Families and Households - Childhood

VERY VERY detailed revision notes on Childhood, for the families and households unit.

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  • Created on: 13-04-12 10:36
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The modern western notion of childhood
It is generally accepted in our society today that childhood is a special time in your
life. You are considered to be very different from adults, as during childhood you are
physically and psychologically immature and not yet able to run your own lives.
As well as that there is a belief that children's lack of skill, knowledge and experience,
means that they need a protected period of nurturing and socialisation before they
enter an adult society full of responsibilities.
As Plicher (1995) notes the most important feature of the modern idea of childhood is
`separateness'. Childhood is seen as clear and distinct life stage, and children in our society
have a separate status from adults.
Picher's idea has been emphasised in numerous ways, for instance through laws controlling
what children can and can't do. Children differences from adults is also emphasised through
differences in dress sense and through product and services epically for children. Such as play
areas, food, books, entertainments and toys.
Related to the separateness of children's status, is the idea of childhood as a "golden age"
of happiness and innocence. However this innocence means that children are seen as

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For that reason
they must be quarantined and separated from it.
In western culture today children are defined as vulnerable and unable to fend for
themselves. However other cultures do not necessarily see such a great difference between
children and adults.
Cross-cultural differences in childhood
To show the social construction of childhood in our country, we should look at how children
are seen and treated in different countries, times and places.…read more

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Historical differences in childhood
Many sociologist and historians have claimed that childhood as we understand it today is a
relatively recent invention.
Aries (1960) argues that the idea of childhood did not exist in the Middle Ages and that
childhood did not begin to appear until the fifteenth century. In the Middle Ages children
were not seen as having different needs from adults, once they had passed the stage of
physical dependency.
During the middle Ages childhood, as a separate age-stage was also short.…read more

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Pollock (1983) argues that it is more correct to say that in the Middle Ages; society
just had a different notion of childhood from todays.
Reasons for changes in the position of children
There are many reasons for the changes in the position of children. These include the
following changes during the 19th and 20th centuries...
Laws being passed restricting child labour and excluding children from paid work.…read more

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Childhood is socially constructed and varies between times places and cultures. There are
important differences between childhood in western societies today, as compared with both
present-day third world countries and Europeans societies in the past.
The march of the progress view
The march of the progress view argues that in the last few centuries the position of children
in western societies have been slowly improving and is far better today, than it was in the
past.…read more

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Inequalities among children
There are inequalities among children as not all children share the same status or experience.
For example children with different nationalities are likely to experience different childhoods
and life chances.
Gender differences also cause inequalities among children Hillman (1993) found that boys are
more likely to be aloud out after dark unaccompanied. Whereas Bonke (1999) found that
girls do more domestic labour, particularly in lone-parent families.…read more

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Controls over children's space
Children's movements around industrial societies are highly regulated. For example...
Children are told they can play in some places and forbidden to play in others.
Children are constantly under surveillance when in public places, especially at times
they should be at school.
There are lots of fears about road safety and stranger danger, which have led to an
increase in children being driven to school rather than traveling alone.…read more

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All this this contrast with the economic role of children, in third world societies and in
European societies in societies in the past. For example: Katz found that Sudanese children
were already engaged in productive
Age patriarchy
Age Patriarchy is used to describe the inequalities between adults and children, Gittins
(1998) uses this term. Gittins argues there is also an age patriarchy, of adult domination and
child dependency. This power may still be used in the form of violence against children and
women.…read more

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Children are gaining more rights in society, this could be a sign that children are becoming
more powerful and the barrier between children and adults is breaking down. Therefore it can
be argued by some sociologist that childhood in the western society is disappearing.
The disappearance of childhood
Postman (1994) argues that childhood is disappearing at a rapid rate.
He points to the trend towards...…read more

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A result of this has meant that the boundary between adult and child is broken down, which
has now lead to adult authority diminished and the ignorance and innocence of childhood
being replaced by knowledge and cynicism.
This study of Postman's is very valuable, as it shows how differences in communication
technology such as print and television can influence the way in which childhood is
constructed.…read more



thank you so much :)

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