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Examine The Ways In Which Childhood Can Be Said To Be Socially Constructed (24 Marks)

1196 words - 5 pages

A social construction is used to describe something that is created by society. It differs from place to place, culture to culture and time to time. Childhood is seen as a social construction as there is no ‘fixed’ experience of childhood, what kind of childhood a child in the UK goes through will be drastically different to the kind a child in Kenya, or middle age UK went through. Therefore, childhood is not universal but constructed by society and in our culture, many different factors contribute to this construction.
One of the most notable things to examine when looking at what causes childhood to be socially constructed is the work of Aries (1960). Aries used secondary sources and ...view middle of the document...

A way to clearly see how childhood can change so vastly due to social construction is to compare this interpretation by Aries to what we think of childhood in contemporary society. We now see childhood as a protected and special time, where childhood is a separate status to adulthood. We protect children, we nurture them and give them education. In Aries view of medieval childhood, this was not around. Why is this? There are many factors for this change. For example, there is now compulsory education for children alongside the illegality of children in full time labour. Therefore, childhood has to be different as this is not allowed, children won’t be working but instead they’ll be in school. We are in a different society now where it is expected that children will spend a considerable amount of their time in the social institution of education. We have shaped it in that way and so in this sense, childhood has become a different social construction.
However, childhood can be seen to be socially constructed in a negative way. While Aries, and other sociologists who claim that childhood has gotten better take a march of progress view, there is also the conflict view. The march of progress view argues that as time has gone on, the social construction of childhood in the UK has gotten better, while as the conflict view states that we ignore the negative aspects we have constructed. One example would be Gittin’s idea of age patriarchy. We now have constructed childhood so that adults control every aspect of it, from clothing in what children wear to leisure time in what children can do and where they can go for example. This is because we now have a social construction of childhood where the position is inferior to adults as we see children as incapable to look after themselves. They need protection and yet we take this to a new level by bringing so much control over their lives. Therefore, there is a great contrast between the two views of how exactly childhood is constructed. However, on further examination of the age patriarchy argument, it has a critical flaw. It does not consider how the social construction we have now, where children need to be protected can actually require adults power in a beneficial way. For example, it does not take into consideration the ways adults use their power to make laws that protect children from harm. This is a great contradiction so therefore, is it truly safe to say that childhood’s...

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