- Created by: catrinaquitmann
- Created on: 23-05-17 15:27
Childhood as a Social Construct
- Childhood is socially constructed as definitions vary between societies, within societies and historically.
- Cross-cultural differences in childhood:
- Benedict - children in simpler, non-idustrial societies are treated differently as they have more responsibility at home & work, less obedience is placed on obedience to adult authority, and children's sexual behaviour is viewed differently.
- Childhood in the West:
- childhood is seen as a special, innocent time of life.
- children are seen as fundamentally different from adults so need a protected period of nurturing & socialisation.
- Pilcher - childhood is a separate, distinct stage of life.
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Historical Differences in Childhood
- Aries - in medieval Europe, the idea of childhood didn't exist.
- Children were not seen as having a different 'nature' from adults.
- Work began from an early age.
- Children were 'mini-adults' with the same rights, duties & skills as adults.
- Shorter - parental attitudes towards children were very different .
- The modern notion of childhood began to emerge from the 13th century.
- Schools began to specialise only in the education of the young.
- The church increasingly saw children as fragile 'creatures of God' needing protection.
- There was growing distinction between children's & adult's clothing etc.
- Why has the position of children changed?
- Lower infant mortality rates & smaller families.
- Specialist knowledge about children's health.
- Laws banning child labour.
- Compulsory schooling.
- Child protection & welfare laws.
- The idea of children's rights.
- Laws about social behaviour.
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The Future of Childhood
- Postman - childhood is now disappearing as the television culture is replacing the print culture,
- Print culture - children lacked literacy skills to access information so adults could 'protect' them from certain topics.
- Television culture - information is available to adults & children so the boundary between them is broken down & adult authority weakened.
- Opie - separate children's culture continues to exist in the form of games, songs etc.
- Jenks - modern society created childhood to prepare the individual to become a productive future adult.
- In postmodernity adults' relationships become more unstable so their relationship with their children becomes more important & they become more fearful of their safety, leading to more regulation.
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Has the Position of Children Improved?
- March of Progress view:
- Children's position has been steadily improving as family & society is child-centered.
- Infant mortality rate has decreased (154 in 1900 to 4 now).
- Higher standards of living & smaller family sizes.
- Toxic Childhood:
- Palmer - rapid technological & cultural changes are damaging children's development so they are deprived of a genuine childhood.
- Conflict view:
- Third World children have different life chances from those in the West due to gender, ehtnic and class inequalities.
- Age Patriarchy:
- Gittens - adult domination keeps children subordinate e.g control over time, space & bodies which can lead to abuse - resistance is shown by acting older.
- The 'new sociology of childhood':
- Seeing childhood as a social construct of industrialisation means children can be seen as passive objects.
- Active agents - see children as playing an important role in creating their own childhoods.
- Multiple childhoods - seeks to explore the many diverse childhoods that exist in society by taking a child's viewpoint.
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