Context as a critical factor in young adolescents’ concepts of caring

Maria M. Ferreira, Kris Bosworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which context played a role in young adolescents’ descriptions of barriers to caring in four domains: self, intimate others (close friends and family), acquaintances (people in school), and strangers. Interviews with 101 students at two middle schools (an urban and a suburban) in the Midwest, as well as participant observations, indicate that the manner in which young adolescents talk about caring is highly contextual. The “context” identified in the students' responses was the nature of their relationship to the cared-for. Consequently, even though the majority of the students responded that “nothing” would stop them from caring for themselves or for their close friends and family, lack of reciprocity was the major barrier to caring for people in school, while fear of violence was identified as the main barrier to caring for strangers. The authors recommend that schools strive to develop caring communities in which an ethic of caring is nurtured at all levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-128
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Research in Childhood Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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