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To what extent has childhood been viewed as a social and cultural process rather than a 'natural process'?

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Introduction

To what extent has childhood been viewed as a social and cultural process rather than a 'natural process'? Illustrate your discussion with reference to Book 1, Chapter 1, 'Children and development'. Childhood is such a fundamental and integral part of humanity that on first considerations, we may take it for granted as an entirely natural process. The biological journey of maturation is a universal shared experience. Yet even if childhood is recognised only in these limited biological terms, it is still influenced by social factors i.e. the health and life choices of the mother during pregnancy. In the civilised world, there are very few who would be prepared to argue that childhood should be viewed as an entirely natural process. Contemporary developmental theorists recognise the child as an active agent whom is developing both physically and psychologically; the individual experience of childhood is dependent upon how they interact with their environment and how that society understands their specific nature and needs. The attitudes to children and views of childhood vary dramatically between different periods in history and different cultures, and are also actively evolving within our own culture; therefore it is, currently, more accurate to view childhood as a social and cultural process rather than a ...read more.

Middle

(Ezell, M.J.M, 1984) This harsh and unsentimental view of children was not just religiously, but also demographically and economically motivated. Infant mortalities were extremely high; between twenty and fifty percent of babies died within their first year. Many parents referred to their child as "it" until they reached an age when survival was probable. Although it is problematic to speculate, it seems plausible that parents were consciously detached from their children as a coping mechanism, should they not survive into adulthood. Although Hobbes advocated a nativist perspective on the essential nature of children, the religious attitudes which he and his contemporaries would have taken for granted as truth are now dormant in the majority of Western societies (apart from some remaining puritan cultures). Any who did share the popular religious view would not have been recorded. This validates James and Prouts assertion that childhood is "constructed and reconstructed". Hobbesian views of childhood did not unfold naturally, but were constructed through social discourse. Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed the exact opposite to Hobbes; that children are not inherently sinful, but are inherently innocent, and would develop naturally in positive ways if allowed to do so. ...read more.

Conclusion

Kant creates the framework for the transactional models of development which assume the child to be an active autonomous agent in their own development and attempt to explain this relationship of cause and effect that they have with their environment. This is the most popular start point for modern child development theories, such as social constructivist theories. The religiously dictated views of Hobbes and Romanticism motivated views of Rousseau are unconvincing to a modern audience. Their legacies are derivative of their child rearing advice and not their rigid perspectives. James and Prouts assertion that "childhood is constructed and reconstructed is convincing enough to dispel these solely nativist theories. Locke's emphasis on education (although not to the extent he proposed) is echoed by today's politicians. It seems reasonable to assume that the real character of childhood is an interactive process between the two as proposed by Kant. . In the civilised world, the onus of social responsibility to our children has always been great and is growing. Underlining the socially constructed character of childhood has had a great influence on our attitudes; therefore childhood has probably been viewed to a greater extent as a social and cultural process than it has been viewed as a 'natural process'. ...read more.

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