Sociology - Childhood

Sociology - Childhood

Examine the effects of social change in the position of children
Sociologists see childhood as socially constructed, this means they see it as something created and defined by society itself. They believe we can see the position that children occupy in society is not fixed but differs between different time, places and cultures by comparing the western idea of childhood today with the childhood in the past and in other societies.
It is accepted in our society today that childhood is a special time of life and that children are different from adults. They are seen as physically and psychologically immature and not yet able to run their own lives. Jane Pilcher (1995) notes the most importance feature of the modern idea of childhood is separateness. Childhood is seen as a clear and distinct life stage and children in society occupy a different status from adults. However this view of childhood as a separate age status, children and adults being different, is not found in all societies. Stephan Wagg (1992) says “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 ‘natural’ and should be distinguished from mere biological immaturity”. This means that, while all human beings go through the same stages on physical development, different cultures construct or define this process differently.
Ruth Benedict (1934) argues that children in simpler, non-industrial societies are generally treated differently from their modern western counterparts in three ways, they take responsibility at an early age, less value is placed on children showing obedience to adult authority and children’s sexual behaviour is often viewed differently.
The position of children has changed over the years, between the 19th and 20th centuries laws restricting child labour and excluding children from paid work, the...

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