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One in five American children now live in families with incomes below the povertyline, and their prospects are not bright. Low income is statistically linked with a variety of poor outcomes for children, from low birth weight and poor nutrition in infancy to increased chances of academic failure, emotional distress, and unwed childbirth in adolescence. To address these problems it is not enough to know that money makes a difference; we need to understand how. Consequences of Growing Up Poor is an extensive and illuminating examination of the paths through which economic deprivation damages children at all stages of their development.
In Consequences of Growing Up Poor, developmental psychologists, economists, and sociologists revisit a large body of studies to answer specific questions about how low income puts children at risk intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Many of their investigations demonstrate that although income clearly creates disadvantages, it does so selectively and in a wide variety of ways. Low-income preschoolers exhibit poorer cognitive and verbal skills because they are generally exposed to fewer toys, books, and other stimulating experiences in the home. Poor parents also tend to rely on home-based child care, where the quality and amount of attention children receive is inferior to that of professional facilities. In later years, conflict between economically stressed parents increases anxiety and weakens self-esteem in their teenaged children.
Although they share economic hardships, the home lives of poor children are not homogenous. Consequences of Growing Up Poor investigates whether such family conditions as the marital status, education, and involvement of parents mitigate the ill effects of poverty. Consequences of Growing Up Poor also looks at the importance of timing: Does being poor have a different impact on preschoolers, children, and adolescents? When are children most vulnerable to poverty? Some contributors find that poverty in the prenatal or early childhood years appears to be particularly detrimental to cognitive development and physical health. Others offer evidence that lower income has a stronger negative effect during adolescence than in childhood or adulthood.
Based on their findings, the editors and contributors to Consequences of Growing Up Poor recommend more sharply focused child welfare policies targeted to specific eras and conditions of poor children's lives. They also weigh the relative need for income supplements, child care subsidies, and home interventions. Consequences of Growing Up Poor describes the extent and causes of hardships for poor children, defines the interaction between income and family, and offers solutions to improve young lives.
JEANNE BROOKS-GUNN is Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is also director of the Center for Young Children and Families, and co-directs the Adolescent Study Program at Teachers College.
Autobiography, Trauma, and Memory
Drawing on trauma and memory studies and theories of authorship and readership, Contesting Childhood offers commentary on the triumphs, trials, and tribulations that have shaped this genre. Kate Douglas examines the content of the narratives and the limits of their representations, as well as some of the ways in which autobiographies of youth have become politically important and influential. This study enables readers to discover how stories configure childhood within cultural memory and the public sphere.
A Memoir of Childhood in Jamaica
Dead Woman Pickney chronicles life stories of growing up in Jamaica from 1943 to 1965 and contains both personal experience and history, told with stridency and humour. The author’s coming of age parallels the political stages of Jamaica’s moving from the richest Crown colony of Great Britain to an independent nation within the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Taking up the haunting memories of childhood, along with her astonishment at persistent racial marginalization, both locally and globally, the author sets out to construct a narrative that at once explains her own origins in the former slave society of Jamaica and traces the outsider status of Africa and its peoples. The author’s quest to understand the absence of her mother and her mother’s people from her life is at the heart of this narrative. The title, Dead Woman Pickney, is in Jamaican patois, and its meaning unfolds throughout the narrative. It begins with the author’s childhood question of what a mother is, followed by the realization of the vulnerability of a child without its mother’s protection. The term “pickney” was the name for slave children on sugar plantations, and post-emancipation the term was retained for the descendants of enslaved Africans and the children of black women fathered by slavers. The author struggles through her life to discover the identity of her mother in the face of silence from her father’s brutal family.
A wonderful resource for teachers of history, social studies, cultural studies, and literature, this work could be used as a starting point to discuss issues of diasporic identities, colonialism, racism, impact of slavery, and Western imperialism around the world. It is also an engaging read for those interested in memoir and life writing.
Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development
In her landmark book Inner Lives of Deaf Children: Interviews and Analysis, Martha A. Sheridan explored the lifeworlds — the individual and collective elements and realities that are present within the participants’ existential experiences, their relationships, and their truths — of seven deaf and hard of hearing children between the ages of seven and ten. What she discovered were deaf children with strengths, positive experiences, and positive relationships. Sheridan’s new book Deaf Adolescents: Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development returns to these seven individuals, now between the ages of 13 and 17, to see how their lives have progressed since their first interviews. Establishing an identity is said to be a primary and necessary task of adolescence. Deaf Adolescents reveals how these young adults all have begun to deal with tasks and situations that lead them to rely more on themselves and others outside of their families. Many of them talk about the athletic challenges that they face, and how their success depends upon their own efforts. They also think about the future while biding their time, taking “a break” from the furious growth that they are experiencing and also enjoying time spent with other deaf friends. In this volume, Sheridan examines the similarities and differences that these deaf young adults reveal in their views at two developmental points in their lives. Her renewed study has advanced the quest to determine what pathways and spaces can foster productive, healthy, satisfying, actualized deaf lives.
The Role of School and Culture
Lisa Nunn’s study of three public high schools reveals how students’ beliefs about their own success are shaped by their particular school environment and reinforced by curriculum and teaching practices. While American culture broadly defines success as a product of hard work or talent (at school, intelligence is the talent that matters most), Nunn shows that each school refines and adapts this American cultural wisdom in its own distinct way—reflecting the sensibilities and concerns of the people who inhabit each school. While one school fosters the belief that effort is all it takes to succeed, another fosters the belief that hard work will only get you so far because you have to be smart enough to master course concepts. Ultimately, Nunn argues that these school-level adaptations of cultural ideas about success become invisible advantages and disadvantages for students’ college-going futures. Some schools’ definitions of success match seamlessly with elite college admissions’ definition of the ideal college applicant, while others more closely align with the expectations of middle or low-tier institutions of higher education.
With its insights into the transmission of ideas of success from society to school to student, this provocative work should prompt a reevaluation of the culture of secondary education. Only with a thorough understanding of this process will we ever find more consistent means of inculcating success, by any measure.
Depicting Canada’s Children is a critical analysis of the visual representation of Canadian children from the seventeenth century to the present. Recognizing the importance of methodological diversity, these essays discuss understandings of children and childhood derived from depictions across a wide range of media and contexts. But rather than simply examine images in formal settings, the authors take into account the components of the images and the role of image-making in everyday life. The contributors provide a close study of the evolution of the figure of the child and shed light on the defining role children have played in the history of Canada and our assumptions about them. Rather than offer comprehensive historical coverage, this collection is a catalyst for further study through case studies that endorse innovative scholarship. This book will be of interest to scholars in art history, Canadian history, visual culture, Canadian studies, and the history of children.
Playthings and Places in Midcentury America
The postwar American stereotypes of suburban sameness, traditional gender roles, and educational conservatism have masked an alternate self-image tailor-made for the Cold War. The creative child, an idealized future citizen, was the darling of baby boom parents, psychologists, marketers, and designers who saw in the next generation promise that appeared to answer the most pressing worries of the age.
Designing the Creative Child reveals how a postwar cult of childhood creativity developed and continues to this day. Exploring how the idea of children as imaginative and naturally creative was constructed, disseminated, and consumed in the United States after World War II, Amy F. Ogata argues that educational toys, playgrounds, small middle-class houses, new schools, and children’s museums were designed to cultivate imagination in a growing cohort of baby boom children. Enthusiasm for encouraging creativity in children countered Cold War fears of failing competitiveness and the postwar critique of social conformity, making creativity an emblem of national revitalization.
Ogata describes how a historically rooted belief in children’s capacity for independent thinking was transformed from an elite concern of the interwar years to a fully consumable and aspirational ideal that persists today. From building blocks to Gumby, playhouses to Playskool trains, Creative Playthings to the Eames House of Cards, Crayola fingerpaint to children’s museums, material goods and spaces shaped a popular understanding of creativity, and Designing the Creative Child demonstrates how this notion has been woven into the fabric of American culture.
Looking Inside a Juvenile Drug Court
Juvenile drug courts are on the rise in the United States, as a result of a favorable political climate and justice officials' endorsement of the therapeutic jurisprudence movement--the concept of combining therapeutic care with correctional discipline. Discretionary Justice overviews the system, taking readers behind the scenes of the juvenile drug court. Based on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews at a California court, Leslie Paik explores the staff's decision-making practices in assessing the youths' cases, concentrating on the way accountability and noncompliance are assessed.
Children of Women in Prison
Millions of children in the United States have a parent who is incarcerated and a growing number of these nurturers are mothers. Disrupted Childhoods explores the issues that arise from a mother's confinement and provides first-person accounts of the experiences of children with moms behind bars. Jane A. Siegel offers a perspective that recognizes differences over the long course of a family's interaction with the criminal justice system. Presenting an unparalleled view into the children's lives both before and after their mothers are imprisoned, this book reveals the many challenges they face from the moment such a critical caregiver is arrested to the time she returns home from prison. Based on interviews with nearly seventy youngsters and their mothers conducted at different points of their parent's involvement in the process, the rich qualitative data of Disrupted Childhoods vividly reveals the lived experiences of prisoners' children, telling their stories in their own words. Siegel places the mother's incarceration in context with other aspects of the youths' experiences, including their family life and social worlds, and provides a unique opportunity to hear the voices of a group that has been largely silent until now.