The social construction of competence and problem behaviour among children
Research about children should, in Berry Mayall’s words, ‘increase knowledge about children’s experiences, knowledge and views; these data can then contribute to policy-oriented work towards improving the social condition of childhood’ (1999: 13). As Allison James, Chris Jenks and Alan Prout (1988) point out, childhood has moved to the forefront of personal, political and academic agendas over the last two or three decades. We can conceptualise the structuring of childhood experience in terms of the ‘stages and scripts’ in which space and time are closely interwoven. These stages and scripts, or what is often called arenas – primarily the family, the school and peer group – generate the essential questions concerning children’s environments. Answers to such questions can be sought from children themselves, and from grownups who interact closely with children as part of the latter’s daily lives. In this chapter, the questions asked concern social competence and problem behaviour among children.