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) A social construct is an idea or concept that has been created and defined within society. Many sociologists argue that childhood is a social construct, as it isn’t a fixed, universal idea, and differs in different areas and time periods. There are historical and cultural differences in how childhood is defined. For example, what kind of childhood a child in the UK goes through will be drastically different to the kind a child in Kenya, or that of a middle age UK person went through. One of the most notable things to examine when looking at what causes childhood to be socially constructed is the work of Phillipe Aries (1960). Aries used secondary sources and paintings to study middle age (10th-13th century) childhood in Britain. He argues that ‘childhood’ as we understand it today, is a relatively recent invention He found that children were essentially mini-adults and that the law often made no distinction between children and adults. Children worked, they were required too and were seen as an economic asset. This is drastically different from our notion of childhood today and therefore we can see how childhood adapts to fit the culture it is in. In the middle ages, pre-industrial Britain, more workers were needed in factories and so children were workers. As children were workers, they did not require an education, and just needed to do labour like adults. Their responsibilities were the same as adults which made them adopt this ‘mini adult’ status. So, it is easy to see that the needs of society economically are a factor that contributes to the construction of childhood. If we need children to work, we will adapt childhood so that it is seen as a norm to have children as workers. While Aries work is influential in examining how childhood is socially constructed, it has been
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