It was Philippe Aries (1962) who proposed that ‘childhood’ is a recent invention in itself. In his studies of historical literature and paintings, Aries concluded that in mediaeval times childhood didn’t exist, in that, children were seen as miniature adults (Woodhead, 2005). However, Aries was heavily criticised by Shahar (1990), who believes that Aries research is flawed, as Aries only took in to consideration the lives of wealthy or noble children. The problem being that the wealthy or noble children were in the minority and the largest group of children, which would have been the poor, were not represented. Be that as it may, the broad framework of his argument, which was the socially constructed nature of childhood, is the foundation of subsequent studies.
There are three opposing philosophies of childhood, through this four contrasting perspectives have branched. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) were both nativists, they believed that the child developed naturally, and that culture could shape them. However, Rousseau believed that children we’re naturally innocent an hobbes believed that children were naturally sinful, he also believed that the child should be controlled and disciplined, where as Rousseau believed that the child should be allowed to develop in natural stages. John Locke (1632-1704), an empiricist, believed that children had a ‘tabua rasa’ (blank slate), to be written on by experience; this supports the theory that childhood is a social and cultural process. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) believed that children were born with the specific ability of being to interpret information and interact with the environment; Through interactions Kant sets the tone for the did not view childhood as exclusively a natural or exclusively a social process, but a combination of the two, which led to the ‘transactional models’ of development (Woodhead, 2005).
Although these theories originated within Western societies, they can be applied globally, to study children in diverse societies and cultures. Whiting and Whiting (1975) performed six studies to discover how children develop in a similar way in different cultures as they do in the west. They discovered many differences, especially in the ages at which children were considered capable of adult responsibilities. These themes are illustrated by examining the place of work, play and learning in the lives of young children, drawing on the concept of the developmental niche (Super, and Harkness, 1986).
Thomas Hobbes a rationalist, believed that knowledge was innate, he argued that all human beings were born sinful,...