The construction of childhood is described as the various categories that make up as well as influence and impact ones childhood, such as families, religion, culture, school life, and extra-curricular activities. Etc. Different types of families can influence a child’s upbringing whether they are from a nuclear family, single parent, same-sex, blended, adoptive or fostered or interracial. Childhood can be structured through the different types of communities and societies, that the child belongs to, such as a; religious community, sports community, school life as well as the area that they have grown up in and the people they have grown up around. The case study I will be discussing in this essay is; Giacamo. Furthermore I will be reflecting on how his family, community and society have constructed and affected his childhood.
Family is defined as “A group of people of different generations who have been or are related by marriage and who share kinship ties” (James & James, 2012). Giacamo lives in a nuclear family. A nuclear family otherwise known as a ‘traditional’ family consists of a mother, father and children. Giacamo is a part of several communities; religious, extra-curricular and cultural. Giacamo's family are practising Roman Catholics and attend mass numerous times a month. Furthermore Giacamo's family originally derive from Poland, and moved to England when he was two years old, to keep up in touch with their culture they purchase many Polish delicatessen and items from their local Polish supermarket, and at home speak to Giacamo and his younger brother Andrzej in Polish. The youth in today’s society is currently influenced by different types of media – whether it is the internet, TV or magazines. Giacamo already has his own computer in his room which he plays on every evening. Giacamo’s childhood is created by his family, his community and the society around him.
Corsaro (2015) explained socialisation is as “the process by which children adapt to and internalise society” similarly James & James (2012) state socialisation as “the process whereby children are taught, and learn, to meet the expectations of, and to fit into, a given society” (Corsaro, 2015) (James & James, 2012). There are two models of socialisation; deterministic and constructivist. The deterministic model is when the child is unassertive but has the potential to provide to the upkeep of society. Whereas the constructivist model; the child is an assertive student and manufactures their own society actively. Giacamo demonstrates the constructivist model, as he exhibits leadership qualities in his friendship group.
There are various agents of socialisation; family, schools, peers, mass media and religion. Giacamo’s family is an agent of socialisation as they are encouraging him to work hard so he can achieve more than what they had when they were his age. Giacamo has just started at a grammar school in his local area, which he had to sit exams to gain entry. In addition his parents paid for private tuition to ensure he passed the exams, they did this so he can utilise the various opportunities available in England. Giacamo’s school community is another agent of socialisation, within his school community he will communicate daily with teachers and peers. With his teachers he will understand authority and with his peers he will accept and respect their views and opinions. Within Giacamo’s society, he is swayed by the modern technology that is readily available. As many of his friends are online gaming, Giacamo has joined them in their fantasy games. It tends to be common that if one child has a certain game or piece of technology, the other child feels pressured to have it also, this is reinforced by Teaching Times (n.d.) “Let’s not forget, what children want above all else is to fit in – the desire not to be different” (Teaching Times, n.d.).
The impact of Giacamo's family on his childhood has been a positive experience. Giacamo’s relationship with his family is described as a horizontal relationship; Wyse (2004) defines a horizontal relationship as “an equal distribution of power here genuine cooperation and competition can be experienced” (Wyse, 2004). His father works a self-employed electrician; this means he can take on board more parental responsibilities such as picking Giacamo and Andrzej up from school, whereas Giacamo’s mother works in the local supermarket doing long hours. It is more traditionally common to see the male figure doing long working hours rather than the female, however I think Giacamo having a male role model in his upbringing is crucial to his childhood as he transcends into adolescence, he is learning that the conventional gender roles can switched.
The community influences that have affected Giacamo’s childhood are his school community as well as his religious community. Within his school, Giacamo spends around five to six hours a day with his peer group. He has also become quite popular amongst his friendship group and is known as the ‘class clown’ – which sometimes gets him in trouble in his lessons. Sociometric Status – also known as peer acceptance – is determined by how much a young person is liked or disliked by other members of their existing friendship group. Within the Sociometric Status there are four categories; rejected children, popular children, neglected children and controversial children. Giacamo comes under the terms of popular children and controversial children, even though he is highly liked within his peer group, he can also be quite disruptive in class by making jokes and getting into trouble with his teachers, resulting in getting detentions.
The other community Giacamo is a component of his religious community. Giacamo’s family are Roman Catholics and attend mass, furthermore Giacamo is baptised and took his First Holy Communion at the age of eight, however at the age of 11 he is hesitant to go to mass with the rest of his family – it could be argued that there are outside influences why he doesn’t want to attend mass anymore. These community influences have had an impact on Giacamo’s childhood; at the age of 11 it is vital to form and maintain friendships inside and outside of school. Furthermore, he is making choices for himself and becoming independent in his thinking (not wanting to go to mass anymore).
Urie Bronfenbrenner designed the Ecological Systems Theory, within this theory Bronfenbrenner describes the five systems; microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, chronosystem. The various systems work around the child, in this case Giacamo. The first system – microsystem – is outlined as the organisations and groups that directly influence the child. Examples of the microsystem include family, institutions like nursery, school and college, religious communities and peers. The mesosystem is expressed as the connections to the microsystem, for example the communication between family and school teachers. The third system; exosystem is illustrated as experiences that may affect the individual. E.g. extended family or the parents’ workplace, mass media, school board, legal services, neighbours and community health and welfare services. The largest system is the macrosystem; it includes the society and things that impact a child’s development, such as governmental policies, cultural values, ethnicity and the economy. The final system is the chronosystem is labelled as the environmental events that happen over a life course – divorces, deaths. Giacamo’s microsystems are his family, school, church and his school mates. His mesosystems are the relationships between his parents and his school teachers as well as his football coach. Giacamo’s exosystem contains mass media influences and his macrosystem includes his families’ native values from Poland. Society can impact a youth’s childhood immensely from the clothes they wear, the books they read, the toys they play with and the media that controls their life. For Giacamo, his society is swayed by mass media; at his young age he owns his own smartphone, and keeps in contact with his peers through the app Instagram. He also has his own computer in his room, where he plays online fantasy games with online friends – online gaming can be quite dangerous especially if Giacamo is unaware who he is playing with.
The interplay between the factors; family, community and society all influence how a child is raised, to how they act and contribute not only to their community, but to society as a whole. In regards to family, it is the parents/guardians duty to nurture the youth to become effective members of the community. It is then the communities’ role – whether through educational or religious institutions, and extra-curricular activities – to help guide the child to become a functioning member to conform to the current economical society. Within the influence of his family, community and society Giacamo’s childhood is being created as he will learn he can break down stereotypical roles within his family, and he will understand that all children go through peer pressure within society.
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