Childhood as a social construct
Created and defined by society.
The modern Western notion of childhood
Children are regarded as physically, psychologically immature.
They lack skills, knowledge + experience so they need a protected period of nurture +socialisation.
Pilcher - seperateness from adults. Clear distinct life stage. Emphasised by
Childhood is a 'Golden Age' of happiness +innocence.
innocence makes children vulnerable- so must be quarantined from adult life!
Wag > childhood is socially constructed/ there is no universal childhood
Therefore childhood isnt natural!
DIfferent cultures construct or define the process
Cross cultural differences in childhood
Benedict > children in non-industrial societies are treated differently from modern west.
- Children take responsibility at a young age.
Punch > in bolivia children work at 5 years old. if they think they can do a job parents do not object.
- Less value of child showing obedience to parent
- Childrens sexual behaviour viewed differently.
Malinowski >> adults take attitude of 'tolerance and amused interest'
Historical differences in childhood
Aries> in the middle ages 'idea of childhood didnt exist'
Children were seen as adults after physical dependancy.
Began work at an early age/ mini adults > same rights/duties/skills.
Evidence was taken from Art in this period.
Children appear without characteristics of childhood.
Dressing, playing, working together with adults
Edward Shorter > high death rates encourage indifference towards infants.
Eg parents used to name babies after dead siblings.> or refer to baby as it.
Aries > moder elements to childhood emerged from 13th Century onwards
Schools specialised for young/ Distinction between adult + children clothes
Creating separation.By 18th century, books on childbearing were availible. This was a sign of growing child centredness. Aries says these changes form modern 'cult of childhood'. 20th century is 'century of child'
Critisisms > Pollack > more correct to say middle age society had different notion of childhood than today.
Aries work is good as it shows childhood being a social construct. how status of child has occured. Although much of his work was taken from paintings which may be unreliable.
Reasons for changes in position of children.
Lawss restricting child labour- now economic liability/rely on parents.
Introduction of compulsory schooling to age of 18.
Child oritection and welfare legislation> cruelty to children act.
Protection from child abuse.
Declining family saze, lower infant mortality rate > encourage parents to make greater provisions. - financial + emotional investment in fewer children.
Laws and policies to protect children eg sex age, smoking age
Most sociologists agree process of industrialisation underlies many of the changes.
>> modern industry needs educated workforce
>> welfare system lowers infanct mortality rates indirectly.
Industrialisation is key factor in modern idea of childhood.
Has the position of children improved?
March of progress view.- position of children in western societies is improving.
Lloyd De Mause - history of childhood is a nightmare we are only now awakening.
March of progress > children are more valued, better cared for, protected, educated, have more rights, better health etc.
*Government spent estimated £64 Billion in 2007/8
*infant mortality rate was 154 per 1000 births in 1900, now 5 per 1000.
Smaller family sizes. 5.7 births per woman in 1800 to 1.84 in 2006 meaning they can spend more.
By 21st birthday average £186000 spent.
In victorian times, children were 'seen not heard'- now they are a focal point.
conflict view to childhood improvement
Society is based on conflict of class+ gender.
Critisise march of progress > children are still unprotected +badly cared for.
Children experience greater control, oppression + dependancy.
Hillman > shows Gender Differences.
Boys more likely to be allowed out after dark.
Bonke > girls more likely to do more domestic labour.
Brannens > 15-16year olds. Asian parents are more strict towards daughters.
Neglect was 43% of cases of children on protection register.
poor mothers likely to have low birth rate> which can delay physical+ interllectual development.
Childline recieves over 20,000 calls a year.- slowing dark side to the family.
Tighter control + surveylance.
Gittins> Describes inequalities of adults + children.
Adult dominance >> child dependancy
Patriarchy oppresses children as well as women.
Children therefore Act up - "im nearly 9"/ Swearing/smoking/drinking
+Acting down is way to resist adult control.
The future of childhood
Neil Postman - The disappearance of childhood.
Children are gaining the same rights as adults
- Wearing adult clothing
- committing adult crime eg murder
- television + media culture.
In middle ages people were illiterate + speech was only thing needed to be in adult world.
Enabling children to enter adult world at young age.
Printed word creates hierarchy of information- giving adults power to keep things away from children - sex, money, violence, illness, death.
Television blurs information hierarchy- tv doesnt require special skill to access it.
Globalisation of western childhood
Child liberationists say modern western childhood is oppressive - due to adult authority.
Instead of being dissappeared, childhood from the west is being globalised.
The reconstruction of childhood
Sue Palmer > Toxic Childhood
Technological +cultural changes have damaged physical, emotional and interlectual development. - caused by junk food, computer games, long hours worked by parents.
Margo + Dixon - Report that UK youth are near top international tables for obesity, self harm, drug and alcohol abuse etc.
Unicef survey in 2007 rank uk 21/25.
Childhood disappears due to falling birth + death rates
Producing aging population.