The social construction of childhood means that childhood is not natural because it is a concept that has different meanings in different societies. Sociologists agree that children are biologically different to adults but every society gives these biological differences different meanings.
Aries, a interactionist argued that the 19th century Britain, before industrialisation children were seen as mini adults because they dressed like their parents and did the same work on the farm as their parents. After industrialisation, children became different to adults because children had to go to school between the ages of 5 and 11 and so children were financially dependent on their parents until the age of 11 when they were allowed to go to work and this period of dependency created the concept of childhood.
Today, families in Britain are very child centred because couples have fewer children. Gitten says that children have become a luxury and the parents talk about ‘being able to afford a child’ because children can cost over £100,000 to raise.
Musgrove, a Functionalist says that children today are of no economic use because they have to stay at school until the age of 16 and so they are financially dependent on their parents. Modern industrial society needs skills and so children have to stay in education to get their skills, usually well past the age of 16 and while children depend on their parents they can be classed as children. However, in many societies children do have an economic role because they start work from a very early age. For example, feeding children and weeding and in these societies there is no concept of childhood and so childhood must be a social construction.
Marxists say the concept of childhood benefits the bourgeoisie because the bourgeoisie need a well-educated work force. They need children to stay in education for as long as possible. The bourgeoisie benefit from the ideology of the ‘responsibility of parents’ which means that...
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