Tag Archives: AS Sociology

Using qualitative data to evaluate how material deprivation effects children in the UK

 

This post follows on from this one – The extent of material deprivation in the UK.

One of the things you need to look at for the AS Education module is the extent to which material deprivation is responsible for educational underachievement. While statistics give you an overview of the extent of poverty, and a little bit of information of the kind of things poor people can’t afford, they don’t give you much a feeling of what it’s like to actually live in poverty.

To get a feeling for day to day challenges of living in poverty you need more qualitative sources, and ‘thankfully’ we are blessed with a number of recent documentaries which look at the experience of living with material deprivation in the UK.

Watch the documentary sources below and then answer the questions/ contribute to the discussions below. The videos have all been selected because they focus on material deprivation and education in some way.

Source One – Poor Kids (BBC – 2011) – Mainly focusing on younger children

 

Growing up Poor (2013) – Focusing on three teenage girls – ‘caught between poverty and an uncertain future’

 

Poverty – Britain’s Hungry Children (Channel 4 Report, 2013) – Cites research drawn from 2500 food diaries kept by children in the UK – Some of whom live on less than half of the recommended calories. Also highlights the importance of lunch clubs to feed hungry children.

Finally watch this video – This shows you a case study of one girl from a poor background who actually made it into the best school in the area, against the odds. It’s a bit slow, but later on it gives an insight into the struggle her mum faces to raise enough cash to meet the ‘hidden costs’ of education (she has to resort to a ‘pay day loan’).

 

Questions/ tasks for discussion:

Q1: Draw an ‘ageline’ (like a timeline, I may have just invented the word) showing how material deprivation affects 3 year olds to 18 year olds in different ways.

Q2: From a broadly Marxist Perspective, the effects of material deprivation on children are structural, or objective if you like. Being brought up in poverty and having a poorer diet, and living in lower quality housing effectively cause poor children to do less well in education. This means that, all other (non material) things being equal (same school, same intelligence, same motivation etc) a poor kid will always do worse than a rich kid. Do you agree? Be prepared to explain your answer.

The extent of material deprivation in the UK

One of the things you have to consider as part of the Education module in AS Sociology is the extent to which material deprivation is responsible for differential educational achievement (mainly) by social class. This concept is also relevant to the A2 crime module, and one of the most important in Sociology in general.

Material deprivation* refers to the inability to afford basic resources and services such as sufficient food and heating. The government’s material deprivation rate measures the proportion of the population that cannot afford at least four of the following items:

  1. To pay their rent, mortgage, utility bills or loan repayments,
  2. To keep their home adequately warm,
  3. To face unexpected financial expenses,
  4. To eat meat or protein regularly,
  5. To go on holiday for a week once a year,
  6. A television set,
  7. A washing machine,
  8. A car,
  9. A telephone.

As can be seen from the statistics below, the number of people suffering from ‘severe’ material deprivation has remained stable in recent years, but the numbers of people struggling to pay for holidays and meet emergency expenses has increased. Percentage of population unable to afford items, UK 2005-2011

I thought it might be interesting to see the extent of material deprivation among students/ readers (NB this is just a test poll for now!)

 

Something Extra… *A fuller definition is provided by the The OECD which defines Material deprivation as ‘the inability for individuals or households to afford those consumption goods and activities that are typical in a society at a given point in time, irrespective of people’s preferences with respect to these items.’ It’s work noting at this point that this is a relative rather than an absolute measurement of poverty.

Gender and Education – Evaluating the Role of Out of School Factors (draft one)

One of the out of school factors which could explain why girls do better than boys in education is that girls have higher aspirations than boys.  Here’s some recent research which supports this while also suggesting that the relationship between gender and aspiration is also strongly influenced by social class background.

The data below’s taken from  The British Household Panel Survey and is based on a sample of nearly 5000 10-15 year olds. This research found (among other things!) that that boys are less likely than girls to aspire to go to college / university across all ethnic groups. The numbers are especially divergent for the white ethnic group – 57% (boys) and 74% (girls).

Gender and aspiration

However, when you break things down by social class background (NB this is analysis!) things look more differentiated – Basically, boys from professional class backgrounds aspire to university, but those from all other social class backgrounds generally do not, while girls from all social class backgrounds seem to aspire to go to university.

gender class and aspiration

To put it bluntly (OK crudely) what these statistical comparisons suggest is that working class boys don’t generally aspire to go to university, whereas working class girls do.

Strengths of this data

Nice easy comparisons – As evidenced in the perty charts.

You can use it as broad supporting evidence of girls aspirations being higher than boys, with an ‘analysis twist’

Limitations of this data 

Of course the above statistics (this is a classic limitation of quantitative data) tell you nothing about why working class boys but not working class girls do not aspire to go to university. It could be due to parental attitudes filtering down differently to girls than boys, or it may be other factors which have nothing to do with socialisation. These stats don’t actually tell us!

Questions for discussion 

  • Summarize the relationship between social class, gender and educational aspiration
  • Suggest one reason for the above relationship

Extension Question – This information was relatively easy to find, it’s quite easy to understand, directly relevant to the AS Sociology syllabus and gives you some easy analysis points – how many of the new (forthcoming) AS text books would you expect to find this information in?

 

 

Sociology on TV – Listings…

Slow TV week this week – but here are the things I think are worth recording…

Tuesday 

01.55 BBC3 – Britain unzipped – bills itself as a ‘look what goes on behind closed doors in Britain’ – It may be interesting, then again it may just be voyeuristic.

BBC2 – 20.00 – The Town taking on China – Set in Kirby – a town trying to rest back cushion manufacturing from China. Relevant to globalisation, or resistance to it…

Wednesday 

23.45 – The Disabled Century – asks whether the welfare state made life better for the disabled community

Thinking Allowed – softer masculinities

In this podcast A Sociologist reveals his findings about masculinity and identity based on 5 months participant observation with students in a sixth form in the South of England. The podcast focuses on ideas about heterosexuality and homosexuality.

This is a nice 15 minute summary of a paper entitled ‘It’s just not acceptable any more:  the erosion of homophobia and the softening of masculinity at and English sixth form by Mark McCormac and Eric Anderson. Below is a summary of some of the main findings –

Contemporary attitudes to homosexuality stand in contrast to the 1980s and 1990s when there was awareness of homosexuality but it was stigmatized –young men did not want  to be associated with homosexuality and thus they would engage in displays of overtly masculine behavior such as fighting and be openly homophobic in order to demonstrate their heterosexuality – the theory was that they did so in order to reinforce their heterosexual, traditionally masculine identities.

In the latest research the researchers were surprised at the wide spread acceptance and tolerance of the notion that some people are gay, the condemnation of homophobic behavior and even criticism of the school for not doing enough to promote sexual equality –students were actually critical that there were no openly gay teachers at the school and about the lack of discussion of gay issues in lessons.

Another finding was that many of the male students seemed to be extremely comfortable with expressing more traditionally feminine aspects of their identities – even if not themselves gay – two such examples were the high degrees of physical contact between boys – sitting on each other’s laps, hugging and so on, and the attention paid to appearance – fake tan and moisturizer. However, most boys did engage in a practice that the researchers termed ‘heterosexual recuperation.’ In which they would jokingly make comments about fancying their friends – as a means of ironically asserting their heterosexuality.

This study is also interesting from a methodological point of view – involving 5 months of overt participant observation

As part of the research, the researchers took steps to gain the respondent’s confidence by dressing in similar ways and hanging about with them watching the same TV shows and it helped that they shared similar tastes in music – they also bought clothes from similar shops – an interesting case for selecting researchers who are close in characteristics to the people they are researching.

Ethics are also interesting – the researchers were prepared to openly discuss their sexualities – the feeling being that this would put them on an equal footing with the respondents.

One also has to ask how representative the study is – it was carried out in one middle class, secular school – however, McCormac says he repeated the research in a religious college and a ‘failing’ school… he said there were differences but the similarities were greater.

It might, however,  be worth considering whether this tolerance of homosexual identities is found amongst younger boys – 13-15 year olds for example – but I guess child protection issues might preclude you from researching this.

There is also the possibility that the lads were playing up to the researchers, but the researcher denies this because of the length of stay in the institution – you can’t keep an act up for so long.

All in all this is an interesting study that shows that there is increasing tolerance of marginal sexual identities among older school children in the United Kingdom, which stand in contrast to previous research that found evidence of homophobic bullying in schools

The British Social Attitudes Survey and the Myth of Meritocracy

The latest findings of the British Social Attitudes Survey were released recently. The survey involves over 3,000 interviews annually and participants are selected using a technique called random probability sampling.

The chapter on peoples beliefs about ‘meritocracy’ is especially interesting in the context of education. Meritocratic factors are seen as being the most important when it comes to a person “getting ahead” in modern Britain….

  • 84% say hard work is important;
  • 74% think a good education is important
  • 71% say ambition.
  • 33% think knowing the right people is important.
  • 14% think that being born into a wealthy family was thought to be important
  • 8% thought that a person’s race/ethnicity was important

So since 1989, people believe that the importance of ‘ascriptive factors’ (which people are born with or into)in influencing where you end up has fallen. Your own individual effort and ambition is seen to be much more important!

image002

Now this seems to be at odds with the actual facts – there is just too much evidence suggesting a strong relationship between private schools and the top jobs (you have to come from a wealthy background to get into a private school).

Just a couple of examples of the links between wealth (ascription) and ‘getting ahead’-

In this post I mentioned the following – Of 80,000 15-year-olds who’d been on free school meals in 2002, only 45 had made it to Oxbridge- compared to the high-end private Westminster school which averages 82 successful applicants every year

And in this post – quoting George Monbiot ‘A new report by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) shows that intelligent children from the 20% of richest homes in England are seven times more likely to attend a high-ranking university than intelligent children from the poorest 40%

You might also remember the post in December which reminds us that black students are much less likely to get into Oxbridge.

It may be that our society is more meritocratic than 20 years ago but class and ethnic background matter more than people think – the British public at large are surely here suffering from a ‘myth of meritocracy’ – perhaps because it is more comforting to delude yourself than face the stark truth that our society is still riddled with class inequalities?

The best revision techniques – AS Sociology

Just a few last minute reminders for AS Sociology students – for the exam this Friday I recommend the following two most excellent revision techniques

Firstly, you should make sure you can answer a 24 mark question on each of the following topic areas – you should be able to use concepts (sociology words), research studies and statistics where appropriate, and be analytical and evaluative.

  1. – Couples (equality in relationships)
  2. – Childhood – the way its constructed, whether things are getting bad/ worse. whether it’s disappearing
  3. – The perspectives on the family – (focussing on the nuclear family) – Functionalism/ Marxism/ Feminism/ The New Right/ Postmodernism and also Giddens/ Beck
  4. – Demography – the causes and consequences of falling birth and death rates and
  5. – Changing family patterns – reasons for and consequences of changes in divorce, marriage, cohabitation and childbirth.
  6. – Family diversity – how family life is becoming more diverse and perspectives on increasing family diversity.
  7. – Social Policy and the Family – examples of how the government can influence family life and perspectives on this.

Secondly, and related to the first thing, you should focus on learning the ‘model essay plans’ I’ve given you for each of the above areas – you can tweak the plan to fit the actual essay in the exam – test yourself constantly over the next 36 hours – make sure you know the content of each topic area as well as the general structure of the essay you are likely to get.

You may get a ‘hybrid’ essay question that asks you to voer two topic areas in one question – in which case keep an eye on the clock and adapt.

The time for gimmicky learning is over, you must now force yourself to learn the information for the exam in the format of the exam- you must be able to write for one solid hour – don’t think too hard when in the exam either – quickly plan out what knowledge is relevant to the question and then regurgitate all the cocepts/ theories and research studies you know and relate them to the specific question, and evaluate constantly (which mainly means criticising)

I’m not going to wish you good luck – luck only benefits students who are ill prepared – when, for example, the two out seven topics they have happened to revise come up – in fact I hope students playing that sort of game are positively unlucky and fail so I don’t have to deal with them next year. This way justice is done and it makes my life easier – and who doesn’t love the two birds one stone thing.

If you are prepared – then luck is irrelevant.

Oh and you only answer the section on the family – five questions in total – three short answer questions and the two essays worth 24 marks each

What is Social Class?

Some of you might find this useful – my ‘What is Social Class’ handout from 2009. I put this together for the AS unit in Culture and Identity before dodgey standardisation practises (AQA exam board) meant we had to change our option to The Family. Some might argue that the fact that the chief examiner for the AQA writing a text book for commercial gain that only includes the family option, could lead to pressure to mark the other options not included in that text book more harshly. Of course, I wouldn’t suggest this for a minute.

The handout should be useful for anyone wanting to know more about class and class identity.

Culture and Identity – social class worksheet

SCLY1 AS Sociology of the family

SCLY1  AS Sociology of The Family – Easy to understand breakdown of what we teach

Hi, it’s occured to me that we really don’t cover that much material in this module. Despite the main text books over convoluting a lot of the stuff – I think all that we cover boils down to the following 7 key questions (ok and sub questions)

Topic 1 – Domestic roles.

The General Trend here is that men and women have become more equal in their domestic roles and relationships are generally characterised by more negotiation and discussion (reflexivity)

Key questions –

  • To what extent is this true of modern relationships? Are there contradictory examples if you look at different generations/ social classes and ethnic groups?
  • If you believe this is there is a general trend towards gender equality, what factors have lead to this change and what is the relative importance of each factor?
  • What do the different sociological perspectives say about these

Topic 2 – Marriage, Co-habitation and Divorce

The general trend here is that there has been a long term decline in the rate of Marriage and a corresponding increase in cohabitation. The divorce rate has increased overall – especially rapidly after the 1969 divorce act, although it has been declining since 2006.

Key Questions

  • What are the reasons for these changes, and what is the relative importance of each.
  • What are the consequences of these changes (relates to topic 3)
  • What do different sociological perspectives think about the decline in marriage and increase in divorce?

Topic 3 – The decline of the traditional Nuclear Family and increasing in diversity in families and households –

The general trend here is that there families and households are characterised by more diversity in the following ways –

  • There are more reconstituted families (step families)
  • There are more single parent families
  • There are more single person households
  • There are more visible and legally recognised same sex relationships
  • There is greater ethnic diversity
  • There is greater generational diversity (as people live longer)

Key Questions

  • What are the reasons for these changes, and what is the relative importance of each reason for each change (relates to topic 2!)
  • What are the consequences of these changes
  • What do different sociological perspectives think about the decline in marriage and increase in divorce?

Topic 4 – perspectives on the extended and nuclear family in historical context

The general trend is that European societies use to have more extended families, however, with industrialisation; the nuclear family came to be the dominant family form. However, since the 1970s, the nuclear family appears to be in decline.

Key questions/ perspectives

  • Assess the Functionalist/ Marxist/ Feminist/ Postmodernist/ Late Modernist view on the role and functions of the nuclear family in society.

Topic 5 – Childhood.

The general trend here is that family life and society in general has become more child centred, and children’s lives are more regulated, although some would argue that childhood is now disappearing.

Key questions

  • Examine the ways in which childhood is socially constructed
  • Assess the view that children are better off today than in the past, now that their lives are more regulated by adults.
  • Assess the view that childhood is disappearing.

Topic 6. Demography

The general trend is that birth and death rates have both decreased and net migration to the UK has increased steadily in recent years.

Key questions

  • Why are the birth and death rates decreasing?
  • What are the causes and consequences of immigration/ emigration?

Topic 7. The family and social policy

Here we examine different perspectives on how the government should influence family life through policy

Key questions

  • Examine the relationship between social policy and any of the following – gender equality in the family, the role of children in the family, marriage/ divorce, family diversity, the place of children in the family.
  • Examine different sociological perspectives on social policy.

See this site for revision aids