Introduction All societies socialize their young, although they do it, to some extent, in their own way and with varying degrees of effectiveness. For society, socialization enables accommodation of sorts to be reached between young new members and the ongoing social order. For the individual, it means social development towards adult status and adult involvement in the economy, politics, community affairs, the legal system, the social class structure and so forth. Socialization, taking in family upbringing and school education, is never complete or finished; and for some young people it follows an anti-social, deviant or criminal direction.Compared to a great deal of research that has been done on young people’s understanding of the functioning of the physical world, there is a comparative dearth of research on how they understand the social world. Researchers from a large number of disciplines including anthropology, economics, psychology, psychiatry and sociology have been more inter­ested in how young people come to understand principles of arithmetic, geometry and physics than those of politics, economics and law.This book attempts to remedy this imbalance. It concentrates on young people’s understandings of various issues like politics and government (Chapter 2); economics and trade (Chapter 3); the world of work and employment (Chapter 4); the institution of marriage and the family (Chapter 5); religion and other spiritual matters (Chapter 6); the nature of racial and ethnic differences (Chapter 7); legal and legislative issues (Chapter 8); the nature of social class and social stratification (Chapter 9). The general focus is on young people - children and adolescents, roughly from the ages of 5 to 19. But the sharpest focus is on adolescence, the transitional period between childhood and adulthood. Different disci­plines have tended to use different terms for describing this transition: biologists often use pubescence; lawyers juvenile; journalists teenage; and psychologists adolescence. Some of these terms have acquired pejorative

associations and, although used interchangeably through this book where appropriate, they are all meant to imply young people.Adolescents get a mixed press, probably as they always have done. They are often portrayed in the mass media as difficult or obnoxious in some way or other, when not as actually criminal. Various empirical studies in America and Britain have shown that the most newsworthy aspects of young people appear to be either as perpetrators of crime or else as victims of injury (Porteous and Colston, 1980). Falchikov (1986) found from an analysis of twenty-one British newspapers that victimiza­tion and criminal activity tended to be over-emphasized, whilst sport and unemployment are under-emphasized, and that much reporting is actually misleading. According to the British press in the mid-1980s a typical adolescent is criminally inclined, unemployed, sporting, and the likely victim of various crimes and accidents!Biologists’ view of adolescence has emphasized it as a period of physical and sexual maturation. Psychoanalysts and neo-psychoanalysts have tended to focus on adolescent anxieties and search for identity, whilst sociologists have focused on the social environment as the determinant of adolescent development. Anthropologists have looked at how cultural patterns shape the experience of young people, whilst psychologists tend to examine the intellectual, emotional, social and moral development of young people.This book will take a social-cognitive view of adolescence. In doing so, it is concerned with the processes by which young people concep­tualize and learn to understand others (their thoughts, emotions, intentions, social behaviour) and the society in which they live. These processes are also related to the behaviour of young people. Some re­searchers have questioned whether knowledge of the social world and knowledge of the physical world are gained in the same way. Knowledge about the physical world is predominantly factual and objective and is gained through discovery, exploration, first-hand experience, observa­tion, teaching and trial-and-error. But social knowledge is more arbitrary - determined by social, economic and cultural definitions, expectations and requirements. Young people acquire some social knowledge by direct instructions from adults (parents and teachers) and other (often older) children; by observing the behaviour of adults and other young people; and by experiencing approval (and disapproval) for appropriate (and inappropriate) behaviour. ‘Because social rules are less uniform, less specific, and more situation-dependent than physical phenomena, they are less predictable and more complicated to understand’ (Rice, 1984). The young always remain to some extent operators who apply their own notions to get what they want or can out of circumstances; and rules and norms may be subservient to their desires.