Is Childhood Socially Constructed?

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IS CHILDHOOD ‘SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED’? Most sociologists argue that the idea of childhood is not something natural and given How we treat children – how we expect them to look, behave and develop – is decided by the kind of society you live in. This is what ‘socially constructed’ means. • Different societies have treated children very differently • Different historical periods have varied a lot in the way children are regarded and treated. HOW WE ‘CONSTRUCT’ CHILDHOOD TODAY (western societies). Western societies have definite ideas - cultural norms – about childhood • It is a special and distinct time of life - separate and different (like middle age, old age etc – a very precise ‘phase’ of your life). • Because of this the status of children is very different from adults – this means that – • They are treated as unequal – not the equals of adults • They have special laws which prevent them from doing things • Because they are regarded as vulnerable there are special laws protecting them which don’t apply to adults • The separateness of childhood is re-enforced by the idea that they should wear different clothes and behave differently and have products and services which are for them only • Children are not yet .mature’ and fully formed – they cannot run their own lives – so….. • Children need a long period of training, education and socialisation into the ways of our society before they can be fully fledged ‘adults. • The vulnerability and specialness of children means that they are exempt from normal adult activities like paid work and spend their time protected in the family and at school. • There is also an idea that childhood is somehow a
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