"It's my life": Independence, cohesion and tensions in the social world of an Israeli preadolescent class group

Julie I Spiegel, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is an ethnographic study of the social world of a class group of Israeli children during their fourth and fifth grade years. Fieldwork was conducted for a year and a half in their elementary school, neighborhood, and homes. The study investigates children's experiences in a context where a class group remains together for the entirety of elementary school; specifically, the influence of schooling and the children on the construction of their social group, norms, activities, and interaction. The dissertation provides in-depth description and analysis of the central aspects of the children's social world in various settings over time. Areas examined include: (1) The role of the school in providing avenues for children's leadership, participation and control, and promoting class gibush/crystallization, (2) The social organization among children in the class group, and their efforts aimed at social mobility and self-regulation, (3) The onset of children's interest and engagement in cross-gender relationships, (4) The primacy of the class group social life at birthday parties and other class celebrations in neighborhood and home settings, (5) The school's efforts to intervene and alter the children's organization and behavior, as well as tensions between the children and teachers and within the group. The data demonstrate the dynamic nature of the social world the children created and maintained through intensive contact together. The children organized and carded out a rich peer group social life independent of adults that included events, rituals, and activities reflective of their changing interests. They managed a variety of peer relations involving support as well as rejection. Living within a class group for a sustained period of time required children to balance the goal of the school and group for social cohesion, and the reality of group life that often ran contrary.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Cultural anthropology|Linguistics|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Spiegel, Julie I, ""It's my life": Independence, cohesion and tensions in the social world of an Israeli preadolescent class group" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9953599.