Dreaming of the American Dream – Investigating the representations of social differences in the function of family socialization  

Szabo B.
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary

The most important source of children’s socialization is the family. In this environment we obtain important information which is crucial for latter adaptive functioning in society. Occasionally, this natural process discontinues and the functions of the family are assigned to another institution. The following study examines the effects of different social contexts through children’s representations about social differences. Our research investigates the differences and similarities in the conceptions about wealth and poverty among Hungarian pupils growing up in families and their peers who don't have this kind of stable family background and socialization. We compared the ideas of nearly a hundred primary school pupils (average age=10,2 years) living in families with different socio-economical status and the conceptions of nearly 40 children in State Custody (average age=10,4 years) living in children’s home or at foster parents. Based upon the children’s drawings and structural interviews, we compared the groups’ representations along several indices (e.g. physical, psychological, as well as social characteristics of poor and wealthy people, the causes of their social position, or the degree of reality or fantasy in the drawings). Preliminary results indicate that the representations of children in State Custody differ from the children in families along several lines. We found particular differences in the degree of reality connected to social positions and in the tendency of the attributions. Poverty appears like a hard fact, while wealth is revealed like a kind of an idealized dream in these children’s representations. The results show the dominant effect of the social context on the formation of children's views besides the characteristics of age. Implications of these results are discussed in order to reveal new investigational directions for developing the programs for development and integration.