How Childhood Has Changed over the Centuries

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In relation to the changing ideas about childhood over the centuries, there are several points of discussion that arise. Many ideas surrounding the change and evolved over the centuries, ideas such as the views towards education and the impact of the industrial revolution on westerns societies views towards childhood, due to the limited space, this essay will focus on two underlying issues which have contributed greatly to the changing ideas about childhood over the centuries, which are; the recognition of childhood and innocence in western society and the extent to which childhood throughout history has been socially constructed. This essay will argue how the concept of childhood has changed over the centuries. Furthermore, this essay will outline that the concept of childhood throughout the centuries has been constructed from a state of adulthood. This essay will begin by exploring the innocence of children and outlining the change in the recognition of childhood by western society. Following this, it will explore the great extent as to which childhood has been socially constructed and how it has shaped the concept of childhood in different eras.

The idea of recognising and separating childhood from the adult world has had a complex history over the centuries. Depending on where you look for evidence and whichever approach to the history of childhood you adopt, the same conclusion is reached: children today occupy a different status from that of the young in earlier centuries and different cultures. Modern childhood as we know it is historically specific. According to Ariès (1960), the major difference between contemporary childhood and childhood in earlier periods is the lack of recognition of the concept of childhood. He goes on to say that as far back as the medieval period, ‘the idea of childhood was non-existent’. This concept is prevalent throughout the artworks Aries uses as evidence for his findings. From these artworks, Aries (1960) argued that...
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