experiences), 93

© The Author(s) 2019 S. Frankel, S. McNamee (eds.), Contextualizing Childhoods,


274 Index

Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada, 64 Childhood, 1–32, 39, 40, 44, 50, 51, 55–57, 64, 67, 74, 110–114, 116–118, 124, 125, 129–140, 142–144, 146, 166, 169, 170, 245, 256, 257, 263–272 discussion of childhoods, 1–3, 5–7, 9–32, 39, 40, 44, 50, 55, 56, 64, 67, 74, 110–114, 116–118, 124, 125, 129–140, 143, 144, 245, 256, 257, 269–271 childhood studies, 2, 5, 8, 111, 116, 142, 143, 146, 169, 170, 270 contextualised childhoods, 2–5, 7, 8, 10, 166, 263–272 sociology of childhood, 51, 57 Children’s advocates/commissioners, 9, 255–259 Choice, 5, 21, 23, 24, 45, 48, 49, 57, 63, 84, 117, 120, 122, 137–139, 149, 184, 221–226, 228, 267 Church (faith), 76 Puritan, 111 Citizenship, 19, 24, 30, 31, 65, 69, 178, 264 global, 8, 177–189, 191–196 Clothing, 81, 83, 84 Colonisation, 4, 22, 183, 259 Communication, 9, 19, 22, 27–31, 84, 85, 96, 102, 200, 203, 205, 219–229, 249, 271 Community, 6, 9, 16–19, 44, 46, 47, 67, 74–76, 78, 81,

83–85, 91–95, 97, 130, 137, 150, 178, 180, 182–184, 188, 189, 198, 204, 206–210, 212, 213, 231–252, 255, 257–259, 269, 271 Competence, 5, 9, 112, 203, 268, 271 Comprehensive schooling, 42, 44, 45, 51, 56, 67, 110 Contexts, 1, 3–10, 22, 40, 48–52, 57, 58, 67, 74, 77, 85–87, 92, 96, 97, 100, 101, 107–125, 133, 136, 142–148, 150, 153, 154, 158, 160–165, 170, 172, 178–182, 184, 186, 191, 195, 197–214, 220–229, 240, 255–259, 264–266, 269, 271 Control, 6, 11, 13, 15, 25–27, 30, 49, 52, 58, 81, 111, 118, 123, 124, 130–133, 137, 139, 223–228, 237, 270 Corporal punishment, 65, 67 Culture, 3, 6, 64, 65, 74–76, 81–83, 87, 91–97, 104, 108, 111, 137, 165, 172–173, 185, 188, 199, 204, 205, 207, 208, 210, 211, 213, 242 Curriculum, 45, 46, 69, 78, 79, 81, 82, 84, 211 D

Death, 9, 197–214, 220–229, 231, 257 Decision makers, 16, 18, 19


Dependency, 66, 109, 112, 113, 203, 242 Development, 8, 9, 12, 14, 20, 40, 41, 44–46, 52–55, 57–59, 102, 108, 110, 112, 115, 117, 129, 142, 172, 177, 179, 185, 187, 193–195, 198, 203, 207, 208, 213, 223, 232, 242 Dewey, John, 45 Digital, see Internet; Online, technology Disability, 125, 220, 221 Discipline, 2, 3, 41, 53, 55, 64, 92, 143, 145, 170 Display, 7, 8, 27, 65, 67, 73, 99–105, 122, 142, 143, 147–149, 154–166, 173, 241, 242, 250, 251, 271 Dying, 9, 136, 198–201, 204, 208, 211–213, 219, 220, 223, 228, 229 E

Education higher education, 47, 177–189, 191, 192, 194–196 preschool, 43, 53, 55, 180 primary/elementary, 69, 78, 92, 169 secondary/high school, 92, 96, 97, 115, 234, 245 Emotions, 12, 23, 58, 113, 139, 141, 145, 146, 150, 151, 200, 201, 204, 208, 212, 219–222, 224, 225, 227, 228


England, 6, 9, 69, 107, 109, 219, 220, 264–266 Europe/EU, 3, 12, 18, 21, 75, 76, 91, 93–95, 100, 103, 104, 150, 259, 264–268 Everyday life, 1, 3, 6, 10, 108, 184, 199, 272 F

Facebook, 55, 204, 233, 235–237, 248, 250 Family, 6, 7, 16, 20, 39, 42, 43, 52, 53, 55, 66, 67, 74, 76, 77, 79, 80, 82, 85, 91, 93–97, 99–105, 108–110, 116–119, 137–139, 142, 147–149, 154–158, 183, 197, 199–201, 203–208, 210–213, 219, 222, 223, 225–228, 232, 233, 239, 244, 245, 247, 270, 271 Feelings, 119, 135, 141, 145, 146, 151–154, 159, 161, 163, 166, 172, 185, 202, 204, 205, 220, 221, 225, 226, 236, 242, 264 See also Grief Finch, Janet, 99–101, 103, 142, 147, 148, 270 Foucault, M., 53, 68, 111 Friendship, 94, 160, 164 G

Generational, 65, 67, 116, 119, 120, 124, 125, 143, 270

276 Index

Generationing generagency, 124–125, 270 inter-generational, 110, 116–119, 124, 125 Goffman, E., 123, 147 Grief, 197, 198, 201–204, 207, 208, 211–213, 221, 229 H

Habermas, J., 3, 20, 21 Health care, 15, 43, 54, 198, 212, 233, 237 Home, 2, 27, 64, 74, 75, 78, 80, 83, 84, 92, 97, 102, 105, 110, 118–122, 124, 130, 136–140, 147–150, 153–158, 160, 163–165, 170–172, 200, 202, 203, 206, 212, 237, 265, 271

162, 163, 165, 166, 173, 179, 182–185, 203, 213, 222, 228, 231–237, 256, 271 Institutions camp, 212 hospice, 9, 207, 212, 213, 219–221, 223, 225–228 restaurants, 134–135 women’s shelter, 135 See also Home; School Interaction(s)/interactional setting, 4, 14, 27, 58, 85, 102, 104, 108, 110, 121–123, 143, 151, 152, 155, 157, 160, 162–165, 172, 187, 225 Internet, 20, 25–26, 204, 212 J

James, Adrian, 4, 5, 142, 271 James, Allison, 111, 112, 143, 144, 146, 149, 164


Identities, 6, 75, 77, 78, 82, 84, 86, 87, 94, 108, 115, 122, 123, 125, 146, 148, 153, 162, 164, 182, 184, 188, 203, 208, 209, 268 Immigration, 91, 264–267 Indigenous, 9, 17, 66, 67, 94, 198, 206–209, 213, 257, 259 See also Aboriginal Individual/individualisation, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12–14, 22–25, 32, 39, 40, 43, 45–47, 49–57, 64, 76, 92, 99, 100, 109, 114, 115, 121, 129, 133, 134, 137, 142–153, 158, 160,


Key, Ellen, 39, 41–44, 50, 55 King’s University College, 131, 140 L

Language, 27, 49, 65–67, 74–76, 80–87, 92, 95–97, 103, 104, 131, 179, 180, 185, 198, 200, 206–213, 221, 222, 224, 226, 266 Law, 15, 17, 63–67, 70, 116, 123 Learning, 6, 8, 26, 46, 48, 49, 51, 53, 54, 56–59, 69, 79–81,


85, 86, 104, 162, 170, 172, 173, 177–189, 191, 192, 211, 220–224, 226–229, 248–252 Lifeworld, 19–27, 31 M

Mayall, Berry, 116, 118, 121, 143 Meaning, 2–5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 30, 49, 57, 78, 80, 85, 87, 92, 101, 108, 111, 121, 130, 136, 141–148, 152, 156, 165, 173, 199, 212, 241 Mennonite, 6, 74–81, 86, 87, 91, 93 See also Church (faith) Mexico, 6, 74–82, 86, 87, 92, 93, 271 Migrant, 6, 7, 66, 94, 95, 97, 99–104 Morgan, David, 99, 100, 142, 148, 211, 270 Myrdal, Alva, 41–44 N

Negotiate (children’s interacting with setting), 6, 69, 74, 77, 81, 83, 86, 92, 96, 105, 108, 123, 124, 142, 166, 271 Non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) (charities), 192, 193, 269 Non-verbal, 220, 224, 225 O

Online digital platforms, 52, 55, 57–59


technology, 20, 25–26, 53, 57, 58, 135, 149, 164, 165, 185, 204, 213, 238, 239, 247 use of, 53, 55, 57, 58, 102, 163, 164 Ontario, 1, 6, 17, 22, 31, 73–78, 80–87, 92–95, 140, 209, 211, 212, 232, 257 Outsider, 150, 152, 153, 160, 161, 164, 173 P

Parents, 7, 9, 20, 21, 50, 52–56, 58, 64, 66, 67, 79–82, 84, 85, 93–95, 102, 103, 105, 108–110, 112–120, 122, 124, 125, 133–135, 137–139, 155, 156, 160, 161, 197, 199–203, 206, 207, 210, 233, 236, 249, 264, 266, 267 Participation, 9, 13–26, 28, 31, 64, 66, 67, 69, 130, 133–136, 139, 140, 180–182, 184, 185, 199, 219, 220, 222–225, 227, 228, 249, 255–257, 259, 260, 270 Participatory action research, 9, 243, 244 photovoice, 240, 250 Peers, 84, 97, 160, 162, 228, 236, 242, 244–248, 251, 258, 259 Personal life, 122, 145–147, 149, 165 Phones, 26, 104, 179, 180, 204

278 Index

Play, 7, 23, 25, 28–32, 45, 54, 78, 92, 108–110, 120, 121, 129, 130, 139, 153, 157–159, 161–164, 180, 185, 187, 192, 194, 202, 206, 212, 213, 222, 224, 226, 232, 236, 240, 267 Policy, 6, 12, 14–16, 18, 20, 39, 40, 45, 47–49, 51, 53, 64, 67, 85, 86, 111, 166, 192, 193, 207, 259, 269 Power, 2, 23, 50, 55, 57, 66, 69, 74, 108, 111, 116–119, 121, 124, 130, 131, 133, 137, 138, 140, 178, 184, 185, 187, 208, 210, 238, 269, 270 Practice, 6–10, 12, 14, 18, 20–22, 51, 52, 55, 64, 66, 68, 69, 76, 77, 80, 82, 85, 86, 99–101, 110, 112, 116, 117, 130–133, 137, 143, 144, 166, 169–173, 191, 199, 208, 219, 223–228, 247, 256, 259, 269, 270 Puritan, 68 R

Relationships adult-child, 117 peer relationships, 147, 162, 172 quality of, 148 Religion, 63, 65, 68–70, 76, 204 See also Church (faith) Research, 3, 4, 8–10, 13, 21, 51, 52, 96, 97, 100, 107–110, 115,

117–119, 121, 149, 169, 170, 177, 178, 183, 184, 189, 211, 231–252, 256, 258, 259, 263, 264, 268 Rights, 2, 6, 15, 22, 24, 27, 28, 30, 31, 41–43, 46, 47, 50, 52, 57, 58, 64–67, 77, 84, 92, 97, 111, 116, 117, 131, 135, 136, 138, 146, 152, 158, 173, 186, 199, 200, 211–214, 223, 256, 266 Rousseau, J.-J., 41, 111, 112 S

School change, 84, 162 curriculums/pedagogies, 43, 45, 47, 51, 55, 56, 68, 184, 187, 189, 211 home schooling, 75, 80, 83 inclusion, 53 systems, 31, 43–46, 48, 51, 53, 56, 81, 211 Self, 4, 8, 13, 53, 55, 122, 143–147, 152–154, 158–161, 165, 184, 204, 245 Similarity (sameness), 120, 146, 147, 152, 163, 195 Skype, 101–104 Smart, Carol, 122, 146, 147, 149 Social Order, 41, 45, 116 Socialization, 12, 14, 58, 143–146 Sociology, 51, 57, 108 Structure, 2–5, 12, 14, 17, 22, 42, 44, 48, 51, 63, 65, 78–80, 82, 95, 110, 116, 119, 121,


125, 131, 133, 142–145, 165, 166, 181, 187, 195, 271, 272 Suicide, 9, 10, 206–209, 212, 231–252, 255–259 Surveillance, 6, 58, 270 Sweden, 2, 3, 6, 39–41, 49–51, 53, 55–57, 63, 66, 68, 191–196 Systems Worlds, 3


91–97, 99–104, 107–109, 115, 118, 149, 150, 161, 169, 170, 219, 220, 223, 255, 256, 258, 259, 263–272 United Nations (UN), 193 United States (USA), 21, 64, 79 V


Tanzania, 5, 177, 180 Teachers, 27, 29, 30, 45, 46, 50–54, 56, 58, 65, 69, 74, 79, 81, 85, 87, 92, 96, 114, 115, 131, 132, 138, 160, 161, 171, 195, 197, 211–213 Technology, see Online Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) (Canada), 67 Twins, 7, 13, 107–110, 113–125, 136, 137, 139, 264

Victims, 67 Violence, 67, 110, 183, 184, 197, 204 Virtual worlds, 164, 235, 242 Voices, 2, 8–10, 13, 14, 16–18, 26, 47, 75, 95, 134, 138, 200, 220–223, 226, 231–252, 255–260, 267–270 Volunteer, 8, 136, 177–180, 182–184, 187, 188, 191–196, 211, 237 Vulnerability, 153, 163, 164, 208, 258 W


UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 13 United Kingdom (UK) (Britain), 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 18, 21, 69,

Welfare (child), 20, 39, 42–44, 48, 53, 55, 207 Wellbeing (mental health), 12, 16, 25, 28, 43, 169–172, 206, 208, 225, 234, 242

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