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Social construction of childhood

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Social Construction of Childhood Childhood is such a universally accepted concept, readily accepted as a biological and critical stage of development, that it is hard to conceptualize it as anything else. However, when you look at childhood across the spectrum of culture, class and centuries, you see a vast array of diverse perceptions and attitudes of childhood, from innocent and vulnerable, to little adults with all their responsibilities. This suggests childhood is little more than a social construction. In western culture childhood is considered a time of innocence and vulnerability. They are provided with everything from their parents, as they are seen as incapable of maturity and independence. This view of childhood is a distinct contrast to less economically developed countries (LEDC). Children are seen as responsible and obedient to their elders, and are often a source of income. For example in Bolivia from the age of five children are responsible for contributing to their family. This integration of young children and adults strongly differs western culture, where children are separated from adults and the 'adult world'. ...read more.


This unsentimental approach to children can be explained through the demographic reality at that time. Very little children made it beyond infancy, and parents often had as many children as they can, due to this high mortality rate. Shorter (1985) found that children were often not named until they surpassed infancy to reduce emotional attachment if they died. This high death rate encouraged indifference and neglect. However, both Aries and Shorter were criticised for their over generalisations from their research. Pollock (1983) argues that childhood did exist; it was just different than our concept of it today. Aries views also lacks in the fact that his only evidence was in portraits. These provide unrealistic representations of society at that time, where the majority of the people drawn were the upper class. And even then they would not represent the true nature of childhood at that time, as families might have dressed them up for the occasion in adult like clothes. ...read more.


The fact that childhood has changed since the Middle Ages, and is still changing today is even more evidence that it is a social construction. In conclusion culture, class and demographic research suggest that childhood is not a biologically valid phase, but a social construction. This leads to the point that childhood in our culture has been created through the adoption of consensus reality. But where does that leave us now? Do we allow childhood to remain as a phase of innocence and vulnerability, when it is clearly irrelevant. Or do we adopt the perception similar to other cultures, and allow children to be more mature and independent. However our society would drastically change because of this. We would no longer need compulsory education if children were seen as mature enough to decide their own futures, and the starting age of work would decrease. Although this stance seems to be logical, our society depends on this separation of childhood and adulthood, the economy is reliant on educated individuals and childhood products and services. This need for the current view on childhood only further strengthens the concept as a social construction. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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