O'Dell, L., Cline, T., Abreu, G. d. and Crafter, S. (2007) Young people, work and the balance of family obligation and engagement with school. Paper presented to: Community, Work & Family II International Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, 12-14 April 2007.
O'Dell, L., Cline, T., Abreu, G. d. and Crafter, S.
Children and young people are engaged in a range of work that is marginal to the taken for granted activities of childhood. Such activities may be illegal and often hazardous, but may also involve work within the family which requires time away from school. In this paper we discuss ways in which young people balance and reconcile conflicting ideas about duties of support to their families and personal responsibility to their education and to their friends. In particular we will draw on data from our project (funded by the ESRC) in which we interviewed young people (aged 15 and 17) who carry out work such as caring for an adult family member or translating for their families and thus are defined outside of the notion of ‘appropriate’ work for their age group. The activities of translating and caring were seen as causing conflicts between a young person’s obligations to their home and to their school, their friends etc. Where there was seen to be a conflict, for many participants the family was the most important priority. There was an understanding, by both those with experience of the role as carer or translator and those without such experience, that, while what was being asked of the young carer or language broker was not “fair”, once the request has been made the young person was positioned as a child within a family system and obligated to comply. In the paper we discuss the ways in which young people in this study conceptualised problematic ideas out ‘family’, ‘childhood’ and ‘work’ to make choices in their lives.