Studying the Social Worlds of Children: Sociological Readings

By Frances Chaput Waksler | Go to book overview

Part II

Children in an Adult World

The four papers in Part II bring forward for attention aspects of the adult worlds in which children live and the views about children that are a part of those adult worlds. They all serve as a basis of contrast to the articles in Part III, which describe children in worlds of their own making. The articles in Part II were not written explicitly to describe adult worlds, but all contribute to an understanding of worlds through examples: a humorous account of pets discussing their role as child substitutes; a report of a study of children using marijuana with the guidance of or approval of parents; a description of teachers’ taken-for-granted rules for kindergarten students; and a description of the ways that adults look at children.

None of these papers claims that the adult perspective is the only one or the correct one. By documenting the existence of an adult perspective, however, each serves as a basis for raising important questions about the implications of such a perspective for understanding children and for engaging in interaction with them. The power that adults have over children—not only over their physical beings but also over their ideas, beliefs, world views, and activities—emerges clearly and sometimes starkly.

Throughout Part I of this book sociology has been faulted for assuming an adult perspective rather than seeing that perspective as a suitable topic for sociological study and as an important feature in the social worlds of children. If this criticism is accepted, then the many studies of children that have been conducted from a taken-for-granted adult perspective cannot be used sociologically as studies of children; they can, however, be used as data, as studies of adult perspectives. Having read the papers in Part II, readers should then be able to read the abundant available studies conducted from a taken-for-granted adult perspective as studies not of the world but of the adult world and to benefit from the authors’ insights without being restricted by their limits. Reading studies in this way can provide new insights into the ways that adults construct children’s social worlds, ways that are often incompatible with children’s constructions.

F.C.W.

-71-

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