Summary of Children and Conflict in Northern Ireland

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Summary of Children and Conflict in Northern Ireland

Executive Summary, pages i-vi

This executive summary is a quick introduction to let people know what they are going to be reading about. This study, conducted primarily in Belfast, Northern Ireland, looked at the experiences and different thoughts and perspectives of boys aged 3-4, 7-8, and 10-11. They looked at young boys in two different areas of Belfast, one of them being Catholic, while the other is Protestant. Those two areas were in common in the fact that they experienced a lot of violence and tension over the past couple of years. While doing this, they looked at two more areas in Belfast. Again, the areas were split between Catholicism and Protestantism, but this time both areas had almost no experience of dealing with any of the violence. The findings were pretty interesting, stating that different religion had little to do with the attitude of the kids. Mainly, the children were influenced by the violence in their area. Towards the end of this summary, they say that the test results are not fully representative. Knowing it is not fully representative means it does not have any validity in terms of trying to find a solution for the future. It is stressed, however, that findings in this test helped an ongoing battle to find a solution for children’s negative influence with violence.

Chapter 1: Introduction, pages 1-12

-Research on Children’s Attitudes in Northern Ireland page 1

-The Need for Further Research p. 2

- The Present Study p. 7

-Structure of the Report p. 9

- A Final Note of Generalization p. 10

The need for a solution was apparent, as from the 1960s up until the 1990s, violence was sweeping Northern Ireland and a concern began to rise for the children. Questions started to be raised about how they would grow up with these experiences, and how the violence would shape them. This prompted research to start, keying in on many different things from moral to emotional development. However, after numerous tests have been going on, the need for more research has never been more apparent. An ongoing question has been whether or not adults would be able to create tests that could make them truly understand children. Problems with probing issues from children, issues with understanding rationales of children, and debates over whether test answers were an accurate reflection over the views of the children are just some of the problems adults have while trying to get a full understanding of kids. Analyzing the way kids respond to shapes and colors does not provide a full scope. That is why the present study is now being used, with the four different areas in Belfast. By looking at the past tests and findings, the present study is trying to get a closer look at the impact of violence on the children. By choosing members of the Catholic and Protestant group, and then by also dividing them by violence in area, they have given a much more important comparison. There were 276 interviews of children done, all throughout the different ages, religions, and different exposure to violence. The author makes a final note on generalization, noting that these studies are not indicative of all the children in those areas.

Salient Quotes

  • “The vast majority of this work has been conducted by psychologists and based around a wide range of innovative experimental designs aimed at assessing the impact of the conflict on children’s attitudes and types of behavior indirectly” (1).
  • “More specifically, it is clear that a more unstructured and qualitative approach would help to foreground the experiences and perspectives of the children themselves and thus allow them to raise and discuss what issues concern them, in their own words. By studying the children within their own social contexts, such an approach would also help to highlight the complexity of children’s experiences and perspectives and their contradictory and contingent nature. Most importantly, it would avoid the tendency to view sectarian divisions and prejudice unproblematically and as almost fixed and inevitable” (6).

Chapter 3: Case Study 1: Children Living Under Shadow of Sectarian Violence, pages 23-35, 38-43, 49-64

-Importance of Locality p. 23

-3-4 Year olds p. 25

-7-8 Year Olds p. 35

-10-11 Year Olds p. 49

This case study looks at Protestant and Catholic children that are growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland that deal with various levels of violence. By interviewing different age groups, and analyzing possible patterns and the interviews conducted, they were able to look at the children’s knowledge of their area, and what that knowledge meant.

3.1 Importance of Locality

Like most places, the neighborhoods and areas where these kids are from are often accurate representations of the opportunities these children. The children tend to be products of their environment, but only in terms of violence and tension, not whether they are Catholic or Protestant. However, as age goes up, the sense of loyalty and duty to the area goes up. Also, what was interesting, is a seemingly cycle like system. Many trends were seen throughout different periods. There were trends about dropping out of school and a vivid history of auto crime, which almost created a culture within the area. Studying where a child grew up and lives is very important. To understand how a child thinks and acts, one must know the environment that raised the child.

3.2 3-4 Year Olds

3-4 year old is an extremely formative time period, where children are finally starting to be aware of the environment around them. The purpose of this study was to try and assess the cultural knowledge, and the awareness associated with it. This time is so pivotal because they are finally starting to venture out into the world around them, and they are starting to see different people and different things. At this age, the children started to identify with different groups, which meant they started to like things/ people, and dislike things/people. Sports teams were a common indicator of where someone was from, where the Catholics were usually Celtic fans, while the Protestants were normally Ranger fans. However, while the children knew they had distinct feelings towards the other fan base, they did not have awareness that the fan bases were connected to different religions. This leads right to the findings of this age’s study, where 3-4 year olds were shown to have definitive feelings for different items, however they had no idea of the connection and awareness associated with those objects.

3.3 7-8 Year Olds

This is the age where the children really start to get an identity and start forming their own opinions about things. This is where the study gets interesting, as children are now shown to have made connections to various things and what they mean. This is a whole new level of awareness, which will start to affect the children. With this new sense of awareness comes their identity, and with that, their set of beliefs and feelings towards other people. The identity for someone this age is a huge part of who they are, and who they will become. That means, a false sense of identify due to surroundings could lead to trouble for the children as they get older.

3.4 10-11 Year Olds

Due to their age, they have had a lot more, and varied, experiences with violence in and around their area. Obviously, with this experience comes a new level of awareness and connection that was not previously seen in the younger children.

Children at this age frequently got into fights with the other social groups, primarily Catholic vs. Protestant. Along with their fighting, the children started to have more awareness of the militia groups in their areas. Most of these children did have military organizations within the areas they grew up, so fighting seemed to be second nature to them. The older children also had a much firmer grasp of different political groups, and the backgrounds of their area. This is probably due to pride, and their loyalty towards their area. As the children grow older, which has been seen in other studies we have viewed, they became more aware and knowledgeable about the area where they live.

Salient Quotes

  • “For many of the children in this case study, therefore, the horizons of their knowledge and experience of the world is set by their local neighbourhood” (23) 1
  • “For children at the age of three and four, they are at a stage of their lives where they are moving beyond the confines of their immediate family home and becoming more aware of the broader environment around them” (25) 2
  • “From observing the children over an extended period of time it was clear that the conflict and the divisions associated with it did not tend to figure prominently in their day-to-day play” (26) 2
  • “None of the children interviewed at this age was able to demonstrate any awareness of the fact that these shirts were associated with the Catholic and Protestant communities” (29) 2
  • “Being a Celtic supporter and being Catholic, for these children, has become one and the same thing” (39) 3
  • “Whether it is flags, football shirts or a range of other cultural symbols that the children were predisposed to, they were now transforming these into clear and distinct markers of difference” (48) 3
  • “This greater sense of threat and of the importance of territory could also explain the more in depth and detailed knowledge that the children were also able to demonstrate in relation to local paramilitary organizations in their areas” (52) 4

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