Representations of youth Christine Griffin

  • US psych GS Hall is generally credited with the ‘discovery’ of adolescence
  • Pre-industrial European societies made no distinction between childhood and other pre-adult phases of life.
  • Coincided with a new form of muscular Christianity which shaped dominant constructions of femininity as well as masculinity.
  • The early model of the Latin School was akin to a monastery: women and the feminine were potential sources of temptation.
  • The new public school system associated women with weakness and fragility and men with masculinity and strength. (Gillis 1974)
  • According to Kett the mid-nineteenth century concept of adolescence was in its crudest form an embodiment of Victorian prejudices about females and sexuality.
  • Most of the changes which laid the foundations for the discovery of ‘adolescence’ occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century with the growth of factory production, working class families were fragmented by migration to cities of the 15-25 yr olds who stayed there. The factory conditions also improved the conditions of young working class women’s lives.
  • Sentimental ideas about children did not arise until the late 19th century.
  • Changes in the education system played a major role in shaping the emerging ideology of adolescence.
  • In US cities social reformers used religion to ‘protect’ and ‘civilise’ urban working class youth groups.
  • Hall borrowed from the Great Chain of Being adapting it to a ‘life-stage’ model of the move from birth through childhood and adolescence to the fixed point of maturity at adulthood and down again to old age.
  • The roaring twenties saw a widespread moral panic over youthful female sexuality during a time of increasing independence for some groups of women. (Kett 1977)
  • The 1950s saw both the development of the ‘first distinctive post-war youth sub-cultures’ (Springhall 1986) e.g. in the Teddy Boy and a reassertion of women’s ideal role in the home and at the centre of nuclear family life and the ideology of domesticated femininity. (Summerfield 1984)
  • For Anna Freud, adolescence was constructed as a period of inevitable psychic turmoil and vulnerability.
  • Lee Ellis in US journal Delinquent Behavior: criminal behaviour stemmed ‘fundamentally from genetic factors, although social factors could also play a part.’ He concluded that individuals from large families, whose parents were no longer cohabiting, aged between twelve and thirty, black and male, are assumed to be most likely to commit ‘serious victimful crimes.’
  • The key argument in deprivation theory is that young people turn to delinquency as a consequence of a variety of social, cultural, economic and psychological influences, all of which are constructed as negative.
  • Deprivation theory received a major boost in Britain during 1970s when Sir Keith Joseph as Minister for Health brought the idea of a cycle of ‘transmitted deprivation’ out of academia into the popular domain.
  • Bowlby did work on maternal deprivation
  • Early childhood experiences and anti-social values transmitted through the ‘broken home’ thesis.
  • ‘Delinquent youth’ can occupy the position of both victim and perpetrator.
  • So-called ‘conflict theories’ were forged by the political changes of the 50s – 70s in Western societies.
  • Focus was on how and why certain young people…came to be seen and treated as ‘deviant’ and / or ‘delinquent.’
  • Deviance is represented in terms of individual failure to attain normal positions in the spheres of sexuality, family life and the job market. Denise Kandel.
  • Young men were assumed to be actively and often aggressively ‘deviant’ and young women were usually treated as passively ‘at risk’ and in need of protection or as actively ‘deviant’ usually in sexual terms.
  • The absences are equally significant here. We seldom read of the need to ‘protect’ working class young people or young people of colour from the periodic or sustained use of harsh policing strategies directed at certain groups.

 


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