Young People's Encounters with Death: A Normal or Troubling Childhood Experience? by Jane Ribbens McCarthy


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Young People's Encounters with Death: A Normal or Troubling Childhood Experience? by Jane Ribbens McCarthy a presentation from the BSA Sociology of Death, Dying and Bereavement Study Group Symposium on 15 November 2013.

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Young People's Encounters with Death: A Normal or Troubling Childhood Experience? by Jane Ribbens McCarthy

  1. 1. Jane Ribbens McCarthy British Sociological Association 15th November 2013
  2. 2.   how we understand – sometimes disruptive and troubling – changes and challenges in young lives, in the context of contemporary childhoods in a mediatized and globalised world how far, and at what point, do we see encounters with death as a ‘normal’ experience in the early years of life, and at what point do such encounters become troubling, and to whom?
  3. 3.      Change is inevitable and often challenging Troubles are common in children’s family lives Both cultural and material resources important for understandings and responses Troubles encompass varied issues: some may be considered harmful but could also have some positive implications Power struggles around seeing continuities across issues of (normal) change, and demarcating some changes as different and potentially harmful, and so requiring interventions
  4. 4.     ‘New’ childhood studies - emphasis on social construction of childhood rather than e.g. child development as biologically driven universal Historical development of Western understandings of childhood in 18th-20th C Raised expectations – UNCRC – children’s needs as moral imperative Varying images of children – needs/rights, victims/threats – classed and raced
  5. 5.  ‘What is written about children is a way of thinking about how to construct a new and better society. The child is a vantage point from which to offer critiques of society. Today it is frequently stated that the child symbolises purity and innocence, and the nourishing of children is seen as a testament to the value we place on these virtues’. (Seaford, 2001, p457)
  6. 6.    Change rather than loss Change is inevitable and troubling change is common Theoretical resources for understanding troubles ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦  Carrithers on vicissitudes and expectations Craib on disappointment Kleinman on suffering Janoff-Bulman on trauma Expectations of ‘a proper childhood’ – importance of meanings
  7. 7.  Where and how to draw any boundaries? Where do we locate difference and where do we trace continuity? What is helpful?  Bereavement as ‘normal’ part of life experience of young people?  Bereavement as form of loss or change like other losses and changes?  Bereavement that is experienced as source of ‘difference’?
  8. 8.       Sayers critical realist approach to why things matter Shweder anthropological approach to nonuniform universality International law on Children’s Rights Ethics of care When to hold questions open, and when to reach decisions for interventions? When to see ‘childhood bereavement’ as a form of disruptive (traumatic) trouble and when to see it as a form of expectable change?