How Far Do Theories of Childhood Development Take Account of Social and Cultural Factors?
Throughout the history of our Western culture the ways in which we have viewed childhood has changed dramatically. Woodhead (2005) recognises that childhood has been viewed as both a natural process and as a social and cultural process, as well as being viewed as an interactive process between the two. These changeable and evolving attitudes confirm James and Prout’s (1997) assertion that “childhood is constructed and reconstructed”. This essay will take in to account four theorists, who have contrasting views of how a child develops, these theories stem from three opposing philosophies; Hobbes, an authoritarian; Rousseau, a nativist; Locke, a rationalist; Kant, an interactionist. Even to this day there are still differing views on what childhood is, which will be shown in Whiting and Whiting’s (1975) cross cultural study, the ‘six culture project’, and explained through Super and Harkness (1986) theory on the ‘developmental niche’. By comparing and contrasting the origins of the four main psychological perspectives of child development, and taking in to account certain cultural studies and theories, this essay will conclude that theories and studies put forward have shown that although nature plays an essential part of the development of the childhood, it’s society and culture that provide the major influences.
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
References: Aries, P. (1962), cited in Woodhead (2005) p.18
Hendrick, H. (1990), cited in Woodhead (2005) p.20
James A, and Prout, A. (1997), cited in Woodhead (2005) p.15
Mackinnon, D. (2003), cited in Woodhead (2005) p.20
Shahar, S. (1990), cited in Woodhead (2005) p.18
Super, C. and Harkness, S. (1986), cited in Woodhead (2005) pp. 44-45
Whiting, B. B. and Whiting, J. W. M. (1975), cited in Woodhead (2005) pp. 35-37
Woodhead. M. (2005). ‘Children and Development’, in Oates, J., Wood, C. and Grayson, A. (eds) Psychological Development and Early Childhood, Oxford, Blackwell/The Open University.