Childhood around the world

Childhood is a social construction.

Globalisation: the process of the world becoming more interconnected and similar 

98% of all non-illiterates live in developing countries. 

There are laws to protect children in the UK: 

  • Children's Act 1989
  • Education Act 2002
  • Protection of Children Act 1978

Age of sexual consent in the UK is 16 

Age of sexual consent in Malawi is 13

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Sociologists involved


  • Children are like 'mini adults'- their clothes and work 
  • In the Medieval era, the idea of childhood did not exist
  • Fatal diseases were prevalent and IMR were extremely high 
  • Young children were not expected to live for long 
  • The 20th Century was the 'cent of the child'


  • The most important feature of the modern idea of childhood was separateness.
  • It is seen as a clear and distinct life stage. 
  • Children in society occupy a separate status from adults


  • Childhood is 'disappearing at a dazzling speed' 


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Childhood has gotten better

Children protected by laws: 

  • Donzelot: Stressed how children needed supervision and protection. Laws such as child protection and cruelty policies were put in place. 
  • e.g.: smoking in cars with children under 18 is banned.

Evaluation: This does not apply globally. Punch (2001) found that children in Bolivia are expected to take on work responsibilities from the age of 5 and child labour is legal.

Children are an economic liability: 

  • They are no longer an economic benefit- compulsory education until 18.
  • It costs approx. £218,000 to raise a child in the UK

Infant mortality rate has decreased: 

  • 1900s- 15% of babies died within their first year of birth. 
  • Today- 0.38% babies died before their first year of birth. (better sanitation, healthcare)

The family has become more child-centered:

  • Through leisure time, education, emotional support
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Childhood has gotten worse-Inequalities

Gender inequalities: 

  • McRobbie- Girls are closely socialised and encouraged to stay in the private sphere- bedroom culture. 
  • They are less likely to be allowed out late out at night than boys.

Ethnic inequalities:

  • Brannen 1994 study- 15-16-year-olds found that Asian parents were more likely than other ethnicities to be strict towards their daughters. 

Class inequalities: 

  • Howard(2001)- children born into poor families are more likely to die in infancy or childhood, suffer from illnesses/injuries, be shorter in height, do badly in school to be placed on a child protection register. 

Over 25% of children live in poverty in the UK

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Childhood has gotten worse

Neglect and Abuse : 

  • Adult control over children can get extreme - physical/ sexual/ emotional abuse 
  • In 2013, 43,000 children were put on child protection plans. 
  • AGE PATRIARCHY: adult dominance and having power. 

Toxic Childhood- Palmer: 

  • Due to rapid technological advances and cultural changes in the past 25 years, it has damaged children's physical, emotional and intellectual developments. 
  • These changes range from junk food, computer games and intensive marketing for children.
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Childhood has gotten worse- Controls

Controls over children's: 

Access to resources: 

  • children have limited opportunity to earn money so they remain economically dependent on adults- pocket money.


  • Children are closely observed now due to fear of road safety and 'stranger danger'


  • Adults control children's daily routines and the speed at which they grow up as they define whether a child is too old or young.


  • Adults restrict the ways in which children may touch their own bodies and what they wear.
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Other sociologists


  • 'Childhood is either good or bad, some have desperate lives others do not.' 


  • Childhood is not universal it is socially constructed and more than just a biological state. 
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