chapter  1
11 Pages

Childhood and Youth Studies in the United Kingdom and West Germany: An Introduction

The chapters in this volume were written for a bilateral United Kingdom (UK)–West German (FRG) conference held at the University of Marburg Institute of Education in November 1988. Our aim was to examine ‘chidhood’ and ‘youth’ as socially constructed stages of the life course in the context of contemporary social and cultural change. We wanted to assess and compare how theory and research in these fields had developed in recent decades, and to look at particular aspects of life conditions, experiences and transitions as these apply to children and young people. We also wanted to consider the direction of social and cultural change as understood and interpreted by researchers from each country. A consequence of engaging in comparative analysis is that it forced us all to question what we took to be sociological ‘commonsense’. The study of youth and childhood in the UK and FRG stem from different sociocultural and academic traditions, and it is always easier (and perhaps more satisfying!) to point out the weeds, rather than the flowers, in a neighbour’s garden. It was soon evident that productive cross-cultural communication and research needed to be grounded in an appreciation of the different national contexts and perspectives. Our hope, therefore, is that this volume represents part of a growing European dialogue, and not simply a collection of isolated empirical papers concerning childhood and youth in the FRG and the UK.