A. History of Childhood, Methodology, and Theories of Child Development
1) Ariès, Philippe. 1962. Centuries of Childhood. London: Cape.
This is milestone book that was published in French in 1960 and quickly translated into English as “Centuries of Childhood.” Aries was one of the first to focus not on the grand-history (kings, nobles, wars, or empires) but rather on the story of laypeople of the past. According to Aries there was an upper class bias of historians since allegedly they could not find written records concerning their social action. Aries proposed a method of inferential history to understand the (hi)story of common families and the youth of these families. For Aries childhood is a relatively new social notion. Using pictographic records he found no evidence in the European Medieval period. He then saw signs of growth in upper classes in the 16th and 17th centuries, which concretized itself in the 18th century upper classes, and finally expanded on the 20th century social landscape in both the upper and lower classes. The notion of childhood as such, according to Aries, did not actually enter the great masses of the lower and lower-middle classes until very late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of course, he does not claim the inexistence of young people; he merely says that young people between the ages of 7 and 15 were not seen as “children” (he implies that childhood is a modern notion). There are no children in those paintings, there are babies, but they are depicted more like little adults. Painters could not paint young people as “children” because they were not “children.” In their cultural biased perspective they were seen as little adults. Childhood is only a modern historical construction.
2) Mead, Margaret. 1961 . Growing up in New Guinea. New York: Mentor Books.
This is a famous book; Growing Up in New Guinea was first published in 1930 and it has been reprinted many times since then. Margaret Mead focuses on child rearing and education processes within Manus society. This is a different society when compared with USA, “with the father taking the principle role, the father the tender solicitous indulgent guardian, while the mother takes second place in the child’s affection” (14). Indeed, Mead challenges many Western psychiatric (and, I may add, psychoanalytic) assumptions in regards to parents’ role and the difficulties they may entitle to the child. She shows how a loving tender father may positively influence his son’s personality. In this sense, Mead had a visionary intelligence that somehow foresaw the current Westerner, middleclass attitude towards children. She emphasized that “the solution of the family complex may lie not in the parents assuming no roles, as some enthusiasts suggest, but in their playing different ones” (14). According to Mead, children in Manus society are allowed to give their emotions free play; they are never restrained. When Mead was conducting fieldwork in New Guinea, Manus society had 50% of infant death rate, and this created the condition that “only the most fit survive” (13). However, Mead also mentions “The parent-and-child relationship is such that feelings of inferiority and insecurity hardly exist” (13). Since Manus are fishermen, Manus babies are accustomed to water from the first years of their lives. In contrast with American parenting patterns with continual ‘don’ts’, babies and infants are allowed to make small mistakes from which he or she may learn better discrimination, but “he (sic) is never allowed to make mistakes which are serious enough to frighten him permanently or inhibit his activity” (28). According to Mead, the development of child’s personality goes through different stages, but “The roots of their culture are already laid in their lack of affection for anyone, their prudery, their awed respect for property, their few enjoined avoidances. Emotionally they were warped in early childhood to a form of egocentricity, against which the fluid child world is helpless; but in active intelligent adjustment of the material world, they have had years of excellent training” (116).
3) Scheper-Hughes, N. & C. Sargent (eds.) 1998. Small Wars. The Cultural Politics of Childhood. London: University of California Press. Chapter 1.
The cultural politics of childhood addresses the public nature of childhood and the inability of isolated families or households to shelter small children and infants within the privacy of the home or to protect them from the outrageous slings and arrows of the world’s political and economic fortunes. It also speaks to the political, ideological, and social uses of childhood. Childhood integrates biological and social processes, and private and public spheres. The birth of a child is a political event, but childhood also involves cultural notions of personhood, morality, and social order and disorder. There is no way of insulating children from the “cultural politics” of everyday life. The treatment and place of children are affected by global political-economic structures and by quotidian practices embedded in the micro-level interactions of local cultures. The authors highlight that it was during the peak of neoliberal policies in 1980s when the recruitment and mass entry of poor and rural women into new forms and relations of wage labour interrupted breast-feeding; which then had enormous consequences on mother and infants and the need for international child survival campaigns. Then, in the 1990s, there was a global pursuit of individual and human rights (i.e. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child). There are still many problems when we consider the marginalization of children in adult-centered societies. “The slowness of anthropologists to recognize and identify patterns of child maltreatment was part of a larger cultural and historical problem: the reluctance to perceive parents as capable of injuring, let alone killing, their own child” (21). Strong ideologies of unconditional motherly love and maternal bonding contributed to the naturalization of maternal thinking and sentiments and the failure to see parenting as analogous to any other intentional and willful human action. The author suggests that what needs to be addressed are the specific conditions under which children are more or less likely to be nurtured and protected rather than abandoned, harmed, raped, or kill. With more child-hostile policies everywhere, the author (following Aries) concludes that “the modern notion of childhood is disappearing and real children are loosing ground” (29).
4) Gottlieb, Alma. 2004. The Afterlife is Where We Came From: The Culture of Infancy in West Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
In this formidable book, Gottlieb provides ethnographic insights of a different form of infancy and toddlerhood. She shows how central Beng babies are in Beng’s culture and society, and how religious ideology and child rearing are mutually affected. The Beng, in contrast with most Western societies, consider that babies come full with spiritual knowledge from the afterlife; in fact, they have to treat them well to convince them to stay in this life. Therefore, reincarnation knowledge and infant development are part of the same Beng logical framework. Gottlieb brings in a much-needed analysis of other forms of child rearing and child developmental stages that differ from the hegemonic Western types, which once were considered as universal. Instead, her analysis of infants, infant care, and Beng religious ideology powerfully shows the central role of infants in Beng society; babies welcome foreigners, parents seek advice from infants and diviners to better facilitate the desires and offerings that young babies bring from their previous lives in the afterworld. Interestingly for my own research, Gottlieb shows how babies’ illnesses drastically affect the household; “Not only are sick children miserable; their illness has the potential to disrupt the household in ways that can be catastrophic for a family that is already living on the edge” (286). Ultimately, Gottlieb shows how this specific cultural ideology creates a particular child rearing agenda that shapes an array of quotidian practices from bathing to adornment, from resting to eating. While at the same time, “poverty dramatically structures the bounds of cultural experience” (305).
5) Hardman, Charlotte. 1973. Can there be an Anthropology of children? Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford, 4 (2): 85-99.
Hardman writes an article in 1973 with a simple question: Can there be an Anthropology of children? In fact, something that comes logically after that is another question: Could children be studied in their own rights? She also asks, “What approach could be taken? How can we interpret children’s games and their oral traditions? How could children be thought of, and how do they classify or think about the world? What differences does age make?” (502). Hardman points to the fact that both children and women (at that time, before woman and queer studies) were “muted groups” with very few studies. Although the author finds previous studies, such as CXIX evolutionists (linking savagery with western childhood), psychoanalytic anthropology (linking individual and social personality to certain types of childhood), or even culture and personality anthropology, which may be seen as part of the legacy of anthropology of childhood, they were actually not because they did not consider children’s “beliefs, values, or interpretation of their viewpoint, their meaning of the world” (503). Hardman’s approach, in contrast with the above-mentioned, stresses the synchronic, not the diachronic aspect. Children are not mere passive receptacles of adult beliefs and culture; they are not little adults waiting to grow or modern version of a primitive man waiting to be civilized. They are actors in their own rights, although as a group they may overlap with other age groups such as adults and elders, and gender may be another source of differentiation too. Although Ariès (1962) shows childhood has varied across time and place, the concept –Hardman suggest- was never deeply problematized. Hardman claims that both non-western societies and western children are misinterpreted, and because of this many western anthropologists have seen a linkage between them, a connection applied solely from an ignorant perspective. It is in how children construct their worlds and put words to objects where we need to focus; “it is in play, in imaginary situations that children mostly reveal spontaneous meanings dominating over objects” (509). Hardman uses Piaget’s and Isaac’s work to reflect on whether children have a different mind frame (Piaget) or the difference is only in degree and experience but not in kind (Isaac). The two main points Hardman makes are: “children may have an autonomous world, independent to some extent of the worlds of adults; and [secondly] that children’s thoughts and social behaviour may not be totally incomprehensive to adults, so long as we do not try to interpret them in adult terms” (513).
6) Hirschfeld, Lawrence. 2002. Why Don’t Anthropologists Like Children? American Anthropologist 104(2): 611-627.
Hirschfeld asks a very simple question, why don’t anthropologists like children? Children, as a heterogeneous group, are such an important actor in society that one has to wonder why anthropology did not focus on them much. Hirschfeld finds two central reasons why there is an opposition to child-centered studies. On the one hand, it is a result of a narrow view of cultural learning that overvalues the part adults play and miscalculates the input that children make to cultural reproduction. On the other hand, there is a lack of understanding of the range and strength of children's subaltern culture, mostly in influencing adult culture. The long exclusion of childhood as an anthropological object has masked our understanding of how cultural forms materialize and why they are sustained. Hirschfeld says, “children not only are underrepresented in our texts but also undertheorized and outright neglected” (612). According to Hirschfeld, an adequate reflection on childhood and children involves a real change in gaze that generates a reconfiguration of the field. And it is this general understanding and cultural construction of childhood what should be our focus, Hirschfeld says, “People everywhere and at all times have some beliefs about what children are and what should be "done" with them” (614).
7) James, Allison and Alan Prout. 1990. Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood. London: The Falner Press.
Childhood does not constitute neither a universal phenomena nor a singular one. As any given variable of social analysis it cannot be isolated from other variables such as class, gender, and ethnicity. Children’s relationships and “cultures” need to be studied in their own rights. Children are active in their construction and determination of their social lives, what surrounds them, and the societies in which they live in. Ethnography, while giving children a more direct voice and more participation in the production of knowledge, produces a more adequate approach than experimental or statistical research. It is important to explore “the ways in which the immaturity of children is conceived and articulated in particular societies into culturally specific sets of ideas and philosophies, attitudes and practices which combine to define the ‘nature of childhood’” (1). The reconfiguration of the childhood studies highlighted three points: 1) that childhood is socially constructed; 2) that childhood as an analytical category can never be separated from other categories such as gender, class, or ethnicity; 3) that childhood and children should be studied in their own right and not just in relation to their social construction by adults. Age, of course, is a central element in understanding childhood. The classification between age grades and age classes help to see how age operates as a constitutive element of childhood itself. Age grade refers to a “formal or informal grouping which has associated with it particular rights and duties which define the relationship of an age grade member to the social structure and polity” (236). Instead, age classes “Used to refer to a group of coevals who progress through the age structure together, an age class structure finds embodiment in the school system” (236). In both cases there is a relation between ‘normal age’ and anomalies of individuals who are out of time with their contemporaries.
8) Stephens, Sharon. (ed.) 1995. Children and the Politics of Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
This is a collection of texts that came after the international conference “Children at Risk” held in Norway in 1992. The wide scope of these different ethnographic and sociologic works is organized with regard to children and the politics of culture in a late capitalist global world. Stephens argues that children and politics of culture should be considered together in order to understand the lived experience of children. Both childhood and culture are currently being challenged and reconfigured. Childhood is a social and historical construction, whereas culture is a theoretically and politically disputed term. The author cites Ariès’s “Centuries of Childhood” (1962) to affirm, “the particular form of modern childhood is socially and historically specific” (5). She, indeed, asks a key question regarding the role of children in modernity, “In what respects are children –as foci of gender-specific roles in the family, as objects of regulation and development in the school, and as symbols of the future and of what is at stake in contests over cultural identity- pivotal in the structuring of modernity?” (6). But, at present, what is a child? For Stephens, current crisis in notions of childhood are closely linked with changes in the globalized modernity in which “the child” was formerly situated. In fact, it is crucial to rethink studies of children considering social and historical macroperspectives in order to understand the sudden increase of concern about children’s rights and to foresee new risks to children and childhood. There are many different social and historical worlds in which children are living in, and in which children are at risk (i.e. living in the street) and sometimes as risk, as young criminals or “deviant children” (examples from Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, Norway, etc.) Finally, Stephens considers the international arena of children’s rights and she argues that “the culture to which the child has primary rights is the international culture of modernity, the unmarked, taken-for-granted background to more specialized cultural rights” (37).
9) Colangelo, Adelaida. 2004. “En busca de una ’infancia sana’: La construcción médica del niño y del cuerpo infantil”. VII Argentine Conference on Social Anthropology, Villa Giardino, Córdoba, May.
In this article, Colangelo focuses on the process of construction of childhood as a specific social category. In this construction medicine plays a central role within the modern Western sciences. The medical definition of childhood is an interesting example, among others, of the process that marked and classified social groupings –according not only to life cycles, but also to ideas of ‘race’ and ‘sex’ or socio-cultural traits– when modern scientific disciplines approached the human beings. Colangelo’s main focus is the period of time at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century in which pediatricians and hygienists were at the center of an institutional movement of ‘Argentinization’ of the population. In this context, children were seen as playing a central role, and were the focus of medical intervention and research. Besides the constitution of Pediatric another medical approach that was also important at that time was the ‘Puericulture’, (puericultura in Spanish) or child care, which was oriented to preserve child health through ‘rational and scientific’ modes of rearing children, with a central focus on the ‘primary infancy’. Certain physical and behavioral characteristics distinguished this ‘primary infancy’ (breastfeeding, incapacity to talk or walk, among others), characteristics that were socially selected and understood in terms of a particular phase both vulnerable and transcendental for society. The baby comes to society in a state of nature, a phase closer to the innocence of Rousseau’s good savage or the violent trends of the first stages of humanity, therefore, Puericulture’s mission is to guide this process into civilized society. The definition of the adequate social forms for caring and rearing a child became a central locus of symbolic and material disputes for the reproduction and transformation of the whole society. Consequently, we can see why the notion of “correct child rising” is still central in the discourse of infancy and society in general.
10) Szulc, Andrea. 2006. Antropología y Niñez: De la Omisión a las “Culturas Infantiles”. In Wilde, G. and P. Schamber, (Eds). Cultura, comunidades y procesos contemporáneos. Colección “Paradigma Inicial”. Buenos Aires: Editorial SB.
In the context of a critique to the current notion of infancy and childhood, as homogenous and a-historic, it is important to highlight the historical construction of childhood(s) in Argentina. Children have been recognized in a passive role as mere receptors of adults’ actions in terms of education, care, discipline, violence, and exploitation. Children in Argentina are not exempted of the dichotomized social relation that characterizes other social realms such as gender and ethnicity. In Argentina the notion of “child” has been historically given to a specific portion of the infant population. On the one hand, there was the notion of “infancy,” which had family and school as the main institutions. On the other hand, there was the notion of “minors,” excluded from the previous status and potentially socially dangerous, which had state agencies of control and punishment as the main institutions. There are two parallel processes that occurred in the Western world, not excluding Argentina. One is Piaget’s theory of developmental psychology, which has produced homogenization and the essentialness of children as an inner savage. The other is psychologizing children by conceiving them as incomplete subjects and without considering social and cultural dimensions. Social sciences have studied children in Argentina in relation to issues of labour, delinquency, violence, law, institutions, and social policies. I agree with Nunes when she says “the child receives privileged attention when his or her life is in danger or when he or she questions the status quo established by adults” (1999: 47, my translation). That is, situations in which the notion of childhood and the positions of children in society become problematic.
11) Coles, Robert. 1986. The Political Life of Children. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Coles argues that national identities and politics contexts, once thought to be out of reach of children, in fact deeply permeate children’s consciousness, morality, and sense of security, and ways of being in and thinking about the world. Coles’s method is to get to know children by asking them significant questions, and simply letting them speak. He deeply believes that people’s stories speak for themselves. Consequently, he revolves around certain topics, sometimes appearing to make a point and then rapidly moving away from it. For stories to have strength and moral implication, Coles claims, they must be narrated in the words of the characters themselves. Coles reflects on the fact that he can only be as provisional as possible, claiming only impressions, observations, thoughts, reflections, speculations, and ultimately, a “way of seeing.” He says, “... I aim essentially to evoke, to suggest rather than to pursue a more cognitive approach or psychopathological orientation” (6). Coles wants to be in a position that offers children a chance to indicate a certain amount for themselves to him, and through him, to others. Coles believes that children’s political lives fuse with their moral lives. He shows that they learn their politics as much as they learn their morality from parents, school, and peers. “No one teaches children sociology or psychology,” he remarks, “yet, children are constantly noticing who gets along with whom, and why” (9); in fact, “A nation’s politics becomes a child’s everyday psychology” (13). Coles discovers that children as young as four or five have what social scientist Robert Connell called “intuitive political thinking” (14). They also struggle with profound ethical questions. While most children may never have read Philosophers and Thinkers, he says, “their imaginations are charged by continuing participation in family politics, and their inclination to go from that kind of world to the larger one is no different from Plato’s, Aristotle’s, Hobbes’s, Locke’s, Freud’s....” (15). Coles conceives the family as something of a miniature state, structured through similar moral and political concerns as a nation at large. For many children, the family dynamic illustrates the interpersonal relations and the constant struggle for power and influence that takes place in the political world. Coles proposes that nationalism is the consequence of the transfer of parental authority to the state. However, nationalism is also a vital channel for children to connect with their communities and with themselves as young citizens. He says, “Nowhere on the five continents I’ve visited in this study has nationalism failed to become an important element in the developing conscience of young people” (16). The stories that children told to Coles and he narrates in this book show a dynamic interplay between areas of autonomy and areas of constriction; and this interplay is at the core of the moral and political consciousness of children. In different parts of the world what is defined as the core changes; in Brazil it is class, in South Africa it is race, in Northern Ireland it is religion, in Quebec it is the French Language, and in Sandinista Nicaragua it is ideology. But these are central elements that shape the life one lives and what one’s country stands for.
12) James, Allison. 2008. Giving Voice to Children's Voices: Practices and Problems, Pitfalls and Potentials. American Anthropologist 109(2): 261-272.
In this article, James investigates the significance that the anthropological “writing culture” disputes of the 1980s might have for current childhood studies within anthropology and the social sciences in general. She claims that the contemporary idiom about “giving voice to children,” a sort of mantra and commonplace both inside and outside the academy, can jeopardize the future of childhood studies since it hides a number of significant conceptual and epistemological problems. Above all, it raises questions of representation, problems of authenticity, the diversity of children's experiences, and children's participation in research, all of which require to be tackled by anthropologists in their own research practices with children. Children may not be asked their views and opinions, and even if they are consulted, their ideas may be dismissed. James’ argument is this: though new approaches in the study of childhood and children’s quotidian lives have inaugurated a theoretical and conceptual space in which children can speak as “participant-observers” about their daily experiences of the world, this is not in and of itself enough to guarantee that children’s voices and views are heard. Therefore, analogously with the intellectual history of feminism and women’s studies, childhood studies must now start to engage more directly with the fundamental issues of social theory to set free and achieve the political and intellectual potential of positioning children as social actors. That is to say, giving voice to children is not merely or only about “letting children speak;” it is about dealing with the unique contribution to our understanding of and theorizing about the social world that children’s perspectives can provide. James says “Although the need to listen to children’s voices is, as noted, often paid lip service outside the academy, all too often those voices are silenced by images of childhood that cling to the more traditional, developmental discourse of children’s incompetence, rather than competence, as social actors. We need, therefore, to ask about the effects that this discourse has on children’s own everyday experiences” (266). Unless anthropologists do so, childhood research risks becoming marginalized once more and will not succeed to offer an arena within which children are seen as social actors who can provide a unique perspective on the social world about matters that concern them as children. Put this way, the question becomes what types of research dialogues can we have with children, rather than a question of investigating the authenticity (or not) of their voices or their perspectives on the world. More simply, it turns into a matter of attempting to understand where they are coming from and why the positions from which children speak may be subject to change and variation in and through time. This is no different from social science research with adults. James concludes that “the relationship between “childhood” as a social space, “children” as a generational category, and “the child” as an individual representative of that category and inhabitant of that space. In whatever cultural context, and in relation to any child, this relationship both deﬁnes who they are, how we as adult researchers understand them, and how they understand their own experiences” (270).
13) Montgomery, Heather. 2009. The Anthropology of Childhood: Anthropological Perspectives on Children’s Lives. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
Montgomery examines the role children have played within anthropology, how anthropologists have studied them, and how they have been represented and analyzed in ethnographic studies over the last century and a half. Montgomery uses historical and anthropological data from multiple and diverse societies to support the idea that there are manifold ways to raise children, and multiple values, attitudes, and practices in terms of how to properly raise children, beliefs about childhood, and their roles and responsibilities. Montgomery affirms that from a marginal role within social sciences, “Childhood studies has coalesced into a wide-ranging and significant area, which acknowledges that children undergo recognizable patterns of physical and psychological development and growth, but argues that the meanings given to these vary enormously within and between cultures. Furthermore, it has called for categories such as the “child”, “childhood” or “children” to be critically examined and rethought” (1). In this book Montgomery goes back to the original ethnographies, looks at them in context, and finds out what anthropologists in the past had written about children. A central concern in these texts is to define what a child is, but Montgomery considers less important chronological or biological markers than the social significance given to them. One of the most important conclusions for any anthropologist studying childhood is that “there is no universal child and that the concept of the child is one that must be defined internally and in its own context” (3). Montgomery finds wide differences in the anthropology of childhood in the USA and UK, and she suggests there are certain attitudes towards psychological or folklore studies (very important in USA and marginal in UK) that explain those differences. Childhood studies only became prominent in the last 30 years and so children began to be less under-represented in both anthropological theory and ethnographic description. These studies have looked at the ways children themselves create meaning and form their own belief systems, as well as examining the modes that they negotiate and how they influence social attitudes about childhood. Thus “This analytical approach to children’s lives might best be described as ‘child-centered’ or ‘child-focused’ anthropology and it demands the use of children as primary informants and focuses on children’s voices and children’s agency” (6). This vision has been supported by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child [UNCRC] (1979), which envisaged a child as an individual, autonomous being, an inheritor of the liberal, humanist ideals of the Enlightenment, which has caused problems for universal interpretation and implementation. Anthropologists studying children in non-Western contexts have paid attention to children who exist as anomalies in the new globalized notion of childhood. The author suggests that ‘child-centered’ studies are not a radical break with previous anthropological work since 1) the critiques to universalizing notions of childhood have reinforced many of the points made explicitly in older work; for instance, the heterogeneous nature of childhood, the impact of gender, age, birth order, and ethnicity, as well as the problems defining childhood, have been long-time concerns of anthropology, as well as ideas about where life begins, what makes personhood, and how social competency is defined; and 2) the role and importance of children in fieldwork has been previously recognized, even if not always acknowledged (perhaps this is something new, that anthropologists now acknowledge their central role). Anthropologists have tended to see children as human beings and very often rejected the idea that they are human becomings, Montgomery challenges the alleged separation between child-focused studies and the work that has preceded it.
B. Child Moral Development
14) Kohlberg, L. 1984. The psychology of moral development: the nature and validity of moral stages. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Kohlberg basically established the fields of moral psychology and moral education by means of his pioneering cognitive developmental theory and research. Kohlberg was very influenced by Jean Piaget’s cognitive developmental paradigm and opened up this field in the US. He uses a set of moral dilemmas (Heinz dilemma became famous) and asked male children and adolescents to substantiate their moral judgments with a series of questions. Employing an abductive reasoning, he developed a progression of moral types, which became the basis for his well-known six stages of moral judgment. These stages were divided in three parts: pre-conventional: 1. heteronomous morality or obedience and punishment orientation; 2. Individualistic or self-interest orientation; conventional: 3. instrumental morality or interpersonal accord and conformity 4. interpersonally normative morality or authority and social-order maintaining orientation; and post-conventional: 5. social system morality, human rights and social welfare morality or social contract orientation; and 6. morality of universalizable, reversible, and prescriptive general ethical principle(s) or universal ethical principles. According to Kolhberg justice is the underlining principle of moral thinking, and his stages are related to fundamental models of reasoning. In fact, Kolhberg argues that moral actions are a result of formal reasoning (some critics, by contrast, consider that moral reasoning may be less relevant to moral action than Kohlberg’s theory suggests).
15) Fiske, Alan. 1991. Structures of Social Life: The Four Elementary Forms of Human Relations. New York: The Free Press.
This is a well-known book by the Psychological Anthropologist Alan Fiske that derived from a combination of some of the ideas of Weber, Piaget, and Ricoeur, and also builds on the theories of Marx, Tönnies, Durkheim, Lévi-Strauss, Karl Polanyi, Sahlins, and many others. In this work he takes a challenging task: to trace and formalize the basic forms of (human) social relations. From the first page he makes it clear that these are relational models; in the ethnographic world we would find these models in combination rather that in “pure” form. Fiske, however, says, “It is my thesis that whenever human beings relate to each other, they organize their social relations on the basis of four elementary psychological models” (ix). The first model, “communal sharing,” is a relation of union, common-unity, undifferentiated collective identity, and helpfulness, characteristically performed among close relatives. The second model, “authority ranking,” is a relation of asymmetry, usually displayed in a hierarchical ordering of ranks and superiority, often associated by the exercise of power and exhibit of respect. The third model, “equality matching,” is a face-to-face relation in which people are diverse but equal at the same time, a kind of balanced reciprocity. The fourth model, “market pricing,” is a relation mediated by calculated exchange and cost/benefit interests; it is basically a commodified social relation. Fiske highlights that people employ these four models to “generate, understand (‘parse’), coordinate, and evaluate social relations” (ix). According to Fiske, these are elementary and fundamental models; “elementary” since people combine them to create complex and varied personal relationships, roles, groups, institutions, and societies; and, “fundamentals” given the fact that people use them to produce corresponding patterns of action and thought in a great many social realms. People can and do employ diverse relational models in different realms of interaction with the same person; for instance, organizing work in cooperation in terms of “equality matching” but making decisions in terms of “communal sharing.” Yet, according to Fiske, in any given inter-relation there is a strong trend to employ the same model across exchanges, circulation and use of resources, organization of work, moral reasoning, decision-making, social influence, identity, and other domains. For this rationale, it is often reasonable to make the simplification of distinguishing the relationship between two people as if a single model ruled it. To me, this method seems oversimplified and overfunctional, but I find that in terms of a synthesis of how people think and act upon social relations it is plausible, besides its radical cognitive reductionism.
16) Hoffman, M. 2000. Empathy and moral development: implications for caring and justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
According to Hoffman, “moral development” is the study of people’s consideration for others and people’s prosocial moral behavior, that is, “the existential human dilemma of how people come to grips with the inevitable conflicts between their egoistic needs and their social obligations” (1-2). Hoffman finds that there are two main theories in terms of how we understand child and moral development: the “doctrine of the original sin” (people are born egoistic and attain moral sense through socialization that control egoism) and the “doctrine of innate purity” (children are seen as innately good but subject to social corrupted forces). Hoffman associates with the former early Freudian and socio-learning theories and with the latter Piaget’s theory. In fact, for Piaget, free and natural interaction of pre-moral children creates moral development, while interaction with socialized adults inhibits it. One key notion on Hoffman’s theory, as the title of this book highlights, is empathy, which he defines as “the vicarious affective response to another person” (29), that is, “the involvement of psychological processes that make a person have feelings that are more congruent with another’s situation than with his own situation” (30). In other words, you are empathic not because you have the very same feelings that someone else is having but rather because you have feelings that are fitting to what is occurring to the other person. Hoffman’s focus on “emphatic distress” is interesting in relation to my own research because, according to Hoffman, prosocial moral action often implicates aiding someone in discomfort, pain, danger, or some other kind of distress. Hoffman focuses on the process of empathic response rather than its outcomes because he wants to emphasize its implication for caring and justice. Although Hoffman is very aware of Kohlberg’s (justice) and Gilligan’s (care) theories of moral development, in fact, he wants to address the two most important moral principles, or at least the two that have the most important prosocial consequences. He is interested in the “congruence” of empathy with the principles of care and justice. Hoffman finds five types of emphatic arousal models that are connected with emphatic distress. Three are preverbal modes (mimicry, conditioning, and associations) that are important in childhood, especially in face-to-face situations, and two cognitively advanced modes (verbal mediation and role-taking) that “add scope to one’s emphatic capability and enable one to empathize with others that are not present” (61).
B. Children, Siblings and Family
17) Bluebond-Langner, Myra. 1996 In the Shadow of Illness: Parents and Siblings of the Chronically Ill Child. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Bluebond-Langner (B-L) is looking at two relationships inside a family experiencing Cystic Fibrosis (CF): between well sibling and parents, and between well siblings and ill siblings. According to B-L, two issues dominate the discussion: 1) the distribution of material and non-material resources (time and attention), and 2) communication about CF and the ill child’s condition. “The ways in which the well siblings handle the issues of the allocation of resources and communication about CF and the ill child’s condition reflect a keen awareness of the place of the illness in family life” (215). Well siblings understand what they can expect from their parents and siblings, as well as what they must do. Families follow several phases from the irruption of the illness, and each phase has different impacts on the ill child, well siblings and parents. First, there is the diagnosis and first examination; then, there are the first months and years after the annual examination; after that, there is the recovery from the first major exacerbation until the increase of hospitalizations and loss of predictability; then, there is the increase in complications and discussion with the physician about the advance of the disease; and finally, there is the increased deterioration and the physicians must tell the parents that the child’s condition “now” is terminal. The well siblings’ position in the family is uncommon. BL quotes Bank and Kahn (1982: 79-80) where they say, “[t]he well siblings must put aside his or her own needs and assume a greater caring role with the victim sibling and the emotionally taxed parents.” But, as BL puts it, “Much of what the well sibling feels in the way of lack of attention, disruption of family lifestyle, concern for the ill child, and fear of the illness’s consequences may be not only unavoidable, but also appropriate (Kupst 1986:187)” (266). One should look at both macro (how illness and disability are stigmatized) and micro (thoughts, feelings, and relationships among all the members of the family) levels in relation to the impact of CF. With advancements in research and treatments, people experiencing CF will be able to enjoy relatively normal lives for much longer periods. However, the challenge to clinicians will remain the same: “to design, and implement intervention programs that take into account the entire multifaceted and dynamic context in which any given response is situated-the social, psychological, and temporal dimensions of the experience” (270).
18) Levine, Carol. (ed.) 2000. Always on call: When illness turns families into care-givers. New York: United Hospital Fund of New York.
This book combines personal stories and different perspectives to analyze the work of millions of family caregivers in the United States. Although since remote times family members have constantly offered care for one another, current changes in the health care system have created vast new responsibilities for them (responsibilities that before were a regular part of hospital care). The primacy of chronic rather than acute illness, trends toward shorter hospitalizations, increased outpatient care provision, and restricted insurance benefits for in-home care leave family caregiving as the single option for many Americans (indeed, now under Obama’s administration this is a very conflictive arena). In this book there is a great insight into the world of family caregiving. The authors analyze the complexity and the impact of the caregiving experience, and it emphasizes the need for building better partnerships for change and fostering improvement; for instance, on the financial impact of caregiving. Caregiving is not solely a professional activity; it encompasses family caregivers, health professionals, health administrators, health policymakers, religious care providers, patient and caregiver advocates, and human resource professionals. In fact, this book makes clear the need for understanding the current realities of family caregiving, and what needs to be changed. In the United States, it is rapidly becoming a politicized arena in a privatizing economy in which families are expected to be “always on call.”
19) Winnicott, D. 1965. The child, the family, and the outside world. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books.
Winnicott explores the basic relationships of childhood starting with the bond of love between mother and infant. Throughout each discussion, he emphasizes the inborn abilities of parents and carefully distinguishes these from the skills that must be learned. Chapters range from the roots of aggression to the fear of dependence and its unfortunate consequences in adulthood, and on the innate morality of the baby. In the foreword, Marshall H. Klaus observed that Winnicott likened an infant to a bulb in a windowbox, noting that you do not have to make the bulb grow into a daffodil. With fertile soil and the right amount of water and light, the bulb will grow and develop. It is wrong to mould an infant as you would a piece of clay because then you will inhibit development. Winnicott also highlights the marginalization of fathers and other family relationship from certain child’s early relationships and learning processes. The “natural” bond between mother and child, the bond we may call as “love,” which is key to development of personality, is important but has to be considered in the context of phases such as mother/infant, parent/child, and child/school. From the questions of feeding, weaning, and innate morality in babies, Winnicott ranges to the difficulties of “stealing” and “lying” and of first experiments in independence. Shyness, sex education in schools and the roots of aggression are among the many other topics the author covers.
20) DeLoache, J. S. & Gottlieb, A. 2000. “If Dr. Spock were born in Bali: Raising a world of babies,” in J. S. DeLoache & A. Gottlieb (eds.) In A world of babies: Imagined childcare guides for seven societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-27.
This book provides insights from seven different societies (USA, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Turkey, Australia, West and Central Africa, and Micronesia). People living in different parts of the world and at different historical times have diverse beliefs about the nature and the development of infants. There is a remarkable diversity of infant care practices along the world. According to DeLoache and Gottlieb, the first challenge to rearing children is getting through pregnancy and childbirth successfully. Infant mortality rates all along the so-called “third world” and on the lower classes of many countries of the “first world” are outrageously high, and people are not sure if their babies and infants will survive when they are born. There are different child rearing practices but breastfeeding is still the primary source of food for young adults in all societies studied in this book, although wet nursing (breastfeeding by a woman other than baby’s biological mother) is still practiced. However, in the U.S. only 55% of infants are ever breastfed, and of those, 40% nurse for less than two months. Therefore, the introduction of infant formula is widely present in both developed and developing countries. The problem that arises with the latter is that polluted water needed for preparing formula causes health problems for the infants. Consequently, the capacity to deal with illness differs according to each society, and child survival depends on the resources that are available for treating disease. In many societies parents have access to both traditional and modern forms of medicine, but in many non-Western societies this option is nonexistent. Given the natural condition of babies as dependent on others, supervision and baby-sitting are key elements in child rearing. Therefore, it would depend on labor conditions and poverty, and especially how mothers can care effectively for their infants. Relation to death is also important in the constitution of infants. The authors say, “Beyond connection with family members and other living people around them, many societies also encourage ties with the departed” (13). All societies appreciate some personal attributes more highly than others, and in many societies, parents actively try to direct their children to fit cultural values and ideals. However, the degree of force to influence such aspects of children’s development depends in part on assumptions about malleability; the extent to which parents presume that children’s basic nature can be influenced. Both the personality traits that are encouraged and those that are discouraged in infants and young children often reflect deeply held values; for example, between individualistic and collectivist values and goals. There is also a wide variation in terms of where the baby should sleep and with whom (if alone like in some countries or with the parents), but within each country there would still be differences in sleeping patterns. Some social attitudes see co-sleeping as impractical and immoral whereas others see it as exactly the opposite. This is also connected with which values parents want to transmit to their babies (interdependence in co-sleeping, or independence and individualism in solitary sleeping). Ultimately, this book shows how cultural beliefs about infant care practices are deeply rooted and hard to change. The collection of texts in this book, these “manuals” of how to care for a baby, or “ethnographic fictions,” are based on extensive ethnographic and historical research that show the enormous variance in child rearing practices around the world.
21) Weisner, Thomas S. and Ronald Gallimore. 1977. "My Brother's keeper: Child and Sibling Caretaking". Current Anthropology 18(2): 169-190.
The main point Weisner and Gallimore address in this article is “What cross-cultural evidence we can find indicates that non-parental caretaking is either the norm or a significant form of caretaking in most societies” (169). The authors suggest that socialization under relatively small nuclear families (in particular maternal caretaking) has been studied with the exclusion of other forms that are distinctive of many cultural and social groups. One of the objectives of this article is to leave behind the maternal caretaking bias in order to open up the discussion of cross-cultural patterns of caretaking, especially among children and siblings, but not exclusively because kin adults, non-kind adults and a variety of children are also important caretakers. The authors consider “caretaking” in a broader sense; they define it as “activities referring from complete and independent full-time care of a child by an older child to the performance of specific tasks for another child under the supervision of adults or other children; it includes verbal or other explicit training and direction of the child’s behavior, as well as ‘keeping and eye out for’ younger siblings” (169). In particular, sibling caretaking is important since they are operating under two coincident sets of pressure –one from their siblings who are taking care of them and one from their parents. Indeed, child caretakers must “learn to balance these two sets of demands; they must try to understand often complex social rules; and they must correctly interpret the behaviours of other children to whom they are responsible” (172); and so they may in fact develop caretaking styles very different from those of their parents. The author suggest that the possible effects on a child –as provider or recipient- of child caretaking could be studied in several variables: mother-child relationships and attachment, conception and emergence of childhood stages, formation and organization of play groups, development of social responsibility, sex differences, development of personality differences, development of cognitive-style differences, and motivation and classroom performance.
22) Rose, Nikolas. 2005. The Young Citizen. In Jenks, C. (ed.) Childhood: Critical Concepts in Sociology. New York: Routledge.
According to Rose, childhood “is the most extensively governed sector of personal existence” (57), and from different social venues (welfare, health, child rearing) it has been associated in thought and practice to the fate of the nation and the responsibilities of the state. The modern child has become a central concern and source of anxiety from moral, sexual, or physical danger, to produce a ‘normal’ development, and to enthusiastically install specific capacities such as educability, intelligence, and emotional stability. From the nineteenth century up to now, “anxieties concerning children have occasioned a panoply of programmes that have tried to conserve and shape children by moulding the petty details of the domestic, conjugal, and sexual lives of their parents” (57). The family, health professionals, and the school system have to control, supervise, evaluate, and rectify that children are not ‘at risk’ of any childhood pathologies. It seems, for Rose, that the appeared extension of social regulations to the lives of children in fact had little to do with recognition of their rights. Feminists have argued that the regulation of children has to be understood within a wider history, in which ‘the family’ had become a central device of social and ideological control for a patriarchal capitalism that kept both women and children in a state of endless dependency. The function of this familial ideology was to hide the realities of family life, and to protect a social institution that offered critical economic functions for capitalism: reproduction of the labor force, socialization of children, exploitation of the unpaid domestic labor of women, reward to men for the alienating nature of their work, etc. Furthermore, radical criticism targeted the notion of the family as a ‘private’ domain, regarding this as the chief element in the ideology of masking the social and economic role of the family. The division of private and public is, needless to say, central to liberal political thought, dividing the limits between the domain in which the powers of the state and law can be exercised and that where they cannot. From the early twentieth century medicine was a central element in normalizing childhood, teaching how to rear a healthy and normal child, thus, “A set of standards for family life began to be established and generalized that were grounded neither in political authority nor religious duty; the norms of medicine appeared to rise directly from life itself” (63). A web of legal powers, social agencies, and practices of judgment and normalization began to spread around troubled and troublesome children. These were connected to the formal government machinery at three main points. One, the medical apparatus of public health extended its intervention to all children from birth in their homes, at schools and in all the possible sites in which medical practices could be enhanced. Second, the juvenile courts have new powers to reform children and their families into ‘normal’ social actors. And, third, the child guidance clinic acted as a programmatic movement for mental hygiene. “Socialization,” says Rose, “in the sense in which we see it here, is not the anthropological universal beloved by functionalist sociologists; it is the historically specific outcome of technologies for the government of the subjectivity of citizen” (66). The notion of the normal child and family has an ambiguous status in these technologies of subjectivity. Normality appears in three ways: as natural = healthy, as against that which is found as unhealthy, and as that which is to be produced by rationalized social programs. It is around pathological children (the troublesome, the recalcitrant, the delinquent) that notions of normal children have taken shape. According to Rose, since WWII Psychology has provided a key role in establishing the norms of childhood, in offering means for visualizing childhood pathology and normality, in giving vocabularies for speaking about childhood subjectivity and its problems, and in inventing technologies for cure and normalization. Thus, “It has become the will of the mother to govern her own children according to psychological norms and in partnership with psychological experts. The soul of the young citizen has become the object of government through expertise” (67).
C. Children, Illness, Dying/Death, and Grief/Mourning
23) Bluebond-Langner, Myra. 1978. The Private World of Dying Children. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
This is a classic anthropological study of awareness and interaction in terminally ill children, in particular children in the last stage of illness on a leukemia ward. This is a study of childhood socialization and social order. It shows that these children understand their prognosis (even if no one tells them), and describes why they mask their knowledge from their own parents and medical staff. The case study part of this work is represented in a dramaturgic form of a play. Bluebond-Langner reflects on the rigorous social rules about dying in our society. Children rapidly interpret death as an improper topic of conversation with adults (as indicated by adults’ reactions when children try to talk about it), whereas other children are willing to share information about it. Terminally ill children learn to discuss their prognosis when adults cannot hear them. Bluebond-Langner states that by age three, children can comprehend that they have a terminal illness. She remarks that all children, sick or well, from age three onward, imagine and are troubled about dying. Her study demonstrates that children know their situation fairly well, whether or not it is ever explicitly talked about with the child. In the American society (extended to the Argentine society as well), we perform what the author (following Glaser and Strauss ) calls “mutual pretense:” a tacit pact to follow certain particular rules to preclude talking about the child’s prognosis. Consequently, children are reactive to this pattern of social order, and adhere to the pretense in order to make sure their social approval and worth. Both parents and professionals need to believe that there is a future for the child; parents need to see a future in order to “raise” him or her, and doctors need to see the child as “treatable.” But these models clash when facing terminally ill children’s situations. The author says, “How can one use a model that presumes a future, that presupposes adulthood, for children who will never reach adulthood, particularly when everyone associated with these children is acutely and painfully aware of the fact? Leukaemic children’s knowledge of their condition colours the entire world view” (6). Similarly to Palliative Care proponents, the author suggests that we should find a way to create strategies that allow the children to maintain “open awareness” with those who can handle it, and at the same time to maintain “mutual pretense” (or “protection game” as one mother puts it) with those who need to practice it. The question then becomes not “whether to talk,” but “how to talk,” and in a way that respects the many contradictory needs of everyone involved. For those adults who choose to practice open communication with children, the author advises: “Tell them only what they want to know, what they are asking about, and on their own terms” (233).
24) Layne, Linda. 1996. “How’s the baby doing?”: Struggling with narratives of progress in a neonatal intensive care unit. Medical Anthropological Quarterly 10: 624–56.
Health professionals produce narratives of linear progress all the time, but it’s especially important to look at these narratives in the context of a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This is Layne’s aim, to examine how lay people understand baby’s present condition and future (potential) outcome, and to engage in lay prognostication. The author creates a self-reflexive account of her own process with her ill baby. She uses three concepts (the roller coaster, graduation, and course) that shaped her experience to construct her son’s story. Of course, her positioned subject informs Layne’s biographical and anthropological accounts, and her perspective are very different from other parents; for instance, at the neonatal intensive care units there are disproportional groups such as poor women and minority groups’ women. Thus, Layne asks, “do the culturally dominant narratives of linear progress inform the experience of these women, and if so, do they inform the experience of these women to the same extent or in the same way they did mine?” (626). She also notes that one would expect variation even among middle class North American women. The author also reflects on how both parents and professionals are “emotionally/personally invested” in babies’ prognosis and how both are producers of the “meliorist myth”. Layne agrees with others that technoscientific knowledge is not only made by experts but also by others; in fact, she emphasizes the current trend in anthropology and social sciences to move out of the laboratory to situate studies of technoscience in larger cultural contexts. The three metaphors point to different facts. Roller coasters “are considered as an apt metaphor for the experience of having one's child be subject to the cutting-edge techniques of the NICU's” (633) and parents emotional ups and downs in regards to their acute conditions. Whereas, graduation and course refer mainly to the baby’s condition. The use of the metaphor of graduation refers to the little changes and “progress” babies are experiencing in terms of medical environment, type of food, etc. But this projection of progress masks the possibility of recurrences and regressions; in fact, it does not show the very likely situation that there is no straight course. Indeed, this image of an itinerary without a clear direction is what the metaphor “course” implies. For Layne, “This image captured for me the physical hardship of Jasper’s experience, the terror of confronting brute natural forces (however complexly mediated by NICU technologies) and the terribly frightening feeling of not knowing where he/we where headed” (638). Course also refers to the course of disease, course of treatment, and clinical course. The only metaphor that somehow represents a narrative of linear progress is graduation, but roller coaster seems to represent a non-linear, or even anti-linear, narrative structure, whereas the course metaphor is located somewhere in between certain predictability and irregularity.
25) Pinto, Sarah. 2008. Consuming Grief: Infant Death in the Postcolonial Time of Intervention. In DelVecchio Good, M.J.; Hdye, S.T.; Pinto, S. and Good, B. (eds.) Postcolonial Disorders. Berkeley, Los Angeles & London: University of California Press.
Pinto contrasts ways of dealing and coping with infant death in the context of rural deprivation and transnational intervention in rural Uttar Pradesh, India. She locates the narratives told over and over again by grieving mothers (stories of personal loss) next to the universalized slogans associated with the pedagogies of health intervention (structures of intervention). In putting ways of representing causality in a region of India with one of the highest rates of infant mortality side by side, ways of speaking to and about suffering, Pinto distinguishes a configuration analogous to what Julia Kristeva (1989) calls “depressed speech,” in which repressed or disavowed aspects return as a “symptom of a larger disorder.” The idiom of intervention, what Pinto calls “biotechnical apparatus of intervention”, above all, has roots in colonial interpretations that pathologize maternal reactions to babies’ deaths and that place the cause of such deaths in women’s lack of affect. But women’s stories of grief, particularly those that relate the difficulties of everyday life to failed institutions and infrastructures, while referring to “the big hands of God”, allow the persistence, rather than absence, of maternal grief to operate as an unceasing commentary on life and death on the limits. Simultaneously, Pinto shows the way postcolonial formations and meanings articulate with and are rejected by domestic and neighborly relations, in which intimate intersubjectivities are shaped between women via talk about death.
26) Stinson, Robert & Stinson, Peggy. 1983. The Long Dying of Baby Andrew. Boston: Little, Brown.
This book tells the story of Stinsons’ son, born at 24 ½ weeks with a weight of 800 grams, who endured an infinite series of complications before being allowed to die after 6 months. Aside from all the medical complications and the gradually more invasive and debilitating treatments, many things went wrong in this case. The Stinsons lost control of their child (they lost the right to be part of the decision concerning their baby), they could not stop invasive and “heroic treatments”, and parent-doctor communication did not work at all (they were never informed of procedures and treatment and were seen more as a problem than as having a central and legitimate role in the whole process). The costs of striving to “save” a baby like Andrew went further than the financial costs to comprise social, emotional, moral, personal, parental, and legal costs and losses. Although written in 1983 and reflecting on Andrew’s death in 1976, this book still represents a central concern in terms of medical bioethics and how cases like Andrew are often treated as a “medical technical management problem”. In fact, this is a book that should be read in medical school to understand how health care professionals actions often exclude family members. The odyssey this couple had to face was caused by the incapacity to limit the types of interventions health professionals should be allowed to perform. In this sense, the Stinsons wonder “what bizarre games we have to play because society hasn't got the guts to face up to a central absurdity of modern medicine: the machinery in an intensive care unit is more sophisticated than the codes of law and ethics governing its use” (288).
27) Goldstein, Donna. 1998. Nothing Bad Intended: Child Discipline, Punishment, and Survival in a Shantytown in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In Scheper-Hughes, N. & C. Sargent (eds.) Small Wars. The Cultural Politics of Childhood. London: University of California Press, pp. 389-413.
Goldstein claims that childhood is lived and experienced differently by the unequal classes that distinguish Brazilian urban culture. In fact, “in Brazil childhood is privilege of the rich and practically nonexistent for the poor” (389). This study is based in the analysis of a single poor family in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the kinds of interrelationships they maintain between each member of the family and with the rich people they serve. Goldstein’s aim is to “illustrate the wider social and economically based constructions of childhood and child discipline and punishment. (…) and the difference in ethos and worldview, and thus the tough ethics of care, both inside of and between the various classes ” (390). The author points to the fact that class studies are passé; nonetheless, Brazil’s poor children situation is a direct outcome of the enormous social inequalities (colonialism, slavery, unequal trade relations, rigid class and race systems), which are the current masks of domination, which in turn have caused a shortened childhood for much of Brazilian urban poor. Goldstein argues that Brazilian urban poor children are part of a different culture/class. Notions of childhood built in the culture/class of middle class and upper class groups differ substantially from the experience of lower class groups.
28) Wright, Peter. 1988. “Babyhood: The Social Construction of Infant Care as a Medical Problem.” In M. Lock and D. Gordon (eds.) Biomedicine Examined, 299-330. Dordrecth: D. Reidel.
When currently infant mortality rate is a crucial index to measure the level of social development of a country, it is interesting to look at how and when social construction of infant care became a medical problem. Because all knowledge, medicine and science not excepted, “is the product of human social activity and is used by human beings to bring into existence their own lives and experience” (300). Wright suggests that medicine and science are distinct social products, which are constituted and actualized, in social practice. He aims to demonstrate that over a period of some twenty-five years from 1890 a crucial transformation happened in England in the manner in which infancy and infant health were considered by such public figures as administrators, doctors, politicians, and journalists. Not only their view but also new concepts came into being that were different from before. New notions of infancy arose as a combination of manifold factors: a new vocabulary of concepts to understand the phenomena of early childhood; new ways of looking at the world and the visiblized things that were hidden before; new attitudes and conceptions in regard to infancy; and an extension of the scientific mode of social control into everyday life. However, it was not until the years around 1900 that infantile mortality came to be considered as a potentially resolvable national problem (before that time it was not perceived a problem at all). And this was caused by changes both outside and inside medicine (similar to Latour 1988). Public attitudes towards infant mortality, and changes from mere individual moralization of the poor to policies to cope with structural, social problems, were also part of this shift. But the process by which infancy and the care of infants came to be defined as a part of the technical, medical sphere was complex. It is not reasonable to see it as a simple example of medicalization; the limits of medicine, as they existed in the late nineteenth-century, were not simply extended in order to capture the infancy domain of medical expertise. For instance, child rearing was developed, institutionalized, legitimated, and transmitted within a new arena of practice different from medicine. And infant diseases and mortality were strongly shaped by environmental forces, especially causes related to poverty. Therefore, only later bacteriological knowledge was linked to infant mortality. Wright suggests, “Germ pathogeny provided a rationale for social intervention and a metaphor of social danger that was not otherwise available” (318). He demonstrates that medicalised child rearing was successful in establishing its claim to credibility by a specific medical ideology. In fact, germ pathogen came to serve as a trope for society and social affairs, and a model for making sense of diseases.
29) Worden, W.; Davies, B.; and McCown, D. 1999. Comparing Parent Loss with Sibling Loss. Death Studies 23(1): 1-15.
This is a study conducted in the greater Boston area on families who lost a child combined with data taken from Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Alberta on children who lost a sibling. In both cases participants were interviewed 4 months after the death of the family member and on the first and second anniversary. The reason for this research is that little attention has been paid to how children’s reactions differ according to who died –a parent or a sibling. This article compares children’s responses to parent and sibling loss. The authors interestingly find that gender plays a significant role in terms of the impact on the child; boys were more affected by the loss of a parent whereas girls were more affected by the loss of sibling, particularly a sister. Many authors have demonstrated that the loss of a parent during childhood represents a unique and overwhelming event. Instead, children’s reactions to parent loss have received less attention, but authors that analyzed this phenomenon found that this experience is also potentially distressing for the children. The authors found that the loss of a sibling does not indicate more emotional or behavioral problems than the loss of a parent. However, a closer examination reveals that gender plays a central role in children’s bereavement process. One possible explanation is that for the girls their sisters’ siblings play a central role as confidants for preadolescents. It seems that girls require more intimate relations with other females, including sisteers. On the contrary, boys reported less consistent differences in the level of intimacy with male and female partners. Another element is that the shift to confiding in same-sex friends occurs earlier for girls than for boys. Preteen boys may be confiding more in their parents during those years than girls. Consequently, a loss of a parent at this age would have a grater impact on boys than girls. The authors are aware that it is difficult to understand child-sibling or child-parent relationship out of the social and familiar context. Family functioning, especially patterns of communication, influences the adaptation of the child to the death of the sibling or parent.
30) Fadiman, Anne. 1998. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. New York, NY: Macmillan, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
This is an important and awarded book which focuses on the cultural clashes medical professionals and a Hmong family face in a medical institution in USA. It is the story of girl, Lia, her family, and her “medical symptoms” which are recognized as epilepsy by biomedical standards and qaug dab peg in Hmong. The Hmong regard epilepsy with ambivalence: it is seen as a serious and likely dangerous condition but it is also regarded as an illness of some distinction. The difficulties both Hmong and health practitioners face have to do with their mutual incapacity to speak a common language. Indeed, because of this continuous misunderstanding and miscommunication some doctors, when dealing with Hmong people, say they “practice veterinary medicine” (25). This is a clash between an “evidence based medicine” heavily dependent on technology and a shamanistic way of dealing with health and illness seen by western medical practitioners as backward. There is no dialogue, for western health practitioners medical knowledge always goes in one direction, but Hmong have a different perspective. Indeed, for many Hmong people, hospitals “were regarded not as places of healing but as charnel houses” (34). Miscommunication between both sides was also the source of mistrust in western medicine, because they were constantly changing Lia’s treatments. Ultimately, Hmong parents and health practitioners had access to different material and symbolical resources. Indeed, health practitioners can use police against Hmong parents and their children if they consider there is risk for a child. This means health workers can influence behaviors and actions not only via their medical knowledge but also their power.