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'No Success Without Struggle': Social Mobility and Hardship for Foster Children in Sierra Leone

Caroline Bledsoe
Man
New Series, Vol. 25, No. 1 (Mar., 1990), pp. 70-88
DOI: 10.2307/2804110
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2804110
Page Count: 19
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'No Success Without Struggle': Social Mobility and Hardship for Foster Children in Sierra Leone
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Abstract

In family studies, three conditions are often taken as indices of aberrant parental attitudes towards children: willingness to send them away for long periods, neglect of their emotional or physical needs and infliction of harsh treatment such as beating, enforced hard labour or food deprivation. Concerning the Mende of Sierra Leone, this study shows that although such treatment of children must be interpreted in culturally sensitive ways, transactions involving children express wider social and political relationships between relevant adults. In the principal case presented, a father's insistence on hardship for his fostered son reflects the father's efforts to persuade a high-status guardian to keep the son. Hence, the Mende ideology of child training is used to make symbolic statements that shape adult relationships.

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