• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

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

Extracts from this document...


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.


(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.


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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Developmental Psychology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Developmental Psychology essays

  1. Free essay


    4 star(s)

    Furthermore Aries argues that if we look at pictures of the period there is no evidence to illustrate that children were perceived as children: "Artists were unable to depict a child except as a man on a smaller scale" (1962: 10).

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Behaviourist Perspective

    3 star(s)

    * Classical conditioning approaches are used in therapy. * Systematic destination, where the person is slowly introduced to the thing that they fear in order to overcome it, is a classic form of classical conditioning. * Flooding and implosion, two techniques that are used for therapy, are applications of classical principles.

  1. counselling stages of attachement

    they would have faced physical deprivation through lack of warmth, food, etc. It may have been these problems that caused the negative effects. * Rutter has highlighted the major weaknesses of Bowlby's maternal deprivation idea. E.g. he says Bowlby's cause and effect relationship between delinquency and maternal deprivation is only a correlation, and may not be causal.

  2. c hallenging a client to change

    you seem reluctant to want to discuss your emotions, and I feel it may be of some help to you if we discuss them. Chris: (starts laughing) my wife is always telling me off for not talking to her about my feelings, now you're saying the same.

  1. To what extent are the traditional attitudes and values of Chinese society part of ...

    important; such as money and respect and success, adelines father strived to achieve all this by working as much as he did, this in turn made Adeline feel unloved by her father as he was never around, adelines father working so much also enabled him to know very little about

  2. Compare, Contrast and Evaluate the Nativist and Empiricist Views of Infant Perception

    each time this behaviour was executed. Here, the experimenter has to wait until the infant moves his/her head to one side naturally, and then give the peek-a-boo response - if this response is given each time the infant turns its head, the infant will learn to perform the head movement when it wants that response.

  1. Has childhood obesity in Britain been socially constructed?

    Argument Family structures have changed, so that there are now many more single parent families and in the case of dual parent families both parents often work. These changes have brought about changes in the way families prepare and consume meals.

  2. Is Popular culture an Influence on Violent Behaviour?

    However, when viewing the sexually violent images the individual's part of the brain controlling the 'sex-drive' was more influential than the aggressive part of the brain. The common denominator here is physical arousal. If there is an increase in heartbeat, blood pressure, galvanic skin response and adrenaline level, a subject's

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work