Good Childhood – Good Future World? Global Programs and the Sociology of Childhood

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 18:00
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Doris BUEHLER-NIEDERBERGER, Department of Education and Social Science, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany
Programs to improve the conditions of growing up are most prominent when striving for a better world and uncontested due to the moral authority of the “innocent child” as a promise for the future. However, such programs are heterogeneous as to their respective goals, perspectives, actors and interests. We may distinguish two types of such endeavors. Firstly, there are the ones focusing on measurement and improvement of qualities of schooling and parenting. They are designed against the background of a universal notion of proper childhood and early fostering of development of competencies. Such notion may remain tacit, it is however assumed to be valid for all countries and all social groups in the countries. The programs promise to improve economic conditions and to reduce social immobility and inequality on a local and a global level. Secondly, there are attempts to support children’s participation, to give voice to children, to advocate their agency and to consider locally different economic conditions and notions of childhood and family.

Childhood sociologists are openly in favor of this second line to improve childhood and this goes along with the concept of “child as actor” which has a central theoretical and advocatory function in this scientific community. Meanwhile, they keep distance to the mighty intergovernmental organization and well-funded research institutions implementing the first line of development. Such preferences are even mirrored in the respective research methodology.

However, when the impacts of both lines are scrutinized, it is not that conclusive which one should be favored: both may occasionally reduce inequality, but as well produce exclusion and stigmatization in other cases. For a better analysis of impacts and biases apologists of both lines – divided by institutional and disciplinary boundaries – should start to exchange