Seeing and hearing children: an age of discourse
This paper explores discourse about children in terms of how they are made visible and how they are heard. The main concern is to explore how the category 'child' is related to notion of age in terms of adult-child relations and the moral prescriptions that are bound up with these social relations. Of particular interest is the 'discursive flow' between the two and the historical shift in the socio-psychological discourses applied to this relationship in terms of notions of 'psychological development' and 'socialisation'. This moves away from the old adage that 'children should be seen but not heard' to one of making children visible by listening to them. This discourse is part of an age in which psychological accounting has gained prevalence; an era in which a vocabulary of terms such as attitude, perception, opinion, feeling and so on, have been applied to how children are encouraged to speak and be heard. This discursive shift is part of a wider cultural concern with how children develop into respectable and moral adults. It is related to what is referred to in conversation analytic terms as the socialisation problem (Sack, 1972, 1992), that is the ways in which becoming an adult is learnable competence and the way this is treated as such through the nature of adult-child interaction. Edwards (1997) refers to this issue in terms how this inter-age related discourse functions in terms of its visibility and as being seen as designed to lead to development. This paper examines how children are seen and heard in terms of their acquisition and use of psychological accounting practices. The visibility of children is related to their ability to display this conversational competence in order to evidence their development towards adulthood. Children are therefore treated as displaying this competence through participating in discourses that show their 'developing minds' and their moral accountability in terms of psychological agency.