Young children's constructions of cross-sex relationships in a combined school setting : a narrative inquiry.
Maphanga, Patience Nonhlanhla.
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The focus of this study was to explore the experiences of cross-sex relationship among grade four children in one farm co-educational combined school in UMgungundlovu. A social constructionist paradigm, which draws on children’s geographies and new sociology of childhood studies, was adopted as conceptual lens in this study to understand if and how constructions of femininities and masculinities bear on young children’s social relations at the school. These theoretical approaches were vital to enable the study to unearth how dynamics of gender play out in cross-sex relationships. The aim of the study was to understand how these insights could be used to devise strategies to enhance gender relations within the school. A qualitative research methodology within the tradition of a narrative inquiry was adopted for the study. Methods of data generation used in this study included individual and focus group interviews with the use of a participatory learning activity, namely, photovoice. Thematic and content analysis were used for data analysis. The study was conducted in a combined school with the focus on intermediate phase grade 4 children. Three girls and three boys between the ages of nine and twelve were selected to participate in the study using convenience and purposive sampling. The study found that experiences of cross-sex relationships among children were deeply implanted in traditional discourses of masculinity and femininities. These were found to have caused challenges regarding the possibilities that children had in vi their navigation of spaces and places of cross-sex relationships within the school. Findings revealed that children valued their cross-sex relationships even within the context where gender inequalities were mainly perpetuated in school practices and discourses. The study recommended that there should be improved collaborative effort between the department of education and teachers. The need for the school to create surroundings that promote sustainable equitable gender relations between boys and girls is also highlighted.