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What do you understand by the term "the social construction of childhood"?

To understand the term 'the social construction of childhood' we must look at how society sees children through the different era's, and how race, culture and class can produce different outcomes to how children are portrayed and developed in society. Social construction refers to 'a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is 'constructed' through cultural or social practice'1. In reference to childhood this means that childhood is not a natural process, it is a result of society determining when a child is a child and becomes an adult.

However some people may be confused with the word 'childhood', does this differ from 'child' and 'children'? All three do represent different concepts and raise rather different analytical issues. "'Childhood; is the structural site that is occupied by 'children', as a collectivity. And it is within this collectivity and institutional space of 'childhood, as a member of the category 'children' that any individual 'child' comes to exercise his or her unique agency'.2

Until the end of the middle ages, Phillipe Aries (1962) first highlighted the socially constructed character, he said that children were sometimes seen as miniature versions of adults, looking at paintings from the 15th and 16th Century, children's clothes and bodily proportions were the same as adults. His assertion was that 'mediaeval society childhood did not exist'3. Children of that era were expected to act accordingly; they were expected to participate in all aspects of social life alongside their parents. Foul language, sexual acts, death were all permitted in their presence. Children had no formal education and did the same work as their parents or worked in the fields. They did not get special protection or treatment at this time, children were punished by the law for the same antics that...
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