Using Material from Item a and Elsewhere, Assess Sociological Explanations of Changes in the Status of Childhood (24 Marks)

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Date Submitted: 02/21/2013 05:29 AM

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Sociologists see childhood not as a 'natural' category, but as socially constructed which means defined and created by society but what it seen as 'childhood' varies between different societies such as cross-cultural differences which I will go on to talk about in this essay. It also varies historically and over time. Benedict argues that children in simpler, non-industrial societies are treated differently from their modern western counterparts. Non-industrial societies such as Asian countries , the children have more responsibility at home and work and less value is placed on obedience to adult authority whereas children in the west, childhood is seen as a innocent, special time of life and children are also seen as fundamentally different from adults as physically immature and not fit to run their own lives. These differences illustrate the key sociological idea that childhood is not fixed in the same form in all societies – Different cultures construct it differently. The position of children also differs over time because the modern western idea of childhood is different to all the other ideas. In medieval Europe, the idea of childhood did not exist because children were not seen as having a different 'nature' from adults and they began working from an early age so they took on a lot of responsibility as children doing duties and learning skills the same as adults.

The modern notion of childhood began to emerge when schools began to specialise only in the education of the young for example, in 1870 it was compulsory to go to school from 5-12 years old. It also emerged when the standard of living improved in the 1880's and infant mortality fell. Aries argues that this resulted in the emergence of the modern 'cult of childhood'. The 20th century was 'the century of the child'. Society is now obsessed with the welfare of children and they see children as 'consumers'.

There are two competing views of whether children's position has been improved. The 'march...