The study’s longitudinal design allows the children to be followed over time. Information about their parents is also recorded, in terms of sociogeographic context, socio-occupational status and family situation. This makes it possible not only to produce detailed descriptions of different family structures, but also to see what impact they have on the lives and development of the children who are directly concerned by them.
Researchers are also looking at the different contexts in which the children find themselves, including the family home, institutions (day nurseries, schools, cultural and sports clubs, etc.) and relations outside the family, to see how they contribute to the children’s socialization. By examining the children’s interactions with the people around them, it is possible to identify the factors affecting their social integration and, by so doing, undertake a fine-grained analysis of social inequality and social differentiation.
The children’s learning and their progress through school are the focus of particular attention. Information collected from parents (organization of the child’s day, relations with the school, support given to the child) is cross-referenced with data collected from teachers (questionnaires filled in by teachers and exercises performed in the classroom).
Lastly, by examining the parents’ childrearing values, alongside the children’s emergent views of society, the study will provide an opportunity to analyse how values are handed down from one generation to the next.
Research in this area involves observing how family structures change (separation, repartnering, bereavement, joint custody, etc.) and how these changes affect children. Researchers are also exploring intergenerational bonds via the role of grandparents in bringing up children and relations between siblings or parents.
Socialization and education
What are the essential ingredients for children’s socialization, education and academic success? What roles do parents, institutions and children’s peer groups play in these processes? Elfe is attempting to answer these types of questions by analysing the children’s lifestyles, their access to culture and leisure activities, and the place of the media in their environment. Values transmitted within the family, at school and among groups of children, as well as the children’s own perceptions of what goes on at school and within society as a whole, are also central to this research, taking account of the children’s sex, birth order and number of siblings.
Economy – job insecurity
Parents may have to contend with major changes in the course of their working lives, experiencing periods of economic inactivity or frequent relocation that can be upsetting for their children.
More broadly, financial and material resources, housing and the quality of the social environment all influence children’s health, socialization and development. The Elfe study will allow the impact of these socioeconomic factors to be analysed in greater depth.
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Example of research
The values that children develop and the representations of society they construct are of particular interest to researchers. By looking at the combined influences of family, school and out-of-school activities, as well as the relations that children forge with their friends or siblings, Elfe will contribute to a better understanding of how they build their personalities and find their place in society.