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        5/21/2012 4:56 PM ASSESS SOCIOLOGICAL EXPLANATIONS OF CHANGES IN THE STATUS OF CHILDHOOD                                        Sociologists see childhood as being socially constructed. This means something created and defined by society. They also argue that what people mean by childhood and the position that children occupy in the society is not fixed but differs between times, places and cultures.                             The historian Philippe Aries (1960) argues that in the middle ages (about the 10th to the 13th centuries), ‘the idea of childhood did not exist’. Children were not seen as having a different ‘nature’ or needs from the adults- atleast, not once they had passed the stage of physical dependence during infancy. In the middle ages, childhood as a separate age-stage was also short. Soon after being weaned, the child entered wider society on much the same terms as an adult, beginning work from an early age, often in the household of another family. Children were in effect mini adults with same rights, duties and skills as adults. For example, the law often made no distinction between children and adults, and children often faced the same severe punishments as those given to adults.Also parental attitudes towards children in the middle ages were very different from those today. Edward Shorter (1975) argues that high death rates encouraged indifference
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and neglect, especially towards infants. For example, it was not uncommon for parents to give a new born baby the name of a recently dead sibling, to refer to the baby as ‘it’, or to forget how many children they had.According to Aries modern notions of childhood began to emerge from the 13th century;Schools (which previously adults had also attended) came to specialise purely in the education of the young. This reflected the influence of the church, which increasingly saw children as fragile ‘creatures of God’ in need of discipline and protection from worldly evils. Also There was a growing ...

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