Sociology: Childhood Essay
(A)Child centred society is a society that puts the welfare of children first in terms of priority. For example, America is a child centred society because the society on a whole will put the needs of a child first. (B)There are many ways in which the distinction between childhood and adulthood is “becoming blurred. ” An example of how this is happening is ‘Television’. Television blurs the distinction between childhood and adulthood by destroying the information hierarchy.
In the 19th century and before the TV was invented, adults had the power to keep knowledge about inappropriate things as sex, violence and other ‘adult matters’ secret from children because of the lack of literacy among children. This lead to a sharp division between adults, who can read, and children who cannot. However, unlike written word, television does not need special skill to understand and gain knowledge from it. Another example to how distinction between childhood and adulthood is becoming blurred is the way teenagers are dressing (dress sense).
Dress sense is very similar now, we have 14 year olds girls dressing up like 24 year olds, short dresses; similar make-up; etc. These might not seem big, but in reality if you look in depth they are, it diminishes adult authority and appearance does not vary as much between childhood and adulthood. (C)Education is one of the reasons for the change in the position of children because it extended the period of dependency on their parents.
The introduction of compulsory schooling in 1880 affected the children of the poor families, this was an advantage for adults because this meant that the child’s life could be confined, disciplined and regulated to a later stage. The law restricting child labour and excluding children from paid work had a similar effect to education. Not being able to work and earning a wage again made them dependant on their parents financially. The law has slightly changed yet still similar fulfilling its actual purpose. There are laws and policies put in place specifically for children, such as minimum wage to smoking and drinking alcohol.
These laws have reinforced the idea that children are different from adults so different rules must be applied to their behaviour. Children’s protection and welfare also brought changes to the position of children. For example the 1889 prevention of cruelty to children act, this made child abuse illegal. In 1989 this was broadened with the introduction of 1989 Children Act, the act imposed general duty on local councils to provide a range of services to ‘children in need’, it also made the welfare of child the fundamental principle and supporting underneath the work of agencies such as social services. D)Changes in the states of childhood.
Childhood is constructed by society; religion, culture and race. We must be concerned, for example not just with the fact that childhood is constructed, but with the precise ways in which this occurs in society and the specificity of the cultural context to that construction. Social construction in other words is taught behaviour. From the moment you are born, blue for boys and pink for girls. It was Aries who first highlighted the social constructed character of childhood in his historical research into children’s lives from the middle ages onward.
Through his forceful statement he believed that ‘in medieval society childhood did not exist’, he argues that although children existed they were not granted a special social status they deserved. They mixed freely with adults in both work and leisure meaning little distinction was drawn between children and adults. Of course this had its pros and cons. The good thing was that children were brought up to suit their society. Where as the bad thing was that the children had minimal choice for this.
As said in ‘Item A’ industrialisation brought about major changes to the position of children. A good way to illustrate the social construction of childhood is to take a comparative approach, which is to look at how children were seen and treated in other places. The anthropologist Ruth Benedict argued that children in simpler, non-industrialised societies are generally treated differently. They take on responsibilities at an earlier age; less value is placed on children showing obedience to adult authority, this was due to ‘age patriarchy’ which means I will come on to later.
The differences raise concerns to whether the changes in the statues of childhood that we looked earlier represent an improvement. The ‘March of progress’ view argues that over the past few centuries the position of children in western societies has been better than it has ever been. Today’s children are more valued; better cared for; protected and educated. They enjoy better lives; have better health and more rights than those of previous generations. Aries and Shorter both hold this view, the March of progress view.
An example of the March of progress is that the health care is better and higher standards of living mean that babies have more of a chance to survive now then years ago. In 1990, the infant mortality rate was 154 per 1000 babies, where as now it is 5 per 1000. However, not everyone agrees with the March of progress view. The conflict view contrasts the March of progress view, sociologists such as Marxists and feminists believe that some social groups have more power, status and wealth than others and that there are relationships of domination and oppression between these groups.
On this basis, they believe there are two inequalities among children in terms of the opportunities and risks they face, many today are badly cared for, between children and adults in terms of power and control, protection and oppression. Inequalities among children, not all children have the same status or experiences. Gender, nationality and ethnicity all play a big role in inequalities among children for example, boys (according to Mayer Hillman (1993)) are more likely to use buses to go out at night unaccompanied where as girls would do more labour work.