Childhood: AS Sociology Notes
• How childhood is socially constructed, how it is created and defined by society.
• Is the position of children better than in the past?
• What is the future of childhood likely to be?
Sociologists see childhood as socially constructed – created and defined by society.
‘Childhood’ differs between different cultures and in different times.
Modern western notion of childhood:
Childhood is special time of life and different to adulthood. Children need socialisation to prepare them for adult life.
Pilcher (1995) – childhood is a separate life stage, children have a different status to adults.
Laws ensure there is regulation in want children are allowed to do.
‘Golden age’ of childhood – happiness and innocence. This often means they are treated as vulnerable and in need of being separate and protected from adult world.
This means children live their lives within the family and education. They lead lives of play and leisure and usually excluded from paid work.
However – childhood is constructed and is not the same in all societies (Wagg 1992).
Cross cultural differences:
Benedict (1934) says children in less developed and non-industrial societies are treated differently. How?
o They take responsibility at an early age – children are put out to work within the community – no choice. (Studies in Bolivia (Punch 2001) and Samoa – ( Holmes 1974)).
o Less value placed in children being obedient and respecting authority. It is a given that children do this.
o Sexual behaviour is often viewed differently. Malinovski (1957) saw children’s sexual experience as ‘amusing’ in some South Pacific Islanders.
Benedict – there is less of a difference between expectations between adults and children.
What other differences are there between cultures?
Globalisation of western Childhood.
There has been pressure on many societies for them to adapt to western notion of childhood – separate, innocent, family and...