(a) a child centred society is a society which consists of rules, regulation and laws that are enforced for children’s protection. For example; child labour laws, and child abuse.
(b) the distinction between childhood and adulthood are becoming blurred for a few reasons. One of them would be how young people today are being educated from an early age about sexual actions, while preparing them for sexual encounter by offering free condoms, pregnancy tests, injections and pills, this wouldn’t usually of been considered normal many years ago, rather it would be something an adult should have to deal with. Children nowadays participate in drinking, smoking, partying, use of drugs and the use of improper or, foul language. There is also the disappearance of traditional childhood games, such as ‘tag’ or ‘hopscotch’. Another large way adulthood and childhood are blurred is the way children are now committing adult crimes, and being sentenced to adult time in prison/juvenile.
(c) During the industrial revolution in Europe, many children were placed in factories to work, performing the relatively easy tasks. However this was a dangerous environment for young children which resulted in many injuries and deaths. Therefore the law of child labour was enforced, making it illegal for children under the age of 16 to perform work. In the 20th century, there was the emergence of a child centred society, leading to children being loved, protected and valued. Leading to a higher standard of living, and a decreased rate of infant mortality
(d) there are many sociological explanations for the changes in the status of childhood. One of the most known statuses of childhood is the ‘Western notion of childhood’ this is the idea that children in the western society are fundamentally different from adults and that there is still a need for constant protection and care from their parents and the government, as they are psychologically and physically immature.
Childhood is seen to be a special time in a person’s life, in which they should cherish and enjoy, without being expected to undergo adult actions such as work, especially as children seemingly lack the important skills, knowledge, and basic experience that would be necessary to survive in the adult world. There is too much innocence and naiveté for them to be categorised as adults. It is believe that children need a long period of time of nurturing and socialisation before they are ready to enter the adult world, so they would need the appropriate amount of time to acquire knowledge and experience to enable the child to become an effective member of society.
Sociologist Jane Pilcher, says that ‘the most important feature of the modern idea of childhood is separateness.’ so this would mean that childhood is a distinctly different status in comparison to adulthood. There are many ways that the separateness between the two statuses are enforced, such as; child labour laws, age laws on alcohol and cigarettes, compulsory education, censorship etc.
Childhood is seen as a social construct, this means that childhood is crated and defined by the society in which it is surrounded by, it is not natural or universal. Our view of the role of children can vary depending on various things. One of which is ‘social class’, i say this because Upper Class citizens are able to provide a safe comfortable living environment filled with toys and games, allowing the child to simply enjoy their time, this is a result of earning a lot more money then any other social class.
Gender also relates to social construction as there is a noticeable difference between the way girls and boys are treated, and have different expectations, for example, girls are expected to dress up, play with dolls, and love fashion and makeup, whereas boy are expected to play sports, computer games, and video games. Location is a very big factor in childhood, we can notice that children bought up in rural areas/countryside socialise differently in comparison to those being bought up in cities, they learn differently, have different priorities in life, and their mindset is unlikely to be similar, for example, those in rural areas may have their mind on providing for the family, whereas in the cities they may be thinking about ways in which they can provide for themselves to be an individual.
Living in a western society, we have to be careful so as not to assume that all cultures view childhood as innocently as we do. We need to take the comparative approach and look at how children are treated in different time periods and places.
There are cross-cultural differences in childhood, Ruth Benedict tells us that in less economically developed countries there is much more of a blur between the status of childhood and adulthood, as the behaviour or children is that expected of adults. For example, Samantha Punch, a sociology lecturer travelled to Bolivia to study childhood. There she found that children from the age of 5 have large work responsibilities in not only the home, but in the community, in a Samoan village, they believe you are never too young to undertake a task, if the child think he/she can handle it, the parents would not attempt to object to it.
Sociologists have also discovered there are historical differences in childhood, so not only does the place change the status of childhood, but also the time period. In item A it tells us about Aries describing the medieval world in which, children were not the equals of adults, yet they mixed freely together in both work and leisure. In these times, children were seen as ‘mini-adults’ as they were granted the same rights, duties and skills as adults. For example the law would make hardly any distinction between the severe punishments that both children and adults would face. The view of childhood was not to be ‘confused’ with affection, while there should be an awareness of the differences of nature, in medieval times this awareness was lacking as they viewed it as a distinguishing line for age, which is why the child belonged to an adult society as soon as he isn’t in constant need for his mothers/nannies care.
Sociologists such as Philippe Aries believe that childhood as a whole, in the western society has improved dramatically; this is known as the ‘march of progress’ view. They have noticed that in today’s’ society, children are the focal point in the family, the parents spend most of their time, effort and money to give their children a better life than they did themselves, yet in the past children were supposedly ‘seen and not heard’.
There is better health care, and higher standards of living, which decreases the infant mortality rate, so they have a better chance at surviving, for London, we have the NHS, offering free health care, which contributes largely to the decreased infant mortality rate. Children nowadays are more valued and appreciated, as we are believe to live in a child-centred society, therefore showing that the parents invest themselves into the care of their child both emotionally and financially. There are also laws that the government enforces, making sure that child labour is illegal, and child abuse, they protect children much more now, to ensure they are not exploited.
Though many, such as conflict and child liberationists argue against the ‘march of progress view’ and say that childhood has not improved over the years, due to the fact that a lot of children today are remaining unprotected, for example ‘Childline’ receives over 20,000 calls a year, being told that children have been sexually or physically abused, yet how many of those cases are followed through and solved? Children born into a working class family, or into poverty have a higher chances of being affected by long standing illnesses, or even death.
They are more likely to fall behind at school and be on the child protection register for social services. Item A tell us that ‘adults exercise control over children’s time, space and bodies’ this is very true, as children begin a daily routine from a very young age, as they are being told when to wake up, when they’re allowed to play, or go out, what time they go to sleep, how much time they should spend on work etc.. it is very rare that children have their own control over how they should be using their time.
A final point, is that, the march of progress view child labour laws as a protection from young children yet others think it doesn’t allow them to gain insight into how they’re able to provide and care for themselves, rather they live at home and get fed, washed, and clothed, with no effort on their part Sociologists Fire and Holt discuss it as if they are not allowing the children to grow up, resulting in them being financially dependant on other people for a longer period of time in their lives. They believe it is a form of inequality, and forcing segregation.
Neil Postman is one of the sociologists that believe in the ‘disappearance of childhood’. He tells us that childhood is ‘disappearing at a dazzling speed’ because the line which separates childhood and adulthood is becoming blurred. Evidence of this is the way children nowadays are participating in adult activities, such as sex, violence, drugs, alcohol, all of which would not of been tolerated in the 19th century, and in fact all of these things where kept a secret from children, yet now, they are exposed to anything and everything in the media, which results in the former ‘innocence’ of childhood has now disappeared, as children are maturing much too quickly as the adult world is no longer a mystery, rather it is what they are used too.
The disappearance of childhood view also believe that children are starting to dress more like adults, start committing the same crimes, have the same rights, and even traditional games have disappeared. Although Postman’s ideas are good, as it show us how the media/television is influencing the way childhood is constructed, he only over-emphasis one single cause, and not taking into his argument the fact that the standard of living is improving and there is now many changes in law to protect children. Sociologists such as Peter Opie have counteracted Postman’s point about the disappearance of childhood games, as there is evidence that there is a separate, continued children’s culture which is independent from the adult world, where they do in fact still play the same games, rhymes and songs.
In conclusion, I agree mostly with the march of progress view, that childhood is steadily improving, and children are being safeguarded from the harms of the outside world. Children are no longer committed to working in factories or shops, but yet if they would like to earn their own money, they can now do favour for family and friends in exchange for money. Therefore allowing them to slowly develop a means of independence, without fully pushing themselves into a work force. Also I believe that society today is child-centred, as there is much more media output which focuses on children entertainment, and also many leisure activities are provided for young people.
Although I do think that there is a lot more explosion of the adult world, I feel it has more affect on teenagers, as they take more notice in the older generations. This is not particularly a bad thing, as it allows them to prepare for the soon coming adult world in which they have to deal with, it does not necessarily scar them, or harm them in a way that younger generations would be.