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The socialization of adolescent youth in conflict: Crossing texts, crossing contexts, crossing the line

Valerie Rose Haugen, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The study takes a grounded theoretical approach to the study of conflicted communication among adolescent youth in an inner city middle school. Ethnographic field methods were utilized over an eighteen month period in an inner city middle school and the surrounding neighborhoods. Conflicted communication is concerned with the use of patterned forms and content of conflict behaviors to both maintain and transform the youths' social world. It arises out of the social construction of adolescence, the institutional and community settings and familial practices. Three questions are posed: What are the patterned forms and content of adolescent conflicted communication? How does the school, community, and family make an impact on conflicted communication? What does the enactment of conflicted communication reveal about the social world of adolescent youth? Audiotapes of mediation sessions between youth, interviews with youth, school personnel, community members and families, as well as field notes comprise the primary data sources. Analyses of these data necessarily cross traditional boundaries to explore these research questions. Descriptive analyses reveal the presence of overarching patterned processes and particular repeated content in conflict situations. An interpretive analysis of 'face,' an often-mentioned symbolic theme, reveals the importance of taking the symbolic dimension into account in order to understand the hidden values inherent in conflicted communication practices. Lastly, a critical analysis examines the interplay between conflicted communication practices and the influence of the inner city institution and neighborhoods on such practices. Framing these three analyses is a meta-theoretical proposition regarding the social world of adolescent youth which suggests that adolescent youth engage in conflicted communication because it provides the means to re-organize social groupings, to experiment with displays and exercise of power, and to test the strength of socio-familial alliances. The study concludes with the suggestion that conflict resolution/mediation programs in schools consider the socio-cultural dimensions and functions of conflict in the lives of adolescents. Rather than striving to eliminate institutional conflict, school personnel need to encourage critical reflection about conflicted communication and help youth identify junctures within conflict situations where less destructive actions might be chosen.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Educational sociology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Haugen, Valerie Rose, "The socialization of adolescent youth in conflict: Crossing texts, crossing contexts, crossing the line" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9737533.