Saturday, 31 July 2004

Families and Neighbourhoods Study Among the rewards of attending the recent ‘A place to call home' conference was to learn about the work being carried out by Jacqueline Barnes and colleagues on the Families and Neighbourhoods Study (FANS). The study is designed to examine how parenting is influenced by features of the local community (including neighbours). The work took place in four neighbourhoods in England and is partly modelled on Robert Sampson’s famous Chicago studies which explored the notion of collective efficacy. It has been funded by the NSPCC and included interviews with about 780 parents, focus groups with young people, and observations. The reason I hadn’t heard of it before is that nothing has been published and it’s barely mentioned anywhere. The data have been gathered but much analysis remains to be done. Various angles in the work sound pretty exciting but here I’ll highlight just two. First, some insights into informal social control – for example, to do with the extent to which the expectation of retaliation influences the likelihood of intervention in the case of perceived abuse, misbehaviour or delinquency. The finding is that this is not related to the age of the child but is significantly related to the characteristics of the locality. In the least affluent area there was a significantly lower perception that neighbours should exert informal social control, and fear of retaliation was a key factor. 'Neighbour clout' is under threat. Secondly, I have since learned that the research process included gathering something like 700 maps of people’s perceptions of their neighbourhood (from the four areas studied), and these have been digitized. A qualitative report can be expected in a couple of months’ time and more to follow that. Any further developments that I learn about, I’ll post here.

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