Examine the ways in which childhood can be said to be socially constructed Essay Example
Examine the ways in which childhood can be said to be socially constructed Essay Example

Examine the ways in which childhood can be said to be socially constructed Essay Example

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  • Pages: 5 (1178 words)
  • Published: November 13, 2016
  • Type: Essay
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A social construction is something that is defined and created by society and so childhood as a social construct would be considered as the norms and values of childhood and how society views it, for example childhood is changing and we can see this by child soldiers and age consent is being monitored more than it was 40 years ago. Sociologists see childhood, which is a socially defined age status, as being socially constructed which, is something defined and created by society.

There are historical and cultural differences in how childhood is defined. For example western societies define children as being vulnerable and separate from the adult world, whereas in the past they played a bigger part in adult society from an early age. Philippe Aries (1960) argued that childhood d


id not exist in medieval Europe, and that children did not have a different nature to adults as they would work and doing all the duties of an adult, this was also wearing the same clothes as their parents.

He found his evidence through contemporary letters, diaries and other documents. He found that soon after a child was weaned they were considered an adult and were to act like one and be treated like an adult. However Aries sees the modern childhood as separation from the adults, this came into place in the 16th century as it was starting to become the norm that you sent your child to school to be educated. In the 19th century school was made compulsory in most European cities.

This lead to secondary socialisation of children and meant they became less dependent on the

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parents and more dependent on themselves. Aries quotes 'our world is obsessed by the physical, moral and sexual problems of childhood. ' The social construct of children in medieval Europe was that children were seen as adults and were they were to be treated and respected as adults and this was seen by all members of society.

In modern society childhood is social constructed in a way in which society sees children and the youth of today in a negative light. In today's society children are acting and behaving older than they are as they see themselves as grown up and read for anything. For example children/teenagers in today's society have started drinking, smoking, taking drugs and having sex at a young age as the media influences them to make these decisions. The media allows things such as porn to be easily accessed whether it be through a magazine or the internet.

This takes advantage of age consent as many laws have been put in place to stop children from 'throwing away their childhood' for example when you turn 18 you are allowed to buy and drink alcohol. However many laws on age start at 18 there's the age consent for sex which is 16, this leads girls to dress more provocatively as they believe they need to change their image for a guy, however many girls choose not too as they feel it takes away there dignity whereas with guys they see it as a right of manhood and makes them more 'mature' and grown up.

Less value is placed on children showing obedience to adult authority, this means they believe

the minute they hit puberty they see themselves as adults and believe it is ok for them act and behave in a way where society sees them as the 'reckless youth of today'. The social construct of the modern childhood is that children are seen as too mature for their age and growing up too fast. Children in their early years are kept tightly in the circle of family, school and other organisations like church, where they are socialised.

Here in their protected circle, their parents and other adults take on the role as their protector and provider. Stephen Wagg (1992) found this was not apparent in all children’s upbringings. It is not found in all societies and is not universal. He said “Childhood is socially constructed. It is, in other words, what members of particular societies, at particular times and in particular places, say it is.

There is no single universal childhood, experienced by all. So, childhood isn’t “earthy” and should be distinguished from mere biological immaturity. What Wagg was trying to say was that as we develop physically and emotionally, even though the main basis of the stages of this development are the same, other cultures have a different approach to this process. The sociologist Pilcher (1995) details just how distinct the difference is between adults and children, and how the inhabit a distinctive separate position from adults. How this is distinguished in society is apparent in many ways, for example, the laws which allow, or disallow what children can or cannot do, which is similar, but not the same for adults.

Other distinct differences between children and adults is

in what they wear, mostly highlighted for younger children and products and services which are aimed at children, including toys, books, play equipment and areas. Childhood is perceived to be the “golden age” of life, being the most happy and innocent. Because of this, children are needed to be kept separate for their own protection as they are vulnerable and do not understand the adult world around them as they are kept protected from it.

The sexual behaviour of children is kept strict within different cultures and religions, teenagers in the early their early years are introduced to the ideas of sexual behaviour and taught biologically and educationally about the ideas of sexual behaviour. It is mainly seen as a taboo subject among the household and is not spoken nor the subject approached. However, the final main difference between the children of different cultures and their childhood as that the adults take an attitude of “tolerance and amused interest” towards children’s sexual investigations.

This is shown in Malinowski’s observations in 1957 of the Trobirand Islanders of the south-west Pacific. Age restrictions throughout he world vary from the age 12, in some countries children are seen to be adults from the moment they hit puberty and so are sent to get married and in some situations 12 year old are married to older men and so has to provide children and the only way this is done is through sex. In conclusion the social construction of children has changed as society views children as more free and more valued as they shape the future.

Children now feel as a generation that they are

able to do anything and see themselves as adults and feel the need to take on drinking and smoking, this presents society with a bad view of children and so this means that they are seen as the 'reckless youth of today' however this is just a minority as the majority of children in today's society do want to do well for themselves and stay in school and so this presents the society with a good side to childhood and so gives society that chance to see the good in the youth of today.

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