Children's constructions of work

Hutchings, Merryn (1997) Children's constructions of work. Doctoral thesis, University of North London.


This thesis examines children's constructions of work: their own work at school and at home; possible future occupations; and work in manufacturing industry; and the resources drawn on in these. Such constructions are of interest in the context of concerns about how society reproduces itself and passes on knowledge, understanding and attitudes to the next generation, and in particular, how social and economic inequalities are reproduced and some groups remain disadvantaged. The thesis aims to contribute to understanding of the ways in which this happens, and to suggest how schools might effectively contribute to widen children's constructions of the potentialities for their own futures.

In the light of critiques of developmental ism, previous research in this area is critically scrutinised; it is argued that such research neglects the variety of children's experience in the immediate family and cultural contexts in which they live, and tends to explain societal inequalities in terms of individual development, thus pathologising certain groups of people. A broadly social constructionist perspective has been adopted, drawing on a range of theorists who have focused on behaviour and interaction rather than structures in the mind or the world. Constructions of work and resources drawn on were investigated through interviews with forty-three children in two London primary schools, one in a predominantly middle class area and one in a working class area. Children interviewed were in Reception Class (4-5 years old), Year Three (7-8 years old) and Year Six (10-11 years old); numbers of boys and girls were almost equal. The thesis argues that differences in experience between children can account for the differences in their constructions of work, and in particular, draws attention to the extremely limited experience and constructions of work of children in the families of the long-term unemployed.

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