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Title: Children's understanding of political concepts
Author: Buchanan-Barrow, Eithne
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 1996
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Previous examinations of young children's political cognition have mainly followed a socialization framework, through large-scale surveys of children's developing comprehension of the adult political world as a knowledge-goal. However, this research was formulated in the belief that children's political understanding develops as a consequence of their attempts to comprehend the political realities present in their own social environment. Therefore, as the school represents an important micropolitical context in children's lives, this study investigated their understanding of the system of the school. The empirical work reported in this thesis first presents a broad picture of the developmental trends in children's understanding as they attempt to make sense of the school, with their perceptions of such political concepts as power, authority, rules, roles and decision-making exhibiting differences with age. However, further empirical studies, examining the children's thinking for wider influences, suggested that the children's perceptions of the social environment are subject to a very complex pattern of influences, which are not necessarily the consequences of either age or cognitive differences. There was evidence of contextual effects on children's differentiation of school rules and of links between the children's attitudes and the attitudes of both teachers and parents. More importantly, there were indications that the children's perceptions of school were also subject to influences associated with their social categories, such as socio-economic class, gender and birth order. Given the extent and significance of these influences on the children's thinking which were revealed in this research, it is argued that the development of social cognition in children is much too complex for an interpretation based solely on changing cognitive capacities. It is therefore concluded that this study presents compelling evidence in favour of a social representations perspective on the developmental trends in children's political thinking.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Cognitive development; Perceptions of school life