Youth Culture and Functionalism

The Social Construction of Youth
Objectives:Understand the ways that youth has
changed over the last century
Be able to explain why Youth can be seen
as a social construction
Has Childhood always existed?
Historical changes in the concept of
Before 1600
At 5 a child would “belong” to a world of Work, Leisure and SexMost of the evidence for this comes from paintings and it is
Children were an economic asset- industrialisation in the early
stages depended on the skills of children- children provided
insurance for their parents in later life… Very little love or affection
was shown to children. Children’s wages, although small, were an
important financial benefit to a family…
The financial role of children was marginalised as
industrialisation steamed forward… There were now more
restrictions in place, for example: compulsory education. Middle
class children were assumed to lack competencies of adults and
were therefore in need of protection and guidance… Working
class children were thought to be born corrupt and wicked and
had to be taught and controlled…
Children became economically worthless but emotionally
priceless. Children needed love and attention and were
sheltered from the world… Children had now divided themselves
in to sub-cultures that the adult did not understand. Childhood
became a time where things were supposed to be magical and
1950-Present day
Growing awareness of children’s rights and empowerment.
Children are seen as active families and make more of a democratic
contribution to the family through things like housework etc. Young
people form a growing economic force in society and in the family.
Children target by commerce (trade) in own right.
Youth as a social construction
• A ‘Youth’ - a person between 15 and 25.
• ‘Youths’ are NOT all the same despite
stereotypes they are a diverse group.
• The appearance of ‘Youth’ is also something
desired by older people who might buy goods
originally aimed at young people. E.g
• Many children also seek the ‘youth’ style e.g
tweens of 12-14.
• Read page 13 in booklets and then answer
questions 1-8.
Factors which affected the
development of Youth Culture
Post War economy and capitalism
The USA and Globalisation
Demographic changes
The Media
Consumerism and style
Describe the norms and values
Emo kids
??????? Any others
What would you have to do to become a
member of their culture?
The Development of Sub-cultures
• Reasons for the development of sub-cultures
vary according to what perspective you use.
• 1. Crisis of identity
• 2. Rite of Passage
• 3. Resistance to mainstream culture
• 4. Oppression of capitalist society
• 5. Style and Music
• Read page 16 in booklets about the
Colombine killings.
• Discuss the pro’s and con’s of having subcultures in schools.
• What sub-culture did Harris and Klebold
belong to?
• Which of the explanations earlier might be
able to explain their behaviour?
Food for thought
• Do ALL young people belong to sub-cultures?
• How would you describe the ones that don’t?
• Are young people all politically aware?
• Do all children suffer a crisis of identity?
Essay plan
Explain the meaning of ‘the social construction of youth’ (15 Marks)
Intro explain what social construction means
Explain what ‘youth’ means
AO2 evaluate the term ‘youth’ is it ALL youth, it is just for 15-25 year olds?
Explain that the concept of ‘youth’ has not always existed.
AO2 provide examples of changes which occurred over 100 yrs
AO2 these could be seen as very simplistic of how parents treated their
Explain the factors that led to the emergance of youth culture in the UK.
AO2 Marxists might say ‘youth culture’ was driven by economic factors –
wanting profit from young people / consumerism/music/fashion.
Explain how the emergance of ‘youth culture’ led to the creation of subcultures within youth with their own styles, music e.g Goths
AO2 Not all ‘youths’ belong to sub-cultures most are ordinary
Conclusion - The phase now known as ‘youth’ has evolved through social
change and varies across time and place e.g some cultures still use child
labour so therefore it must be a social construction.
What function do you think youth
culture serves?
• Think about how youth has changed since
WWII and what need you think youth culture
• Functionalists believe that youth culture offers
young people a transitory phase between
childhood and adulthood. This allows for
social intergation.
• What would happen if there was no phase?
A Rite of passage
• Talcott Parsons (1954) Functionalist , stated
that this phase allows young people to
become more separated from parents paving
the way for independence later on.
• Example – part-time job whilst in 6th form
provides a little experience of money
• Parsons viewed this as a phase through which
all young people must pass.
A shared way of life
• Functionalists believe that shared culture is important
for society and integration.
• Einstadt (1956) suggested youth culture binds young
people together and also provides an outlet for the
tensions felt by the young.
• Abrahms (1959) after WWII the youth had more
spending power and so became an important part of
the economy providing another function in society.
• A third function suggested is that young people suffer
an identity crisis and that peer groups help them to
overcome this.
Using the OCR textbook answer these
1. Explain the term ‘rite of passage’
2. Explain two important functions that youth
culture serves according to Einstadt and
Youth Culture as resistance to
mainstream culture
• Marxists believe that some youth cultures
have evolved as a resistance to the oppression
of capitalism and the inequalities it causes in
the class system.
• Teddy Boys (Jefferson 1976)
• Skinheads (Clarke 1976)
• Hippies (Brake 1980)
• Have all been linked to issues of class.
Youth Subcultures
• Neo-Marxist perspective on Youth Subcultures – based on Marxism but with added
focus on economic factors e.g
Hall working for the CCCS believed that the
different youth cultures exist for adolescents to
distinguish themselves amongst mass culture.
This can be seen as a form of resistance to
authority and capitalism.
Jefferson (1976) “Teddy Boys”- A group who
wish to recreate a sense of working class
community- due to the growing affluence in
post war British society- These youth cultures
believed they were gaining status and
protecting territory…
Neo Marxist
• They criticise Functionalist perspectives which
say that social class is irrelevant to the growth
of youth sub-cultures.
• They explain the arise of some youth subculture in terms of class related issues like:•
Unemployment in w/c type jobs e.g
Inner city decay
Read page 254-255 of OCR book and
write a paragraph explaining these
concepts related to Marxist view of
youth sub-culture. Include a
researcher’s name.
Magical Solutions
Essay Plan
• Intro- Marxists and Neo-Marxists believe that youth culture
emerge because of inequalities caused by capitalism. Other
sociologists like Po Mo believe this is a thing of the past.
However many youth cultures have been linked to class
• P1 – Jefferson and Teddy Boys linked to low status + EEA
• P2 – Clarke and Skinheads +EEA
• P3 - Brake and Hippies +EEA
• P4 – Thornton says club culture of the 1990s more to do with
being ‘cool’ than class +EEA
• P5 – We still have names for lower-class youth cultures +EEA.
• Conclusion – Are youth cultures a form of resistance to
capitalism or not?

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