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ItemChildren's perceptions of changes in familiesRyan, Maureen ( 1991)The three studies reported in this thesis take as their subjects over one thousand "ordinary primary school children" from state primary schols in the western region of Melbourne. The sample has not been drawn using methods such as newspaper requests (Burns, 1980), from Parents without Partners groups (Kurdek and Siesky, 1978), from university towns (Franz and Mell, 1981) or through court records (Hess and Camara, 1979; Dunlop and Burns, 1988). The western region of Melbourne is socioeconomically and ethnically diverse and predicted to grow faster than most other areas of Melbourne in the next decades. In essence, these children are that future. Certainly, their perceptions of families and of changes in families will help to shape their own futures. Children have much to say about families as has been noted in studies by Ochiltree and Amato (1985) and Goodnow and Burns (1985). Children in Studies 1 and 2 in this thesis wrote eloquently and often with passion about families generally and about family changes specifically. Previous studies (Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton, 1981; Silcock and Sadler, 1980; Wallerstein and Kelly, 1980; Riach, 1983; Ochiltree and Amato (1985) and Cooper (1986) have looked at children's perceptions of families. Some, like Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton, (1981) and Cooper (1986) have drawn attention to gender differences; others, like Silcock and Sadler, (1980), to techniques employed in the collection of data. In addition, Selman and his colleagues (1979, 1980, 1986) have focussed on children's developing understanding of social relations. Selman's stages of development of social understanding, like those of Hoffman (1983) for empathy development are based on Piagetian stages of cognitive development. The present studies are an attempt to draw together around a single theme, children's perceptions of families, the impact of a range of techniques for data collection (as Silcock and Sadler, (1980) have suggested is appropriate) and consideration of age/stage differences as defined by Selman et al. Additionally, gender differences are investigated as suggested by Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg -Halton, (1981). In Study 1, a group of forty Grade 5/6 children completed a questionnaire, Children's Perceptions of Changes in Families. Subsequently, this group of forty was divided into a target and a control group. The target group of children took part in an eight week videotape/discussion program with family matters as content while the control group continued with general classroom activities. At the completion of this, children were presented with the responses they had prepared previously to the questionnaire and invited to change these in any way they considered appropriate. Analysis revealed that elaboration occurred in the responses of children in both target and control groups. Statistical analysis revealed very little in the way of differences between the responses made by those children who had taken part in the videotape/discussion program and those who had not. Coming out of this study, however, were gender differences and tendencies for children to describe parents in stereotypic roles which are reminescent of other larger studies (Goodnow and Burns, 1985; Cooper, 1986; Ochiltree and Amato, 1985). Girls, for example, expressed far more interest than boys in the experience of caring for a new baby; boys referred more than did girls to the fights likely to ensue should a new child come into the family. Father's movement from the children's home to live elsewhere was considered unhappy because of his loss as a playmate; in mother's case, it was her inability to continue caring for the children which was noted. Such patterns were revealed in the content analysis of the children's responses to the questionnaire. The children in this first study served as a window into the other studies reported in this thesis in that the researcher spent considerable time speaking with both groups through their two completions of the questionnaire and with the target group during the videotape/discussion program. In addition, statements made by these forty children were used as the basis of Study 3. In Studies 2 and 3, children prepared written responses to the tasks set them. In Study 3, 1118 Grade 3/4 and Grade 5/6 children drawn from twelve state primary schools in the western region of Melbourne were read statements by their teacher and invited, on one occasion, to indicate their thoughts about each statement and, on another, to indicate their feelings. The phrases from which children were invited to select in indicating their responses were based on the definition of problem and expression of feelings components of the Interpersonal Negotiation Strategies Model (Selman et al., 1986b) and were representative of levels of complexity of thought and feeling described in the model. Girls' marked superiority over boys in their choice of feeling responses representing higher levels of complexity was the most significant finding in this study. This finding coupled with findings from Study 2 that girls made significantly more references than boys in their descriptions of families to emotional aspects of families makes gender differences a powerful finding in the studies presented in the thesis. The emotional aspects of families to which girls referred significantly more often than boys in responses to the question, "What is a Family?" were love, care, sharing/belonging, understanding problems/talking. In contrast, boys and younger children (Grade 3/4) referred significantly more often than girls and older children (Grade 5/6) to family structure. The finding that older children made significantly more references than did the younger children to many aspects of families is not surprising and likely to be due to their general experience and superior verbal ability (Jacklin and Maccoby, 1983). The gender differences in the content analysis was reinforced in coding undertaken of children's responses according to levels based on Bruss-Saunders' levels (1978) of social understanding of parent-child relationships. Here, the descriptions written by Grade 5/6 girls were coded as representing highest levels of complexity and the descriptions written by Grade 3/4 boys as representing lowest levels of complexity. In the studies, levels of complexity of children's responses are considered according to theories of cognitive development. In addition, the influence of contextual factors on the thoughts and feelings children express about families are discussed. Questions about the relationship between these two are raised with regard to the capacity children acquire for coping in their present and future families.
ItemThe institutional care of the dependent childMathieson, J. K. W ( 1959)Research and practice develop together as part of an overall pattern to which each brings its distinctive contribution and within which each is influenced by the other. Even before a research problem reaches full solution its hypotheses tend to affect practice and changes in practice tend to modify the conduct of research likewise, local research and practice may take colour from progressive thinking overseas. The present investigation into Victorian institutional child care was commenced in 1956. Since then there have been some significant happenings including the inception of a number of single family homes for dependent children and the publication of the Merritt Report on the training of child care staff Already Victorian institutional child care is moving towards the achievement of some of Merritt' s recommendations. My own investigation takes note of these changes and, in general, is indicative of the situation existing in Victoria at the beginning of 1959. In the months which have elapsed since then during the typing of the manuscript, the process of change has continued. As with the reconstitution of the Australian Social Welfare C�uncil2"to be the more truly national Australian Council of Social Service, some matters denoted as desirable already have become fact. In other cases, as with the Whatmore Plan to bring together Child Welfare, Youth Welfare, and Penal Services, possible future advance has produced present ferment; in consequence some of the suggestions made in my study will need some modification, notably concerning the time table for implementing staff training. However it seems probable that the issue raised may be helpful in clarifying further planning, whatever detailed form child care may take or staff training follow.
ItemA study of the social and play interactions of kindergarten children from long day care and home care backgroundsFergusson, Robyn A. ( 1999)Some kindergarten teachers have expressed concern that a combination of regular attendance at both kindergarten and day care programs has a disruptive effect on four year old children. They report a higher incidence of non-compliance and aggressive behaviour in children who move between child care and kindergarten programs on a regular basis. Many kindergarten teachers question whether dual attendance really meets the needs of children or whether it puts them under undue stress, resulting in high levels of disruptive behaviour. This study compared the behaviours of ten children who regularly attended both kindergarten and long day care programs ('day care' children) and ten children who only attended a sessional kindergarten for a half day program and were cared for by their parents for the rest of the day ('home care' children). The behaviour of these children was observed during free play time in the kindergarten program, using a variety of formal and informal observational techniques. These observational techniques included Parten's scale of social participation and a modified version of the Piagetian Smilansky scale which measures social and cognitive dimensions of socio-dramatic play behaviours. Non-compliance and aggressive acts were also recorded as were the play themes in the dramatic play. The data is supported by field notes taken during the observations. Data was analysed after each observation session throughout the research using the coding scales and the field notes. Further data was gathered via interviews with some kindergarten teachers in the community about their perceptions of the behaviour of the children who attend both day care and kindergarten. Interviews were also held with the kindergarten teachers and child care workers who implemented the programs which the study children attended. The results of the study indicated that there is a general perception amongst kindergarten teachers that the 'day care' children do not assimilate well into the kindergarten setting; that they are rougher and more aggressive in their play and are less compliant. This was not the case for the 'day care' children in this study. In regard to these children, there was almost no evidence of aggressive acts; the children were generally compliant and were co-operative during routines. The 'day care' children did mix with 'home care' children attending the centre; yet the 'home care' children tended to make fewer social contacts with the 'day care' children. There was variation in the types of play in which 'day care' and 'home care' children engaged. 'Home care' children spent considerably more time engaged in non play than the children who attended kindergarten and day care. The play of 'home care' children was mostly constructive, solitary or parallel play; while the play of 'day care' children consisted mainly of associative and cooperative dramatic play. It was found that the variation between the amount of dramatic play between the two groups was significant.