Precocious pregnancies


Material Information

Precocious pregnancies patterns of sexuality among white adolescent women in the rural South
Physical Description:
ix, 223 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Fischer, Kay Pamela Justman
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Subjects / Keywords:
Teenage pregnancy -- Southern States   ( lcsh )
Sexual ethics for youth   ( lcsh )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: leaves 209-222.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Pamela J. Fischer.
General Note:
General Note:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 000097418
oclc - 06560943
notis - AAL2857
sobekcm - AA00004910_00001
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Full Text







Copyright 1979


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

their part.

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

in absentia.

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.






AN OVERVIEW --------------------------------------- 1



IV THE GENERATIONS: PARALLEL LIVES ------------------------- 64

V SEX ROLES: MALE AND FEMALE --------------------------- 83

AND PRECOCIOUS PREGNANCY ------------------------------122

VII DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS ---------------------------180


I HIGH SCHOOL ESSAY ON SKIPPING -----------------------------197

II ADOLESCENT SEXUAL COMPOSITIONS ----------------------------199

FLOIRDA, 1972 ------------------ ----------------- -202

IV EFFECTIVE CONTRACEPTION TO MINORS ------------------------208

BIBLIOGRAPHY ---------------------------------------------------209

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




December 1979

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

social anthropology.

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

these teenagers.

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.


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

valid results.

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

low-profile investigations.

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.


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

adolescent affairs.

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

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"

(Langness 1965:34).

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

of insecurity.

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

severely stigmatized.

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"

(Gulick 1968:98).


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

this purpose.

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

"redneck" culture.

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
collects.(Simpson 1950).

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

deceptive surface.

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

ever know."

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,















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












* 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

appliances repaired.

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

State Penitentiary.

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

$ 817




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







Wholesale and
Retail Trade

Finance, Insurance and
Real Estate

Communications, and
Public Utilities


Other Industries




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

Occupation Number












TOTAL 1799

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

5 10


Median Years of Education Achieved by Florida and North Central County
Residents 25 Years of Age and Over, 1960-1970





8.4 years

10.9 years

10.3 years

12.2 years

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

(Table 7).

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

to parents:

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)

1975 Total




and Colleges


Trade & Other




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

Marital Status









Central County



Male Female











Source: U.S., Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1970
Census of Population, General Characteristics, Florida, pp. 71-72, 179.


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

from childhood.

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

teenage years.

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.
(Anonymous 1880:461-465)

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
Haller 1974:94-5)

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

considerably later.

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

was resolved.

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

diversion seekers.

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

non-conformist behavior.

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.


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
to approximate.(1935:xiv)

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 " 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

with peers.

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, " 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,

Chesler 1978).

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

becoming self-sufficient.