Children and Youth as Actors of Doing Family – Parallel Session 1 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24TH – 10:30

Children as Actors in the Practical Definitions and Manifestations of Day Care – Family Relations – Kaak/Sichma/Betz/Bollig (Mainz, Trier/GER)

Doing and Displaying Family with Tattoos of Young People in Residential Care – Groß (Trier/GER)


Children as Actors in the Practical Definitions and Manifestations of Day Care – Family Relations – Kaak, Nadine / Sichma, Angelika / Betz, Tanja / Bollig, Sabine (Mainz, Trier/GER)

Within institutions of early education and care, children have a unique position as they belong to the only group of actors who are members of both, the family and daycare, and hence they need to structure their everyday lives in and between these two social worlds (cf. Dencik, 1995; Hedegaard, 2011). It can be assumed, that these “home-institution transitions“ (Kousholt 2019, p. 155) evoke practices of doing family in both social contexts, which involves constantly placing the two environments in relation to one another and navigating daily transitions (cf. Mohn, & Bollig, 2016). Consequently, children are deeply involved in shaping practical definitions and manifestations of daycare — family relations.

So far, however, little research has focused on children as actors of daycare — family relations (e.g. Bollig et al. 2016; Betz et al. 2019) or investigated practices of doing family in, with, and through child care institutions from the vantage point of children (Mayall, 2002).

In the PARTNER project – Strong Partnerships in Early Childhood Education and Care: The interplay between organizations, practices, and actors as a foundation for inequality-sensitive quality development –  we examine children’s diverse roles and positioning as well as their practical creations of everyday transitions and their impacts on doing family and doing collaboration from a practice-analytical point-of-view.

In our presentation, we will outline findings from ethnographic observations in four different daycare institutions. Our central guiding question is as follows: What do children do within practices of doing family and doing collaboration and what are they expected to do? For this purpose, we will focus on two sensitizing concepts concerning (1) children as boundary workers and (2) children as informants during daily transitions and discuss our findings against the backdrop of the (re-)production of social inequality.


Betz, T., Bischoff, S., Eunicke, N., & Menzel, B. (2019). Kinder zwischen Chancen und Barrieren. Zusammenarbeit zwischen Kita und Familie: Perspektiven und Herausforderungen. Forschungsbericht 1. Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Bollig, S., Honig, M.-S. & Nienhaus, S. (2016). Vielfalt betreuter Kindheiten. Ethnographische Fallstudien zu den Bildungs-und Betreuungsarrangements 2-4 jähriger Kinder. Belval: Université du Luxembourg.

Dencik, L. (1995). Children in day care and family life: observations from the BASUN project. Statens Offentliga Utredningar (Sverige).

Hedegaard, M. (2011). A Cultural-Historical Approach to Children’s Development of Multiple Cultural Identities. In M. Kontopodis, C. Wulf, & B. Fichtner (Eds.), Children, Development and Education (pp. 117–135). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

Kousholt, D. (2019): Children’s Everyday Transitions: Children’s Engagements across Life Contexts. In: Children’s Transitions in Everyday Life and Institutions, S. 145–166. Mayall B. (200). Towards a Sociology for Childhood: Thinking from Children’s Lives. Maidenhead: Open University Press: Buckingham.

Doing and Displaying Family with Tattoos of Young People in Residential Care – Groß, Lisa (Trier/GER)

Child and youth welfare services, in their alignment to the welfare state, are situated within an area of tension between familial and public spheres (Eßer/Köngeter 2015). Closely interwoven with these are processes of familialization, which have grown steadily over the course of history in child and youth welfare (Richter 2013). This has been accompanied by an upswing in familialized concepts in child and youth welfare services with regard to the conceptual design of educational arrangements as family-oriented settings (Kessl et al. 2015).

Despite (or perhaps precisely due to) an at least temporary spatial absence of the family of origin, family takes on an essential meaning for young people in the context of residential care (Göbel/Peters/Jäger 2020; Gwenzi 2018; Straus/Höfer 2017). The act of relating oneself to the family of origin and other significant figures can be seen as an important constant in the biographies of young people in residential care (Finkel 2004).

In my dissertation project, I concentrate on practices of doing and displaying family with tattoos of young people in residential care, tattoos being understood as a symbolic and creative means of expression, a point of access to the familial lifeworlds of their wearers, and artefacts in doing and displaying family practices. It is characteristic of the practices of doing and displaying family in general to include “embodied or visual practices” and “narratives and naming practices” (Kehily/Thomson 2011, S. 61), features which relate particularly strongly to the doing and displaying of family with tattoos.

Using an explorative-qualitative research design oriented on Grounded Theory Methodology (Charmaz 2014; Mey/Dietrich 2016), visual, physical and linguistic dimensions of doing and displaying family were analyzed in their interwoven connections, on the basis of anonymized transcripts of 16 interviews with young people in/out of residential care, as well as anonymized sketches of a total of 58 photos of their tattoos.

As part of the conference, I would like to focus on the question of how young people in the context of residential care practice doing and displaying family with their tattoos, in addition to the question of how belonging in connection with, and in dissociation from, family becomes visible. Finally, I would like to call attention to the conclusions which can be drawn from this in the discussion of doing family in this ‘in-between’ of family and residential care.


Charmaz, Kathy (2014): Constructing grounded theory. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Sage.

Eßer, Florian & Köngeter, Stefan (2015): Doing and displaying family in der Heimerziehung. In: Neue Praxis 45 (12), pp. 112–124.

Finkel, Margarete (2004): Selbständigkeit und etwas Glück. Einflüsse öffentlicher Erziehung auf die biographischen Perspektiven junger Frauen. Weinheim: Juventa.

Göbel, Sabrina, Peters, Ulla & Jäger, Julia A. (2020): Zugehörigkeiten, Normalitätskonstruktionen, Grenzbearbeitungen und die Herstellung von Agency im Übergang. Zugehörigkeiten und Agency. Bewegungen des ‘Hin zu’ und des ‘Weg von’. In: Sabrina Göbel, Ute Karl, Marei Lunz, Ulla Peters & Maren Zeller (Eds.): Wege junger Menschen aus Heimen und Pflegefamilien. Agency in schwierigen Übergängen. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa, pp. 127–148.

Gwenzi, Getrude Dadirai (2018): Constructing the Meaning of “Family” in the Context of Out-of-Home Care: An Exploratory Study on Residential Care Leavers in Harare, Zimbabwe. In: Emerging Adulthood, pp. 1–10.

Kehily, Mary Jane & Thomson, Rachel (2011): Displaying Motherhood: Representations, Visual Methods and the Materiality of Maternal Practice. In: Esther Dermott und Julie Seymour (Hg.): Displaying families. A new concept for the sociology of family life. Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 61–80.

Kessl, Fabian; Koch, Nicole & Wittfeld, Meike (2015): Familien als risikohafte Konstellationen: Grenzen und Bedingungen institutioneller Familialisierung. In: neue Praxis. Sonderheft 12, pp. 60–82.

Mey, Günter; Dietrich, Marc (2016): Vom Text zum Bild – Überlegungen zu einer visuellen Grounded-Theory-Methodologie. In: Forum: Qualitative Sozialforschung 17 (2). Online:

Richter, Martina (2013): Die Sichtbarmachung des Familialen. Gesprächspraktiken in der Sozialpädagogischen Familienhilfe. Weinheim: Beltz.

Straus, Florian; Höfer, Renate (2017): Handlungsbefähigung und Zugehörigkeit junger Menschen. München: SOS-Kinderdorf e.V.