9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN04 Sociology of Children and Childhood

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Children's Everyday Lives In and Out of School Building II, C6.01

If You're Happy and You Know It: Young Children's Construction of Emotions

Abstract for ESA 2009
If You're Happy and You Know It: Young Children's Construction of Emotions
Sociology of Childhood (sociology and children?s minds)
Dr Jeni Harden
Childhood is constructed in our society as a time of emotional development and also of emotional vulnerability and so risk. Indeed, there is growing concern around children's mental health with estimates that up to 20% of children in the UK suffer from mental health problems (Mental Health Foundation 2005). ). Yet limited attention has been paid to children within the sociological literature on emotions. Emotions are regarded within sociology, not as instinctive, biologically driven gestures, but as 'social things' which are controlled and managed in our everyday lives (Williams 2001). Williams argues that emotions provide a link between many of the dualisms tackled by sociological theory, most notably between mind and body. To explore children?s understandings of emotions it important to explore the contexts and relationships which shape this understanding. Children?s emotions can be understood as constructed and experienced through processes of negotiation and management in everyday life. This paper will present findings from research with 6-7 year olds in Scotland. Observation with a school was carried out over a 3 month period and individual and group interviews were conducted both in school and in the home. The paper will discuss the ways in which children construct emotions through interactions in the school context; identify key discourses children use to conceptualise emotional well-being; and discuss children?s views and experiences of the management of emotions. The data area drawn from a UK based study but raise issues for comparison in wider European contexts.