AS sociology Unit 1

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Childhood is socially constructed
The modern western notion of childhood:
Jane Pilcher (1995) childhood is separateness & is emphasised through dress,
products etc
`Golden age': vulnerable & innocent
Childhood is not universal
Crosscultural differences in childhood
Ruth Benedict (1934) children in nonindustrial societies are treated differently In three ways
o Take responsibilities at a early age
o Less value is placed on children showing obedience to adult authority
o Children's sexual behaviour is often viewed differently
Historical differences in childhood
Recent invention
Aries (1960) the idea of childhood did not exist before. Children were not seen different
from adults. Children were `miniadults' with the same rights and duties as adults. However
Aries based his evidence on painting & paintings are not reliable.
Edward Shorter (1975)
Elements of modern notion of childhood.
Reasons for changes in position of women:
Child protection and welfare legislation
Growth of Children's rights
Decline in family size
Laws and policies
Has the position of childhood improved?
The march of progress view:
Position of children has improved in a short period of time
Aries and shorter: today's children are more valued, cared for and better protected through
laws. Better healthcare. Higher standards of living.
Families and societies have become child centred.
The conflict view:
Marxist and feminists don't agree with the march of progress view. They say society is based
on conflicts between different social groups, classes and genders.
March of progress is false and ignores important inequalities.
Inequalities amongst children in terms of risks & opportunities they face
Inequalities between children and adults are greater than ever.
o Inequalities among children: Different experiences, gender & ethnic differences.
o Inequalities between children and adults: Inequalities over power between children
and adults. March of progress say adults use this power for the protection of children.
Criticism: Firestone (1979) & Holt (1974)
o Neglect and abuse: Adult control over children can take the extreme forms of physical
neglect or physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

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Controls over children's space: Children's movement in some places is highly
regulated. Children are told to play in some areas and not others.
o Controls over children's time: Adults control over children's daily routines
o Controls over children's body: Adults control over children's body
o Control over children's access to resources: Children have limited opportunities to
earn money and so remain dependant on adults.
o Age patriarchy: Gittins (1998) `age patriarchal' describes inequalities between adults
and children.…read more


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