Childhood is socially constructed
"Childhood" is not the same in different societies and at different points in time. The nature of childhood is what any particular society sees.
These variations may include:
- expectations of behaviour/capabilities
- Rights & responsibilites
- How long childhood lasts
Phillipe Aries - Centuries of childhood
MEDIEVAL SOCIETY - the idea of childhood did not exist. After the dependent stage of infancy, children were absorbed into the world of adults(e.g employment). In medieval painting children were similarly dressed and were not depicted differently from adults.
MODERN CHILDHOOD - Emerged with industrialisation. The 1830's Factory Acts limited the age from which they could be employed. The decline in birth rate/infant mortality meant more time and affection was given to each individual child.The development of rights and social services gave importance to their moral/social welfare.
Postman - The Disappearence of childhood
MEDIEVAL SOCIETY - Childhood was invisible. Life was informal & communal, children were not protected. There was little significant difference between children and adults.
MODERN SOCIETY - Arose with the invention of the printing press therefore the spread of literacy. Adults were given more control over children, who were now seen as in need of this control, discipline and obdience in order to flourish into adulthood. Although we are more child-centred, childhood is still controlled by adults.
A child-centred society
- Today society is more focused on the welfare/health of children.
- The long period of education prepares them for childhood.
- The most common image of a child is innocent or vulnerable.
- We are concerned to be "good parents" by protecting our children from "bad" things e.g death, se x, violence and looking after them well by spending money on their educational development e.g schools & toys.
- Children are segregated in the law
- 1800 - children worked at 6 or 7, it is 16 now
- 1800 - children could be hung for stealing at 8, now minimum age for prision 17
Childhood - the future
LEE - childhood has become an ambiguous social catergory. There are tensions between them and adults.
controlled = supported, dependent = independent, affluent = exploited, media savvy = exploited by media, innocent = wicked.
"TOXIC CHILDHOOD" - Obesity, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, early sexual experiences, social & economic inequalities = great threats to innocence!