Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess sociological explanations of changes in the status of childhood (24 marks)
Sociologists argue about what the term ‘childhood’ actually means. They claim that childhood is a social construction, rather than a biological or natural state. This essay will therefore attempt to assess whether there have been any changes in the status of childhood. I will be looking at the views of various sociologists and how society is changing the way in which children are treated. This essay will look at whether the changes, if any, are the most advantageous for the child.
Neil Postman (1994) says that childhood is ‘disappearing at a dazzling speed’. He says ...view middle of the document...
This was to bring income into the home and children were generally not sent to school. This meant that the only real skill the children needed to be a part of the ‘adult’ world was the power of speech. Childhood was not associated with innocence, and there was no sense of mystery within the adult world.
Looking at today’s view of childhood, it is clear to say that childhood is dependent on the culture and society in which a child grows up. The media will also affect childhood as television and magazines/newspapers will encourage children to buy products that will go against society’s norms of what is considered to be the correct behaviour for a child – adverts on the television will encourage young girls to buy ‘play’ make up or dollies so that they can act like the mothers and boys will be persuaded to buy toy guns, which only promotes violence. Item A says that ‘childhood is becoming blurred’ which is a consensus that agrees with Postman’s thesis because of the cultural changes to commercialisation, which lets the media advertise to children, only to make money and profit at the expense of the children.
The March of Progress view states that over the last few centuries, the position of children in western societies has been steadily improving and is better today than it has ever been. This depicts the past as a very dark picture De Mause (1974) even goes so far as to say: “This history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken. The further back in history one goes, the lower the level of childcare, and the more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorised and sexually abused”.
Aries and Shorter hold a march of progress view and believe that children today are more valued, better cared for, protected and enjoy more benefits than of previous generations. Children today are protected from harm and exploitation by laws against child abuse and child labour. Nowadays, children have an array of professionals to cater for their educational, psychological and medical needs. In 2007/8 the government spent an estimated £64 billion pounds on education. Better healthcare and higher standards of living mean that babies now have a much better chance of survival than a century ago. Higher living standards and smaller family sizes mean that parents are now able to provide for the children properly. It is estimated that once a child reaches their 21st birthday, they will have cost their parents £186,000. March of progress sociologists say that the family has become child-centred and that they are now the focal point of the family. Parents now invest a lot of time into caring for their children emotionally as well as supporting them financially. Parents have high aspirations for their children and encourage them to have a better life and greater opportunities than they had themselves. Having this strong dependency on their parents contradicts the views on childhood in the Middle Ages. This is a positive...