Examine the Ways in Which Childhood Can Be Said to Be Socially Constructed

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The term ‘childhood’ refers to the time or state of being a child, childhood is not fixed but differs between time and place. If childhood is socially constructed it means that childhood is something that is created and defined by particular society. There are many arguments that offer an insight into this theory and this essay will examine those arguments. In the western society it is generally seen that children are distinctly different from adults and that childhood is accepted as a special time of life that should be protected from the ‘adult world’. Phillipe Aries argues that the concept of childhood is a fairly recent discovery in our society; he says this is evident in the introduction of compulsory education and the laws stating that employment of children is banned. This has brought on a lengthened period of child dependency on the adult, whereas in the past children could contribute to the family through paid work. This is the same with adolescents as, due to unemployment and a lack of jobs, the age of dependency is increasing. Aries argues that in the Middle Ages, childhood did not exist – children worked from an early age and they were treated as ‘mini adults’, even dressing in the same way. Aries work shows that childhood is socially constructed as he shows how children’s social status has changed over time. However, Aries has been criticised by many as he based his theory upon early modern artwork, assuming that it showed an accurate representation of what early modern families looked like. Most artwork, in the middle ages, was paid for by the rich and so would show a bias view. Also Linda Pollock argued that, instead of there being no childhood in the Middle Ages, it is more accurate to say that society simply had a different idea of what childhood was. Jane Pilcher notes that the most important feature of childhood in the modern society is separateness, whereby childhood is seen as a distinct life stage separate from the adult world. This can be...
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