Discuss the basic tenants and evaluate the utility of the new sociology of childhood in gaining a better understanding of young people.
Childhood is the age span ranging from birth to adolescence and its non-specific for it can imply a varying range of years in human development reference. The age ranges anywhere from 12 years to 15years with 18years being most common. Previous research done by sociologists focused on children primarily in terms of socialization and within the context of the family. The ‘new sociology of childhood’ argues that children inhabit more than one world, worlds that may well conflict those of adults, those of children's own making, and those that children create with other children . Sociological exploration of social worlds as children understand and experience them expands understanding of children beyond the limits of the concepts of socialization and development. The new “sociology of childhood” brought about fundamental issues which previously were academically deliberately ignored. In this essay the discussion focuses on evaluating and analyzing the basic tenants that the new sociology of childhood unearthed. These include social constructivism of childhood, childhood as a separate variable of social analysis, importance of children’s social relationship and culture independent of adult concerns, active participation of children in the construction and determination of their social world, importance of ethnography as a methodology for the study of childhood and the childhood as a phenomenon in relation to which the double hermeneutic of the social sciences acutely present (Prout and James 1990:9). Furthermore the discussion will attempt to elucidate on how these tenets have enhanced a new understanding of young people within the realms social sciences area in general and sociology in particular. In simple terms the definition of childhood refers to a period before adulthood. Therefore what a society defines as adulthood will also determine what childhood is and what characteristics is associated with that. The ‘new sociology of childhood’ also understood childhood as a social construction meaning that childhood is not natural, it is a result of society, labelling and identifying a phase of life and giving the meaning to behaviour during that phase . Sociologists accept that children are biologically different to adults but the meaning of these biological differences is defined by society. Aries (1962) argues that industrialisation in the 19th century changed the position of children. Before industrialisation children were seen as mini-adults they dressed like their parents and did the same sort of work in the fields and homes and like their parents had no formal education. Aries (1962) maintains that after industrialisation society saw children differently from adults and society was concerned about the physical and moral well being of young people. Children where now expected to undertake years of formal education and often learn things their parents do not understand. Today families are often seen as child cantered because couples have a fewer children and have more money and leisure time for their children. According to Buckingharm and De Block (2007:24) they argue that childhood is a social and historical construction and not as timeless or universal state. Cultures vary significantly in terms of the extent to which children are separated off from the adult world, how they are disciplined, trained and regulated and the expectations that are made of them (ibid 25). In some families especially those from the elite children are not supposed to do anything that generates income as it is viewed as an adult task to fend for their children where as low income generating families it is the other way. This view is supported by Mupedzahama and Bourdillion (2000:25) who note that although in wealthy families it may seem to inappropriate for...
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