The aim of this chapter is to present the content of the book as regards its origin and first steps as well as the process of elaboration by a group of academics engaged in research and teaching within the framework of sociology of childhood in four countries in Southern Europe (Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain). The book displays a systematic structure around three thematic axes: children’s characteristics and lifestyles, well-being versus poverty in childhood, and children involved in migratory processes. These topics are developed for each country through a description of the structural dimensions that make up the main trends existing, and completed with a detailed study of particular cases illustrating these trends. The purpose is to give visibility to children who are living their childhood in these places and also to their ways of facing the challenges and risks that go together with the status of being a child in a context of turbulence.
Part I of the book focuses on current changes in children’s forms of living in four countries in Southern Europe: Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, since the second half of the twentieth century until the crisis from 2008 to 2018. The first section of each chapter will present data regarding the structure of the children and young population, the typology of households and family forms of living, as well as the relevant policies and debates. The second section will focus on particularities of each country. In all chapters, by using socio-demographic indicators, the authors draw a sociological picture to understand children’s forms of living. Although the trajectories of the children in these countries may vary in several areas, such as discrimination, poverty, violence, lack of participation and voice, both in the private and public spheres, it still marks the lives of millions of children.
This chapter is informed by two contemporary perspectives on childhood: the idea that childhood is socially constructed and that the rights of the child should be centre stage. The focus is on the case of Greece and the economic crisis the country has been experiencing during the last decade, which has changed the material reality of the majority of population. Families and children are among those experiencing the effects of the crisis and changes in a variety of ways. In the first section we present data regarding the changes that occurred in the age structure of the population in Greece, and the family forms of living. In the second section we focus on the interpretation of the data, posing the following question: How do the socio-cultural and political particularities of Greece society, along with the current economic crisis, interact, influence and change children’s forms of living and what could be the implications in children’s everyday lives?
Sports are an essential part of the lives of millions of European citizens. In Italy, organized or informal sports activities are currently practiced by most children and young people, not only for purely physical reasons, but also for their socio-educational values and health benefits. In addition to this, children’s sports have recently faced an unexpected transformation, becoming a ‘family leisure activity’, given the amount of time that parents spend following and supporting their sons and daughters. Today’s parents are responding to new expectations about parenting: they are expected to be ‘involved’ parents who actively engage with their children but are also deemed responsible for ensuring children have a good childhood. Given the central role that sports play in meeting this challenge, children’s involvement in sport is a key site for observing the construction of modern childhood and the new patterns of parent/child relations in Italy.
Ana Nunes de Almeida and Vasco Ramos
This chapter outlines key features of childhood in Portugal. It looks at the living conditions of children, their families, schooling and care work, and the growing importance of ICTs. Additionally, it draws on recent qualitative research projects to complement this macro approach. Demographic trends, such as declines in fertility rates and increasing life expectancy, have led to a reduction in the proportion of children. While progress was made in recent decades, many Portuguese children experience poverty and material deprivation. Social inequalities continue to shape the lives of children, affecting schooling careers, life chances, and endangering their full citizenship. Children were highly impacted by the recent crisis because of higher unemployment and severe cuts in social support. On the other hand, childhoods are increasingly lived in front of screens. Families and children have appropriated digital ICTs, using different platforms and devices on a daily basis to communicate with friends and family.
Lourdes Gaitán and María Sánchez-Domínguez
This chapter analyses the intergenerational transfers between grandparents and grandchildren in Spain using data from the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe 2004–17 and the Dependent Care Survey (2014). The chapter first provides an overview of the basic demographic characteristics of the child population in Spain (0–17 years), its evolution from the early years of the demographic transition as well as the projections for the next 20 years. Second, it examines the material contribution of grandparents to the well-being of their grandchildren, both in the form of care and as economic resources. The results show that the intensity of care among grandparents is much more intense in Spain than in other European countries. Likewise, care arrangements generate a type of special relationship between children and other family members, where grandchildren play the role of ‘mediators’ between the other two generations.
The debates over children’s poverty and well-being during the last few years because of the economic crisis that affected, mostly, the Southern European countries, focus on the rising numbers of children and their families who have experienced difficulties in satisfying their most basic needs. This focus on children also involves another ontological issue, which is very important in the data presented in Part II of the book – the sociology of childhood requirement to respect children as social actors and active holders of rights. Part II brings together structural and relational dimensions to deeply focus on child poverty in countries that were severe hit by the economic crisis. It invites an ongoing reflection on potential and limits, opportunities and pitfalls but always framing the issue of child poverty in a child-rights-centred approach, valuing children as active subjects of rights and with a view to making the state responsible for developing children-centred policies.
Yannis Pechtelidis and Stelios Pantazidis
This is an ethnographic study dealing with childhood and children’s education in after-school programmes. Its purpose is the sociological investigation of the social construction of child subjectivity in the workshops of two different after-school programmes (ASPs). The participating children are socially differentiated in terms of living conditions and opportunities in education. The study focuses on the specific experiences of these children in ASPs, as well as the interweave of ASPs’ activities with educational and social inequalities from a sociological angle. A main assumption in this chapter is that the reproduction and expansion of inequality occur not only at the level of economy but also of culture and, specifically, that of cultural capital. Under that prism, we examine the interaction between the children (subjects) and the ASPs (structures) as symbolic mechanisms that transmit a specific cultural capital to their child members, aiming in their well-being; how children experience and actively manage their presence in them; as well as the way in which children’s cultural capital is articulated with that of the ASPs.
Maria Teresa Tagliaventi
The chapter focuses on child poverty in Italy, taking into account the main official statistics. Poverty is associated with some clearly defined socio-demographic characteristics and it is distributed very unevenly across the north, centre and south of the country. Southern Italy has a much higher incidence of poverty, due to the disparities in the economic and production systems and to the difference in the local welfare and regional policies supporting families. Economic poverty brings a chain of individual disadvantages that have lifelong effects and creates a risk of regenerating social inequalities: poor children are more likely to become adults with few opportunities, in turn generating families in conditions of poverty. Finally, the chapter stresses how Roma children and adolescents living in ‘nomad camps’ in Italy are a social group in extreme poverty. Nomad camps are places of segregation and produce the radicalization of marginalization and social distress. Education and training are the areas where Roma children’s social exclusion is evident.