Is Childhood a social construct

  • Sociologists believe that childhood is a social construct rather than a biological characteristic
  • Aries= centuries of childhood e.g in the 16th century you were a child whilst ever you were reliant on an adult
  • This only ever applied to very young children as in those times children could work, be included in warfare and be included in sexual activity
  • Childhood is therefore based upon the norms and values of that particular society and time as nowadays there are laws in place to protect children from what would otherwise have been acceptable in the past e.g the legal drinking age being 18
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Why has childhood changed

The Economy;

  • Musgrow-does childhood change with the usefulness of people
  • 18th century- if children could carry they were put to work
  • The industrial revolution meant more skills were needed
  • 1872- complusory education was introduced and children could no longer work
  • Adults and children started to attend different institutions so a clearer line was now between them

Change in Norms and Values;

  • The norms and values shape the laws put in place to extend childhood e.g age of consent
  • Different cultures have different ideas of what constitutes a childhood
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Has Childhood improved?


  • Is childhood overexaggerated causing children to want to grow up faster
  • Children may take part in risky behaviour in an attempt to seem more mature e.g underage drinking
  • The introduction of technology exposes children to a lot more than their parents may know of
  • The improvement to childhood is subjective to different cultures for example the existence of child soldiers in some countries
  • Are children increasingly being brought up by technology and are therefore missing out on human interaction
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Has Childhood improved?


  • Health care has improved so children live longer and infant mortality rate has decreased
  • Education had improved giving children more opportunities
  • Laws have been put in place to protect children
  • Children now have the same basic human rights as adults
  • Children are now consumers of their own right
  • Better standard of living
  •  Families are much more child centred meaning more money and time is being put into them therefore improving their quality of life
  • Improved technology such as phones and the internet mean that children now have access to a wider berth of different cultures and lifestyles so in nature may be more progressive than the previous generation
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