«Here it's like in a family». Children's everyday life between care, fun and control in spaces for children
Department of Sociology University of Padua Pisa, Italy
My contribution aims to explore children's everyday life in children's everyday spaces focusing on three peculiar educational settings: a residential childcare centre (Children?s House), a quarter based Toy Library and a child play area inside a paediatric hospital. Both settings are made and represented as ideal places in giving a "proper care" to children situated, by adults, on different levels of an imaginary scale of needs. The first one to children in need of a familiar environment where to live, the second one to children in need of places for playing freely and the last one to those in need of play for recover.
Moving around these different childhood's landscapes the study, based on an ethnographic research, aims to analyse the different representations of childhood constructed inside these spaces by diverse child-adult relations. Despite their different goals and functions what seems to keep constant among these spaces is the shape taken by child-adult relations as an educative relation with soft and invisible power disparity between children and adults. Through different frames (education, play and care) children and carers contribute in the construction and re-construction of a contemporary Italian childhood where an important role is still played by the images of the family and the familiar relations as a powerful model in the construction of a "good" childhood. On the other side the public space is constructed as unsafe and dangerous compared with the private one. But, which kind of relation do they evocate when they speak of a familiar model? Based on which dimension?
The paper aims to deconstruct some of the elements composing this Italian childhood and to reveal some of his assumptions related to the traditional representations of the "child in need" and to the specular one of an adult in charge of its care.