Examine the Ways in Which Childhood Can Be Said to Be Socially Constructed.

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Examine the ways in which childhood can be said to be socially constructed. (24 marks) Some sociologists see childhood as socially constructed, which means that it is something created and defined by society. They argue that the positions children occupy in society are not fixed, but differ with regards to cultures, places and times. It is generally accepted today that children are different from adults. There is a belief that children’s lack of knowledge, experience and skills call for them to be nurtured and socialised for a protected time before they are ready for adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it. Pilcher believes that the most important feature of childhood is separateness and that childhood itself is seen as a clear life stage which causes a separate status between children and adults. This separateness is emphasised in many different ways, for example, there are laws which regulate what children can and cannot do. Related to the idea of separateness of children’s status is the idea of childhood as a ‘golden age’ of happiness and innocence. However, this innocence means that children are seen as vulnerable and in need of protection from dangers of the adult world. Children’s lives, as a result of this, are lived largely in the confinement of the family and education, where adults provide for them. Similarly, unlike adults, children mainly lead lives of leisure and play and cannot partake in paid work. Cultural differences have an impact on people’s views of childhood. Ruth Benedict argued that children from Less Economically Developed Countries and non-industrial societies are treated differently from modern, Western children: they take responsibility from a younger age. An example of this would be Child Soldiers, where children are expected to fight for their country even though they may not be mentally or physically ready. There are
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