Assess the view that Britain is a child-centred society

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AS Sociology ­ F&H 30th November 2009
Essay
"Assess the view that Britain is a childcentred society"
Childcenteredness is the act of putting a child first and goes against the previous
authoritarian way. It is about being focused on the protection and safety of a child, and
emphasising that the early years of a Childs life should be a carefree time. Although it
is becoming apparent that Britain is now a childcentred society, this hasn't always
been the case. Going back to the Middle Ages, things were totally different. Tudor Law
stipulated that a 7 year old could be hanged for stealing. Now, there is "defence of
infancy," as the age of criminal responsibility in England is 10. Social historian Philippe
Aries (1962) claimed that, in the past, children were "little adults" who took part in the
same work and play activities as adults. He even went to the extent of saying that
children were regarded as "economic assets." However, in the middle of the 19th
century, social attitudes towards children started to change. This was mainly due to
campaigners who were concerned about juvenile delinquency, beggars and child
prostitution, and consequently wanted to get children off the streets. Children were
eventually excluded from the mines and factories where thousands of them had been
killed or injured. Be that as it may, it was only until the 20th century where the emergence
of a childcentred society was seen. This was probably the result of improved standards
of living and nutrition in the late 19th century, which led to a major decline in infant
mortality rate. This in turn encouraged the growth in marital and parental love in
middleclass families. In addition, due to the fact that there was an increased availability
and efficiency of contraception, it meant that people were allowed to choose to have
fewer children, resulting in parents being able to invest more in their children in terms of
love, socialisation and protection.
In today's society, we are becoming increasingly more childcentred. The 1870
Education Act gave all children between the ages of five and thirteen an opportunity to
attend an elementary school. This was a success, as it produced a largely literate
generation. Since then, this Act has been built on, as the state supervises the
socialisation of children through compulsory education, which lasts 11 years. Although
this period vastly increases the opportunities for children later on in life, including
improving their career prospects, there are some negative issues that arise from
education, which would suggest that we can't be child centred all the time. Such issues
are ones like bullying and stress from exams. In addition, starting school at the age of 4
cuts off Children's childhood at a very young age, which would contradict the
"childcentred" view, as one of the aspects of being "childcentred" is for a child to have
a carefree time. This cannot be the case if a child is expected to sit national exams at
the age of 6, thus inducing stress.
Various pieces of legislation which support the view that Britain is now a childcentred
society are the Factory Acts. Over the last 200 years, there have been all sorts of
variations. As an example, the "Factory and Workshop Act of 1901" stipulated that the
minimum working age should be 12, and it also introduced legislation regarding
Chris Cartwright

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AS Sociology ­ F&H 30th November 2009
Essay
education of children, meal times and fire escapes. Now, the minimum working age for
properly paid employment is 16, with some lenient exceptions such as having a paper
round at the age of 14. All of this is clearly putting the welfare of children first, and thus,
is an example of the state being childcentred. If we compare this to other societies in
the world today, there is a clear difference.…read more

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AS Sociology ­ F&H 30th November 2009
Essay
children, and as a result, childhood is disappearing. TV programmes such as Hollyoaks
expose children to adult issues, with it being on before the watershed, and therefore
Postman is correct in terms of the adult world being brought into the lives of children via
the media.
The threat of paedophiles is another worrying thing in our society, which also supports
Postman's view of the disappearance of childhood.…read more

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