Examine the ways in which childhood can be socially constructed

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‘Examine the ways in which childhood can be socially constructed.’

By Sara-Beth Cartwright

Sociologists see childhood as a socially constructed, which means that it’s something created and defined by society. They argue that the position that children occupy in society is not fixed, but differs between times, places and cultures.

It is generally accepted in our society today that childhood is a ‘special’ time of life, and that children are fundamentally different from adults. There is a belief that children’s lack of skills, knowledge and experience means that they need a lengthy, protected period of nurturing and socialisation before they are ready for adult society and the responsibilities that come with adulthood. As Jane Pilcher (1995) notes, 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. This separateness is emphasised in many different ways, for example, there are laws which regulate what children can or can’t do.

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Related to the idea of separateness of children’s status is the idea of childhood as a ‘golden age’ of happiness and innocence. However, this innocence means that children are seen as vulnerable and in need of protection from dangers of the adult world and so they must be kept quarantined and separated from it. As a result, children’s lives are lived largely in the sphere of the family and education, where adults provide for them from and protect them from the outside world. Similarly, unlike adults, they lead lives of leisure and play and are largely excluded from paid ...

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