To what extent is childhood a social construct?
Social construct = a socially created aspect of life. Social constructionalists argue that human beings actively and creatively produce society. Childhood is an example of a social construct as it is not a natural or a biological state therefore being socially constructed. The understanding of children is that they are not the same everywhere and they are different from adults, how they are different, and the expectations placed on them differ depending on the society they live in.
Childhood has been shaped by culture and society to have a specific meaning .As a result The way children are brought up, the length of time child hood should last, and the behaviour considered to be appropriate for children are examples of aspects of childhood that are socially constructed.
Cross-cultural evidence supports the view that childhood is a social construct. If it were a natural state it would be found in all societies. This also relates to how children are seen to be young adults. We tend to view children in the UK and western world as incompetent and dependant but this isn’t the case through out the world. An example of this would be childcare. It is illegal for a child under the age of 14 to look after another child unsupervised because of incompetence and being irresponsible. In other cultures these policies are non exsistant. Michelle Johnson wrote about Fulani in West Africa describing how children at the age of 4 had to care for younger siblings, fetch water, firewood, and to produce food to sell on the market by the age of 6! Raymond frith 1963 found in the country of Tikopia children were found doing dangerous tasks such as using sharp tools and being out in the open sea fishing. These above examples prove just how much childhood has changed, today it would seem irresponsible of parents and it would be highly frowned upon, most probably causing social service intervention.
In 1962 Philip Aries argued that...