Assess the view that the modern family has become more child centered (24 marks) (received an A-)Sociologists say that childhood is a social construction, rather than a natural state. Our current society has become more child-centered than what it was in the past; I will be assessing the view that modern family has become more child-centered. Some sociologists argue that the modern family has become more children centered. This is mainly due to the changes in laws restricting child labour and excluding children from paid work. This is because from about the 10th to the 13th century the idea of childhood did not exist. According to Aries in the Middle Ages childhood as a separate age-stage was short. Children entered wider society on the same terms as adults, most worked from a young age. Even the laws we have today to protect children were not applicable, the law often made no distinction between children and adults and they faced the same punishment as adults. He argued that childhood did not exist. However Aries theory can be deemed as unreliable as he used evidence from paintings and diaries to understand childhood and family life in the past. Children now have protection laws and majority of the same rights as adults. Another reason some sociologist argue that the family has become more child centered is due to the introduction of compulsory schooling for all children in 1880. This benefited mostly the poorer children as some upper class children had already been receiving education. According to Aries some elements of the modern notion of childhood gradually began to emerge from the 13th century onwards. This is because school came to specialize in the education of children. However conflict sociologists such as Marxist argue that inequalities among children of different classes still exist even if all children go to school. The opportunities and risks they face still differ, as many children remain unprotected and badly cared for. When assessing child-centeredness in society today, childhood is a uniquely important period in an individual’s life. Palmer states that childhood has become ‘toxic’. This is because children have power over parents a term used to describe this is ‘pester power’. It’s becoming harder to separate children from adults especially since the media has had a major impact on children. Children have access to adult TV exposing them to age inappropriate content, therefore taking the term ‘child’ away. Postman has similar views to Palmer as he suggests that childhood is ‘disappearing at a dazzling speed’. Due to children having underage sex and teenage pregnancy children are growing up too quickly. Child protection laws such as ‘legal at 16’ are being ignore by children which automatically suggest children are becoming ‘mini-adults’ similarly to the industrial times only in different context. This research suggests that society is now becoming less child centered.
Some sociologists suggest that children are being spoiled therefore highlighting a child-centered society. Chandler’s research shows that parents are spoiling their children with lavish gifts because they do not spend enough time with their children due to their working hours, however this cannot be a substitute for good parenting. Some sociologists see this as children becoming an economic liability. This is because laws banning child labour causes parents to work harder to be able to afford material things for their children because children are in compulsory education, so that they remain dependent on their parents economically. This has encouraged a shift from quantity to quality when referring to family size; parents now have fewer children to pay more attention to them. Thus promoting child-centeredness. Childhood in different cultures, especially in the African and most of the Asian continent suffer from poverty. War, disease, corruption, lack of resources and harsh environmental conditions afflict many of these countries, contributing to their poverty. These factors are a major cause of death, which in turn leads to a higher number of single parents and orphaned children. To these children there is no such thing as childhood, the affection of parents, education etc. Therefore modern families in developing countries don’t experience child-centeredness, which will seem like a privilege to them. It has become clear that childhood has a great impact on society and that the modern family is becoming more child centered as there has been gradual change since the pre-industrial period when childhood never even existed and now childhood is trying to be perfected by society. How long till childhood expires again?