Examine the ways childhood can be said to be socially constructed.

Authors Avatar by lucyabbey98hotmailcouk (student)

Examine the ways childhood can be said to be socially constructed.

A thing which is socially constructed has been created by society. Childhood can be seen as socially constructed as it differs between cultures, religion and location. Therefore, childhood is not universal but constructed by society and in our culture, many different factors contribute to this construction.

A key sociologist to look at when examining the ways in which childhood is socially constructed is Aries. Philippe Aries in the early 1960’s made a startling claim that ‘the idea of childhood did not exist’. Aries believed the concept of childhood is a relatively modern one; one that has only developed over the past 300 or so years. In this respect, whilst there were clearly "young people" around, they were not labelled as "children", nor were they treated in ways that we, nowadays, would recognise as "childhood". He mainly used paintings to study middle-age childhood in Britain. He discovered that children were not that different to adults and that the law often made no distinction between the two. Children were seen as an economic asset which is drastically different to a child in modern society which portrays how childhood changes depending on the society. Many children needed to work in pre-industrial Britain so, it is easy to see that the needs of society economically are a factor that contribute to the construction of childhood. However, Aries’s interpretation is based on the basic assumption that artistic images are a reliable guide to people's behaviour in the past.

Join now!

A way which clearly shows how childhood can change so severely due to social construction is to compare Aries’s interpretation to how modern society understands childhood. We now see childhood as a protected and special time, where childhood is a separate life stage to adulthood. As a culture we protect children, we nurture them and give them education. In Aries view of medieval childhood, this was not around. There are many factors for this change. For example, there is now compulsory education for children as well as it being illegal for a child to be in full time labour. ...

This is a preview of the whole essay