Studying the Social Worlds of Children: Sociological Readings

By Frances Chaput Waksler | Go to book overview

Chapter 9

Watching People Watching Babies

Mary Constantine Joyce

Commentary

This study was conducted by a college student for a course entitled Sociology of Everyday Life. Joyce provides useful material for considering what interactions between adults and children can be like, shows the kinds of insights within the grasp of a neophyte sociologist, and suggests the difficulties of seeing sociological significance in ‘what everybody knows’.

The major insight of the paper is Joyce’s identification and documentation of what she calls simply The Look—a facial arrangement that she first notes on adults looking at babies. That such a look exists is certainly not an astounding finding, but recognition of it as a sociological phenomenon allows for its investigation in a systematic fashion. When is it used? By whom? With what implications? Joyce provides a preliminary exploration of the first two questions. She does not deal with the implications of The Look; at the conclusion of her article I suggest a few ideas in this regard.

As a study, Joyce’s work is avowedly suggestive rather than definitive. Implicit in it are a variety of lines for further systematic study. It invites the reader’s participation in identifying other instances and in following through on the interactional implications of The Look. It takes the perspective of the adults involved and does not explore the children’s perspective—a perspective deserving of a study in its own right. It documents, however, a feature of the adult world that has important implications for children’s social worlds.

F.C.W.


Watching People Watching Babies

When thinking about a topic for a sociological study, I thought of how I found it interesting to watch the ways people act when they are around small children. I narrowed down my topic to: watching people watching babies.

Used by permission of the author. Editorial revision by F.C.W.

-113-

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