Positioning the Criminal Child - Relational Dynamics of Norm-breaking and Societal Reactions
Department of Social Policy Studies University of Helsinki Helsinki, Finland
Crimes committed by children often rise strong societal reactions. In Finland children that persistently offend, have traditionally been directed to child protection welfare, which aims at not only protecting, but also upbringing of these children. This presentation is based on a dissertation research, which aims at describing how the communities and institutions participate in the process of a child becoming labelled as deviant. How is a child who persistently offends, positioned by the communities and institutions surrounding his every-day life? What kind of societal reactions are directed to, and social structures constructed around, these children? How does the child?s history reflect the institutional atmosphere of the era?
The theoretical framework of the study is based on Roy Bhaskar?s critical realism and Edwin M. Lemert?s societal reaction theory. The aim of merging these two theoretical viewpoints is to formulate a structural, relational and dynamic way of defining the positioning of the children in the differing communal and institutional settings with which they are involved. Thus the analysis illuminates the relational dynamics of the different mechanisms that affect the positioning the child. The research data consists of individual children?s social work case-files, which are theoretically selected from the social welfare agency?s archives. The empirical analysis is based on Derek Layder?s model of adaptive theory.
This presentation aims at describing the theoretical framework of the study through an individual case-study of Ali, an immigrant boy involved with the child protection welfare in the early 2000?s. The case-study describes and theorises, how Ali?s position gradually shifts from the one of a traumatized child, to the one of a violent and feared other in the settings of his every-day life.