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.
This means it is not ‘universal’. Stephen Wagg said ‘childhood is socially constructed, it is in other words what members of particular societies at particular times and in particular places, and say it is. There is no single universal childhood isn’t “natural” and should be distinguished from mere biological immaturity’ this basically means that even though we all go through the same stages of development throughout our lives different cultures all have their own outlook on what childhood is. In the western cultures children are seen as vulnerable and unable to look after themselves, but other cultures do not see these differences between children and adults. Sociologists say that the best way to look at how childhood differs across different societies they take a comparative approach, which means they look at how differently children are seen in other cultures and in the past and compare them to the way we see
Family background can effect a child's development by the family's values the culture and the way the child is encouraged and cared for all can effect the child development. The child environment can effect the development of the child e.g. Housing condition , opportunities for play and educational. Poverty and deprivation can affect the child's development because Lack of money can lead to poor nutrition and lack of opportunity and also lower expectations. Children and young people in the care system are more vulnerable,often due to the lack of stability and attachment disorder this can affect their emotional ,social and academic development.
As Jane Pilcher (1995) believes the most important feature of the modern idea of childhood is separateness. Childhood is seen as a clear and a distinct life stage, and children in our society occupy a separate status from adults taking in the account of how much time they would spend with the family, children in today’s modern society are more isolated from their parents and do not bond enough with them. This separateness is emphasised in many different ways, for example, there are laws which regulate what children can and can’t do for example laws restricting child labour, no smoking also law says that children have to
a boy may not cook dinner even though they observe their mother carrying out this behaviour). Support for social influences on gender roles comes from Bandura’s bobo doll study. The study involves an adult model influencing a child’s behaviour which supports the modelling aspect of SLT. On the other hand, Bussey et al found that the influence of modelling on children and the development of their gender roles is limited by existing stereotypes. Bussey came to this conclusion when he found that children imitate same sex models but do not imitate same sex models that are gender inappropriate.
It isn’t just quiet play that counts. That ambivalence can show up in the child care classrooms as an emphasis in structured lesson in the name of learning outcomes for school readiness. Outdoor time maybe limited because it’s seen as a non-educational recess rather than a chance to learn through playing outside. Play provides cognitive development inways that educational toys don’t necessarily address. Cognitive development is tied into physical and social interactions in the preschool years as children are constructing view of the world and actions in the preschool years as children are constructing a view of the world and discovering concepts.
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).
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.
It is a separate and distinct phase of life and that children should be treated separately from adults. Before the 1600 the idea of childhood didn’t exist. Children dressed like adults, mixed with adults and played an economic role as soon as they were physically able. They were regarded as economic assets rather than a symbol of people’s love for one another. Aries’s work has been criticized because of material he used to develop his ideas.
Up until the 1990s, theories of childhood tended to be determined in a "top-down" approach which some have described as "imperialistic." This is true of theories about the medieval child as much as the modern child. Children themselves while the focus of theory, have not generally been considered as having a legitimate voice in influencing its production. However, the UN CONVENTIONON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD (1989) created a climate for reconsidering this tendency and a subsequent focus on listening to the views of the child and CHILDREN'S RIGHTS of expression in general. This has led some scholars to explore allowing children themselves to reflect upon their own experience of childhood, resulting in the use of inclusive research methodologies and more democratic frameworks for dissemination.