The Family Curriculum: Socialisation Process, Family Network and the Negotiation of Police Identities

By Paes-Machado, Eduardo; de Albuquerque, Carlos Linhares | Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, August 2006 | Go to article overview

The Family Curriculum: Socialisation Process, Family Network and the Negotiation of Police Identities


Paes-Machado, Eduardo, de Albuquerque, Carlos Linhares, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology


This article analyses how recruits' learning is filtered through their personal social network, with the aim of understanding the role of this network in police education. Based on 68 interviews with recruits about their family relationships, this analysis demonstrates that both relatives and the police academy effectively combine to groom candidates for the rank of officer in the Brazilian Military Police. Narratives from recruits about family strategies to prevent recruits from leaving the academy are analysed, demonstrating the importance of how the family both resists and adapts to its offspring's new role. For a considerable portion of lower-middle-class and non-white recruits' families, the police academy offers an important opportunity for one of its members to gain entry into the labour market. According to interviewees, the familial social network operates as a supplementary curriculum and affective background that prevents recruits from losing heart and provides them with psychological comfort in a demanding environment. For recruits, the participation of their relatives in socialisation proves to be essential to neutralising negative aspects of the police identity and learning process. We also conclude that instead of being an outcome of a dyadic or dual relationship--between the recruits and the police academy--the police habitus is also shaped by a third player represented by the recruits' familial social network, which provides recruits with a support role that the police academy and its official curriculum cannot offer.

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Studies on police socialisation have pointed to different and complementary aspects of the process, such as impacts on the occupational culture of the police, the acquisition of enduring skills and tendencies and the ruptures produced in the adult personalities of the recruits through the internalisation of the institutional underworld of police academies. In regard to the third aspect, that of ruptures or breaks in the recruits' personalities, the literature tends to show that such processes are powerful ritual processes of initiation through which the subjects pass from the civilian world to the police world.

The literature tends to give more importance to the academies' internal educational mechanisms and processes than to the relationships between recruits and their wider social networks. As a consequence, the way police recruits' families and friends view the recruits' new values, attitudes and behaviours, and the way these broader social networks feed into the process of socialisation and contribute to the development of police recruits' moral careers, has been largely ignored (Goffman, 1996). (1)

This article discusses police socialisation. It does so by looking at the narratives of recruits regarding the attitudes of their relatives and friends about the changes these rookies experience as a result of their encounter with the police academy (Van Maanen, 1978). The material analysed here demonstrates the initiatory character of the acquisition of the police habitus (Chan, 2001, 2003; Van Maanen, 1978), focused on the role the recruits attribute to their families in the negotiation of their new self-identities (Fielding, 1988).

It is argued here that the socialisation of recruits depends on the flexibility and adaptability of their families to the new and significant role their children are taking on. The family is the intersection point between civilian and police cultures (Niederhoffer & Niederhoffer, 1978). As such it plays the role of a moderating organisation committed to its offspring's career investment and plans for social improvement. Accordingly, the recruits' families and police academy establish a supplementary relationship (Pichon-Riviere, 1988, 1980) that eases the encounter and integration of recruits entering the academy. (2)

Fieldwork

The basic data used in this article were gathered in the context of an ethnographic investigation of changes in Brazilian police education carried out over the course of nearly 3 years. …

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