Examine the ways in which childhood can be said to be socially constructed (24 marks)
To answer this question, one needs to define socially constructed then critically evaluate the different theories and studies investigating childhood on whether childhood is a social construct and hopefully come to some conclusion.
Socially constructed is the idea that childhood is defined and driven by the norms and values of the society in which it is taking place. Sociologists would claim that childhood is socially constructed as it differs from society to society and if it was biologically driven it would be the same for every child across all parts of the world and children in every class.
Raymond Firth investigated childhood on the Islands of Tikopia where children were taught to use sharp objects such as knives at a very young age and began learning skills that would be classed as adult activities in British society. Children in Zaire are also trained to be soldiers as soon as they are able to walk. In British society today, if children were taught such skills it would be child neglect or abuse due to the protection acts placed over them. Such as having a law that people cannot join the army until the age of 16 and fight in wars/battle at ages 18. This shows that childhood is relative to what society you are in.
Philippe Ariès claimed that childhood is relative to time after studying 3 different points in time in British and European societies. Ariès claimed that in Medieval Europe there was no division between children and adults after studying and analysing painting and diaries from that time. He claimed that as well as working alongside adults on the farms as soon as they were no longer dependent on their mother, being economic assets to their families, they also dressed like adults calling them “little adults” as they took part in adult activities such as working. Ariès also studied Industrial British society in which children worked alongside their...