Beyond patronizing? The area of tension between educationalization and commercialization in the lifeworld of children.
During the last century, the concept of childhood changed in the midst of a tension field between pedagogical and commercial sources. With this evolution, the perception of the average healthy child and the notion of what is considered to be a healthy childhood have also altered. This PhD research will first define the historical alteration in the societal discourse about healthy children and illustrate this shift by means of a visual content analysis. Commercial and governmental advertisements containing information about children or childhood are used as data. This is because the advertisements are marketing what the average healthy child should look like or what is needed for a child to approximate the societal idea about childhood at a particular moment in time. Stereotypically, the topics children and childhood are coloured by a female bias. Libelle, as the first women’s magazine published in the Flemish part of Belgium, will be used as the main data source. The historical part of this PhD research will help to shed light on the different sources that have been occupied with defining the average healthy child and demonstrate that health is a social construct. In the second part of this PhD research, the present situation of children and childhood will be examined. Following the paradigm of the sociology of childhood, children are hereby seen as capable actors and they will be actively involved in this part of the research. The main research goal is to frame children’s thinking as part of a larger socioeconomic and cultural context. Next to interviewing parents and schoolteachers about their views on the average healthy child, children themselves will be questioned about health, a healthy childhood and their main information sources concerning these topics. The children will also be confronted with historical health messages and images. In order to do this adequately, a child appropriate research method will have to be developed and considering the pitfalls of doing research with children, a mixed method approach is recommendable.