Childhood,socially constructed

Notes on socially constructed childhood

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Examine the arguments and evidence in favour of the view that childhood is socially
constructed (24 marks)
Childhood varies between times, places and groups. The idea of childhood is a result of
industrialisation and social policies. Socially constructed refers to the idea that society has created
childhood and it is not natural. Evidence supporting the idea that childhood is socially constructed is
different statuses and responsibilities in different cultures and within the same society and the view
that childhood changing through history.
Historians argue that childhood is a recent invention. Aries supports this view by showing that only
after industrialisation did childhood begin to exist. Due to restrictions on child labour children were
seen as innocent and in the need of protection. This shows that childhood is socially constructed
because only after industrialisation did childhood came about, showing that it isn't natural.
Evidence that childhood is socially constructed can be seen through the differing responsibilities of
children in different cultures. In western societies childhood is seen as a period on time where
children are free from adult responsibilities. Jane Pilcher reinforces this concept as he states the most
important feature of modern childhood is separateness, where childhood is a clear and distinct life
stage, occupying different status', which is empathized in several ways. For example, laws that
regulate what children are and aren't allowed to do e.g. banning children from smoking. This shows
that childhood is socially constructed as the government is shaping what childhood should be,
showing that it is not natural.
Furthermore, cross-cultural differences in childhood also show how childhood is socially constructed
as in 27 countries around the world children being involved in conflict whereas in western societies
there are laws' protecting the innocence of children during childhood, as it is seen as a vulnerable
stage, thus showing that what childhood means varies from one society to the next.
Further evidence for childhood being socially constructed is the difference between children in the
same society. Inequalities based on social class ethnicity and gender can result in children not all
having the same experience of childhood. An example is Asian girl who have a more restricted
childhood showing that it is socially constructed because they are controlled to preserve izzat.
Today's society is also much more child centred where everything revolves around children due to
smaller family size, laws and products aimed to serve children. This shows that childhood is socially
constructed as in the past childhood was not valued as much. This is reinforced by the march of
progress view where Aries and Shorter claim children today are much more valued and cared for.
However some may argue that childhood is not socially constructed but rather is disappearing. This is
reinforced by Postman who points to the trends towards children being given the same rights as
adults e.g. the growing likeliness of dress wear. This is because of internet and media influences that
expose children to adult world
Many views suggest that childhood is socially constructed due to the differences in the view of
childhood between time, cultures and societies. However some may argue that childhood is
disappearing but once existing, reinforcing the debate that it is socially constructed.


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