HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Iqra
  • Created on: 03-01-13 16:59


Sociologists see childhood as socially constructed and not 'natural', childhood varies between societies, within socieies and over history. 

Cross Cultural differences : 

Benedict - children in simplier non industrial socieites are treated differently. {They have more responsibility at home and work. Less value on obediance to adult authority. Sexual behaviour is viewed differently. Adults and children act same}. However this is not universal, childhood in the west differs { childhood is special innocent time of life. Children are seen different to adults, physically immature and not able to run their own lives. They need a long period of nurturing and socialisation.} For Pilcher, the key feature of childhood in modern days is seperateness. For Cunnigham, children are the opposite of adults and have a right to happiness. 

Historical differences  Aries- Medeval Europe, childhood did not exist, they were not seen as having a different nature to adults. They worked from an early age and children were seen as 'mini adults' with same rights, duties and skills. Shorter argued that parental attitudes towards children had changed, high child death rates encouraged indifference and neglect esp towards infants. 

The modern notion of childhood -  Schools specialise in education for the young, the church see children as fragile creatures of God who need to be protected from worldly evils, and there is a growing distinction between children/adults clothing which sets them apart. Aries argued that this led to the modern notion of childhood emerging. 20th century was the century of the child. 

1 of 5

Why has the position of children changed?

1. Lower infant mortality rates and smaller families- More infants are now surviving leading to a greater financial and emotional investment in them. 

2. Specialist knowledge of children's health- Helps understand that children need supervision and protection. 

3. Laws banning child labour - 1840 onwards, children were no longer economic assets to economic liabilities due to them being financially dependent on their parents. 

4. Compulsory education - dependancy was created and school seperated children from adults and the world of work. 

5. Child protection and welfare laws - These emphasisted children's vulnerablity and made welfare a central concern. 

6. Idea of children's rights - Children's act 1989 sees parent as having responsibilities towards children rather than rights. 

7. Laws about social behaviour - minimum ages for sex, alcohol, smoking reinforce the attitude that children are different from adults.  Modern industries are educated worplaces where compulsory education is needed, higher standards of living led to lower infant mortality rates. 

2 of 5

How has the position of children improved?

The march in progress view: According to Shorter,Aries and others, childrens position has slowly been improving and this leads to them being better off today than ever before. Family and society has become more 'child centred' They are better cared for educationally, psychologically and medically. Infant mortality rate has improved from 154 to 5. Higher living standards and smaller families means that parents can provide for their children's needs. They are also protected from harm and expoitation due to laws. 

The conflict view - Feminists and Marxists argue differently. They argue that the march in progress view is overgeneralised which ignores inequalities among children and between adults. Inequalities among children include third world countries expecting girls to do more housework {gender differences}, Asian parents are more likely to be strict towards girl {ethnic differences} and poor children are more likely to die in infancy or do worse in school {class differences}. For adults, according to Gittens, there is an age patriarchy of adult domination that keeps children subordinate. They control many different aspects. 

Resistance - Children will not always accept the status of 'child' and therefore may act out by acting older, smoking or drinking. Hockey and James argued that this showed modern childhood is a status most children want to escape. 

3 of 5

The future of childhood

Postman argued that childhood as we know it is disapearing and that children are becoming more like adults, they are gaining similar rights and acting in a similar way in clothing, leisure and crime, He blamed this on the television culture replacing print culture : Print culture - Children lacked the literacy skills needed to access information so adults could keep information about sex, money, violence, illness, death and other adult matters.  Television culture - makes information available to adults anc children alike. Boundary between adulthood and childhood is broken down and adult authority is weakened. 

1. This is disagreed by Opie disagrees and argues that childhood is not disapeaing and that there remains a seperate culture in the form of games and songs. 

2. Others argue that Western norms of what a childhood is should be exported globally and therefore it is not disapearing, instead it is spreading. 

Toxic childhood- Palmer argues that rapid technological and cultural changes are damaging children's development {junk food, computer games, intensive marketing to children, testing in edu, parents working long hours, this leads to children being deprived of a genuwine childhood. 

> UK youth is at top of league tables for obestity, self harm, drug or alchohol related abuse, violence and teeange pregnancies. 

> UNICEF - UK 21 out of 25 for children's well being. 

4 of 5

Change or Continuity

Aspects of childhood suggest it is disapearing or changing, others say it is contuinuing. Much of this depends on : 

1. The emphasis on children's rights

2. The length of time spent in education 

3. Children's access to means of communication

4. Similarities between adults and children in leisure, dress or diet

5. Adult concerns about children's behaviour, discipline and exposure to media sex and violence. 

Lee concluded that childhood is not disapearing instead it has become more complex, children are important as consumers but dependant on parents for purchasing power. 

5 of 5


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Families and households resources »