The Place of Non-Parental Adults in Children's Out of School Lives
Centre for Research on Families and Relationships University of Edinburgh Edinburgh, Scotland
Data from a recent study of child-adult relations and relationships in relatively deprived areas of a Scottish city suggest that "relationships" with individual adults, other than with parents, were not particularly important to the children. With a few exceptions, they did not seek out such adults and generally indicated a preference for spending time with other children. However, knowing and being able to identify with adults in the neighbourhood, through familial and familiar connections, was very important to children's sense of self and to their feelings of belonging to a family and within a locality.
When moving beyond their neighbourhood without adult accompaniment, to visit swimming pools, cinemas, and retail facilities, the children had opportunities to observe and experience contacts with range of "unknown" adults, and with "public workers". This experientially confirmed their conceptualisations of adults as a separate social group occupying a higher status than children.
The study took place in the context of concern about distance between child and adult worlds generating negative stereotypes and distrust between the two social groups and a specific interest in children's perspectives. A multi-stage, multi-method study was undertaken with children aged 10/11 years living in the relatively deprived, "Social Inclusion Partnership" (SIP), areas of a Scottish city. Ethnographic participation was undertaken with Year 6 children in one school, followed by paired and individual interviews with 17 of these children. A survey was then conducted with 375 children in primary schools across the SIP areas.