PRECOCIOUS PREGNANCIES: PATTERNS OF SEXUALITY
AMONG WHITE ADOLESCENT WOMEN IN THE RURAL SOUTH
PAMELA J. FISCHER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Pamela J. Fischer
It is difficult to adequately thank those persons without whose
aid this study could not have been contemplated. Of course, the people
of the fictive Strawberry Junction cannot be named anymore than the
community itself identified despite the great need to acknowledge
their contributions to the research effort, but they will recognize
Key community figures such as school administrators and teachers,
ministers, public health personnel, social welfare and law enforcement
personnel, and community political leaders were not only generous
with their time, but enthusiastic in their response to the request for
information. These persons were cognizant of the problems attendant
on early sexual expression in their community and were interested
and cooperative in the investigation of aspects of adolescent sexuality.
They proved to be an invaluable source of "inside" information and
were extremely useful in identifying informants.
The residents of Strawberry Junction graciously accepted my
daughter and me into the community and an especial debt of gratitude
is owed to the congregation of the Methodist Church who became our
extended family. These residents of the community, who represented
the parental generation, by and large, not only shared their knowledge
of the adolescent sphere, but also generously permitted their daughters
to participate in the study as informants.
Daughters of Strawberry Junction were recruited as informants but
ultimately became friends. They revealed intimate and confidential
details of their world and shared their hopes. Their acceptance of me
removed much of the stigma usually attached to adult intruders and their
candor allowed me to view adolescent life from their perspective.
One can view the academic institution which sponsors the research
as a symbolic home--a place somewhat opposite to the field situation
which represents the physical home for the duration of the reserach,
yet nevertheless remains essentially foreign. The most intimate
relations to the home institution occur through the persons of the
research committee, who not only prepare their student for conducting
research but provide continuous scholarly and psychic support during
the process. The members of the research committee were peerless in
their support of my efforts to cope with the demands of field research.
I want to extend my gratitude to the members of the committee--
Dr. Charles Mahan, Dr. Normal Markel, Dr. Theron Nunez, and Dr. Carol
Taylor, for advising me with intelligence, patience, and humor.
Dr. Gary Shannon, although excused from the committee upon leaving
the University of Florida, maintained an active interest in the project
It would be impossible to fully thank Dr. Otto von Mering, who
directed the research, for his efforts on my behalf. Suffice it to say
that he proved himself more than equal to every challenge which surfaced
during the troublesome process of graduating a student, displaying his
formidable insight and acting always wisely and with incomparable wit.
His unique intellect and remarkable sensitivity prove him to be a mentor
of unparalled mettle and I will always feel privileged to have been one
of his students.
Finalizing a dissertation provided problems which were only solved
through the good offices of friends and colleagues at the University of
Florida--Carol Albert and Owen Wells. They provided essential help
with preparation and submission of the manuscript, the details and
frustrations of which were legion. Lydia Deakin not only was invaluable
in untangling last minute snags, but provided the assistance of her
remarkably cool head and unequalled skill at cutting through bureaucratic
snarls throughout the period of my appreticeship at the University of
Finally, my family has been helpful in ways they little suspected
when I embarked on a graduate program. My mother, Lora Sanders, and
brother, Bill Sanders, were pressed into typing the draft of the
dissertaion along with my daughter, Carrie Fischer, much to her chagrin
at the content. My father, formerly a champion softball catcher, was
called upon for surreptitious coaching to enable me to join the local
team, but found the material he was given laughably lacking in talent.
Their joint support during the research was unfailing.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I PRECOCIOUS PREGNANCIES AND ADOLESCENT SEXUALITY PATTERNS:
AN OVERVIEW --------------------------------------- 1
II RESEARCH METHODS: INQUIRY INTO THE HIDDEN SPHERE --------- 10
III THE SETTING: COMMUNITY AND COUNTY IN CONTEXT ----------- 31
IV THE GENERATIONS: PARALLEL LIVES ------------------------- 64
V SEX ROLES: MALE AND FEMALE --------------------------- 83
VI THE SEXUAL EXPERIENCE: SEXUALITY, ETHNOCONTRACEPTION
AND PRECOCIOUS PREGNANCY ------------------------------122
VII DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS ---------------------------180
I HIGH SCHOOL ESSAY ON SKIPPING -----------------------------197
II ADOLESCENT SEXUAL COMPOSITIONS ----------------------------199
III SEX EDUCATION QUESTIONS FROM A JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL IN
FLOIRDA, 1972 ------------------ ----------------- -202
IV EFFECTIVE CONTRACEPTION TO MINORS ------------------------208
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH --------------- --------------------------223
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Require-
ments for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
PRECOCIOUS PREGNANCIES: PATTERNS OF SEXUALITY
AMONG WHITE ADOLESCENT WOMEN IN THE RURAL SOUTH
PAMELA J. FISCHER
Chairman: Otto von Mering
Major Department: Anthropology
Adolescent pregnancy has been noted as a social phenomenon capable
of affecting population trends relatively recently in America. However,
patterns of early birth have long been recognized as contributors to
dense populations in developing countries.
Sexuality among adolescents has been explained primarily as a
variant of deviant behavior and pregnancy as the result of either con-
traceptive incompetence or psychological forces. Study populations have
commonly been derived from urban settings and often are black and/or
lower socio-economic class. Clinic populations are frequently utilized.
Surveying techniques have been the most prevalent investigative methodology.
Adolescent sexuality represents a complex behavioral issue that can
significantly affect health status and has been investigated from
multiple viewpoints. The theoretical context for this study was compiled
from research in human sexuality, adolescence, sex roles, demography and
Strawberry Junction, a community in north central Florida, was
selected as the study site on the basis of a field trial and demographic
investigation as conforming to the typical southern rural pattern: land-
based economy, religious fundamentalism, racial segregation, kin-based
social organization, and complementary sex roles. The town accounts
for approximately one-third of the 15,000 county residents and serves
as the county seat. It contains the only high school in addition to
a middle and vocational school for adolescents which together enroll
about 2,500 students.
The study group included one hundred white women aged 13 to 19
and drawn primarily from the schools and seventy-five adults judged
as having insight into adolescent concerns, e.g. parents, young marrieds,
teachers, ministers, social agency personnel, and so forth. A small
number of males (fifteen) were included as corroborative informants.
A natural historical approach was used for this study in order
to avoid bias inherent in a clinical population of medically-assisted
contraceptors. Information was elicited via structured and informal
interviews and participant observation during the period of community
residency from September 1974. through June 1976.
The study provides contextual information about adolescent sexuality
and contraceptive behavior of white rural adolescent women. The following
findings of the study are significant in understanding the behavior of
Sexual relations are important to adolescent life and begin early.
Expression differs between boys and girls. Girls' sexual aggressiveness
is not intrinsically sexual but is related to achievement of social goals.
Adolescents are ineffective contraceptors due to the inadequacy of
their knowledge base and difficulties in accessing medical services.
Folk techniques are often relied upon.
Intergenerational interaction is minimal with generational insularity
maintained by parents as well as teenagers. Adults do not educate their
young in sexual matters and covertly allow adolescent sexual activity
by according teenagers a high degree of social autonomy. The failure
of adults to provide sexual instruction to youth is due in part to
religious sanctions and in part to their own inadequate knowledge base.
Due to sex role differentiation in the rural south adolescence
is a period of apprenticeship for males but a period of deviance for
girls which will terminate upon marriage. This female role-deviation
is described as "male-mimicking."
Marriage and childbearing are ultimate female goals; alternate
role models for women are rare in the community. Precocious pregnancy
is not tragic but rather begins the preordained course early.
Community religious tenets and social structure prescribe the
options for pregnant girls. In order of preference, they are marriage,
adoption, raising by the unwed mother, or abortion. Abortion appears
to be rare.
Choice of sexual partners appears to be different than described
for urban settings. The pattern is often young girls partnered by
older men, occasionally in incestuous relationships.
PRECOCIOUS PREGNANCY AND ADOLESCENT SEXUALITY PATTERNS: AN OVERVIEW
Girls who become mothers before shedding their own childhood present
an especially poignant contemporary phenomenon as they are forced to
precipitously- abandon the carefree days of their adolescence in order
to assume awesome responsibilities for which they may be ill-prepared.
The consequences of these early births reach far beyond the marred
girlhoods and may affect generations.
While not an entirely new phenomenon in the biosocial scheme,
adolescent pregnancy has recently acquired a high visibility due to
its social unacceptibility in American life and because it has been
described as reaching epidemic proportions relative to past experience
and current expectations.
In American society, peak childbearing years for the female fall
between the twentiety and twenty-ninth years with the 20-24 cohort
having the highest yield in terms of natality; childbearing prior to
the twentieth year is defined as precocious and inappropriate, particularly
in the early adolescent years. Nevertheless, the birth rate for this
group is rising in contrast to dropping rates for other age cohorts.
Illegitimacy rates are also rising, particularly among white adolescents.
This trend toward early or illegitimate births has many adverse implica-
tions related to the physical and sociopsychological well-being of young
mothers and their children as well as for the generations which succeed
Investigators have probed the problem of illegitimacy and high
birth rates principally from two related points of view: as a phenomenon
of black cultural patterns, e.g. matrifocality (Gonzalez 1964); and
as a cultural pattern arising from imperatives of the urban ghetto
(Rainwater 1966). Exploration of the problem as an element of the white
cultural milieu in a non-metropolitan setting has not received equal
The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship
between cultural factors and the expression of adolescent sexuality
and its outcome among young white women in a southern rural community.
The rural south was chosen as an appropriate context for a study of
adolescent pregnancy because this type of problem has not been
thoroughly investigated in this setting. Moreover, the barrenness
of the medical establishment in rural areas has made many communities
particularly open to input which has the potential to expand health care.
The clandestine nature of sexuality among adolescents and its lack
of adequate investigation coupled with the prudery and insularity of
the community made traditional anthropological approaches to field
research, i.e. participant observation as a community resident, a most
appropriate method of investigation as well as one most likely to yield
Suspicion of and hostility toward academicians reduced the primacy
of statistical analysis of questionnaires as the conservatism of the
community would prohibit such an open approach to sexual aspects of
community behavior which are ideally considered forbidden topics. The
smallness of the community, approximately 5,000 population, made it
preferable for the researcher to establish credentials first at the
level of personal acceptability and from that basis proceed to conducting
Strawberry Junction, a community in north central Florida, was
selected as the research site on the basis of observations during a
summer research project and background research into its demographic
composition. It conforms to the typical southern rural pattern: land-
based economy, religious fundamentalism, primarily kin-based social
organization, and complementary sex roles. Its small size made it a
desirable study site. Moreover, it is the county seat of North Central
county, and so had the only high school in the county. Approximately
2,500 students are enrolled in both the middle and high school.
Another aspect of the community which gave it priority as a research
site was its poor health climate. Medical facilities and personnel
were scarce and health services, particularly for women, were minimal.
Gynecologic services were available from general practitioners or the
health department but no obstetrical services were available. Deliveries
had to take place outside the county, primarily at the University of
Florida medical center through a special service project of the Department
of Obstetrics and Gynecology. This project sent staff into the county
to deliver family planning and prenatal services and represented a link
between the researcher and the university, thus providing invaluable
sources of information about the study group and the community. In
addition, this cooperation made clinical observations possible. The full
cooperation of the county health department and the school system were
also extended and greatly facilitated the research in terms of access to
Subjects were drawn primarily from the adolescent or young adult
portion of the community although a sampling of the parental peer group
was also included. The sample consisted of 100 white women aged 13
to 19, selected from the community. Most of the subjects were students
at the middle and high schools, but some were attending the Vo-Tech
school or had terminated their education.
In addition, informal interviews were held with young men designated
as behaviorally typical by knowledgeable community source persons.
Some young adults recently out of their adolescence and parents of
adolescents were also included.
Relatively formal, i.e. structured, interviews were conducted with
key persons in the community including school administrators, public
health personnel, community agency staff, and others who were revealed
as having specialized knowledge of adolescent behavior.
Direct observations were made as a consequence of residency in the
community: informal and formal participation in daily life including
normal use of schools, churches, civic and voluntary associations, and
community activities. All participation was with informed consent,
strictly confidential, and voluntary.
Content analysis of newspapers, school materials and government
publications as available was used to provide the wider social context
of belief, orientation, ideology, and custom which exemplify the community.
The investigation examined issues related to sexual activity patterns
among adolescents, contraceptive behavior, ethnocontraceptive lore,
communication networks as reflected by interaction patterns, sexual
knowledge base, pregnancy patterns including community and personal
solution responses, utilization of health care, and female-male role
expression and its development within the community context. While
taking adolescent girls as the focus of the study, the discussion
includes an analysis of inter-generational Interaction nnd its Impli-
cations for adolescent behavior.
Literature pertaining to the culturally and personally expressive
significance of adolescent sexuality remains peripheral to the identifi-
cation of certain salient questions. To establish a context for examining
white adolescent sexuality and its concimitant effects on natality,
we must bring together salient findings in four pertinent areas:
(1) factors contributing to fertility, (2) patterns of contraception and
birth control, (3) adolescent sexuality and ethnocontraception, and
(4) sex role definition and differentiation.
Fertility is the outcome of the variable interplay of biological
and socio-cultural factors. The universal desire for children and
concern with barrenness conflicts with the universal motivation to avoid
the pain and personal sacrifice attendant to having and raising children
(Ford 1945, 1952; Ford and Beach 1951).
Current analytic frameworks for identifying and evaluating the
factors contributing to fertility break down the reproductive process
into intercourse, conception, and gestation and parturition. Outcomes
of this process tend to vary at thses three levels, e.g. frequency of
coitus and contraceptive technique, length of lactation and diet, age
at marriage, abortion, and celibacy rules.
Psychologists such as Pohlman (1969) point to the variability of
individual motives in achieving pregnancy including proof of femininity,
escape from freedom, hostility toward parents or opposite sex, or as a
means of grasping security through dependence. Motherhood may also
represent achievement of adult status, i.e., it is a critical female
rite de passage (van gennep 1960).
The antiquity and universality of attempts to control fertility
is well established (Ilimes 1963). Magcanl or manipilntive methods,
e.g. post-coital sneezing or thrashing movements and coitus interruptus,
pre-date efficient mechanical contraceptive technology and persist in
its presence in both rural and urbanized societies. Coitus interruptus
is probably universally the most commonly depended upon contraceptive
practice. Abortion.remains universally prevalent as an alternative to
contraception as a mechanism of birth control (Devereaux 1955). The
importance of technological advances is the development of coitus-
independent contraceptive methods which allow separationof sexual
behavior from reproduction (Newman 1972).
Incidence of adolescent sexual activity is widespread and its
natural outcomes, i.e. pregnancy and venereal disease, are significant
problems in terms of population (Commission on Population Growth
and the American Future 1972) and epidemiology (Deschin 1961). Kantner
and Zelnik (1972) report that sexual acitvity is beginning at earlier ages
and is increasing in extent but this assertion is questioned by Cutright
(1972) who suggests that sexual activity levels have probably remained
fairly stable but that increased incidences of pregnancy due to improved
nutrition, lowered menarche, and lowered incidences of spontaneous abortions
have merely made the acitvity more visible.
Adolescent sexual expression has its roots in non-sexual motivations.
It may be an attempt to discover identity by creating a counterpoint
situation or a reaction to authority (Gadpaille 1970), It also serves
as a cohesive mechansim within the peer group. Teenagers are notoriously
poor contraceptors due to their limited information base and their
tendency to dissociate reproduction from sexual activity (Calderone 1965,
Furstenburg 1973, Presser 1974).
Aggression has been defined as the pivotal determining factor in
the development of female and male sex roles and as such has critical
ramifications for the characteristics of the dominant-submissive behavior
that is its concomitant (Mead 1935, Brown 1970, Michaelson and Goldschmidt
1971, Oakley 1972). Literature dealing with the Latin pattern of
machismo-marianismo as male-female role ideals (Fromm and Maccoby 1970,
Paz 1971, Stevens 1973, Paul 1974) are particularly salient as analogues
in certain aspects to the ideal male-female interactive patterns in
the American south.
Adolescence can be defined as the liminal period during which girls
and boys learn to become social men and women as defined by their culture.
Conflict arises between the prescriptions of the social order and
personal needs gratification which produces a stress situation which
must be resolved if the transition into adulthood is to be successful.
Sexuality as expressive behavior reflects an attempt of the female and the
male to define their personal identities in conformance with or in
opposition to culturally established norms of femininity and masculinity.
Sexuality may be seen as a period of deviance from the ideal role.
In order to examine the meaning of sexual activity in the adolescent
phase of life the following areas must be examined:
(1) To what extent does religious fundamentalism shape the
expression of sexuality and its outcome?
(2) To what extent are women's roles defined in terms of the life
cycle and to what extent developed as contrapuntal to the male
role in their structural features? How are cultural expressions
of femininity and masculinity defined in terms of dominant/
aggressive behavior and subordinate/passive behavior?
(3) What behavior patterns can be considered as stress-reducing
mechanisms during the period of transition into adulthood
and to what extent are these in conformance or conflict with
overt community prescriptions of appropriate behavior?
(4) Does the liminal period represent the same modes of expressive
behavior for the female as for the male or does the transition
from girl to woman differ from that of boy to man?
(5) What is the nature of intergenerational interaction in a
community of this type and to what extent does it retard
information exchange concerning sexual topics?
(6) What part does sexual activity and-its culmination in pregnancy
play in the transition to social adulthood? Can this rite de
passage mark entrance into the adolescent peer group as well?
Consideration of these issues results in the general suggestion
that adolescence is a period of liminality in which anomalous behavior is
covertly allowed by the adult community and overtly accepted by the
adolescent peer group. Adolescent sexual expression in the female is
deviant in terms of her socially prescribed role as a girl and is
inconsistent with social womanhood although not necessarily incompatible
with the expression of femininity thus a situation of stress is produced
which must be resolved in culturally approved ways. Female behavior
during this period approximates that assigned to the male: it includes
a degree of female aggressiveness not allowed to women at other points
in the life cycle and may be designated as a male mimicking role. This
behavior is discarded with progress through the life cycle, particularly
upon marriage. Adolescent sexual expression in the male is consistent
with his adult role. Therefore, the life cycle is a greater determinant
in the development of the feminine role than in the male.
The desired outcome of this research is to extend the existing
knowledge base concerning patterns of teen sexuality and contraceptive
techniques. Although this research is confined to exploring the
relationships of cultural elements of southern rural society to sexual
behavior among young white women, it will reveal lines of inquiry
which may be pursued in different settings to test whether they can be
extrapolated to other areas.
In addition, this study will attempt to furnish documentation of a
community problem that is currently recognized as significant only by
certain key personnel who must deal with it in their professional
capacities, e.g. school counselors and public health caregivers. They,
however, are even ignorant of its pervasiveness. Outside this coterie
of involved persons, the existence of adolescent sexual activity is not
only ill understood by the adult community, but is denied.
Though the key to eliminating the problem lies in changing the entire
fabric of social life by improving the role selection alternatives for
women and as such is neither feasible nor desirable, it is not unrealistic
to initiate low-level but potentially significant alleviative changes
into the system by offering suggestions for improving the quality of
the information base and demonstrating the need to create a program of
social activities appropriate for adolescents.
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY: INQUIRY INTO THE HIDDEN SPHERE
The relation of methodology to the research problem and the situa-
tion chosen for its illumination is an intimate and reciprocal one.
Initially, methodological decisions are made on the basis of the impera-
tives of the research question imposed on the field setting: on the
basis of acquired information about the site, projections are made
concerning which techniques and rationales may be most effectively used
to elicit the desired data.
Subsequently, as the research progresses in situ, the nature of
the research context may temper previous carefully made decisions:
methodological approaches forecast as suitable may be reviewed resulting
in discarding certain techniques, refining others, and developing more
appropriate new methods, perhaps serendipitously. Thus a reciprocal
adjustment process occurs which produces a context-sensitive battery of
methods gleaned from the armamentarium of research tools used by anthro-
pologists. In describing the particular methodology used to gather data,
therefore, it is necessary to discuss the basis on which initial
decision-making was formed and also describe the evolution process
through which the research context refined the methodology.
Particular approaches to social study must both conform to the
ethical, theoretical and pragmatic guidelines established by disciplines
and be tailored to the conditions imposed by the setting and the problem.
Implications of the nature of the setting for research techniques hinge
on the question of definition of particular research strategies with
particular forms of social conditions, e.g. the development of urban
methodologies distinct from those appropriate to rural or primitive
settings has been the focus of much debate among anthropologists
(Arensberg and Kimball 1965, Eddy 1968, Pelto 1968).
The rural setting seems one in which traditional anthropological
techniques are most appropriate: participant observation coupled with
judicious use of available documentation yields the truest picture of
rural patterns (Hill 1973). These techniques also seemed most adaptable
to the problem which was one of an intimate and covert nature not
readily revealed without the reassuring personal contact with and know-
ledge of the researcher. Therefore, the selection of methodological
approaches was made to mitigate the fact that the private nature of the
topic forseeably made disclosure difficult and risky to the informant
in terms of possible exposure and censure and that the extremely con-
servative social texture of the community made open and public discussion
of sexual matters unlikely.
Parameters of the problem, i.e girls' sexual behavior in a natural
population rather than in a biased portion of that group such as clinic
patients, demanded a natural history approach to data gathering. The
most appropriate theoretical orientations for exploring the problem
were derived from the community study method (Arensberg 1961, Arensberg
and Kimball 1965) and network theory (e.g. Barnes 1954, Bott 1957,
Mitchell 1966). If the community represents the basic unit of cultural
organization and transmission and is the "locus of patterning in culture
and of structure in society" (Arensberg and Kimball 1965:XI), then care-
ful attention must be paid to its configuration in order to assess its
socializing influence with respect to role formation for young women and
men and their subsequent socio-sexual expectations and behavior. Net-
works were judged to be important for analysis of social interaction,
dating patterns, and sexual behavior. Of particular importance as a
research target was the investigation of the nature of information flow
so that sexual lore could be compiled and an assessment made of the level
of sexual and contraceptive knowledge and its sources traced.
The bulk of the data was. to be gathered through the fundamental
tasks of anthropological fieldwork: watching, asking, listening, some-
times doing, and recording (Langness 1965). Participant observation
during the period of residency for the research, September 1974 through
June 1976, was to be augmented by structured interviews, including life
history compilation, with informants chosen from the ranks of adoles-
cent women who were the focus of the research as well as those persons
peripheral to the adolescent sphere but integral in terms of under-
standing factors contributing to the adolescent station in the community,
e.g. parents, boyfriends, and key community personnel such as health
providers, school administrators and teachers, agency personnel, minis-
ters, and others identified in the course of the research as pivotal in
The sample of adolescent informants was based on and derived
primarily from the population of approximately 2500 students attending
the middle, high, and vocational schools. One hundred girls between
the ages of thirteen to nineteen were interviewed and observed, with
approximately twenty of these becoming primary informants. Roughly
two-thirds of informants belonged to the early-middle phase of adoles-
cence, i.e. thirteen to sixteen years. The majority of adolescents in
the study were from low to middle income families typical of the
economically disadvantaged community with less than 20 percent represent-
ing the families which by community standards formed the higher income
stratum. The educational background of the girls' families was con-
sistent with established descriptions of this economic group: education
of parents typically terminated at high school. Some 10 to 15 percent
of fathers were college-educated and only about 5 to 10 percent of
The sample of adults included in the study numbered roughly
seventy-five. Two-thirds of adults were women and one-third men. The
adult informants were divided into three categories of approximately
equal proportions, key community persons, parents, and young adults
In addition to the adolescent girls who were the subjects of the
study and the adult members of the community judged as having special
insights into adolescent concerns, a small number of teenage boys, about
fifteen, were included. These boys were selected as the male counter-
parts to the girls in the study and were characterized by similar socio-
economic attributes. A small sampling of adolescent boys were deemed
appropriate because while young men were not the focus of the study,
their viewpoints were felt to be necessary to corroborate and complete
the information given by girls. Often, but not always, these young men
presented themselves for notice by virtue of a relationship to a girl
in the informant group, e.g. a boyfriend or husband. Others were
selected through the researcher's networks as being young men who
were likely to be active enough in the adolescent social scene to be
good relaters of their personal experiences and observations.
Following the definition of the research problem, selection of a
site in which it might be explored was the next step. The dimensions
of the problem, i.e. sexuality of white adolescent women in the rural
south, determined the characteristics of the site to the extent that it
must be a southern rural community. Strawberry Junction was chosen on
the basis of observations during a previous summer pilot project conduc-
ted as part of a larger technical assistance survey contracted by the
Board of County Commissioners for planning purposes, and background
research into its demographic composition.
The community was found to conform to the typical southern pattern:
land-based economy, religious fundamentalism, primarily kin-based social
organization, and complementary sex roles (Dollard 1937, Davis, et al.
1941, Morland 1971). It is a small community akin to Redfield's little
community (1955): the small size, approximately 5,000 population living
in a circumscribed space, made the social system more "visible" and the
adolescents under scrutiny more easily available for observation than
would be possible in a larger community.
The community is characteristically distinctive, having apparent
limits not only to the observer but as expressed in the group conscious-
ness of its denizens. The community is homogeneous in that similar
activities obtain for persons in corresponding sex and age positions,
generational life patterns cycle similarly to those of the preceding
one, and the overall tone of life is conservative and unchanging. In
the main, the community is self-sufficient. Because of these Redfield-
ian traits, the community would be classed as more "folk" than urban
(Foster 1953), particularly with respect to an interdependence of
component parts, face-to-face personal relations, sacred sanctions for
conduct, relative social immobility, and importance of kinship exten-
sions in institutional structure.
The fact that Strawberry Junction is the county seat furnished
additional reasons for its selection as the study site. It contains
the only school facilities for secondary education and houses most of
the county's sparse medical resources. Like most rural areas, the
medical climate is poor; personnel and facilities are minimal and
community residents must seek the bulk of their health care from non-
community resources. In the case of women's health services, particu-
larly obstetrical, most care is delivered through the auspices of a
federally funded project administered through the University of Florida.
This project thus provided an invaluable system of linkages into the
community for the researcher as well as a usable body of information
which could be tapped.
The community was initially approached by using available statis-
tical documents and local materials to interpret the trend of adoles-
cent natality patterns and analyze the community structure in terms of
demographic composition, economic status, health profile, and social
organization from a non-observational point of reference. Relevant
available materials included such documents as census data, health
summaries, school records and publications, economic reports, and
community-compiled references such as club rosters, business and service
directories, and Chamber of Commerce brochures.
Other published or prepared documents which were particularly
useful were planning surveys, compilations of materials derived from
various other sources and cast in a county-specific format; local
reference materials which were service-oriented and had been prepared
for the use of agency personnel, e.g. community mental health area
profiles, and public records, such as marriage license applications,
which gave valuable information concerning under-age marriages, often
including disclosure of premarital pregnancy.
In addition, the local newspaper was faithfully followed for its
wealth of social news, announcements of events for observation, and
items noteworthy for analysis of the local community social system.
Moreover, the back issues of the newspaper, particualrly the anniversary
and centennial editions, represented the most complete account of local
history. Fortunately, the editor of the newspaper had become the local
historian and has amassed an extensive and quite diverse collection of
historical materials to which he granted access.
The major part of the fieldwork process consisted of various
levels of participant observation including interviewing techniques.
All observations of the community made while resident in it may be
classified as participant if one has the distinction of belonging.in
some fashion to the phenomenon being observed or some discernible
relationship to the informant being interviewed; however, levels of
belonging in any particular situation vary and affect the quality of
the information thus derived. Hence, even though one is a participant
in the sense of living in the town being studied, the observations made
with this minimal degree of involvement are more formal and one observes
from the outside. Little or no interaction is required to observe
events of a public nature or interview a community leader.
Participant observation done under circumstances where one has an
active part in the happenings, however, yields a different quality of
information. This can be advantageous in that an "inside" view may be
obtained, but the drawback is that more is required from the researcher
in terms of rapport-building to achieve the necessary acceptance. In
order to gain the most complete picture of the adolescent milieu, I
decided to observe public community events, or "spectator" observation;
interview key persons in the community; and contrive means by which to
become a participant observer in the stricter sense.
Spectator observation was used throughout the period of research,
but was initially more heavily relied upon because it represented a
means of becoming familiarized with the community and identifying
future routes of inquiry and probable contacts. In addition to learn-
ing the physical set-up by driving and walking about it, spectator
observation of events such as parades, rodeos, fairs, movies, high
school football games, church services, and so forth, revealed much
about social patterns, e.g. age/sex-discriminated social interaction.
These events provided opportunities to informally interview persons
participating in the event by assuming the role of a curious stranger,
an advantageous role "provided it is the role of objective and friendly
stranger rather than authoritarian, critic or pestiferous interloper"
Becoming a spectator had the additional advantage of making the
anthropologist familiar to the townspeople and thus increasing accepta-
bility in later, less easily arranged situations. Identification as a
community resident was enormously instrumental in achieving success in
arranging interviews, receiving introductions to sought-after indivi-
duals, and entree to groups.
As familiarity with the community and its social order increased,
the choice of spectator events became more specialized. While spectator
observation at first served the purpose of getting to know the
community and establishing reference points within it, the technique was
used later to trace social networks, observe specific behavior, and
corroborate information from other sources.
Albeit more relied on in the initial phases of the research, and
in fact preceding residency in the field, interviewing of key persons
in the community also spanned the research period. Persons were selected
for interview on the basis of their accessibility either to information
concerning some aspect of adolescent sexuality, or to other persons of
interest, be they information sources or adolescents themselves.
Persons judged to be information sources were both those directly
concerned with adolescent problems, including sexuality, e.g. school
counselors, teachers, health caregivers, and social service agency
personnel; and those whose concerns, while not necessarily peripheral,
nevertheless rendered less direct access to informational sources, e.g.
mothers, "volunteer mothers" chaperones, club sponsors, and others in
special adult-teenager non-kin fiduciary relationships, and various non-
categorizable persons who stood in confidante relationships to young
persons by virtue of their structural position or due to personality
characteristics which accorded a measure of rapport. Naturally, identi-
fication of these latter individuals stemmed from growing familiarity
with the system rather than an immediate judgment.
The interview situation was conducted rather formally. An appoint-
ment was made ahead of time and the interview usually scheduled to occur
during working hours at the office, or residence in certain cases, of
the informant. In all cases, the purpose for the interview was care-
fully explained, e.g. gathering information for later incorporation in
written report, along with the means of guaranteeing source confiden-
tiality. Consent was obtained before proceeding.
At the outset, it was decided to use key persons as an introduction
into the mainstream of adolescent social realms; the rationale for this
approach was that persons in positions of authority over adolescents and
having access to information about them not accessible to the ordinary
person would be better able to identify those active in socio-sexual
interaction sets and affect an introduction. This working from the top
down, hierarchically speaking in terms of age/sex categories and social
structural positions, achieved only a modest degree of success and so
was discarded in favor of reaching informants from the bottom up, e.g.
on the recommendation of a peer or through identification via the net-
work formed by means of participation in adolescent behavior.
For example, girls would "pass" the researcher on to a friend
either by arranging a meeting or giving their permission for their
names to be used as an introductory gambit. In this way, anthropolo-
gist-informant contact was verified in both directions: the anthropolo-
gist was assured that the informant would be informative and cooperative
and the informant was assured that the anthropologist could be trusted
with confidences. Without express permission, identities of informants
were never revealed to other informants by the anthropologist.
Participation in adolescent affairs was effected by joining as
many interactional groups as possible which could be characterized as
constituted largely by adolescents or which had some primary relevance
to teenage concerns. These groups were diverse, including ones found
at activities such as a women's softball team, the Girl Scouts, girls'
club functions, dances, and, most productive of information, "cruising."
Cruising consisted of driving around the town, following established
routes and acting in prescribed ways to meet other young people who
were in the circuit, and it furnished first hand experience of the
adolescent method of socio-sexual recruitment. In addition, the
anthropologist made it known that an "open house" policy would be
maintained so that adolescents could feel free to drop in without
specific invitation. Thus, girls often visited the house spontaneously.
To augment the information derived from participant observation,
interviews were conducted with selected informants. Most of these were
women: mothers as well as girls because in order to understand the
presenting behavior of girls it is necessary to recognize the effect of
the "more rigid cultural milieu of her mother's girlhood" (Mead 1928:
189), but men were also included for their knowledge of the sexual
sphere. Formality of the interview varied according to the personal
qualities of the informant, the nature of the information sought, and
the situation. Informant qualities affecting the interview were
articulateness, willingness to disclose information usually confined to
their peers, and trust of the researcher's ability to maintain confiden-
Strauss and Schatzman (1960) pointed to cross-class differences in
interactive and communicative styles which can effect the interview
situation; lower class informants tend to be less verbal and need
directing whereas middle class informants are more able to verbalize
their experiences without frequent prodding and understand the larger
implications of the interview, e.g. that an ultimately wider audience
is being addressed.
Hence, in situations where an articulate and motivated informant
was involved, an open-ended interview was used. In cases where the
informant was not especially verbal, as well as in instances where the
purpose of the interview was to elicit specific information, e.g. to
corroborate previous information or hypothesis, or to compile a life
history, a more structured interview was used. The question of trust
of the interviewer was often resolved by the passage of time and the
word of mouth from other informants if they had suggested that a friend
might "like to talk. Group sessions also affected the nature of the
information offered in terms of selection of statements to he made in
the presence of friends.
Most of these interviews were conducted in the home of the
interviewer, in cars while riding around, or at local hangouts. In all
cases, strict privacy was maintained to accord with the needs of the
informant. Some girls, for instance, preferred to relate on a one-to-
one basis and others did not feel the need to avoid identification with
the researcher or maintain secret relationships. Referral of friends
or providing introductions to others in the peer group was left to the
discretion of the informant. In addition, consent was obtained from
adult guardians when the informant was unable to furnish legal consent.
Regardless of legal consent, however, the nature and purpose of the
research was painstakingly explained in every case to the informant
and any questions answered before proceeding.
As is usual in anthropological studies, non-probability sampling
was employed (Honigman 1973); selection was made on the basis of avail-
ability, willingness, fortuitousness, and so forth rather than in
accordance with principles for assuring a random sample. Survey
methods were ruled as being incompatible with the nature of the research
problem and the characteristics of the site; "the method of approach is
based upon the assumption that a detailed intensive investigation will
be of more value than a more diffuse and general study based upon a
less accurate knowledge of a greater number of individuals" (Mead 1928:
189). Moreover, the type of data needed is not the sort which readily
lends itself to quantitative treatment:
As the physician and psychiatrist have found it necessary
to describe each case separately and to use their cases as
illumination of a thesis rather than irrefutable proof such
as it is possible to adduce in the physical sciences, so the
student of the more intangible and psychological aspects of
human behavior is forced to illuminate rather than demonstrate
a thesis. (Mead1928:190)
After the selection of a site that is reasonably representative
based on criteria following from the research problem and accompanying
theory (Arensberg and Kimball 1961, Honigman 1973), individuals were
selected using a combination of judgment sampling, according to speci-
fied criteria, such as age, sex, and status; and opportunistic sampling,
"chunk" sampling, or utilizing any handy chunk of the universe likely
to yield relevant information (Honigman 1973). The study was cross-
sectional rather than linear.
A description of the field experience itself is essential for
understanding the development of a viable methodology and, in this case,
valuable in terms of revealing problem areas in doing research for those
whose interests may induce them to attempt fieldwork, particularly in
the American setting. A great deal has been written by anthropologists
about the field work mystique. Its importance as a rite of passage
(van Gennep 1960) has been noted and rules have been laid down for its
successful accomplishment (e.g. Freilich 1970, Spindler 1970, Mead 1935).
The potential for physical and psychological damage to the fieldworker
has been explained along with the means for combating it. However, with
few exceptions, field work is assumed to be synonymous with foreign
research, with the result that few guidelines for conducting field work
in a non-foreign cultural setting have been established.
Freilich (1970) defines field work as consisting of two distin-
guishable, if overlapping stages: passive research and active research.
The passive research stage consists of the adaptation period in which
"the anthropologist must learn how to survive physically, psychologically,
and morally in a strange setting" (1970:18). Solving the pressing
problems encountered in conducting the research involves dealing with
at least four types of problems which shade into the active research
stage, or data collecting stage, as well: physical survival, psychologi-
cal comfort, everyday pragmatics, and moral dilemmas. Whereas Freilich,
of course, addresses his discourse to the foreign field situation,
problems surrounding these same concerns arise with equally frustrating
regularity, albeit perhaps a different magnitude, in the field setting
within one's own presumably familiar turf. Leaving aside for the moment
the theoretical problems raised by anthropologists concerning observa-
tions of one's kind, can one assume that locating research within a non-
foreign setting eliminates certain kinds of problems, e.g. food, shelter,
medical care, safety, language, and gaining acceptability? In the case
of this study, the emergence of these kinds of problems went contrary to
expectations and may therefore have been more difficult to resolve than
had their appearance been expected.
The initial problems encountered were physical survival-oriented.
Successful entrance into the community depended upon establishing
residence in a way that assured a modicum of physical comfort, safety,
and accessibility, while remaining within restrictions imposed by budget,
availability, and locally established socio-geographic patterns, i.e.
local customs decreed that middle class white persons live in prescribed
ways. Rental property is scarce in rural areas and it was difficult to
find accommodations which met the criteria.
After moving in, it took a long time to arrange for certain services.
An example of this was telephone service: it was almost two months before
a telephone was installed and several months afterwards before a private
line could be assigned. Use of a telephone was essential in terms of
arranging contacts and having a private line seemed critical for assuring
confidentiality while conversing with informants because the gossip-
disseminating properties of the small town party line were well-known.
Psychological comfort was connected to seemingly trivial circum-
stances as well as to the major contributor: acceptance into the
community. Certain circumstances which later seemed of little conse-
quence, initially loomed large. For example, living as a solitary woman
in the midst of a cultural group well-known for its violence without the
reassuring presence of family and friends or even the connection via
telephone to the outside world, created considerable stress and feelings
The potential trauma of the field situation in terms of feelings of
loneliness and inadequacy to complete the assigned task in the face of
difficulties perhaps unforeseen has been noted to the extent that "field-
work can cause emotional and psychological stress to the point that an
individual may question his commitment to anthropology and the beliefs
underling this activity" (Hill 1974:408). To assume that this stress
occurs only under primitive deprivation is erroneous; removal from the
familiar sphere into an unfamiliar and, in certain respects, hostile one,
produces strain on even the independent personality, at least in the
beginning stages of the field work.
The real crux of the field situation, however, and the most anxiety-
ridden due to the penalties attached to failure on this score, is the
achievement of acceptance into the community. It is difficult to
establish a role for oneself that is both identifiable and understandable
to the community at large as well as tenable in terms of one's culture of
orientation. Factors defining the researcher role and serving as the
criteria for labelling by the informants are cultural distance, sex/age,
lack of blood or marriage relationships to local persons (Kluckholn 1940),
and status (Gusfield 1960).
Most anthropologists bent on doing participant observation assume
the role of uninformed but curious stranger desirous of being socialized.
Freilich (1970) likens this position to that of a "marginal native", a
role that "is not an easy one to play, for the real natives are often
suspicious of the anthropologist for although his credentials appear
legitimate, his goals honorable, and his behavior friendly, his work is
of a kind that few, if any, have ever heard of before" (1970:2).
Suspicion of the researcher springs from and perhaps unaccountable
most commonly recognized one being the differentness of the researcher.
Liebow (1967:252) presents a graphic account of his informants' percep-
tion of him:
They saw or knew many other things as well, any one of
which relegated me to outside status. Those with whom I was
in regular contact knew, for example, that I was with them
because it was my job to be with them, and they knew, accor-
ding to their individual comprehension and my ability to
communicate, just what my job was. They knew that I lived.
outside the area. They knew that I was a college graduate,
or at least they associated an advanced education with the
work I was doing. Moreover, it was apparent, certainly to
me, that I was not fluent in their language. Thus, I was an
outsider not only because of race, but also because of occupa-
tion, education, residence, and speech.
My experience was similar to Liebow's although the differences
between researcher and study population were ostensibly less noticeable:
we were, after all, the same race and I was actually living in the same
community and thus, involved in many common pursuits with my informants.
However, that I was an outsider was immediately apparent to everyone: I
lacked the most important shibboleth: the southern accent. My background
is "Yankee," a term commonly used to denote derision or hostility, and
presented itself in my dialect. The most commonly asked question at an
initial encounter was, "Where are you from?" The answer that I had
grown up in the South was a mollifying factor, but I nevertheless
revealed myself as not being adept in the acceptable language, making
many gaffes as a result, and creating barriers.
Moreover, my verbal style also indicated an educational schism
between myself and most of my informants. Education, particularly for
women, is not highly valued in the rural south. Other attributes, such
as rugged individualism, are deemed more conducive to achieving success
and status; hence the intellectual life is often viewed as either
pretentious or escapist, and the academic community is felt to be
composed of eggheads who are not equipped with practical abilities and
are more often regarded with hostility than awe. I often found
myself the butt of jokes on this behalf. People were quick to suspect
patronism, and I became well aware of the "detrimental effects of a
suspected attitude of superiority and condescension" (Kluckholn 1940:339).
The second most frequently asked question, "What does your husband
do?", also pointed to my anomalous position in the community. This not
only increased my horizons in terms of contacts, but also branded me as
a "good woman," a label that was absolutely vital in terms of being
allowed access to intimate details of adolescent life.
Rural southerners are well-known for their insularity-- outwardly,
they are honeyedly courteous to the stranger and I was quickly recognized
and treated with flowery effusion by shopkeepers. However, the in-out
dividing line is rigid, and insiders do not readily accept a stranger
into the more personal aspects of their lives. As an example of this,
I was extremely disheartened over the initial lark of success of a ploy
to become accepted into social aspects of the community. I had joined
a women's softball team and had been practicing at least twice a week
with them for several months before anyone initiated a conversation with
me or even seemed to be in any way aware of my presence. The real
turning point was in joining a church. After that, I found my accep-
tance almost unquestioned.
As the active stage of the data gathering progressed, questions of
acceptance paled in importance and other issues became paramount. Prag-
matic arrangements, e.g. scheduling my time, locating informant encounters,
and so forth, presented few problems. Moral dilemmas, however and
perhaps inevitably, emerged. The major consideration was, of course,
to maintain standards of confidentiality regarding not only the subject
matter discussed in an interview, but also the identity of the informant.
I was careful to never use a person's name to acquire an "in" with
another person unless I had expressly received permission ahead of time
to do so. The question of reciprocity in field work arose and, like Wax
1960), I felt that the fieldworker was under an obligation to reciprocate
the good will and confidences of the informants in whatever fashion
seemed appropriate and feasible (Mauss 1954), ranging from reciprocal
self-disclosure and satisfying the curiosity of the informant about
events of my life and experience, to a more practical reciprocity. For
example, chaperoning dances not only furnished me with data but also
met a real community need as adults willing to do this were not abundant.
In other cases, I offered to act as the chauffeur for a group of girls
desirous of cruising around, but lacking the means of doing so.
In other instances, I offered to perform services, e.g. taking
notes at a medical meeting that the county health department personnel
had wished to attend but were unable to. However, I also was occasion-
ally put in a difficult position by being asked to condone or initiate
behavior of which the adult portion of the community could not approve,
e.g. buy liquor for girls or allow them to smoke or drink in my house
or car, and which I could not ethically do while being responsible for
the persons with me. In cases where my presence was not the key factor,
i.e. I was not asked to provide the means by which adolescents acquired
and/or consumed alcoholic beverages, I did not feel responsible for
curtailing the behavior as it was occurring within my observation but
not under my jurisdiction.
The problem I found most difficult to deal with within my personal
and professional ethical framework was brought about by virtue of the
confidence I was able to establish and the rapport created with my
informants. In order to get the data I needed, I had established
relationships of trust with the girls in order that they would feel
comfortable about confiding intimate details of their lives to me and I
had reciprocated in the ways in which I thought appropriate. Naturally,
as I came to know these informants and had discovered aspects of their
socio-sexual system of behavior, I began to feel an attachment to them
and empathized with their several predicaments. In the course of the
information-seeking, it was normal to inquire into the state of their
sexual and physiological knowledge and learn details of how they put
their system of information into practice. It became common for them to
reveal that they needed to know more in order to maintain their lifestyle
without mishap but had no one to whom they could turn for information but
me. I did not feel that it was within professional ethical standards for
me to stand as sexual advisor to these girls.very much at risk, nor did
I feel that I could suggest other avenues they might explore and still
maintain an acceptable position in the community.
Kluckholn (1940) maintains that for participant observation to be a
success one must become immersed in the community to the extent that it
becomes interesting in its own right and not merely as an object of
research; to "be isolated from others of one's own ilk" (1940:341) bends
one to the life of the community as nothing else can perhaps do so well.
That a part of one's own culture can be so alien as to require this
has been questioned by anthropologists on the grounds that one's own
culture is so familiar as to preclude viewing it with the eyes of an
outsider and therefore asking the right questions.
My view is different; the researcher doing participant observation
even within his own culture is perceived as an alien by virtue of the
fact that he is not playing an easily identified and categorizable role.
Furthermore, the position of researcher is made difficult in terms of
acceptance. In a foreign cultural atmosphere, the stranger is clearly
perceived as a stranger and expected to behave as one and is accorded a
degree of latitude of behavior departing from the norm because he is not
expected to know the ways of the persons whose territory he has entered
and can be seen to be trying to adapt. In one's own culture, however,
the researcher may have to work even harder to achieve acceptance because
he is expected to conform to the normal standards of behavior,and thus
any inadvertent social errors are viewed much more seriously, and
departure from the familiar pattern, received as "strangeness," more
The question of relevance also pertains; there is clearly reason
enough to discard the bias in favor of foreign research as being the only
truly valid anthropological endeavor and turn in equal measure to delving
into home problems. "Anthropology could certainly contribute more than
it does to such subjects as what it really means to be male or female
and how to channel aggressive impulses, subjects in which there is
intense interest and on which there is much sensational misinformation"
THE SETTING: COMMUNITY AND COUNTY IN CONTEXT
Visually, the town has little aesthetic appeal. It is an antebellum
southern town whose growth pattern reflects a development parallel to
that of the transportation lines whose traffic spurred and later
sustained the growth of the town, rather than appearing as the faded but
charming relic of the pictorial plantation system which distinguishes
certain other towns of its relative size, age and level of economic
Built upon a low, flat plain, Strawberry Junction presents a stark
vista: buildings are square, low and architecturally nondescript, and no
tree-lined avenues provide relief from the merciless summer sun. The
highway, which is the major artery of the town in terms of its economic
and social vitality as well as for traffic, bisects the town and attracts
its main commercial enterprises, hence giving the community its stamp in
appearance. Strip development along the highway has occurred so that the
passer-through is presented with a procession of chain fast-food restau-
rants which have proliferated in an exaggerated proportion to the size
of the town; motels, of which two are chains but the much greater number
are local establishments of long duration; car dealers and gas stations;
bars; and various other outlets of national business houses, such as
catalogue sales companies. Indeed, most of the franchise businesses
reside along the highway, while most of the locally developed businesses
can be found in the town proper, which lies in areas contiguous to the
highway, a situation which reflects both the economic necessity for
attracting travelers to automobile-related businesses and the insularity
of the town in maintaining certain activities for "home folks."
With the exception of drugstore counters, all of the community's
restaurants are ranged along the highway also, each with its charac-
teristic habitues. The fast food outfits siphon off travelers and
school-skipping students and two well-known restaurants engage the bulk
of the town's lunch trade. One, called the "Ranchhouse", distinguished
by a statue of a coyboy outside, caters to the working men, mechanics,
gas station attendants, and so forth; and the other, owned by an immigrant
but long-established family, attracts the young professional and business
men who gather daily at lunch for gossip of local business affairs, and
which is favored for club activities and civic luncheons. During the
evening, the highway becomes a strip, with the fast food stops and gas
stations becoming points on the highly visible and distinctive line of
traffic which flows back and forth as young persons look for others to
engage in social interaction.
Also verging on the highway are the high school, city recreation
department, and the two courthouses the new and old ones. The old
courthouse, constructed at the turn of the century in the typical red
brick Victorian gothic style of the period, was retained for its historical
value and is currently undergoing renovations stimulated by the bicenten-
nial to render it usable for offices and a museum of local historical
artifacts. The new courthouse, built in the late 1960's, was constructed
as a bomb shelter in the campaign to provide "shelter spaces for [the
county's] entire resident and transient population. This represents a
progression from no available shelter spaces in 1964 to shelter for
everyone within a period of seven years" (Anonymous 1968).
Adjoining the old courthouse is an old stucco building converted to use
for offices but which formerly housed the jail and which is cloaked in
lore concerning the gallows and other unsavory but titillating legends.
The new jail facilities are housed in a modern red brick two-story
edifice which unfortunately overlooks the city recreation ball park
where the secondary sport is mutual taunting between inmates and
Aside from the highway environs, with the neon sign and billboard
appearance characteristic of the strip development, the configuration of
the town's commercial enterprises conforms to that of most small and
economically low-vigored communities. The central business district is
located to the east of the highway and ranges over several blocks of
three parallel streets. "Town" proper consists mostly of small clothing
and jewelry stores, drugstores, variety and hardware stores, a shoe
store, a pet shop, beauty salons, the movie theatre, the Post Office,
and occasional specialty shops which are generally short-lived, such as
a hobby shop and a plant store. The Woman's Club and banks are also in
this section of town, as is the small but well-appointed public library.
Off and on, a teen center was open which provided amusements for young
persons such as pinball machines, however, since it also served as the
nextus for a lively drug network; its open times were sporadic until it
eventually closed for good.
The pace of the town commercial activities is leisurely. There are
no parking meters and one can always be assured of finding parking space
while shopping. Sidewalks are not congested and stores are uncrowded.
Activity levels are reminiscent of an earlier, less hurried period of
time and this illusion is occasionally supported by the sight of someone
coming to town on horseback. From time to time, because of the somewhat
casual shopping patterns of the area residents and to lure customers
away from several small shopping centers, the downtown merchants sponsor
campaigns designed to attract crowds, such as merchandise giveaways and
special attractions such as baby photographers or carnivals. In addition,
downtown merchants look favorably on the various charitable ventures
which act as draws to potential customers, such as the ubiquitous rummage
and bake sales, and are quick to donate space in which these sales may be
In addition to these small shopping centers, usually offering a
grocery store, drugstore, and department store as the major stores, the
community is peppered with numerous minute markets which are heavily
shopped due both to their adaptation to the vehicle and to their longer
hours of operation. The importance of the vehicle, preferably a pickup
truck, in the life of Strawberry Junction can be readily observed through
the phenomenonof these jiffy stores. At any hour of the night or day,
depending on the length of operation of a particular store, one can see
a constant flow of trucks and cars stopping to make a small purchase and
hanging around inside or in the parking lot talking to others who drop
in for the purpose of finding someone to talk to. At night the stores
which stay open all night may gather a slightly larger portion of hangers
on, but the parking lots of closed stores and gas stations also attract
persons looking around for some social action.
Missing from the commercial scene, somewhat surprisingly, arc
produce markets. There is one large market owned by an old area family
but there are few small stands and fresh produce is difficult to find,
considering that the area is a farming area. The Farmer's Market is
open seasonally one-and-one-half days per week with varying degrees of
success, depending upon the available produce.
The larger churches, e.g. the First Baptist and Methodist churches,
the Episcopal church, and the Presbyterian church, are in the town
proper with the Catholic church the only major denomination placed on the
highway. The numerous small fundamentalist churches are found on less-
traveled streets in or near the town proper, but proliferate mostly on
the rural outskirts.
The residential configuration of the town appears to be the result
of random growth rather than emerging from a well-thought out city plan,
although the current zoning commission seems determined to regularize
future growth within specifications determined through a careful study
contracted to the University of Florida Urban and Regional Development
Center (Schneider 1974).
The oldest houses are found toward the center of town and again
in the outlying rural areas. These houses, of two general types, are
large and often quite charming. The first type, found mostly in town,
is the Victorian house of several stories and surrounded along its length
by verandas. These very large houses have often been either converted
to apartments or accommodated to a business.
The second type is that often found in the rural south and here
located mostly in the rural areas: a large frame house of one story but
with a high peaked roof covering an extensive attic and fronted by a
porch, often screened in covering the length of the house face. These
houses are built about a yard above the ground and, with their high
ceilings, offer some protection from the heat. The survival of these
houses has been at the dictates of the owners and the demands made upon
the land; until very recently, little attempt has been made to assess
the historic worth of the community's older buildings, but a nationwide
resurgence in interest in preserving the past has influenced Strawberry
Junction as well and an Historical Commission has been established for
Within the city limits, many different kinds of housing can be
found. It is not uncommon to find trailers and much higher-priced houses
placed in contiguity with shanties or commercial establishments. Many
living arrangements include livestock in their menage resulting in cows,
goats, horses, rabbits, and chickens residing in the town. Several
housing subdivisions can also be found within which the houses are fairly
standardized, ranging from low middle income tract houses to expensive
and handsome architect-designed houses found to the east of town near the
country club. Although it is apparent that many houses are situated in
a setting in which attention has been paid to landscaping, a common
feature of the general scene is the yard which conforms to no discernible
arrangement of plant life but rather serves as a storage lot for the
debris of living, particularly for the ubiquitous car up on blocks that
is the sine qua non of the style of life which in the south is known as
The aforementioned residential patterns are, of course, white ones.
Blacks are segregated in fact, if not by law, in Strawberry Junction, at
least within the confines of the town; the pattern is less rigid in the
rural areas where one may find black and white in the same vicinity.
The main "colored town" is a cluster of small houses, churches, stores,
bars or jukess" (so called because of the juke box), and a government
subsidized apartment complex called "The Project". Whites are seldom
seen in this area, called Faro, unless they have specific business to
transact there, as the area is supposedly dangerous for whites.
Apartment living, in the guise of building complexes for this
purpose, is not common in Strawberry Junction and few of these complexes
exist. Rental property in the form of single family units, apartments
converted from older and larger houses, and trailers, serve in its stead.
In addition, the many small motels offer extended short-range living
quarters for non-permanent residents of the community, e.g. visitors to
inmates of the nearby state penitentiary.
The recreational features of the community include athletic facili-
ties, e.g. ball parks, tennis courts, and the rodeo arena which is part
of the fairgrounds; a public park; a commercial campground; and several
nearby lakes which, although they are actually located in the adjoining
county, are considered a prominent feature in the community life and,
indeed, are considered to be part of the community.
The physical description of the community is the tangible result
of its historical development, the events of which have shaped the
present social, economic and physical configuration of the town. Old
maps indicate that the town was an intersection point for several trails
transversing North Central Florida and the area was described as one
where "towering forests of yellow pine delight the eye of the profes-
sional mill man, the stretches of woodland pasture invite the stock-
raiser, the arable soil a tempting location for farmer and fruit grower,
the health-restoring, health-preserving pine woods air imparting vigor
to the individual and new strength to the robust man" (Webb 1885); hence
settlers were attracted to stop there.
An identifiable community began to be established around 1830,
before the Seminole Indian Wars, when settlers mostly from middle Georgia
and the Carolinas came in search of cheap land. These early settlers
grew cotton, corn, tobacco, and worked the pine forests for lumber and
naval stores, forming a settlement of sparsely distributed small farms
scattered through the woods. The announcement that the next link.of the
cross-Florida Fernandina-Cedar Key railroad being laid in the 1850's
would pass through the town spurred the establishment of a more permanent
settlement: the post office was started in 1857, officially founding the
town. The completion of the railroad caused the first of a series of
growth spurts for the area, which then "grew at a great rate, and
...from being a mere logging camp of furzy white men and ragged negroes,
became a smart, clean town of refined northern settlers" (Anonymous 1925).
Strawberry Junction served as the terminus for the railroad for the
year following its arrival, and the impact of the railroad on the
development of the town was manifested in its physical layout. In the
oldest part of town, vestiges of the original plan can be seen; streets
and avenues are laid out not according to section lines, but rather in
lines drawn parallel and perpendicular to the railroad tracks.
Local reverberations from the Civil War were not particularly
far-reaching in an historical sense. No major battles were fought on
home soil although at least one Union raiding party is recorded to have
wrecked temporary havoc in the town by burning some freight cars standing
on the railroad track. Although the county is named after a Civil War
figure, the area seems surprisingly deficient in extant Civil War
memorabilia and lore. Nevertheless, a readily apparent and fairly active
antipathy towards "Yankees" remains as a viable remnant of the hostilities.
Growth of the community has been sporadic with spurts coincident
with economic episodes in its own history and in the development of its
environs. The area was and remains heavily dependent upon agriculture.
Initially, cotton was the major crop with the citrus industry latterly
coming to the fore. However, several severe freezes towards the turn of
the century culminating in the famed "Big Freeze" of 1895 proved the
growing of citrus to be unfeasible, and the appearance of the boll weevil
shortly ended the ascendancy of cotton as a major money-maker. Fortunate-
ly the area was found to be ideal for the raising of winter strawberries
for the northeastern markets. Strawberries became a lucrative crop and
brought an additional temporary prosperity to the town in the guise of
the seasonal influx of buyers and shippers.
External developments have been the pivotal determinants of growth
to the town. The major growth spurts have been concommitants of the
building of majortransportation links: the cross-Florida railroad
connecting the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and a major highway running
the length of the State account for the bulk of the town's economic
and population growth. The numbers of people living in the town was
reduced by the First World War, but the Florida land boom of the 1920's
affected Strawberry Junction, as much of the State, by bringing in new
waves of migrants. World War II represented a period of dramatic growth
for the area via the installation of one of the largest army bases in
the country. Local residents feared that the war's end would deplete
the base's operation, thus rendering Strawberry Junction a virtual ghost
town, but these fears were largely ungrounded. The war boom could not
continue, but the base was converted into a substantial National Guard
encampment which, along with the State Penitentiary, now accounts for a
major portion of the town's economic base.
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Today, Strawberry Junction is the county seat of North Central
County and principal municipality of four in its county; it numbers
approximately one-third of the county's 15,000 inhabitants. The county
has retained it rural character, having a population density of fifty-
four persons per square mile compared to the overall State density of
153 per square mile. The county lags appreciably behind the current
high State levels of population increase, although the 17.5 percent
increase of the past decade is regarded by the townspeople as a period
of rapid and unprecedented growth. However, a certain amount of this
growth results from immigrating residents of nearby cities who use it
primarily as a "bedroom town," commuting to conduct their major activities
outside the community (see Table 1).
The demographic configuration of the area is one that is common
in the south. The white population accounts for three-quarters of the
total residents; the non-white population is predominantly black and
forms a separate social community. Like much of the south, interracial
relations have been problematic. Prejudicial feelings resulting in
antipathy on the part of whites for blacks are internalized but can be
readily recognized even when a liberal attitude is thought to be
assumed as evidenced by a description of rural life written by a towns-
person a quarter of a century ago:
The colored people of Strawberry Junction live in their
own part of the town, called Faro. They have their own
movies, and some stores there. For instance, the barber
shop, operated for the colored people alone. The beauty
shop is there too...the dry cleaner...does some dry cleaning
for some white people. He collects it in his truck. The
white people do not seem to think anything about that. He
just calls for and delivers to your home or store. The
colored have their own schools and churches. They deal in
the white stores. Our jewelry store has some of the very
nicest colored trade. My husband does not refuse to repair
their watches, etc., as long as they know how to act in a
public place. A barber shop next to our store hires a
'shine' boy, who gets only a percentage of the money he
Mandatory integration has brought about certain changes in the
social fabric. Blacks and whites now, of course, attend the same schools
and are allowed to participate equally in community programs. However,
probing ever so slightly beneath the surface, one sees that little has
actually changed, even though what changes have been wrought by external
forces seem a quantum hap to area denizens. Integration in the schools
does bring black and white students, teachers, and, to a degree, parents
together in school-related activities, e.g. sports, school government,
and fund-raising drives. While this facilitates interaction between
races of a much greater intensity both in degree and in kind than
heretofore likely, the interaction thus engendered is quite superficial
and an iceberg of hostility and racial tension lurks beneath that
Indeed, within the last five years a trivial racial incident in
the high school triggered a reaction which turned the town into an
armed camp. One of the drugstores in town, owned by a person of such
strong racial sentiments that he preferred to remove the stool seats
rather than seat blacks at his lunch counter, contains an arsenal for
use in protecting:the white citizens. Men with rifles were stationed
on the roof of this store and others in cars patrolled the town armed
with guns. Feelings ran high and serious trouble was averted by the
intervention of the sheriff whose threats subdued the bile of the
vigilantes. Partly as a result of this incident and partly due to a
fear of an incident arising, there is little social activity sponsored
by the schools; dances are infrequent and, when they occur, are generally
sponsored by an organization such as club which can thus restrict the
attendance to whites or blacks only.
Whites and blacks are presumably able to participate on an equal
basis in community activities and programs. The city recreation depart-
ment sponsors sports programs such as midget football and little league
baseball for boys and softball for both sexes. However, to a large
extent these programs are controlled by merchants who sponsor the teams,
resulting in a skewed participation pattern. These often turn out to be
composed entirely or mostly of one race, adding another dimension to
the already fierce competition characteristic of the town's sports
programs. In the City League for women's softball, composed of women
aged fifteen and up (the bulk of the players being high school girls and
young married women), one of the four teams had a large number of blacks.
This team placed second in the city championship and later went on to
make a good showing in several tournaments, with the result that the
team got taken over at the end of the season by a local team of highly
competitive players whose ambition was to win national recognition and
wanted the younger, inexperienced team as a farm team. At the time of
the takeover, the black players were discarded even though several of
them were not only excellent players but probably superior to the
retained white members of the team.
Activities that fall under the aegis of sports are highly valued
in the community and aside from those sponsored by the schools or city,
blacks are largely excluded from participation. There is only one
swimming pool that functions as a public pool, and this is the pool at
the country club. This pool is accessible to members and others under
certain circumstances, but remains an exclusively white domain. There
is also an active roping club whose activities are rodeo-like; barrel
riding, cloverleaf, and parade riding; again, a whites-only stipulation
governs the membership.
Churches promote interracial visitations only in highly ritualized
contexts. Two such situations which warrant the participation of the
entire religious community of the town are the World Day of Prayer and
the Easter Holy Week Celebrations. World Day of Prayer brings the churches
together at the Presbyterian church for a worship service and covered
dish luncheon, and the Holy Week activities are a series of luncheons
held at the Methodist church but sponsored by a different pair of
churches each day for a mixed congregation. During these ceremonials,
a conspicuous display of "brotherhood" is exhibited towards the few
blacks who attend, but at other times one would certainly not expect to
find blacks attending white church services. As far as the researcher
could learn, there is no question of whites participating as minorities
in black churches under any circumstances.
Furthermore, a great deal of mystique attaches to the black realm.
Blacks are reputed to be drinkers, fighters and lusty lovers. Most
whites avoid going into the "quarters," as Faro is often referred to by
whites, especially at night. Whether the reputation is a deserved one
or not is unknown, but whites venturing into Fara after dark are thought
to be trespassing at the risk of their limbs, if not their lives. White
women, especially, do not like to venture into the black terrain at any
time and comments to that effect are rife when women gather to gossip,
e.g. "I had to take that child home from the Girl Scout meeting and I
like to died, but when we got close she said to just let her out and
she'd walk the rest of the way," or "Did you know that Sue takes her
yard man home to Faro and lets him sit right in the front seat of the
car with her? I'd be afraid of going' there and afraid of what people
might think was goin'' on if they saw me with a black man!" Whites
also cherish beliefs in the remarkable sexual appetites of blacks. The
uncontrollable virility of the black buck is legendary and feared in the
south and the black woman is also felt to be lustier than white women,
e.g. "Them nigger gals has forgot more about men sex than you 'n me'll
The white community is fairly homogeneous as is its black counter-
part. The major religious identification is Protestant with the Baptist
denomination being the most common by far. Within this classification
there is a variance from the First Church, the most liberal establish-
ment within the conservative denomination, to the fundamentalist churches,
which are the very bastion of fanatical conservatism.
Many of these small churches, of obscure and often esoteric sects
falling under the rubric of fundamental Protestantism, do not meet at
regular intervals, but operate on a schedule determined by the circuit
of the itinerate preacher. In this way, a great many congregations too
small to retain a full-time officiant can still maintain their integrity.
In addition, there is a small Catholic community and a well-established
Mormon following in addition to the other expected Protestant sects.
Other faiths, e.g. Judaism and the Black Muslims, may exist but are not
The age/sex configuration of the county is biased in favor of the
younger age cohorts and women (Figure 1). Unlike the rest of the State,
the area attracts few retirees, resulting in a median age (approximately
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twenty-eight years) that is five years below the state median (Table 2).
Thirty-four percent of the county residents are less than eighteen years
old. The county birth rates also differ from the state in that younger
women account for proportionately more births. In 1975 in Florida,
12.2 percent of all white live births were to mothers under nineteen
years of age but in the county the same age group was responsible for
15.8 percent of total births to white women (Figure 2). Younger women
account for the bulk of illegitimate births as well; 53.7 percent of
illegitimate births to white women in Florida were to teenaged mothers
compared to 66.7 percent of county illegitimate births (Figure 3).
Like the national ratios, area women slightly outnumber men (Table 3)
although this is not readily apparent when referring to statistical
sources which regularly count the all-male population of the State Peni-
tentiary toward the area total. For statistical purposes this is mislea-
ding, adding approximately 1500 men.
However, in certain respects the prison population does affect the
town in subtle ways. The relationship of the prison to the town is a
complex one. It is, of course, a major source of income for the many
who find employment there, not only as guards, but as carpenters, elec-
tricians, foresters, and others demanded in its many and varied pursuits.
The prison includes farming and stock raising and forests and extensive
land holdings and is a more or less self-sufficient institution. It
also includes shops which are manned by the inmates as both a rehabilita-
tive measure and as a means of producing needed goods and services.
These goods and services find their way into the local markets in
subtle but well-known ways. If one has connections into the prison, and
almost everyone does if they exploit their kinship and friendship networks,
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Median Age of Population, USA, Florida and North Central County,
NORTH CENTRAL COUNTY
Source: U.S., Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1970
Census of Population, General Characteristics, Florida.
Sex Ratio* for the Populations of Florida and
North Central County, Adjusted and Non-Adjusted,** By Race
NORTH CENTRAL COUNTY
NORTH CENTRAL COUNTY
* The sex ratio of any given population equals
per 100 females in that population.
the number of males
** The inclusion of a large, all-male prison population skews the
results of demographic computations for North Central County and
gives figures which could be misleading for planning purposes.
Therefore, these computations were done on an adjusted population.
Source: Urban and Regional Development Center, University of Florida,
Technical Assistant to North Central County in Developing a Land Use
Plan, 1974, p. 61.
one can take advantage of the captive labor pool in ways such as getting
haircuts from inmate barbers, having furniture built or refinished, having
portraits painted from photographs, getting original art works from prison
artists, getting plants grown in the prison greenhouse, and getting
There is a community of prison employees who live on the grounds
and who receive services thereby. In former years, everyone from that
community had trustees who worked for them much as houseboys and their
children were always the best dressed in town due to the efforts of the
prison laundry which always provided beautiful starched pinafores for
the girls. Now there is a very active youth organization which provides
a recreation program for the adolescent members of the prison families.
Townspeople get into the penitentiary for purposes of finding cheap
entertainment. Until recently, persons could go to dinner there, the
draw being a steak dinner for a very nominal fee-- less than a dollar.
Townspeople also like to go to movies at the prison not only because
it is free, but for the additional amusement of watching the prisoners
and their "man girlfriends". Additionally, once a year the prison holds
its annual spring flower show; an event eagerly anticipated by the towns-
people because the flowers are exotic and unfailingly lovely and also
because a flower or shrub is given to each attendee as a favor. Social
distinctions are blurred at this event where one sees the elderly and
distinguished Strawberry Junction matrons avidly discussing growing
techniques with convicted criminals, and partaking of refreshments
dispensed by inmates dressed in white prison suits with their numbers
stenciled above the pockets.
The inmate population is exploited in other ways as well. Girls
have admitted to creating an opportunity to go there to meet men, as, for
example, by joining an evangelistic mission to "save" the souls of those
who have lost their faith. On occasion friendships are formed which
lead to marriage --the ceremony even being conducted "in the yard,"
meaning while the man is still serving his sentence. Men released from
prison are outfitted with clothes, given a bus ticket to some specified
place, and two hundred dollars. A practice, more or less naturally
expected, has developed in which prostitutes, usually black, wait for
these men to appear at the bus terminal and accost them. They are then
lured into the nearby Faro and fleeced of their money during the ensuing
Moreover, it is well known to residents of the town that the men
within the prison walls have access to any commodity available on the
outside, especially drugs and weapons. The means by which these
commodities become so widely available is naturally a covert process,
but it is reasonable to surmise that the persons working in the prison
are important links in the supply network and that this trade represents
perhaps the most lucrative means by which townspersons exploit the
The presence of the penitentiary also represents a threat to the
townspeople, of course. The immediate community has formalized plans
for dealing with escapees which include the sounding of an alarm as soon
as an escape is discovered. However, other dangers present themselves
due to the incomplete separation of employees from inmates. One such
tragic incident occurred when an inmate attempted to force himself onto
a young secretary. An older woman who was witness to the encounter
intervened in an attempt to prevent his assault and suffered a fatal
heart attack in the attempt.
The presence of another large, predominantly male institution in
the community has similar reciprocal ties to those found in the town-
prison relationship. The National Guard post has a permanent installa-
tion on a large lake which includes vacation cottages and trailers, and
thus serves as a source of recreation for those townspeople who can
activate the necessary connections to avail themselves of its facilities.
The guardsmen also function in certain service capacities, such as
charitable ventures, to the community. However, the main impact of the
military establishment is realized during the summers when large numbers
of men are engaging in their mandatory summer maneuvers. These men,
confined to Strawberry Junction for their summer camp, a period of from
two to six weeks, must look to the town for amusement, which has
important economic and social ramifications.
At $3,376,.the county per capital income is well below the state
level of $5,412 in 1974 (Table 4), in fact, seventh lowest in the state,
consonant with low education levels. The largest single source of income
is the government which employs greater than one-fourth of the labor of
the county accounting for nearly half of the total personal income.
Other identifiable sources of income are realized from manufacturing,
strip mining of ilmenite used in paints, services and trade, and other
private industries (Table 5).
Although nearly one-third of the land is in agricultural use, only
10 percent of the total personal income is derived from this source.
The Strawberries for which the area is famous have declined dramatically
in their importance due to difficulties in hiring pickers. Many of the
Per Capita Income for Florida and North Central County for
Selected Years, 1950-1974 (in dollars)
North Central County
Source: Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of
Florida, Florida Statistical Abstract, 1976, p. 127
Personal Income: Percentage Distribution by Industry and of Labor and
Proprietors Income on a Place-of-Work Basis for the State and North
Central County, 1974
Finance, Insurance and
State and Local
North Central County
Source: Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of
Florida, Florida Statistical Abstract, 1976, pp. 161-164.
farmers who still grow the berries do so on the basis of opening their
fields to people who will pick their own berries at a lower rate than
if the fruit were bought in a market. The economic situation is illus-
trated by the fact that nearly 30 percent of the labor force is
employed outside the county, commuting each day to nearby cities. This
figure is a striking contrast to the state average of 8 percent
extra-county-of-residence employment. Unemployment within the county
also exceeds the state average and is disproportionately biased against
women and non-whites (Figure 4).
Strawberry Junction is the site of the county's only high school
to which all county residents are bused. Because many of the Strawberry
Junction students are rural residents, they too are bus riders. In
addition, the community has a middle school for sixth through eighth
grades, two elementary schools, and a vocational-technical school (known
as the Vo-Tech) which caters to regular high school students as well as
adults in its variable programs. Indeed, the course offered in truck
driving attracts students from the entire country and has a long waiting
list for acceptance. Together, the secondary schools number a student
population of approximately 2500 students.
Approximately 35 and 40 percent of males and females, respectively
have completed high school out of the population aged twenty-five year
and over and the literacy rate falls below the state average
(see Table 6). Few students from the community continue their
education into a post-secondary program as indicated in Table 7; the
numbers entering higher educational institutions are less than half
that on a state level. On the other hand, relatively higher percentages
than found statewide are married, suggesting that early marriage may
TECHNICAL AREA 203
EQUIPMENT OPERATORS 180
EQUIPMENT OPERATORS 23
FARM LABORERS 82
HOUSEHOLD SERVICE 115
15 20 25 %
10 15 20 25 %
Figure 4: Women 16 Years and Over Employed in North Central County, 1970
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1970 Census of
Population, General Social' and Economic Characteristics, Florida
Median Years of Education Achieved by Florida and North Central County
Residents 25 Years of Age and Over, 1960-1970
NORTH CENTRAL COUNTY
Source: Urban and Regional Development Center, University of Florida,
Technical Assistance to North Central County in Developing a Land
Use Plan, 1974, p. 66.
also adversely affect continuance of education, especially for women
The school curricula reflect the educational attributes of the
community by stressing courses of study other than college preparatory.
For example, the policy of the high school is stated in its annual report
Advanced courses are at a minimum at North Central County
High School. This is due to several factors (1) the number
of students entering college, (2) Job Entry, DCT, and Agri-
cultural Placement and (3) the state's funding system. The
latter does not provide a difference between, for example,
a physics class or a general science class. We simply cannot
afford programs that only meet the needs of a few.
Like most predominantly rural areas, the county can be classed
as medically deprived. The majority of the available medical services
are in Strawberry Junction: the county health department, 50-bed
hospital and 50-bed nursing home, emergency service, and most of the
physicians, who are distributed in the ratio of one physician to
approximately 2500 people in the county. The level of health in the
community is suspect from observing the people. The general appearance
is poor, especially among children, and is a reflection of a lack of
preventive care and poor dietary regimens which rely heavily on starchy
foods. Many persons are obese, and most are pale with poor complexions
and have sores on their faces and limbs. Gumline dental caries are
common in children and babies are often listless and afflicted with
runny noses. Both children and adults are often barefoot, which leaves
them prey to the many infections and infestations common to warm climates.
The brunt of the medical maldistribution is particularly felt by
the women of the county. Gynecological services are available from
general practitioners, but there are no obstetrical services or facilities
High School Graduates Entering a Post-Secondary Educational Institution
by Type of Institution in Florida and North Central County, Spring 1975
(Proportion of Total Graduates)
Trade & Other
NORTH CENTRAL COUNTY
Source: Florida Statistical Abstract, Bureau of Economic and Business
Research, University of Florida, 1976, p. 112.
in the county; all deliveries occur "across the lines," predominant-
ly in one of the two closest metropolitan areas in adjacent counties
linked to Strawberry Junction by the highway that is so prominent a
feature of the community life. Women who are able to afford it seek
care in one of these two cities, but lower income women depend upon
clinical services available through a university-based program which
extends its services via the mechanism of a travelling health care team
which utilizes local facilities, e.g. the county health department in
the case of the prenatal care and the out-of-county university hospital
for deliveries (approximately thirty miles distance). Family planning
services are available in the same way, i.e. privately, for those who
can afford it, and by means of the university-based project for lower-
income women at-risk.
The physical arrangement also impedes the delivery of health
services. The railroad tracks which bisect the town run between the
hospital, which includes the emergency service, and the highway which
is not only a source of automobile emergencies, but also the route that
must be taken to reach medical services of the sophistication required
by many emergencies. If one of the many trains which run that route is
occupying the track, the emergency may be seriously delayed. Many
medical situations necessitate rapid transport to a hospital in another
city, so this problem is a serious one which is compounded by the
reliability of the emergency staff and vehicles. One of the more
tragically ironic incidences occurred when one of the Emergency Medical
Technicians was struck by an automobile in front of the hospital and the
"unit" (ambulance) could not be started to transport him to a hospital
in time to prevent his death.
Marital Status of White Population Age 14 and Over
North Central County and Florida, by Sex, 1970
Source: U.S., Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1970
Census of Population, General Characteristics, Florida, pp. 71-72, 179.
THE GENERATIONS: PARALLEL LIVES
Strawberry Junction is a small community where it is quite possible,
even likely, that most natives have a reasonably intimate acquaintance
with their fellows. On investigation this indeed proves to be the
case. The community illustrates the veracity of the cliche that in
a small town there are few secrets. Everyone knows everyone else
at least by sight and reputation, and in addition, can probably furnish
a lineage for any particular individual complete with up-to-date
on dits from their past and current "private" affairs. This can be
attributed to several factors: (1) living in close contiguity with
neighbors, (2) the overlapping of the kin linkages, and (3) the
telephone party lines, the importance of which cannot be overrated.
This gossip chain is kept in good working order by the adult
women of the community but they are by no means the only persons privy
to this flow nor the only active generators of it. On numerous occasions,
it was apparent that much of this accumulated knowledge of community
doings belonged to a common bank which was added to by each according
to his sphere of awareness. In this fashion, children and adolescents
contributed pieces gleaned from school and play situations, with men
and employed women adding references from the workplace, and so forth.
Thus it was that almost any person of the community could serve as a
reliable informant concerning certain personal details about their
neighbors, particularly their place in the kinship web, occupation,
religious orientation, social status, idiosyncrasies, and the like.
Despite this phenomenon, the community does not present equal
opportunities for all of its members to interact according to inclination,
but rather activities are for the most part restricted according to age
and sex distinctions. Certainly race is also an important social
divider but the following discussion is germane primarily to the white
portion of the community unless otherwise specified. It is a well-known
characteristic of the south that the black and white segments of a
community, especially one as retrograde as Strawberry Junction, remain
socially distinct to the point of representing two separate and definable
mutually exclusive communities, regardless of how they may intersect
in various ways. In terms of this analysis, therefore, the community
which is described will in most cases by the white community. Social
distinctions arising from sex roles will be discussed in'the following
The segregation along age lines separates the members of the
community into rough age grades according to the progression through
the life cycle: infants, pre-school children, school children, adoles-
cents, young adults, mid-life adults, and old persons. The division
of adolescents from the other age grades is perhaps more clearly
demarcated in terms of social interaction and through definition within
the group and by outsiders than the other grades are from each other.
The penalties of this restriction, although not well perceived by either
adolescents or the ascending generation, have severe consequences for
teenagers because they are removed from adult influence yet cut off
According to dictionary definitions, adolescence consists of
"the transition period between puberty (boyhood or girlhood) and adult
stages of development; youth. It extends from about fourteen to
twenty-five years of age in man, and from twelve to twenty-one in
woman" (Barnhart 1966:17), or more simply, "the period of attaining
complete growth and maturity" (Stedman 1976:27). These definitions
offer some latitude in assigning young people to the category of
adolescence but the term is more often used synonymously with the
Definition of adolescence is compounded by the legal assignment
of responsibility, i.e. different ages at which, according to state
law, one can or must assume adult responsibilities. At the time of this
research, the legal age for drinking and voting was twenty-one, the legal
age for obtaining a driver's license was sixteen, the legal age for
marriage with parental consent was sixteen for women and eighteen
for men, the age of consent for sexual relations was eighteen, and
persons could be tried as an adult for criminal offenses at seventeen.
For heuristic purposes, adolescents discussed in this study were
defined as teenagers.
The theme of adolescence is at the forefront of social concerns
even among other timely and possibly more pressing contemporary issues.
Young people are of special interest to demographers especially as their
proportions of the total population in developing countries is increasing,
skewing the population and creating unique problems in the context of
world history. For example, in 1971, 50 percent of the population of
India was less than twenty years of age, with adolescents accounting
for about one-fifth of the total (Visnaria and Jain 1976:13). In the
United States in 1975, an estimated 35-percent of the population
was less than twenty years and 14 percent fell within the age
range from thirteen to nineteen years (USDHEW 1977:135). Due to falling
birth rates in this country, unlike developing countries, the proportion
of adolescents has declined slightly over the last decade and is expected
to continue this downward trend.
"The American way of life has been characterized, and caricatured
too, as child-centered to an extreme degree. Visitors from abroad have
been known to observe that the vaunted American democracy is in fact
a pedocracy, and that the most surprising fact of American life is
the way parents obey their children" (Goodman 1970:1). This focus on
children perhaps reaches.its fullest expression in the preoccupation
with the adolescent phase of the life cycle which is a relatively recent
and peculiarly American-flavored phenomenon:
The cultural recognition of adolescence is a by-product
of the Industrial Revolution. Prior to that there had
been no need to provide a hiatus category to deal with
the individual who was biologically no longer a child but
not yet ready for induction into adult roles, particularly
occupational roles. (Hamburg and Hamburg 1975:93)
The concept of adolescence was virtually nonexistent until the
final two decades of the nineteenth century and could be thought of
almost as an invention of the period (Demos and Demos 1969). The
changes brought about through industrialization affected social
patterns including family roles and lifestyle which allowed adolescence
to achieve its separateness from both childhood and adulthood, phases
which also became more distinct by contrast.
The changing emphasis from farming to industrial manufacturing
was responsible for shifts in population dispersion from rural to urban
settings. The early part of the twentieth century implemented restric-
tive legislation concerning child labor and compulsory education laws
raising the age for mandatory school attendance. Declines in both
fertility and mortality allowed parents to survive not only the
childbearing years but also the childrearing years, thus experi-
encing the "empty nest" syndrome (Jordan 1976) and embarking on old
age. "The glorification of youth and the denigration of old age are
both aspects of the growing segregation of different stages of life--and
of their corresponding age groups" (Harenen 1976:25).
It is these alterations in teh continuum of the generations that
have been attributed as allowing child-focus to develop in American
society (Demos and Demos 1969, Hamburg and Hamburg 1975, Jordan 1976).
Traditionally, life roles were learned gradually while the child observed
parents and other adults of the extended family or community in the
routine performance. As the child matured, more responsibility would
be extended according to the child's ability. In this way, childhood
was apprenticeship for adult life.
With industrialization, family processes metamorphosed: the
transition from child to adult was no longer gradual and children
and adults evolved separate and mutually more exclusive routines and
habitats. By 1900, the trend was well established. Social and
economic change was widespread. Disparity between the generations was
assumed to be a fact of life, becoming "...part of the national mythology"
(Demos and Demos 1969:638), and Americans began to express deep concern
about the growth of peer group influence.
As pedocentric families emerged, American society became not only
"peer-oriented," but "expert-oriented" (Goodman 1970). The vast litera-
ture devoted to child-rearing advice extant today was rare in the
United States during the early nineteenth century. Books by American
authors began to appear around 1825 along with a new variety of magazine,
e.g. "Mother's Magazine," devoted to the interests of childrearers.
Cookbooks were an earlier source of advice about the care of chil-
dren. Unlike modern specialized cookbooks, these books contained useful
information about all matters pertaining to the household and not
merely recipes, and often, in company with the family bible, represented
the complete family library. Antedating the childrearing guides which
began appearing at the quarter century, the advice rendered in these
volumes most often consisted of care and feeding of infants and children
rather than emphasizing parenting principles, as in the following
examples from an early cookbook:
Baby's first bath should be preceded by a generous applica-
tion of pure, sweet olive oil, from head to foot, in every
little crevice and corner of his outer man.
Great care should be given that children are not fed with
milk that has been turned by a thunderstorm. The chemical
change is rapid, and extra caution is necessary.
Give a nourishing diet to a pale, white-looking delicate
Jumping the rope is an injurious and dangerous amusement,
often resulting in diseases of the spine and brain.
Demos and Demos (1969) attribute the emergence of a literature
on childrearing to the burgeoning interest in childhood as a separate
period discernible from succeeding life stages; a sense of nationalism
and need to develop a distinct American method of childrearing rather
than continuing to rely on European, particularly British, thought;
and an anxiety about the quality of American family life. The major
concern of this growing childrearing literature centered on the question
of authority--an issue as yet unresolved, viz. the undulating preferences
for permissiveness or strictness that have assailed American parents
for generations Even the latter day saint of parents, Dr. Spock,
has undergone some radical philosophical changes over the multiple
editions of Baby and Child Care (1970).
Books aimed toward youth rapidly found a market. The tenor of
these was to provide the young reader with a guide to proper deportment
simple rules of health, and a Christian outlook. Margaret Coxe's
Young Lady's Companion was typical of the genre, pontificating through
a series of letters on such topics as intellectual and moral discipline,
formation of habits, government of the passions and appetites, behavior
to domestics, and so forth. That the aim of the Young Lady's Companion
and other boods of its ilk was to prepare young girls for their social
roles as wives is evident. The section devoted to the explanation of
natural science to young ladies reads thusly:
The subjects which are included under the subdivision of
natural science...are numerous, but as they will not be
likely to engage your attention, or will not be of much
practical importance to a young female, I shall pass
over it without attempting to enter into detail.(1840:149)
As it might be expected, little practical information about the
most intimate aspects of the marriage role could be found in these
books. Even the description of the class mammalia in the natural
history section is a masterpiece of circumlocution: "All mammiferous
animals...possess lungs, and peculiar facilities for obtaining nourish-
ment during infancy" (Coxe 1840:155)[emphasis added].
This is in contrast to the much more straightforward manuals
which spread throughout England and the American colonies during the
seventeenth- and eighteenth-centuries, the so-called Aristotle manuals,
which were drawn eclectically from the writings of the Greek philosopher,
folklore, legends, and some medical knowledge relating to sexual congress.
Although not produced specifically for the young person, much of the
advice concerned the sexual novice and the newly married. Sex was
regarded as healthy, natural and desirable:
The inclinations of virgins for marriage became evident
soon after the flow of natural purgations at the age of
fourteen or fifteen. Then the blood ceased to serve the
development of their bodies and turned instead to stir up
their minds to venery....manuals thus encouraged early
marriages to prevent disorders resulting from the unnatural
confinement of the seed in the male and female.(Haller and
The prevailing mode of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
was set by the purity literature, such as the Young Lady's Companion,
which offered girls little concrete information, much apprehension, and
a denial of feminine sexuality:
Young girls were to avoid the hazards of early marriage.
Premature love robbed the nerve and brain of their natural
needs and blighted the organs of sex...for girls to 'rush
into the hymenal embrace'...would only exhaust the love
powers, and precipitate disease and an early grave...the
healthy male could live until marriage without the loss
of a single drop of seminal fluid...the man who married
earlier [than 25 years] might well arrest the growth of his
body, weaken his systemand fall prey to disease and
premature aging...children born of early unions...seldom
reached the age of manhood, and old age was out of the
question (Haller and Haller 1974:110,201,225).
Although youth was recognized as a formative, transitional phase
during the 1800's, attention was drawn to the special problems of this
life stage at the turn of the century, when the work of psychologist
Stanley G. Hall made the term adolescencee" a byword. In 1904, Hall's
research culminated in his opus, Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its
Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Religion and Education.
Influenced by Barwin, Hall created an evolutionary model of
recapitulation whereby individuals live through the evolutionary stages
of their race. According to the model, adolescence recapitulated the
"...most recent of man's great developmental leaps" (Demos and Demos
1969:635). Under the influence of Hall, adolescence has continued
to receive much attention from social scientists, chiefly psychologists
and sociologists, and from the lay audience as well. This segment of
the life cycle has most often been regarded as either a period of
relatively transient deviance, as in the plethora of delinquency
studies, or alternatively, as a period of psychological self-seeking--
a time of narcissistic introspection and rebellion against observed
role-styles of the parent generation and the abandoned childhood. The
perceived growth of peer group influence and its supposed role in the
social socialization of teens, combined with the rapid and bewildering
socio-technological changes of the last century, resulted in the rather
paranoid concept of the generation gap. Mead's landmark inquiry into
the nature of adolescence, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), sought to
elucidate the question of the universality of the generation gap by
comparing Samoan youth to American youth. Her research pointed to the
culture-bound concepts of adolescence found in the literature of the
time. Her study of Samoan girls revealed that "...adolescence represented
no period of crisis or stress, but was instead an orderly developing of
a set of slowly maturing interests and activities" (1928:120). While
most societies amplify one or another point in the life cycle, adolescence
is by no means universally accorded significance, but is often incor-
porated by raising the child phase or lowering the adult phase (Linton
1942). Nevertheless, by far the bulk of literature dealing with adoles-
cence is formulated according to the American pattern (e.g. Yankelowich
1974) rather than on cross-cultural principles (Goodman 1970).
By and large, anthropological treatments relate adolescence to the
socialization process, e.g. cross-cultural variations on the theme of
how one becomes to be a full member of one's society, or as one of a
series of transitional motifs, e.g. what is the nature and function
of rites de passage. North American examples include studies of blacks
(Dougherty 1978, Liebow 1967, Hannerz 1969), American Indians (Hoebel 1960),
and white or "ethnic" Americans (Henry 1963, Graebner 1915).
Adolescents began to be recognized as a legitimate health popu-
lation early in the 1960's, by virtue of their specialized characteristics
and needs. Nevertheless, the real significance and impact of this group
in terms of health effects is perhaps only now being realized. Millar
(1975) classifies the adolescent population as medically underserved
regardless of the physician:population ratio or economic status and
cities the following as contributing to minimal attention of the medical
community to adolescent problems. First, adolescents are essentially
a healthy group with relatively few demands for services other than
emergency services. Their need for services is reduced in that most
congenital anomalies have been detected and treated-by the time
adolescence is reached and degenerative disease will not affect this
age group significantly, and immunity to infectious disease has been
built. Thus, adolescents generally don't seek health care between the
last visit to a pediatrician, usually at about twelve years of age, and
adulthood, e.g. college or military physicians, pre-marital exams.
Second, physicians and other medical caregivers may have difficulty
in establishing rapport with young people. Often they may find it
difficult to cope with problems associated with adolescents' relative
unconventional life styles.
Third, financial barriers exist to health care, particularly
clinics, as adolescents rarely control their own finances and medical
insurance. The need for privacy may cause adolescents' reluctance to
disclose need for money.
Last, adolescents are frequently isolated from appropriate care
settings. They have outgrown the pediatrician but may have difficulty
in adult oriented settings, such as hospitals. The movement of the
last decade toward establishing teen clinics, especially for family
planning, may be a viable alternative.
Many of the special health problems of adolescents are the result
of their incomplete maturation and the dis-synchronization of the
physical and socio-emotional maturation processes. Puberty, the
transition to fertility, should precede adolescence, the "period when
social, psychological, and cognitive maturation takes place" (Millar
Pubertal changes in terms of primary and secondary sex characteristics
occur differently and at different rates for boys and girls. Girls
generally gain their full height early in the genital development of
puberty and boys usually complete their sexual maturation before
achieving their adult form; hence, visual cues may be misleading.
Mood swings, acne, and fat deposition can accompany hormonal activity
during pubertal development presenting adolescents with their most
onerous health problems.
,Adolescence is well marked in many societies, particular tradi-
tional societies. We have excellent descriptions of the rites de passage
associated with the physical manifestation of onset of womanhood for
girls, i.e. menarche, (Krige and Krige 1943, Radcliffe-Brown, 1922).
Female passage into adulthood may also be accomplished through
childbirth (Dougherty 1978). The process for males also often includes
a physical trial or ritual mutilation such as circumcision, subincision,
or scarification (Hogbin 1976). In American society, these transitions
are not as clearly marked. Among Jews, the Bar Mitzvah signifies that
the boy has become a man but as this takes place at thirteen, the
significance may be lessened as other hallmarks of adulthood will occur
In this culture, th@ educational chronology must be the primary
means of assigning status, e.g. high school graduation is considered
the most significant rite of passage by many. While this is a signifi-
cant ritual, college graduation may be more critical to those students
who continue their education, thus delaying their emergence into the
"real world" and prolonging the length of parental dependency. The
problem is confounded in considering high-school dropouts (Is the first
job the major rite of passage?) and college students who live separately
from their parents but still maintain a quasi-dependency relationship
(Will they identify themselves as adults or school-children?).
In Strawberry Junction, adolescence is conducted as a parallel
existence to the adult world. Young people coexist with those above and
below them in age but intersect with them infrequently and only under
certain circumstances. Their insulation from the larger community is
maintained consciously and can be discussed in terms of intergenerational
relations, use of space, and ritual.
The shrinking consciousness of adolescent insularity struck me
as a result of an encounter with a young girl. I had taken several
girls to a dance and, following their customary pattern, much of our
time was spent outside the building in;which the dance was held. My
companions were girls in their early teens but all were taller than I
and we were dressed in a similar fashion in jeans. We were standing
around outside in the parking lot when a new girl was hailed and moved
to join the group. She was smoking a cigarette and bandying round
some rarified jargon when suddenly she looked closely at me and said,
"Oh, shit--are you a lady?" When I laughed and made some noncommittal
reply, she said, "No, I mean how old are you?" I answered and she
immediately began to actanervously and started to throw her cigarette
away when my friends assured her that I was "....okay--just like one of
us. You can trust her!"
Adolescents maintain their separation from the larger community
carefully. Although they are residents in the same community as the
adult denizens, they occupy the territory differently, utilizing the
time dimension to maintain their parallel existence (cf Melbin 1978).
During the day, adolescents are in schools--the middle school, high
school or vocational-technical school. They occupy their space as if
defending it against invaders. The three schools are located on
contiguous plots of land allowing a high flow of students between their
respective grounds. The students at the vocational school, which
includes adult students, might be expected to have a greater degree
of freedom than in the other schools yet a visitor to the high school
will observe a good many students milling around in the grounds and
loitering in the halls, perhaps sitting around in groups smoking. Most
noticeable are students, often couples, sitting in the cars parked on
the perimeter roads. These adolescents look upon an adult visitor to
the school with mild interest, perhaps hostility or derision, and often
will offer a challenge in the fashion of a sentry. Teachers report
that their cars are often targets for pranksters, e.g. upon leaving school
they will find their car turned upside down or with the tires deflated.
Although the young people of the community regard the school as their
sanctum sanctorum, many refuse to be confined to its locale by the
dictates of the school authorities. Skipping school is rampant. The
extent of the problem is revealed in a letter written by a high school
junior to the school board:
... there is a crowds of kids that are always seen at the
auditorium without being in class. I can't seem to see
that this is alright for kids to skip. I am quite strongly
against kids skipping especially when they stay around
school. It seems to me that the School Board could do
something about these kids. The Board should have a
meeting about these kids who skip, but no one seems to care
about them hanging around the school. To me this skipping
problem is bigger than the new trash cans and fence the
school board wants. If they would stop some of this
skipping we might not need a fence.[See Appendix 1].
The school Board had deliberated on the problem of skipping and
had decided to attempt to confine students to their respective campuses
by building a chain link fence around the high school. Moneys had been
allotted to build the fence during the summer for the coming school
year. The issue of the fence created a furor among the students. The
girls were mostly amused and the boys insulted. Bets were being placed
on how long the fence would stand and which boy would pull it down
with his truck. The field research period terminated before the issue
Behavior at school is used to distinguish between major classes among
the high school girls. Two distinct crowds are so defined: the bathroom
group and the MacDonald's group. The bathroom is the focal point for
social gatherings involving three related activities, gossip, smoking,
and skipping class. Girls in the bathroom group are described by their
peers as the lower-class, "low-life" element of the school and are
believed to be faster and tougher than the MacDonald's crowd. Smoking
automatically assigns a girl to this group as the bathroom is the best
place for smokers to gather, especially during classes.
MacDonald's, a fast food restaurant about a mile from the high
school, attracts the seniors who have open campus privileges at lunch
time. Other students are restricted to campus but often accompany their
friends among the seniors in defiance of the rules. Theoretically,
seniors can get into trouble for taking lower classmen off campus but
the MacDonald's crowd assess the risk as minimal. A lower classman
said, "If the school really wanted to catch people, they'd have someone
watching at MacDonald's." This crowd is made up of the ones who "never
go to the bathroom unless they have to go to the bathroom." These gifls
have more money to spend than the bathroom group and have the added
advantage of transportation to skip class off campus. Some mobility
exists between the groups for on-the-fencers who are neither poor not
well-to-do or fast or prudish.
Apart from these limited forays away from the school, the adolescents
are little in evidence in the town during the days nor are they at home,
these being the adult diurnal domains. At night, the situation reverses
and adolescents occupy the town. The most prominent aspect of this
turnover is, of course, the nightly paseo around the town. The trucks
and cars full of teens calling to each other and showing out" circle the
familiar routes far into the night. Adults have now largely absented
themselves from the scene. If present in town, they are indoors in one
of the several small bars, the jukess," which are closed to the younger
Opportunities for adolescents to interact with adults are not
plentiful. During these social occasions that attract persons across
generations, e.g. church affairsand sports events, the generational
groupings tend to maintain their integrity. A spectator aspect is
apparent during some of these events where adolescents and adults are both
present but real interaction seldom takes place. For example, at church
family night socials adolescent girls are responsible for serving the
supper and parents may entertain by putting on skits but social inter-
action can be observed tq occur most frequently within age groups.
Adolescents are not abundantly found in the work force. While the
fast food restaurants employ a few, the area cannot support a great
many occupational opportunities and these appear to be reserved for those
persons who have seriously begun to earn their livings. Thus older
adolescents, e.g. 18 and 19 year olds may be employed but if so acquire
the attributes of adults, losing their liminal status. Farm youths may
work in agricultural pursuits along with the adults in the family but
young people of the town report that they are freed from major responsi-
bilities of the household. Therefore, interaction with adults is not
derived from work settings any more frequently than from social occasions.
Isolated incidents account for cross-generational mixing. The
summer softball program mixes persons as young as 15 years old with
adults and through the vehicle of the game the usual status barriers
to interaction are relaxed. Certain community programs, e.g. scouting,
agriculture-oriented clubs, the Roping Club, also present opportunities
for inter-generational exchange.
Although adolescents prefer to preserve many of their social activities
for peer relations, there is evidence supporting the desire of young
persons for more substantial contacts with adults. Teachers and
guidance counselors reported that it is not uncommon for their students
to attempt to confide in them and relate many incidents of students, much
to their embarrassment, calling their teachers "momma." The experience
of other adults whose activities bring them into the adolescent orbit
echoes the findings from the school. As a researcher, I had no difficulty
in gaining the friendship of young girls and found them eager to discuss
many topics of concern with someone having broader experience. Parents
do not act as confidants to their maturing children, especially in
respect to sexual matters, despite the occasional urgings of those
Adults have abdicated their responsibilities in other ways.
Although southern rural society has many parallels to the Latin American
role system, it lacks an essential ingredient--chaperonage. In Strawberry
Junction, adults do not involve themselves very intensely in the social
affairs of the community's young people. Children and adolescents are
largely ignored after their basic needs have been attended to. The
high school has a parent advisory committee which is selected by a
class during their last year of attendance at the middle school and which
sees the class through to graduation. Its function is to organize the
class social events. The intensity of the committee members' personal
relations to class members is variable according to the four parents
chosen, but is seldom very active. Chaperones at dances and other functions
are cavalier about the obvious drinking, taking action only when a young
man is too boisterously drunk to ignore, and do not appear concerned at
which might be considered inappropriate age mixing. They do not confine
events to adolescents but allow much older men to attend dances which
include quite young girls.
Parents are quite outspoken about raising their children in a
small town rather than in a "wicked big city" such as the moderately-
sized university community nearby where they believe sin is rife, but
shun the obvious advantages of a small community, i.e. social control.
While it is true that adolescents are known by sight to the community
adults, their behavior is not well-monitored, despite gossip links, and
teenagers have a degree of autonomy that is not accorded during other
life phases. Even adults do not have their degree of freedom and relative
invisibility, subject as adults are to public censure in cases of
Adolescence is ill-defined in terms of beginning and ending
rites de passage. Ascending into the middle school, grades sex, seven,
and eight, is accepted as marking the beginning of adolescence, but
no real ceremony is attached to finishing elementary school. Girls may
mark their new status by acquiring "adolescent privileges": make-up,
leg shaving, heeled shoes, and permission to date. Although isolated
incidents of adult male-attended celebrations of menarche have been
reported, this custom is not believed to be the usual case.
Because the community hierarchy is defined in part by possession
of a vehicle, preferably a truck, the acquisition of a driver's license
is an important mark of maturity. Adolescents may legally begin driving
at 14 as a learner accompanied by a licensed driver, but the nature of
the agricultural demands have required many to learn earlier. Hence,
police do not strictly enforce the law and it is common to see quite
young persons driving in the town and rural surroundings.
The end of adolescence is marked in several ways. Graduation from
high school is well-accepted as a ritual entrance to adulthood and is
marked by ceremonials. The beginning of real work is more important for
men and high-school drop-outs but is not usually accompanied by ritual
observence. Marriage is another means of acquiring adult status and
its ritual accompaniment is often quite lavish according to community
standards. However, this is not the case for pregnancy-initiated
marriages, which are usually conducted quickly and with little ceremony.
This is partly punitive for while marriage is the socially approved
remedy for this ill, early sexual relations and precocious pregnancies
are frowned upon by adults as inappropriate behavior and some of the
perquisites attendant upon marriage, especially for the bride, are
withdrawn. In addition, these forced marriages often involve young
persons whose motives will be suspect. Moreover, the parents may not
approve of the choice of partner and additionally may be ill-prepared
to launch an elaborate ceremony within the constraints of time and money.
SEX ROLES: MALE AND FEMALE
Societies organize and classify members in various ways, some of
which are so common as to be universal, such as age and sex categories
(Linton 1942). Sex acts as a master status, channeling persons into
particular roles and determining the quality of interaction with others
(Gove 1973). "Assigning people at birth to categories based on some
concept of gender appears to be universal and, as far as we know, is
always through a genital inspection (Kessler and McKenna 1978:36).
However, researchers are now beginning to realize that gender
identity is more than can be described by a physical configuration
(Money and Ehrhardt 1972, Oakley 1972), and that much of an individual's
personal ideology and behavior set is governed by sex identity and the
rules by which society defines the role appropriate to each. Thus,
gender may be said to be culturally determined albeit following anatomi-
cal recruitment into the two categories in all but a few instances in
which transsexualism occurs. These social anomalies are delivered from
their dilemma by the surgeon's knife in our enlightened times although
through history and in traditional societies a life gender reassignment
was accomplished in terms of the social role and not the anatomy, as in
the case of the Plains Indian berdache (Horbel 1960).
The distinctness of the sexes is a question which has puzzled
researchers, representing a variant of the nature-nurture controversy.
No society has been known where the sexes participate as equals with
equal responsibilities and rewards, rather there is always a division of
labor and of the fruits of that labor along sex lines (Brown).
The extent to which the differences result from innate biological
differences from the socialization process remains an enigma despite
the explanations of these differences in each culture.
Mead (1935) attempted to inquire into the nature of the relation-
ship of sex to temperament by comparing three primitive groups in
New Guinea, the Arapesh, the Mundugumor, and the Tchambuli. She
discovered that masculine and feminine characteristics as we define
them, are not attributable to fundamental biological differences, but
reflect the cultural conditioning of different societies:
...the temperaments which we regard as native to one sex
might instead be mere variations of human temperament, to
which the members of either or both sexes may, with more or
less success in the case of different individuals, be educated
Although inquiry into innate sex differences continues (e.g.
Montemayor 1978), the prevailing view appears to have become that
"...we cannot say definitely what characteristics are fundamentally (or
innately, or unalterably) female, nor can we separate these from those
that are culturally conditioned" (Laws 1970:39). The scientific defini-
tion of gender may be analogous to the definition of death--neither life-
death nor male-female may be non-dichotomous (Kessler and McKenna 1978).
"Secondary sex differences in aptitude and temperament are still in good
measure a matter of speculation. There are still aspects which seem
more likely to be related to cultural conditioning and it is preferable
to assume at this point in our understanding that differences between
men and women in these respects reflect primarily differential exposure
and training" (Ford 1970:28).
Nevertheless, the gender, or sex role system is important in that
it is the set of arrangements by which society transforms biological
sexuality into products of human activity (Rubin 1975) and thereby
defines the relations between its members. Chetwynd and Hartnett (1978)
describes the sex role system as based on three principles. First,
definable and mutually exclusive personality trait sets must exist.
Second, there is a division of labor or activities by sex. Third, the
male sphere is invested with a higher value than the female.
The appropriate sex role behavior is largely acquired through
socialization. The differences in the socialization process for boys
and girls account for the divergence of the adult roles of adult men and
women. Again, the socialization process derives not from biological
imperatives but rather "...sex roles and their socialization reflect
people's often unfounded beliefs about what sex differences are or
should be" (Weinreich 1978:18).
Weinreich continues by revealing the process by which socialization
into sex roles occurs. Skills, habits and some types of behavior are
learned as a consequence of a system of rewards and punishments, e.g.
a little girl who keeps her party dress clean is told how pretty she
looks and how, by her behavior, she is quite the young lady. Parents
and others provide models of appropriate role behavior which the child
imitates. Eventually, the child identifies with one parent and intern-
alizes the roles, seeking to structure relationships with others in
accordance with what has been learned.
Socialization into sex roles is a continuing process as behavior
expectations are altered drastically during the life cycle advance,
particularly as regards the expression of sexuality and exercise of
power and authority. For example, many cultures allow a much greater
license in terms of sexual repartee to post-menopausal women than to
young women for whom the open expression of sexuality may bring about
quite different consequences. Thus, after the initial influence of the
family, experience with peers and observations of the ascending genera-
tion becomes important in achieving each new stage in the changing sex
Rosaldo (1974) proposes that because women are primarily engaged in
domestic activities, with their focus on the home and rearing of children,
the training of their daughters to be mothers is a continuous process
and different from the training of sons. The girl is better able to
visualize her role as she observes her mother in the home, but the young
boy must learn to become a man because the male role is not visible.
Therefore, "...when his sister is learning 'to be a mother,' he is apt
to be restless and assertive and to seek out horizontal ties with male
peers" (1974:25). Girls are more likely to form ties with their senior
female kin and thus become integrated vertically into the adult world
of work; but boys are more likely to form horizontal, cross-cutting ties
Further, young girls' development proceeds without conflict in a
group which does not challenge her membership. To Rosaldo, womanhood
is an ascribed status and manhood is an achieved status. A woman's
status is defined by the life cycle, through maturing, rather than by
means of ability or achievement. Male status is achieved, especially
in terms of the peer group which requires "proof," that is, "a woman's
status comes 'naturally' (and even in societies that practice female
initiation these ceremonies appear to be more a celebration of natural,
biological developments than a 'proof' of femininity or a challenge to
past ties), whereas 'becoming a man' is a feat" (1974:26).
Educational institutions are significant influencers of the sex
role specialization process. Schools have official and "hidden" curricula
which shape sex role formation. The hidden curriculum is sex-differentia-
ted, resistant to change, and influentially pervasive. The effect is to
"...depress girls' achievements and aspirations, and cause them to have
a lower estimate of their ability than boys of equal ability" (Lobban
Aspects of the hidden curriculum include the sex composition of the
staff hierarchy. More principals are male but most teachers are female,
especially in the elementary schools, and the remainder of the staff in
a subordinate position, e.g. aides, cafeteria workers, secretaries, are
also ordinarily female, thus associating males with power and dominance
over subservient females. Teaching materials are often sexist, depicting
men as actors and women as passive. Teachers tend to endorse traditional
values with respect to sex roles and in classroom interactions teachers
of both sexes have been found to focus more attention and affect on boys
than girls (Lobban 1978).
Sex role differentiation persists throughout the educational process.
Even at university different rules obtain for men and women. Career
counseling differs for each, participation in university activities
differs, e.g. athletics, and until recently college women were subject
to curfew regulations not applicable to men. The message that is learned
is that "...male, as opposed to female, activities are always recognized
as predominantly important, and cultural systems give authority and value
to the roles and activities of men" (Rosaldo 1974:19).
The stereotypical woman is often defined in terms of, or in relation
to other persons (Chodorow 1974). The heritage of Freudian thought
based upon the passive role of women in the sex act, "...is an elaboration
of the cluster of traits which define the essential feminine: submissive-
ness, dependence, docility, masochism, narcissism, and above all,
passivity (Laws 1979:40-41). Although Freudian personality constructs
have been challenged by recent research on human sexual response and the
experience-based assertions of feminists, the stereotype is still strongly
reinforced by the media:
In the visual media, women are presented as primarily
decorative and dependent on males, often simply as status-
enhancing sex objects...women are housebound and exclusively
preoccupied with domestic materialism and personal adornment.
They are...passive and lacking in initiative and...concerned
with fantasy rather than expertise or problem-seeking.(Weinreich
A woman's identity is closely tied to her body image. As our culture
equates femininity with attractiveness, thus women spend a great deal of
time grooming themselves to please men and compete with other women.
The counter productive nature of this pursuit has been well-documented by
the experience of unhappy, perhaps self-destructive women who have become
successful sex objects but who have not been able to transcend the
symbolism of their being. It is an unfortunate paradox that what society
labels as the ultimate in womanhood is seenas a mockery by the person.
Physical desirability produces other role incongruities. Women are
expected to appear sexually appealing, yet at the same time hold them-
selves off from male sexual aggression.
Marriage is not only a socially desirable goal but is the mark of
personal success for women. Girls are motivated to strive for this goal
by their families and peers and are bombarded with the notion by the media.
"A considerable amount of advertising effort goes into persuading girls
that the happiest day of their lives is their wedding day" (Weinreich
Motherhood, however, is the sine qua non of the woman's role. All
women are presumed at some level to desire children and feel "unfulfilled"
without them. Despite ethnographic evidence documenting widespread
historical and contemporary practices of contraception, abortion, infanti-
cide, desertion of children, and other counter-maternal practices (e.g.
Devereaux 1955, Ford 1945, Himes 1963, Mulhare 1969, Nag 1962, Newman
1972), the "real" woman is still a mother first. Additions to that role
must be of secondary priority.
Women are seldom portrayed as having multi-dimensional roles as are
men. The examples of women who opt for work in addition to marriage are
presented by the media as primarily marriage-oriented. Either job success
is equated with marital unsuccess, or women are seen as primarily committed
to their marriage, and thus their husband's career, and only peripherally
committed to their own work. When women seek success in other ways than
their relation to a man, they are often viewed as unwomanly. "Whereas
men achieve rank as a result of explicit achievement, differences among
women are generally seen as the product of idiosyncratic characteristics
such as temperament, personality and appearance" (Rosaldo 1974:29).
Because of the covert values of society, women may fear achievement and
success to the point where they undermine their own potential, thus
relegating themselves to a more "safe" and familiar role.
The male sex role, being the dominant one in the sex role system,
has played a significant part in shaping American values, and perhaps,
like the fabled rib, has also animated the role which women must fit.
David and Brannon (1976) have elaborated on this concept and isolated
four themes underlying the male role in American society.
The first variant they call "no sissy stuff." Parents express more
concern in assuring that boys conform to their role expectations than
girls to the feminine role. Girls have more initial role flexibility in
that it is relatively acceptable for little girls to go through a boy-like
phase but there is no acceptable counterpart to being a tomboy for boys.
Boys who prefer "feminine" activities and emotional expression are
labelled sissies and ridiculed for their proclivities. Because of the
severe social sanctions attached to appearing unmasculine, men fear and
may be hostile to feminine traits. These feelings may be extended to
their attitudes toward women to the extent that women, not being the
valued and understood physical and emotional configuration, may be
regarded as less than full human beings like men (Brownmiller 1975,
Men may be suspicious of women and find them impossible to under-
stand because of their anatomy and mysterious functioning (Paz 1961).
Women have traditionally been regarded as a source of pollution and
relations with them form the raison d'etre of rituals guarding against
defilement. Women often are viewed by men as sexually rapacious and
capable of sapping men's vitality and disrupting their fraternal
solidarity. The ultimate offense of course, usurping the male role,
was articulated by Freud as stemming from penis envy, thus part of male
fear of women is expressed as castration fear.
Fear of women, analogous to blacks, may also be generated by the
prevailing male dominant social hierarchy in that "...guilt may be felt
towards those who occupy low status positions in a social system and..
this may lead to their being unrealistically feared" (Harper 1969:81).
Men of the "no sissy stuff" type both fear and loathe homosexuals
and probably harbor uneasy feelings about their personal sexual stance.
Homosexuals may be persecuted to allay these fears and certainly men
attempt to eradicate any tell-tale signs in this direction in themselves,
hence avoidance of any "feminine" traits such as emotionalism. Such men
reveal little of themselves to others, especially other men, feeling
that "revealing yourself to man can be dangerous" (David and Brannon
1976:17). In view of the current public nature of transsexual surgery,
it would be interesting to discover if feelings towards homosexuals are
carried over to male-to-female transsexuals.
The second theme is the "big wheel." Men of this stamp need the
visible accoutrements of success: car, clothes, and other adult high
status toys. Central to the identification as a man is the need to
appear competent and knowledgeable and be expert in some facet of the
male world. Competition is rife among men and the need to view himself
and have others also regard him as an important influence in his sphere
is a powerful motivating force.
The "sturdy oak" is the third element. This aspect of masculine
behavior flowers in the type often depicted in fiction, e.g. the
Virginian, and also seen on the screen a la the late John Wayne--strong,
silent, "cool," and exhibiting athletic prowess. This is the hero whose
strength can be expected to prevail in any given situation, and whom
others depend to see them through. The "sturdy oak" suffers in silence
sans an unmanly display of feeling. The need to feel like a protector
has been decried by feminists as contributing to the prevention of women's