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City survivors

City survivors: Bringing up children in disadvantaged neighbourhoods

Anne Power
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  • Book Info
    City survivors
    Book Description:

    Seen through the eyes of parents, mainly mothers, City survivors tells the eye-opening story of what it is like to bring up children in troubled city neighbourhoods. The book provides a unique insider view on the impact of neighbourhood conditions on family life and explores the prospects for families from the point of view of equality, integration, schools, work, community, regeneration and public services. City Survivors is based on yearly visits over seven years to two hundred families living in four highly disadvantaged city neighbourhoods, two in East London and two in Northern inner and outer city areas. Twenty four families, six from each area, explain over time from the inside, how neighbourhoods in and of themselves directly affect family survival. These twenty four stories convey powerful messages from parents about the problems they want tackled, and the things that would help them. The main themes explored in the book are neighbourhood, community, family, parenting, incomes and locals, the need for civic intervention. The book offers original and in-depth, qualitative evidence in a readable and accessible form that will be invaluable to policy-makers, practitioners, university students, academics and general readers interested in the future of families in cities.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-301-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. ONE Introduction – city survivors
    (pp. 1-16)

    City survivorsis about bringing up children in troubled city neighbourhoods, seen through the eyes of parents, mainly mothers. Cities can be cruel places, particularly if you have children, if you are a mother and if you are on your own. Where you live is all important for survival. Neighbourhoods form the cradle of family life, the place where families are sheltered and linked in. The physical space is woven into the surroundings by threads of supervision, provision and connections to the wider opportunities of the city or town. But important as the wider city is, it is the neighbourhood...

  2. TWO Neighbourhoods matter – is it the people or the place?
    (pp. 17-38)

    Families tell us that their neighbourhood – the place – matters so much to them because of its people. All four neighbourhoods that our families live in are difficult for them; they all attract more than their share of newcomers, people on low incomes, families without visible fathers. The collection of families, other households and services that are drawn into these areas turn physical spaces into social entities. In this chapter, we look at places through family eyes.

    A neighbourhood is a local area within a city or town, recognised by the people who live there as a distinct place, with its...

  3. THREE Community matters – survival and instincts in social animals
    (pp. 39-66)

    Human beings are social animals, needing other human beings to survive. We live in communities. Community is a common, even overused, word meaning groupings of people around a common purpose, belief, social structure or geographical base. It implies common interests and values that bind people together. Here community is taken to mean what families say it means: the social links between people that attach them to a particular place and to the people that they know and identify with.¹ Community as people is distinct from neighbourhood as place and yet, as we showed in Chapter Two, is intertwined with it...

  4. FOUR Families matter – mothers carry the weight
    (pp. 67-92)

    Families form the most basic social unit within communities, even though families with children now form a minority of all households.¹ The ties created by family relationships have proved stronger and more lasting than other relationships because they develop over the long, formative childhood years, and the mutual dependence they reflect ensures survival in difficult conditions. This makes mothers in particular prioritise their children over other ties and leads to most adults retaining links with family members throughout their lives. Parents feel they are investing in the future by investing in their children.²

    Although fathers play a crucial role in...

  5. FIVE Parenting matters – pushing for kids
    (pp. 93-120)

    Parenting is about protecting and nurturing children, creating a safe, secure home within which they can grow, learn and gradually find independence. But parenting is about much more than homemaking, educating and caring for children. It is about constantly orienting children towards adulthood in the wider society, training them to follow parental examples and values while adapting to and coping with surroundings that pose dangers and threats, as well as supports and opportunities. Parenting depends on a family’s material as well as emotional resources and it is powerfully interwoven with social supports of an informal and formal nature. So the...

  6. SIX Incomers and locals – a shrinking pot?
    (pp. 121-146)

    Cities are born of incomers, people who arrive seeking better or escaping worse conditions. Incomers often reflect high ambition, energy and youth, and cities flourish and prosper because of them. Over time, people become rooted in areas of settlement and think of themselves as belonging to a community. They become ‘locals’, people who have lived in an area long enough to feel that they belong. Urban enterprises depend as much on stable local communities as they do on incomers, which is one reason why families play a big role in creating and anchoring local communities.¹ But a rapid growth in...

  7. SEVEN City survival within precarious communities – who pays the price of change?
    (pp. 147-176)

    Modern cities experiencing rapid community change develop a kind of “ urban malaise”.¹ Only locally tuned interventions and multiple community supports can counter this by working directly within such areas. The task of anchoring fragile modern neighbourhoods within the wider city requires a civic response, comparable to the earliest efforts of civic leaders.² Families in disadvantaged neighbourhoods need a similar response.

    Lesley, a long-standing white resident living in the East End, explained how undermining it felt to be a mother without community supports because ‘her community’ had been displaced by newcomers. Newcomers to such unstable places can only imagine how...

  8. EIGHT Conclusion – cities need families
    (pp. 177-192)

    Families are at the centre of the way cities work, an essential tier in all societies. If cities cannot support families then cities will eventually fail. Family life helps the social evolution of cities by strengthening social networks, or what families call ‘community spirit’. How the poorest areas and their families fare within the wider city tells us a lot about the social health and overall progress of the city because these communities expose the most pressing social changes that affect everyone – the structure and function of families, the impact of rapid immigration in cities, the changing base of work....

  9. Appendix 2a: Summary of characteristics of the 24 families whose stories we tell
    (pp. 207-208)
  10. Appendix 2b: Information about the 24 families whose stories we tell
    (pp. 209-212)
  11. Appendix 3: Development of themes – round by round
    (pp. 213-214)