Sociology "social construction of childhood"

An essay for the social construction of childhood

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  • Created on: 09-12-11 09:52
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Using materials from item A (page 37) and elsewhere, assess
sociological explanations of changes in the status of childhood?
(24marks)
Some sociologists believe that children in today's supposedly
child-cantered society lead lives that are segregated and controlled,
but childhood hasn't always been this way. Firstly, Childhood is a social
construction and it varies based on times, places and groups. Most
sociologists see our idea of childhood as a fairly recent one, the result
of industrialisation and other social changes.
Firstly, Jane Pitcher (1995) argues that the most important feature of
childhood is separateness. She states that it is emphasised in several
ways. For instance through laws and regulation what children are
allowed, required or forbidden to do. Related to the separateness of
children's status is the idea of childhood being the "golden age" of
happiness and innocence. As a result, children's lives are lived largely
in the sphere of family and education; where adults provide for them
and protect them form the outside world.
In Contrast, the view of childhood as a separate age-status is not found
in all societies (socially constructed) as Stephen Wagg (1992) argues.
He states that while all humans go through the same physical
development, different cultures construct or define this process
differently.
Also, anthropologist Ruth Benedict ( 1934) agrees with Stephen Wagg
and argues that children in simpler, non-industrial societies are
generally treated differently than children in modern western
cultures, for example: they take responsibility at an early age ( this is
proved by Samantha Punch's (2001) study ) , Less value is placed on
children showing obedience to adult authority ( Raymond Firth did a
study in Tikopia of the western pacific and this were his findings) and
that children's sexual behaviour is often viewed differently(Bronislaw
Malinowski did a study among Trobriand islanders)
Also, the status of childhood changes could be due to other factors like
technology.
Neil Postman (1994) argues that childhood is "disappearing at a
dazzling speed". He says this because he feels that children are being
giving the same rights as adults, such as; the disappearance of
children's traditional; unsupervised games, the growing similarity of
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He also blames this to the fall of print
culture and its replacement of television culture. He proves this by
stating that during the Middle Ages, most people were illiterate so
children could enter freely into the adult society from an early age
(This idea is also echoed by Philippe Aries who felt that childhood
never existed in the middle ages, only what he calls "mini-adults"), but
as time progressed and literacy increased, there became a sharp
division between adults and children.…read more

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