comparing children family risks
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comparing children family risks

DisciplinaEducacao Comparada3 materiais138 seguidores
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the risk of oncoming chaos and disorganization. 
How to listen to the child is a key to a deeper understanding of today\u2019s main topic, 
risks, in more than one sense. Many risks of children and families are as a matter of 
fact consequences of a long-lasting history of neglect concerning the child\u2019s authentic 
voice. The fact that we need children as narrators and experts of their lives has been 
obscured and forgotten. 
For instance, we need children to inform us what is risky from their point of view. We 
need their co-operation in constructing the concepts of risk and safety but 
paradoxically there always remains a risk that we have not been able to make 
ourselves understood by them. 
Beck, U. & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (1995). The normal chaos of love. Cambridge: Polity Press. 
Lahikainen, A.R. (2002) Estääkö rakenteellinen välinpitämättömyys lapseuden? 
Iltapäivätoiminnan kansallinen seminaari 16.- 18.11.2002. 
Plenary lectures 
After-school hours: A risk of being alone? 
Hannele Forsberg & Harriet Strandell 
The concern on after-school hours and the cultural politics of childhood 
The background of our paper is formed by the recent increasingly heated public 
concern on the after-school hours of young schoolchildren in Finland. In this public 
discussion the after-school time of children (while their parents are working) was 
highlighted as a risk. This risk talk forms the starting point of our study. 
In the heart of the debate was the lack of a comprehensive system of institutional care 
services during after-school hours, which as such has a long history in Finland1. The 
lack became considered as a significant social problem only after the mid 1990s, as 
adult activists started to make claims on new kinds of institutional arrangements. 
Children start school at the age of seven and until recently it has a culturally typical 
and accepted practice that young schoolchildren spend their after-school hours either 
alone or with their friends or siblings, or with their mother or father or some other 
adult in and near their homes. The general security of society, the hot meal provided 
at school and the social norm which has allowed children to spend time alone have 
made this local practise possible. With the new public concern something seemed to 
be changing. \u201cNormal\u201d after-school practices were questioned and highlighted as a 
social problem, as a risk. The lack of a comprehensive system of institutional care 
services was seen as a developmental risk adding to the insecurity of children. 
The rise of concern was in this case however not linked to a phenomenon which has 
activated debate on public child care elsewhere in Europe, that is, the increased 
frequency of women/mothers working outside the home. The full-time gainful 
employment of Finnish mothers with school-age children has been regarded as a 
1Internationally, Finland is often regarded as the model country of public child care services for 
children under school age. This is probably justified, as Finnish children below school age have a 
statutory right to day care, which is the case only in few countries. In addition, almost all forms of child 
care \u2013 home care for children below 3 years of age, day-care centres, family day care and private day 
care \u2013 are covered by public subsidies (see Anttonen 2003, 160-161). 
cultural self-evidence for decades2. It was something else that made after-school hours 
a contemporary social issue in Finland. We will suggest that the debate reflects a 
change in attitudes towards childhood. The debate was very powerful, resulting in an 
Act on children\u2019s morning and after school care, which from the autumn 2004 
guarantees supervised municipal after school care for all first- and second-graders 
who opt for it3 (Laki koululaisten\u2026 2003). 
What is this change in attitudes towards childhood about? We identify in the public 
debate of children\u2019s after school time ways of connecting children and risk that have 
not been articulated in the same ways and to the same extent earlier. We refer to the 
extensive talk requesting extended supervision and control of children in order to 
avoid the devastating consequences and risks of being alone in after school time, 
when parents are working. 
We \u201cread\u201d this activated concern and risk talk in the context of what has been called a 
shift into a new wave of institutionalisation of childhood (Kampmann 2004). 
Institutionalisation refers to the organisation of day care and schooling in a way which 
essentially structures children\u2019s daily lives and social contacts. Children\u2019s lives are 
increasingly fitted into the frameworks of institutions and professionals with regard to 
time, space and social control. Recent trends in the discussion about 
institutionalisation is not that focused upon questions of quantitative expansion of 
school and day care, but rather on new forms of investing in the \u201cquality\u201d of 
childhood. Contrary to e.g. Sweden or Denmark, the two stages are difficult to 
separate in Finland when it comes to after school time, because they are both going on 
at the same time. However, our interest is addressed towards the \u201csecond 
institutionalisation\u201d (ibid.), meaning a qualitatively new and deeper interest in 
childhood on behalf of society, largely arguing in terms of risk and control. 
2E.g. in 1961, over 50% of the mothers of children below 16 years of age were gainfully employed 
outside home; the employment of Finnish women has also been characterised by full-time jobs (Takala 
2002, 12). 
3 In addition to afternoon care, the new turn concerns the possibilities of extending or reorganising the 
school day. The working parents of first- and second-graders are also now entitled to work less than 
full time. (Laki työsopimuslain\u2026 2003.) 
Discussing children in terms of concern is not as such a new phenomenon. Many 
children also suffer very concretely from consequences of different kind of oppressive 
social conditions. So that is not new either. What is at stake here is how the public 
concern for children might articulate with a broader \u2018cultural politics of childhood\u2019. 
Allison James and Adrian James (2005, 1-2) define the concept of cultural politics of 
childhood as an attempt to theorise the production and reproduction of childhood in 
society. It involves examining the cultural determinants of childhood and \u201cthe 
identification of the processes by which these cultural determinants and discourses are 
put into practice at any given time, in any given society, to construct \u2018childhood\u2019 in 
society\u201d (James and James 2004, 7). The concept also includes the ways in which 
children themselves experience, deal with and in turn influence the processes of 
ordering and control, and the regulatory framings of who they are (ibid.). 
In correspondence with these ideas we have been wondering if we can reveal some 
new tendencies by analysing public conceptions of children and their after-school 
hours as a site for theorising cultural politics of childhood in late modern Finnish 
society. To make the possible new conceptions more clear we have been using 
children\u2019s own accounts on their after-school time as a mirror for the public concern 
on the after-school hours. By this methodological construction we also give voice to 
children, the party who is normally silent in the construction of concern on children. 
This way we will approach the public concern and the related risk
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