Leisure and surveillance in Irish childhoods: A cross-class study of Cork city

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Brennan, Aimie Maria
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University College Cork
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This research provides an interpretive cross-class analysis of the leisure experience of children, aged between six and ten years, living in Cork city. This study focuses on the cultural dispositions underpinning parental decisions in relation to children’s leisure activities, with a particular emphasis on their child-surveillance practices. In this research, child-surveillance is defined as the adult monitoring of children by technological means, physical supervision, community supervision, or adult supervised activities (Nelson, 2010; Lareau, 2003; Fotel and Thomsen, 2004). This research adds significantly to understandings of Irish childhood by providing the first in-depth qualitative analysis of the surveillance of children’s leisure-time. Since the 1990s, international research on children has highlighted the increasingly structured nature of children’s leisure-time (Lareau, 2011; Valentine & McKendrick, 1997). Furthermore, research on child-surveillance has found an increase in the intensive supervision of children during their unstructured leisure-time (Nelson, 2010; Furedi, 2008; Fotel and Thomsen, 2004). This research bridges the gap between these two key bodies of literature, providing a more integrated overview of children’s experience of leisure in Ireland. Using Bourdieu’s (1992) model of habitus, field and capital, the dispositions that shape parents’ decisions about their children’s leisure time are interrogated. The holistic view of childhood adopted in this research echoes the ‘Whole Child Approach’ by analysing the child’s experience within a wider set of social relationships including family, school, and community. Underpinned by James and Prout’s (1990) paradigm on childhood, this study considers Irish children’s agency in negotiating with parents’ decisions regarding leisure-time. The data collated in this study enhances our understanding of the micro-interactions between parents and children and, the ability of the child to shape their own experience. Moreover, this is the first Irish sociological research to identify and discuss class distinctions in children’s agentic potential during leisure-time.
Childhood , Children , Surveillance , Habitus , Social class , Leisure time , Child agency
Brennan, A. M. 2014. Leisure and surveillance in Irish childhoods: A cross-class study of Cork city. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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