Leisure time troubles

Markus Lynum

For some, socialization, and the formation of both strong and weak ties with others seem to come around as a natural part of the life course and provide them with a sense of belonging. By having to nurture relations with family, peers and other role models in their immediate social surroundings, children may gain access to positive experiences, memories and social support tying them to the social fabric of their local context. These experiences may provide them with a sense of security in their everyday life, a positive outlook on life chances and their future and positive coping strategies when faced with adversity.

picture of a child playing
credit: pexels | mikhail nilov

Considering all the benefits that “a sense of belonging” may bring around, it’s important to note that they are emotional and social resources that are contingent on individuals having access to integrative processes that allow them to develop ties with others. In the context of childhood, these processes are especially important when it comes to gaining access to their peer network and forming friendships with others. These interactions and processes may take place at schools, during out-of-school activities and in more informal settings.

Picture of a boy reading.
credit: pexels | cottonbro studio

In these scenarios, the success of children’s interactions with peers may be contingent on their ability to participate equally, adhere to the rules of the given activity and adequately regulate their emotions when engaging with others. In the same way that the socioeconomic position of one’s family may be a source of unequal access to cultural and economic resources, disability can be a source of unequal access to important social arenas during childhood.

Picture of two teenagers hanging out in a living room.
credit: pexels | karolina grabowska

In the research project BUDGET, which is financed by the Research Council of Norway, we’ve investigated the material and immaterial consequences and costs that caring for children with ADHD or cerebral palsy may have on the household. The project is designed to capture how living with these diagnoses may drive household costs and is, in and of itself, not centered around the social integration of their children and their experience of belonging. While the main scope of our research is to study how household expenditure and employment can be affected by caring for a child with ADHD or cerebral palsy, as well as how the households adapt to and organize their everyday life, very preliminary analyses highlight some trends that leave room for reflection. Although not a part of the project’s focus, parents interviewed in our sample highlighted how finding suitable social arenas for their children can be a challenge.

Picture of two teenagers painting a poster.
credit: pexels | karolina grabowska

In the case of ADHD, parents described that associated traits such as inattentiveness, impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and mood swings may impact how the child functions socially in relation to their peers and how long they maintain their interests in hobbies and activities. This can maybe lead to children facing an uphill battle when it comes to experiencing social inclusion as it can impact how they function in various social arenas. This can also potentially place the child at a heightened risk of ending up in conflict with peers, being perceived as a more “challenging” child to deal with by other adults and resulting in them not being included to the same degrees as others. This can be a source of both stress and discomfort for both the parents and the child as it can make the challenges that may accompany ADHD salient and highlight the child’s “otherness” within their immediate social context.

Picture of two girls in front of a laptop.
credit: pexels | karolina grabowska

In the case of cerebral palsy, the challenges of social inclusion are usually more physical, and can therefore be a larger challenge to overcome, especially in places where leisure time activities may be less diversified and centered around sports. Depending on the degree of cerebral palsy, a child may have a minor or major physical disability that translates into the increased difficulty in participating in a lot of arenas. As in the case of ADHD, this can make it harder for the children and parents to find suitable social arenas where they can participate on the same terms as able-bodied children.

Picture of two girls looking at a phone.
credit: pexels | cottonbro-studio

The diagnoses of children can impact their opportunity to feel belonging and highlights a structural challenge in how childhood is organized that may generate social exclusion. It can physically and socially prevent the children from accessing the same activities and meeting points their peers participate in, and consequently put them at a heightened risk of social isolation. Their possibility to participate and socialize with other children outside the classroom can further be prone to the different opportunities and leisure time activities where they live, but also to their parents’ time and resourcefulness. Having a child with a disability can make it more difficult for parents to ask for support (e. g. help with driving their kids to football practice), as their child may have more needs than others.  The intersection of a child’s disability with their family’s capacity to spend time and resources on facilitating their access to important social arenas may generate both increased and decreased opportunities for social integration. While not an issue actively studied and explored within the framework of BUDGET, it does highlight an area of potential sociological interest when it comes to unequal opportunities to participate that calls for further investigation.

Picture of a relaxed boy.
credit: pexels | karolina grabowska

About Markus Lynum

Markus is working as a scientific assistant at Consumption research Norway (SIFO) and is a sociologist by training. In addition to working on issues of consumer policy he is interested in exploring the interconnections between inequality and access to integrative processes which he also wrote his master’s thesis on.

Design for Belonging: Innovation with Space, Ritual, and Roles

Blog post by Dr. Susie Wise

Belonging is a fundamental human need. We need to feel we belong in order to play together, to learn, and to work. Designing for belonging is deeply about equity. It is about ensuring that all people, especially those furthest from opportunity, have what they need to thrive. Belonging, without othering, is the goal. Humans, all humans, especially children are adept at reading clues for belonging. We need to know if we are welcome because it lets us know whether we are safe to show up as who we are. And the work of design is to create the places and interactions that allow that sense of belonging to emerge.

credit: pexels yan krukov

Recently I was moved by Bill’s story of deepening his practice of design for belonging. He leads professional learning communities in a rural area of Northern California, in the United States. He decided that when launching a new program he wanted to focus more on belonging. He is a talented learning experience designer and did many things to help his participants belong, but what struck me as gold was the simplicity of his first two moves. Instead of just sending a logistical email to let people know about their upcoming kick off meeting, he sent individual invitations, and then when folks first gathered they formed a circle instead of heading to tables. With those two changes individuals felt welcomed to join the experience, and then when they entered they immediately saw they were able to take their place in the circle and see themselves as part of a community. Not hard or expensive to do, but the attention to the invitation and entering as moments of belonging sent a powerful signal.

If you are digging into design for belonging I think there are three levers of design that are particularly useful to explore. They are space, ritual, and role. Shared below is a story about each one. They are all drawn from organizations that serve young people from sometimes marginalized groups.


credit: pexels Karoline Grabowska

The Magical Bridge Playground has spawned a movement to build playgrounds that are more inclusive of children with physical and neurological disabilities. The playground is set up so that wheelchairs and other assistive devices can be a part of play. There are wide ramps and things to interact with at many different levels. There are also surprising elements like a laser harp that plays beautiful music based on a motion sensor. All kids love this place which means that it also offers space for bridging – for children with and without disabilities to play together. Likely we can’t all build playgrounds on this scale, but it serves as a powerful reminder to attend to our physical spaces – to make them not just accessible for all, but truly magical so they become places of positive interaction and belonging.


Two kids playing RoShamBo
RoShamBo: photo courtesy Playworks

One of my favorite ritual examples comes from the realm of the school playground. Playworks is a national non-profit in the United States that helps schools build cultures of healthy play. They put recess coaches into schools. That in and of itself is a great belonging move as the coach teaches kids games and new ways to play together. As you can imagine, they also deal with conflict resolution. And the simple ritual they put in place is to use the game Roshambo (or Rock, Paper Scissors) to solve issues. Most playground conflicts start from small slights like close calls or cutting in line. If you can solve those challenges with a previously agreed upon ritual, you can eliminate escalating into bigger trouble. Don’t know whose turn it is? Roshambo. Couldn’t tell who crossed the finish line first? Roshambo. It is simple, easy, fun, and gets the job done. And everyone at school can use the ritual as needed.


Picture of a mentor from Dream Director with young people.
Dream Director: photo courtesy The Future Project

The Future Project is an organization working in high schools, serving students aged 14-18. Their innovation is to put “dream directors” in school. The dream directors are young adults who want to help younger folks identify their dream jobs, or other roles in the community, and craft the path to get there. They design all kinds of experiences for young people to see a wide range of adult roles and to try them out to see if they are truly interested. They might arrange field trips or job shadows; they might work on entrepreneurship or finances. They are mentors with a strong focus on helping their mentees see their way to their goals and then achieve them. For some young people furthest from opportunity their dream director becomes their primary champion, cheering them on so they can find their place of belonging when they leave school.

Sometimes to build greater belonging we need to innovate. We can do so by expanding our imagination and creating with a broader range of design levers. Space, ritual, and role, are three powerful levers to design for belonging that are often overlooked. The opportunities to build with them will look different depending on where and how you work with young people. Taking them up to consciously design for more belonging and less othering will put you on a strong path to support your community.

Dr. Susie Wise is the author of “Design for Belonging: How to Build Inclusion and Collaboration in Your Communities” (2022). You can explore other resources at www.designforbelonging.com.

On the implicit policy of the term “belonging”

author: Anita Borch

In social theory, the term “belonging” refers to a sense of ease; of “fitting in” in our immediate social context – be it people, places, or materials. For most of us belonging is positive, providing us with a sense of confidence and trust in the world, triggering us to believe in ourselves and our ability to create a life worth living. It may also have the opposite effect, connecting us to wrong places and people like criminal gangs. At a societal level, belonging is a double-edged phenomenon, leading to healthier and higher educated populations, lower rates of unemployment and robust economies. At the same time, it may split people into “in groups” or “out groups” and cause conflicts and economic recessions. Not belonging is usually associated with marginalization, social exclusion and lower levels of social welfare, but can also motivate us to turn negative spirals into positive and thereby increase social mobility. Overall, belonging and not belonging refer to complex human experiences in power to influence individuals and societies and drivers of social stabilization and change.

Sign with the text "you belong".
credit: Pexels Tim Mossholder

But one thing is how terms are understood in theory. Another cup of tea is how the term is used in practice. From a previous review, I have learned that the term “belonging” often lacks definition and that its meanings tend to overlap those of familiar terms like “social participation” and “social inclusion”. However, when I studied the use of these terms myself, I observed some differences that are worth reflecting upon.

Kids walking in a group.
credit: pexels Max Fischer

First of all, the study indicates that “belonging” is the preferred term used in studies of immigrant children’s connections. This preference seems, to some extent, to have replaced the preference for the term “social integration”, which was more frequently used in studies of immigrant children’s connections in the 1990s. Moreover, and more importantly, the preference for the term “belonging” contrast with the result of studies on the connections of the majority of children, in which “social participation” is the preferred term.

Kids sitting and studying.
credit: pexels Norma Mortenson

As a researcher studying children’s belonging, I feel some ambivalence regarding this latter result. Since belonging basically refers to an emotion whereas participation is often connected to an activity like sports or some kinds of decision making, it cannot be ruled out that I, by using the term belonging, implicitly and highly unintentionally suggest that immigrant children generally show less agency and, hence, that they are more passive than majority children. If so, I happen to promote a view on immigrant children that I strongly oppose. In line with other researchers studying children’s belonging, I see all children as actively involved in the process of creating belonging and not belonging. Belonging and not belonging is not one-way but mutual processes between immigrant children and their social surroundings. Not to be misunderstood, I need to make the dynamic aspect of belonging and not belonging very explicit in further work.

Kids working together.
credit: pexels Max Fischer

Whereas “belonging” and “social participation” often refer to something children feel or do, the term “social inclusion” is more frequently used to describe settings. For example, a school, a sports club, or a park in the city are typically regarded as “inclusive” if they are easily accessible for all children. The underlying assumption underpinning this view seems to be that if settings are inclusive enough, children will be included. If not, they will be excluded. The agency of the social inclusion is thereby not assigned to the children who are or should be included, but to the settings – or, more precisely, the adults responsible for creating these settings. The lack of agency and responsibility of children may explain why “social inclusion” seems to be the preferred term in studies of children with disabilities, who, in general, tend to be assigned less agency and responsibilities than other children in society at large.

Child playing.
credit: pexels koolshooters

Do we here see the contours of a hierarchy, in which the term “social participating” signals children with a high degree of agency and the term “social inclusion” signals children with a low degree of agency, and in which “belonging” is placed somewhere in the middle, signaling less agency than “social participation” but more than “social inclusion”? If so, the use of terms in highly cited literature on immigrant children’s connections implicitly suggests that immigrant children can be ascribed less agency than majority children, but more than children with disabilities.

Kids playing.
credit: pexels Ron Lach

The reflections made in this blog are based on observations made in a study that has recently been reported in the paper “Immigrant Children’s Connections to People and the World Around Them: A Critical Discourse Review of Academic Literature” (Borch, 2022). As mentioned, previous research has concluded that the use of terms addressing children’s connection tends to overlap, which suggests that it does not matter what kind of terms we are using. At first sight, this suggestion seems reasonable considering that terms get most of their meaning from contexts (cf. Wittgenstein). However, if we take a closer look and compare how different terms are used in practice, implicit messages may be revealed and other conclusions may be drawn. Overall, the study has shown that the terms used in studies of children’s connections can be highly political in the sense of signalling who have agency and who should be given responsibility or not. Indeed, belonging is an emotion with the power of changing children and societies. So too is how we are using terms in research and policy.

The first paper of the BELONG project has been launched

Anita Borch

The first article on the BELONG project has recently been launched. It is entitled “Immigrant Children’s Connections to People and the World Around Them: A Critical Discourse Review of Academic Literature” and is published in the journal Social Inclusion. The article describes the main characteristics of highly cited research on the connections of immigrant children and compares this literature with research on the connection of children in general.

“Connection” is used as a generic term covering relationships described with terms like “social participation”, “social integration” and “social inclusion/exclusion”. Important observations of this study are that the literature on children’s connections tends to be published within the scientific discipline of psychology and addresses immigrant children settled in the US. It also tends to ignore material and technological aspects of children’s connections, as well as how children of immigrant backgrounds intersect with other social characteristics associated with stigmatization and discrimination such as poverty and disability. As these aspects play a significant role in children’s everyday life and connections, they need to be covered in future studies.

For more details, read the full paper here: https://www.cogitatiopress.com/socialinclusion/article/view/5253.

Computer on the floor.
credit: pexels Vlada Karpovich

Bli kjent med våre masterstudenter

Fem spørsmål og svar med våre masterstudenter Luam Kebreab og Anja Elton Proskurnicki i Belong prosjektet.

Luam Kebreab
Luam Kebreab
credit: privat

Hvem er du? Hva studerer/jobber du?

Mitt navn er Luam Kebreab. Jeg er utdannet sosionom, og jeg tar master i sosialfag, retning barnevern nå. Jeg jobber deltid i en barnevernsinstitusjon ved siden av studiene.

Hva skal du skrive masteroppgaven om?

Jeg skal skrive masteroppgave som omhandler unges opplevelse av tilhørighet og se på hvorvidt det er en sammenheng mellom unges tilhørighet, materiell verdier og en tilbøyelighet for lovovertredelser.

Hvorfor ble du interessert i det?

Dette temaet fanget interessen min da jeg gjennom jobb ofte møter unge som ser ut til å ha utfordringer med å føle tilhørighet, særlig blant unge med minoritetsbakgrunn. Jeg tenkte derfor at dette er noe jeg ville undersøke nærmere.

Når skal du levere oppgaven din?

Masteroppgaven min skal leveres våren 2023. 

Når jeg sier «tilhørighet» hva er det du tenker på?

Når jeg tenker på tilhørighet, så tenker jeg på føle seg «hjemme» og tilknytning til noe/noen. Det er en grunnleggende følelse som de fleste etterstreber å kjenne. 

Anja Elton Proskurnicki
Anja Elton Proskurnicki
Credit: Privat

Hvem er du? Hva studerer/jobber du? 

Jeg er utdannet barnevernspedagog, og tar en master i sosialt arbeid på deltid. Jeg har i 13 år jobbet med oppsøkende sosialt arbeid med ungdom og unge voksne ved Utekontakten i Bærum kommune. Jobber nå ved Oslo universitetssykehus ved enhet Front Barn, som gir barn med store psykiske helseutfordringer, i alderen 4-14 år og deres familier, et intensivt og tverrfaglig hjelpetilbud. 

Hva skal du skrive masteroppgaven om? 

Min masteroppgave skal handle om unge som ikke går på skole og deres hverdag. Jeg er opptatt av å høre om hvordan de ser på egen situasjon og eventuelle ønsker de måtte ha for fremtiden. Tema som vennskap og tilhørighet vil utforskes sammen med informantene, og danne bakgrunnsteppet for oppgaven. 

Hvorfor ble du interessert i det?

Jeg har gjennom flere år jobbet med ungdom som faller utenfor, både på skole og i samfunnet forøvrig. Ofte har det vært sosiale årsaker som har gjort det vanskelig å komme på skolen. For noen utvikler fraværet seg til å bli et utenforskap som varer over flere år, noe som kan få alvorlige konsekvenser for unge menneskers liv, og for samfunnet forøvrig. Det er mange meninger om temaet skolefravær. Jeg ønsker med min oppgave å få de unge stemmene frem, og håper at jeg kan få interesserte informanter til å snakke med meg om dette viktige temaet.

Når skal du levere oppgaven din?

Oppgaven skal leveres i november 2022. Ser jeg at jeg trenger mer tid, har jeg også mulighet til å levere i mai 2023.

Når jeg sier «tilhørighet» hva er det du tenker på?

Når jeg hører begrepet «tilhørighet» tenker jeg først og fremst på det å oppleve seg som endel av et fellesskap; det å høre til. Jeg tenker at tilhørighet er et svært viktig tema, kanskje noe av det aller viktigste innenfor sosialt arbeid, og for mennesker generelt.

Children as experts.The Children’s Worlds Survey and its potential

Sabine Andresen and Asher Ben-Arieh

Two kids sitting making soap bubbles
credit: pexels eren li

Children are experts. They have knowledge, experience and opinions, but they are often not listened to. With the help of the children’s rights approach, the scientific interest in children and their role as experts is changing. In recent years there has been a growing interest among international researchers, policy makers and professional practitioners especially in the issue of children’s subjective well-being (SWB). The relevance of this concept arises for a number of reasons. One is the recognition that the use of traditional indicators such as Gross National Product as an indicator of societal progress has limitations and needs to be augmented by an orientation toward well-being or even the happiness and satisfaction of the population or of specific groups within the population, including children (Casas, 2011). However, it is also argued that possessing knowledge about the life situation of adults is not the same as possessing sufficient knowledge about children (Ben-Arieh, 2005). The issue of children’s SWB has to be addressed within the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the associated challenges regarding its implementation. The CRC acknowledges the importance of taking into account children’s views in matters that affect their lives (United Nations General Assembly, 1989).

Children in school uniforms in Nepal are filling out a paper-based survey in a classroom.
Credit: Children’s World Survey
Data collection: Children in Nepal filling out the survey.

Nevertheless, while research on adults’ SWB is well established, interest in children’s SWB is more recent (Ben-Arieh, 2012). Current studies, have focused on questions such as how to define children’s SWB, how to measure it, and above all what are children’s cognitive and affective evaluations of their lives (see for example Dinisman, Fernandes, & Main, 2015). However, much is still yet to be known about the comparative perspective. Specifically, do children share common SWB simply because they are children or whether and how children from different parts of the world differ in their appraisals of their lives? This is fundamental knowledge in order to grasp a more complete picture of what constitutes a good childhood and how we can ensure this is available to all children.

Two kids having fun
credit: pexels cottonbro

Together with colleagues from many regions of the world and the generous support of the Jacobs Foundation in Zurich, we have succeeded in launching the first ever global study, the International Survey of Children’s Well-Being (ISCIWeB). This study included a number of waves of a representative survey of 8-12 year old children. It is of particular importance that not only adolescents but young children from the age of eight are involved (Andresen et al. 2019). In the participating countries, children in schools are invited to participate in the study and thus their voice is captured worldwide. Anyone interested can get an insight into how the questionnaire is structured and what the results are via the website (https://isciweb.org). The project is based on the idea that one of the most important factors in assessing whether a particular environment is conducive to children attaining their best potential is the perception of their own sense of well-being. This is best done by asking children directly and by allowing them to give an assessment of their own well-being. Thus, the survey is based solely on the children’s own evaluations, perception and aspirations.

Man explaining a survey in an Ethiopian classroom.
credit: Children’s World Survey
Data collection: Dr. Mekonen collecting data in Ethiopia

Furthermore, the project is a cross-national, cross-cultural and multi-linguistic survey in which a variety of countries and cultures around the world take part. Consequently it provides valuable local and comparative insights into the lives of children in a diverse range of cultural contexts and substantial new information about how children live their lives. These national and international perspectives make it possible to improve our understanding of the nature of childhood in different contexts and draw implications for local, national and international policy. Additionally, the
use of newly developed quantitative assessment instruments for children, which cover relevant life domains, offers important understanding of methodological issues in comparative research with children.

Two kids doing an art project.
credit: pexels | Mike Jones

The project began in 2009 when a group of researchers, mainly from the International Society for Child Indicators (ISCI) with the support of UNICEF, acknowledged the potential need for an international survey of children’s subjective well-being. This resulted in a draft questionnaire which was then tested in two sets of small-scale pilots in the summer and autumn of 2010 and in the first half of 2011 in a total of nine countries (Brazil, England, Germany, Honduras, Israel, Romania, South Africa, Spain and Turkey), each followed by review and an evaluation of the questionnaire.

This learning led to the design of separate versions for children aged 8, 10 and 12. Up to now more than 200,000 children participated in the various waves of the project from more almost 50 countries. This shows that children want to be asked, they want to be heard and they have something to say.

A young person using a tablet
credit: pexels | julia m camero

Children’s SWB is a complex and multidimensional concept, and consists of several aspects. The Children’s Worlds survey provides rich data on numerous domains in children’s lives. We thus gain important knowledge about relationships in families, with friends, learn something about how safe children feel in schools or neighborhoods and what strongly or less strongly influences their SWB. These international data offer countless opportunities to compare children’s lives within and between different countries. There are also opportunities in all countries to discuss findings with children themselves. This is an important next step in enabling more participation. Finally, we are especially proud that many researchers are using the study findings to inform governments and practitioners on how to improve the situation of children.

four kids posing for the camera
Credit: pexels | samer daboul


The Children’s Worlds: International Survey of Children’s Well-Being (ISCWeB) is supported by the Jacobs Foundation.


  • Andresen, S., Bradshaw, J. & Kosher, H. (2019). Young Children’s Perceptions of their Lives and Well-Being. Child Indicators Research 12(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-018-9551-6
  • Ben-Arieh, A. (2005). Where are the children? Children’s role in measuring and monitoring their well-being. Social Indicators Research, 74(3), 573–596.
  • Ben-Arieh, A. (2012). How do we measure and monitor the “state of our children”? Revisiting the topic in honour of Sheila B. Kamerman. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 569–575.
  • Casas, F. (2011). Subjective social indicators and child and adolescent well-being. Child Indicators Research, 4, 555–575.
  • Dinisman, T., Fernandes, L., & Main, G. (2015). Findings from the first wave of the ISCWeB project: International perspectives on child subjective well-being. Child Indicators Research, 8(1), 1–4.
  • United Nations General Assembly (1989). Convention on the rights of the child. New York: Author. Retrieved from: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm.

Using visual methodologies to explore children’s sense of belonging

by Henry Mainsah

In the Belong project we seek to explore how children negotiate a sense of belonging by looking at how they relate to places, social relationships, and things. This implies that we must map the social world of children in their material and socio-spatial contexts such as home, school, and online, and through things such as food, clothes, and digital media devices. For the project to achieve this, we realise that we need to think creatively, and devise methods that activate children’s voices and elicit reflection about the meaning of their socio-spatial and material attachments. Recognizing this, the Belong project is currently devising and planning several children-friendly and participatory visual research methods through a series of workshops.

child standing in front of a wall with many drawings and notes.
credit: pexels | Michel Serpa

Researching with children

When we say that we are adopting a participatory research approach this means we ought to place children at the centre of any investigation into their experiences, understandings, and feelings of belonging. However simple this might seem, such a task is laden with complex interdependent methodological and ethical challenges. Can we really see children “as competent and accomplished research participants that are comparable to adults” (Morrow and Richards, 1996 quoted in White et al. 2010:144) given our tendency to often see them as vulnerable, incompetent, and powerless? How should the multimodal accounts from children be interpreted and who should interpret it? How do we avoid universalist and acultural views of children to consider how the accounts that they give about themselves will be shaped by their gender, age, social class background, and personal characteristics such as shyness, and willingness to engage with adults or other groups of children?

The British sociologist Les Back points out that the most important parts of daily life are left unspoken, and he urges us to turn our attention to “the realm of embodied social life that operates outside of talk (Back, 2007: 95). According to him photography is an important methodological tool as “…the quality of the images operates outside of language and the conventions of The Word (…) We have to listen to them with our eyes” Back, 2007: 100). We orient towards participatory visual research methods because of the desire to draw upon children’s competencies and preferred modes of expression, to create suitable conditions for articulating their voices.

colored paper and the cut out word ART
credit: pexels | Artem Podrez


As part of our participatory visual research methodology, we plan to organise a series of workshops where children participants will be engaged in making collages of photos of things that they associate with different forms of belonging. Furthermore, the children will perform the role of analysts of these collages, as well as provide commentary on preliminary research results and knowledge gaps.

We understand collage as being the practice of cutting and altering images (or other materials) and combining them with other images or materials (Woodward, 2019). Generally speaking, it is an arts-based research approach to meaning-making by juxtaposing of a variety of pictures, artifacts, natural objects, words, phrases, textiles, sounds, and stories. It is a research method that draws on an artistic practice often used by professional artists, but also a creative activity that children can easily engage in. In our case, the practice of making collages consists of making connections or contrasts between images and describes both the technique and the resulting work of art in which children arrange and stick down photographs that have some meaning to them onto a supporting surface. Data from the collage-making workshops will consist of not only the content of discussions during the process but will also include observations of participant interactions and collage artefacts produced by participants.

We wonder what stories children will be able to tell about themselves when they stand before the images that they have put together of things that have meaning in their everyday lives. What meanings would they generate about their experiences and perceptions of being part of social fabric, and their practices, affects, and feelings of inclusion?  When unexpected objects or images are placed together, this might lead, we hope, to surprising, ambiguous, or even uncertain insights, either by those who make or read these image combinations. We place great value in the potential of unusual visual juxtapositions to “jar” our workshop participants and us as researchers, into seeing or thinking differently.

collage making
credit: pexels | George Milton

The challenge of interpreting

Experience tells us that while visual artefacts such as collages made by children represent a potentially rich view on their worlds and an insightful glance on their social universe, researchers often tend to see these with adult eyes.  In addition, researchers tend to view such visual artifacts “as a product (something that can be analysed and its constituent parts picked apart) rather than as a process (a series of creative actions and markings that tell a story in its own right)” (White et al. 2010: 146). We would thus need to pay particular attention to what the children say while they are in the process of making their visual artefacts to enable us better understand the ideas and stories that these artefacts are based upon.  Collages come about as visual artefacts through a process of recomposition or distortion in order to produce specific meanings. The value of image collages as research data lies not so much in the fact that they portray ‘the truth’, as in our ability to record and understand the context in which they are produced.

Garderobestudier i BELONG

Ingrid Haugsrud & Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Når 9-åringen Lucy går inn i klesskapet i Narnia-bøkene finner hun et snødekt landskap og en fantastisk, men litt skummel verden. Storesøsknene tror henne først ikke når hun forteller om hva hun har oppdaget, men blir overbevist og blir med henne inn. I garderobene vi i BELONG titter inn i finner vi ikke snakkende løver eller onde hekser, men vi finner mye annet spennende. Garderoben blir et utgangspunkt for å få kunnskap om barns liv og hverdag.

Credit: pexels | ketut subiyanto

Garderobestudier er en forskningsmetode som er SIFO har bidratt sterkt til å utvikle. Hovedformålet er å lære mer om klesforbruk. Metoden brukes nå innenfor flere fag over hele verden. Klespraksis, den måten klær brukes, anskaffes, settes sammen, vaskes, oppbevares og forkastes er daglige praksiser som ofte tas for gitt, og som kan være vanskelige å sette ord på. Ved å ha klærne og alt det andre som er involvert, slik som der klærne oppbevares og stelles i nærheten under intervjuet, kan den som intervjues bli minnet om følelser, erfaringer eller praksiser de kanskje ikke ville husket ellers. Intervjuene handler om et og et plagg og dets historie og hvordan det brukes. Dermed kan vi som forskere senere analysere ulikheter mellom plagg – og ikke bare mellom informanter.

credit: pexels | cottonbro

En 12-årings garderobe er selvsagt annerledes enn en voksens. Barn vokser, klesnormer for barn er ulike enn for voksne, og de anledningene de bruker klær er også andre. Også oppbevaringen kan være annerledes, kanskje mamma låner litt skapplass, kanskje den deles med søsken eller kanskje klærne i hovedsak befinner seg et helt annet sted (som for eksempel gulvet). En 12-årings garderobe kan romme klær for ulike anledninger: skole, sport, nissefest, julaften eller id-feiring. Den kan inneholde klær som er for små, eller for store, som klør eller som er blitt for barnslige. Det kan være klær som er arvet, eller klær som er lånt med eller uten tillatelse fra andre i familien. Hva kan vi lære av å se på disse klærne, og hvorfor gjør vi det i BELONG-prosjektet?

credit: pexels | ketut subiyanto

Klær er viktig for alles selvrespekt og trygghet, og vi er avhengige av dem for å ta del i samfunnet. Klær og utstyr har stor betydning for tilhørighet i barndommen – både i skolehverdagen, på fritiden og i fritidsaktiviteter. Det kan være om konkrete krav til riktige klær og utstyr av praktiske årsaker, som varme klær for skolens utedag om vinteren. Riktig utstyr kan dreie seg både om praktiske og prestasjonsfremmende forhold eller om å ha «riktig» sekk eller jakke. Gode fotballsko kan derfor være viktig både for å skåre mål, og ikke være «bak mål». Garderobestudier bidrar til mer kunnskap om denne bruken – og ved å ta høyde for klærnes materialitet kan vi se klær i et stadig skiftende lys der vi ser sammenhengen mellom praktiske og fysiske og sosiale sider av klærne, eller nyhetsverdi og mote om du vil.

credit: pexels | public domain pictures

På samme måte som tiden står stille i virkeligheten mens Lucy og søsknene er i Narnia, kan også 12-åringens garderobe fungere som en døråpner og øyeblikksbilde av livet slik det for barnet akkurat i det vi møter han eller henne. Forhåpninger, bekymringer og tanker om hvordan det blir på ungdomsskolen, eller barnets forhandlinger med venner og foreldre om klærne og skoene «passer» både funksjonelt og sosialt.

credit: pexels | ketut subiyanto

Gjennom å lære mer om barns hverdagspraksiser og klær kan vi også lære mer hvordan de opplever å høre til og passe inn, og om det er noe som gjør at de ikke opplever dette. Hva er klærnes rolle i det som virkelig er skummelt: å ikke føle man har venner og får være «med».

Garderobestudier brukes også i andre pågående forskningsprosjekter på SIFO, CHANGE og Wasted Textiles. Hvis du vil lese mer om garderobestudier kan du lese denne kronikken på forskning.no , og her finner du en oversikt over publikasjoner og prosjekter som bruker metoden.

Untangling the complex relationship between poverty and belonging using Ungdata Junior

Christer Hyggen, Mette Løvgren

A significant number of Norwegian children are growing up in families at risk of poverty. The number has been on the rise for the last two decades. As we speak about 12 percent of all Norwegian children grow up in households at risk of poverty. While poverty in Norway does not compare to poverty in other parts of the world, relative poverty within an affluent society may leave the affected at a disadvantage.

credit: pexels – laís regina

The risk of poverty is not evenly distributed. Children who grow up in households where the main providers are single parents have low education and weak connections to the labor market are at greater risk than others. And the risk is particularly high for children with immigrant backgrounds. The risk of growing up in a poor household is higher in cities  – and often in particular parts of the larger cities.

Growing up in families at risk of poverty may have adverse consequences for the child, in both the short and the long term. A large body of research from the last two decades on growing up in relative poverty in an affluent country has identified a range of potential consequences of lack of economic resources on the child, for the family, and at an institutional/ societal level. It may affect a child’s development, health, quality of life, parental support, participation, trust, and sense of belonging to mention just a few.

Figure 1. A descriptive model for understanding dimensions of Belonging in relation to poverty

This figure is a very simplified attempt at capturing and systemizing some of the complexity. We have developed this model, based on the influential work by Bronfenbrenner, in order to visualize how the lives of economically disadvantaged children need to take into account a wide range of arenas, actors, and institutions surrounding, affecting, and interacting with the children.

In BELONG, we will challenge usual preconceptions of the phenomenon by using the concept of belonging – moving beyond traditional concepts of social integration/ marginalization and participation – or maybe even bullying – concepts that we in the youth research department are more familiar with. In short, we will apply the lens provided by the complex concept of belonging addressing children’s experiences and connections and overlapping dimensions – people, places, and materials – and their sub-dimensions – such as peers, parents, schools.

One of the tools and empirical basis we will use in BELONG is Ungdata and Ungdata junior.

credit: pexels – katherina holmes

For more than a decade, Ungdata has been the most comprehensive source of information on adolescent health and well-being at the municipal, regional and national levels in Norway. Presently close to 800 000 youth from nearly all Norwegian municipalities have participated in Ungdata and Ungdata junior. The age range is from 10 years till 18 or 19 years – from 5th grade in compulsory school to 3d and final year of high school.

The data cover various aspects of young people’s lives, like relationships with parents and friends, leisure activities, health issues, local environment, well-being, and school issues.

credit: pexels – monstera

NOVA – Norwegian social research at OsloMet, is responsible for the national coordination of the project, while a large infrastructure based locally in municipalities and at schools secures the implementation. Ungdata will provide an important empirical contribution to the BELONG project and help us towards our goal of an increased understanding of practices causing marginalization and social exclusion of minority and majority children of low-income families.

In particular, we believe Ungdata will be able to contextualize, generalize and explore the importance of relative differences in poverty for practices of belonging.

Viktigheten av tingenes «skjulte» betydning

Mari Rysst

Viktigheten av tingenes «skjulte» betydning
I 2005 publiserte jeg en artikkel i Tidsskrift for Ungdomsforskning med tittel Det koster å være kul. Om tweenagers opplevelse av tilhørighet i en flerkulturell setting i Oslo. Artikkelen var basert på etnografisk feltarbeid i en bydel i Oslo øst, og diskuterer 10-årige gutter og jenters vennskapsrelasjoner med vekt på inkludering og ekskludering. Skolen og klassen hadde i 2002 ca. 50 prosent barn med innvandrerbakgrunn. Vennskapsrelasjonene var dominert av de etnisk norske, der særlig to jenter med afrikansk opprinnelse anstrengte seg for å oppnå tilhørighet blant de såkalt «kule», men opplevde dette vanskelig. En tolkning var at inkludering ble vanskelig fordi de levde i familier med vedvarende lav inntekt, og ikke kunne delta på de aktivitetene og skaffe seg de tingene som det å være kul krevde (Rysst, 2005).

credit: Pexels | Katerina Holmes

Artikkelen har vært mye brukt, blant annet som eksamensstoff på videregående skole i 2006, og som pensum ved flere høgskoler og universitet. Årsaken er nok at den traff «noe» som ikke hadde vært så åpent diskutert før, nemlig betydningen av penger og mulighet for forbruk for sosial inkludering blant barn og unge i Norge. Flere unge med innvandrerbakgrunn har senere meldt til meg at de kjente seg veldig godt igjen i det jeg skrev, noe som indikerer at artikkelens innhold beskrev en relevant virkelighet. I dag, 16 år senere, er det ingen grunn til å tro at ikke forbruk fortsatt har betydning for barn og unges sosiale inkludering.

credit: Pexels | Philbert Pembani

Jeg mener det ofte eksisterer et gap mellom generasjoner i forhold til å forstå tingenes betydning for barn og unges opplevelse av tilhørighet i jevnaldergruppen. Hvor ofte har ikke tenåringer fått kommentarer fra foreldre og særlig besteforeldre på klær, for eksempel som at «du kan da ikke gå med den buksa, den har jo hull på knærne»! Ja, det er teit at man kjøper bukser i dyre dommer som har hull på knærne. Men i noen miljøer er det slik det skal være, det er et klesplagg som for disse ungdommene, inngår i det som Allison Pugh kaller for deres «economy of dignity». Det er aktiviteter og ting som de unge selv har forhandlet fram som viktige for opplevelse av tilhørighet i deres miljø. Economy of dignity består av ting som har blitt tillagt mening av de unge, og det spiller da liten rolle hva foreldre og besteforeldre måtte mene om at buksa er «teit» eller «stygg». Noen voksne hevder også at «alle olabukser ser jo helt like ut, hvorfor skal du ha den dyreste?» Men nei, for det første ser de ikke helt like ut dersom du tar på deg ungdommens blikk: det er knapper, merker, formen på lommene, fargen på denim med mer, som er kodene som her gjelder, eller buksas «skjulte» betydning.

credit: Pexels | thirdman

I et feltarbeid i en klasse på en skole øst i Oslo, observerte jeg at en liten, spinkel gutt var et uromoment i klassen, og jeg ville snakke litt med han om hva han var opptatt av. Han var, som alle guttene i klassen, veldig opptatt av fotball. De fleste gutter spilte fotball på det lokale laget, men ikke «Ali». Jeg lurte på hvorfor, og han svarte at han ikke kom seg på trening fordi familien hadde ikke bil og han hadde ikke sykkel. De fleste guttene syklet til banen. Han fortalte at han skulle få sykkel til sommeren, og begynne på fotball til høsten. Jeg spurte om han ønsket seg en spesiell sykkel, og følgende ordveksling fant sted:
Ali: Ikke en spesiell sykkel, men en som er veldig fin, som ikke kan ødelegges. Men samma for meg, bare det er en sykkel. Men hvis det er jentesykkel– da gidder jeg ikke! (ler litt)
Mari: Så det må være en guttesykkel, og da er det det samme hvordan den ser ut?
Ali: Nei, ikke akkurat, hvis den har ruter, da gidder jeg ikke.

credit: Pexels | cottonbro

Altså, her ser vi at når det kommer til stykket, så må sykkelen være «innenfor» det han opplever som akseptable rammer for hvordan sykkelen kan se ut. Han velger heller å ikke delta på fotball dersom sykkelen var «feil», her jentete eller rutete. Dette illustrerer veldig godt poenget med at de unge selv vet hva ting «betyr», hva det er viktig å ha og ikke ha for å oppleve tilhørighet. Vi voksne må forstå viktigheten av dette, selv om vi kan synes det både er trist og teit. Ting har koder, «skjulte» betydninger, og det er dem vi som forskere kan prøve å avdekke.