Parents & Children

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  • Roles & relationships between parents and children
    • Childhood can be seen as a social construction, as something that is created by society's attitudes and the assumptions we make about children in our culture.
    • Changes in childhood
      • Cross-cultural and historical differences in childhood
        • Stone (1990) argues that up until the eighteenth century, children were regarded as extra workers to help their parents or to be hired.
          • In richer families, sons were there to inherit titles and property and daughters to be married off in order to create useful alliances.
      • Emergence of modern childhood
        • Families have become more child-centered. Families revolve around children's needs.
        • Small families - More love, attention and financial resources can be lavished on each individual child.
        • Shorter working hours - Parents, especially fathers have more time to spend with their children.
        • Greater affluence - Improved living standards and higher wages mean that there is more disposable income to spend on children.
        • Extension of education - Education only became compulsory in England in the 1880s.
        • Social policy - Successive governments have given ever greater emphasis to child welfare.
        • Children's rights - The UN extended the idea of human rights onto children, suggesting they needed specific rights.
        • Child experts - Parents are increasingly turning to parenting books written by specialists,
        • Concerns about children - Parents have become much more concerned about threats to children due to risks of accidents but also about 'stranger danger'
          • Furedi (2001) - Moral panics created by the media, and that parents' fears are largely unjustified.
        • Children as consumers - Big businesses has created a consumer market targeted at children. Through, toys, games, food, clothes & leisure.
    • Power relations between parents and children
      • The balance of power between parents and children has shifted. Families have become more democratic between parents and children.
        • Children have become the center of family life, having more money spent on them than ever before,
          • The idea of age patriarchy to describe the idea that adults are more powerful than children and young people.
          • Children are still financially dependent on parents as they can't work until they are 16.
            • Children do not receive full adult rights until they are 18.
            • Children can be seen to have more influence over decision-making in families. However, many parents make major decisions.
            • Many children also suffer abuse at the hands of family members of other adults.
      • Palmer (2007) - Children are experiencing toxic childhood because children are being damaged by a diet of junk food, excessive exposure to computer games and lack of discipline from parents.
    • Diversity in childhood experiences
      • Social Class
        • Margo & Dixon (2006) - Wealthier parents often spend considerable amounts of their income on activities such as dance or music lessons for their children.
          • Poorer children are likely to have a much more restricted range of activities and may be forced to take part-time jobs to do things they want.
      • Gender
        • Parents still tend to socialise children very differently in terms of gender.
          • Toys that children are given, Expectations of boys' and girls' contribution to housework.
      • Ethnicity
        • Bhatti (1999) observed that Asian children are generally more strictly brought up than most other ethnic groups.
        • Barn (2006) - black, Pakistani and Bangaldeshi families in the UK are likely to be associated with low incomes, unemployment and poor housing.
    • Changes in parenting
      • Chambers (2012) - Ideas about 'good parenting' began to change in the period after the 1970s for two reasons: 1. growth of employment of women with children - 2. the rise in divorce rates.
      • Motherhood
        • McCarthy et al (2003) - women still feel that they need to conform to traditional norms about what constitutes a 'good mother'
          • Mothers are still perceived as the ones who have the responsibility for emotionally stabilising families and keeping the whole family together.
      • Fatherhood
        • Higher divorce rates - Men often have more limited contact with their children following divorce, and sometimes lose contact altogether.
        • New concepts of masculinity - New men are seen to be more willing to display their emotions and take an equal responsibility for childcare.
        • Changing patterns of male employment - There has been a decline in jobs involving heavy physical labour in industries like mining.
        • Gray (2006) - Many fathers emphasises the need to spend quality time with their children.
          • Fathers viewed the time spent with their children on outings, sport, play and conversation as expressions of fatherhood rather than as domestic work.
        • Important changes are taking place in ideas of fatherhood with many fathers becoming more involved with their children.
      • Grandparents
        • Chambers (2013) - Grandparenting is still very gendered, with grandmothers generally playing a larger role than grandfathers.
          • Many grandparents today are still in employment or, if retired, may have social lives in employment.
          • Rising rates of divorce and relationships breakdown mean that grandparents may lose contact with grandchildren.


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