Children, Family and the State: Decision-Making and Child by Nigel Thomas (auth.)

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In fact the care given to children who are looked after by the state is often less than optimal, as we shall see in a subsequent chapter. Nevertheless it seems from the foregoing that it would be wrong to assume that such children are disabled by their experiences from taking an active part in decisions about their future. On the contrary, it may be that their experiences of dealing with change, and in some cases of being compelled to take responsibility for aspects of their own care at an early age, make them in some ways better prepared than many other children to take part in decisions.

1 In modern psychological theories development is epigenetic; that is, the stages of development are not completely fixed, but include the potential for adaptation. Development may be seen as the outcome of a process in which several factors are involved: genetic material, some of which is common to a species and some unique to an individual; the environment in which growth takes place, which is in itself complex and many-layered; and the individual’s own adaptive capacity. 2 At the same time advances in understanding the structure and chemistry of the brain 21 22 Children, Family and the State have begun to comprehend the enormous complexity of its sysems and networks, and to indicate the many different pathways which development can take during the life course.

3. Children’s social relationships and cultures are worthy of study in their own right, independent of the perspective and concerns of adults. 4. Children are and must be seen as active in the construction and determination of their own social lives, the lives of those around them and of the societies in which they live. Children are not just the passive subjects of social structures and processes. 5. Ethnography is a particularly useful methodology for the study of childhood. It allows children a more direct voice and participation in the production of sociological data than is usually possible through experimental or survey styles of research.

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