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The Nature of Childhood
By Gemma Bradshaw…read more

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The social construction of childhood…read more

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Philippe Aries 1962
· Phillipe Aries, writing in 1962, argued that the term `childhood' as we
know it today did not exist. He noted how in the Middle Ages, children
were treated like `little adults' ­ they wore the same clothes, ate the same
food (which they had to work for) and were often punished harshly for
crimes in the same way as adults.
How Reliable Were His Claims?
· Ariès gathered his research from early modern portraits to give a
representation of the early modern family ­ this was clearly not primary
· The main problem was that paintings were only bought by the rich and so
paintings of the poor are rare. The paintings did not give us an insight into
the bonds and relationships between the families and many families only
bought them to improve their status.
· One of his most noted critics was the historian Geoffrey Elton, who said
that "in everyday life children were indeed dressed differently to adults;
they were just put in adult clothes to have their portraits painted"…read more

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The emergence of childhood
· Aries claimed that childhood began to emerge from the 13th
century onwards. There was a difference between class, as first,
public schools were opened to educate the children of the rich.
Poorer children were not educated and became `useful' during the
Industrial Revolution
Children in Industrial Times:
· Around the time of the Industrial Revolution, children were used a
convenient tool for the low paid work that was deemed `unsafe' for
· Their purpose was to provide a `vitally needed income' for the
· Children were employed in dangerous jobs such as factory work, in
coalmines and up chimneys.
· Laws to protect children were gradually brought in afterwards and
slowly, there was a shift towards what has become known as a
`child-centred' society which we live in today.…read more

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Changes in the position of children
· Infant mortality rate has declined, meaning that parents can afford
to love and value each child, knowing that there is a good chance it
will survive
· In 1880, children were made to attend school from 5 to 10,
separating them from adults. The `school leaving age' was raised to
12 in 1889, 14 after World War One and is now 16
· Laws were introduced to protect children
· People now have more time to spend with children and develop a
support network
· Age restrictions separate children from adults
· The idea that children have rights
· Children now have access to `on-tap' information, such as the
internet and adults no longer can withhold information from them.…read more

Slide 6

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Children and (paid) work: legal
situation in UK; comparison with
other countries.…read more

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