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  1. 1. 1 AS Families and Households: Childhood KEY WORDSSocial Construction/ Child Centredness/Pester Power/ Social Blurring/Toxic Childhood KEY NAMES Aries (1962) , Berger and Berger (1983), Charles Murray, Melanie Phillips (1997), Nick Lee (2001), Morrow (1998), Neil Postman (1983), Sue Palmer (2006), Frank Furedi (2001) KEY IDEA 1 - CHILDHOOD IS SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED Childhood can be seen as a SOCIAL CONSTRUCT, SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION basically meaning that it is defined by society and is Something that is created by not a natural or biological state. Childhood is shaped, society, constructed from social and given meaning by our culture, therefore behaviour meanings and definitions. seen as appropriate for children, the way children should be treated, and the time at which childhood should end, are all socially constructed. Evidence to support the social construction of childhood can be found in 3 places. 1. When you consider the status of children across different cultures 2. The differing experience of childhood within the UK 3. Historical experience of childhood Make notes on the example your group has been given/ video clip/book Different Culture: How does it compare with childhood in UK? How does childhood vary in the UK? (page 164 Browne for stats) Conclusion - Childhood isn’t a ‘natural’ state, because if it were, then childhood would beHistorical Experience of Childhood: How and these has changed over time. childhood the same for all children everywhere childhood examples illustrate how varies cross culturally and in the UK.
  2. 2. 2 Philippe Aries (1962): Centuries of Childhood: One of the major contributions to a social science perspective on childhood is provided in the work of the French social historian Philippe Aries (1960s). Using page 30 of Napier Press, make notes Aries views - Middle Ages - The emergence of modern childhood: How did Aries find out about childhood in the middle ages ? What research methods did he use ? 1. Secondary sources 2. Paintings and works of art of the time In paintings children appeared mini adults, children have been drawn in a similar way to adults just on a smaller scale. The paintings show children and adults dressed in the same clothing and working and playing together. What problems might there be in using evidence such as paintings and diaries, as Aries does, to understand childhood or family life in the past? Aries has been criticised for underestimating the difference between adults and children in Medieval Europe. For example, laws did exist that prohibited the under 12’s getting married. However, many historians support Aries’ views.Homework TaskSociology Review Article: ‘Social Construction of Childhood’. Using 3 pieces of historical evidence from the article, ‘Explain how childhood is socially constructed’. – HAS THE POSITION OF CHILDREN IMPROVED OR WORSENED KEY IDEA 2 Explain in detail 3 ways in which childhood has improved over time. E.g. Education You can bullet point the reasons but must link to the Questions. 1x A4 minimum
  3. 3. 3KEY IDEA 2 –HAS CHILDHOOD IMPROVED OR WORSENED?IMPROVED - The March of Progress view argues that over the past few centuriesthe position of children in western societies has been steadily improving – evidence for thiswas seen in the article. Writers such as Aries argued that today’s children are more valued,better cared for, protected and educated, enjoy better health care and have more rights thanthose of previous generations.Examples of March of Progress – use page 32 to make notes on the followingPROTECTION FROMHARM ANDEXPLOITATIONHIGHER STANDARDS OFLIVINGCHILD- CENTREDSOCIETYChild CentrednessThe 20th century saw the emergence of a child-centred society (where things revolve aroundchildren). This was probably the result of improved standards of living and nutrition in thelate 19th century, which led to a major decline in the infant mortality rate. The higher standardof living also meant that having children became more expensive. The increased availabilityand efficiency of contraception, allowed people to choose to have fewer children andconsequently, parents were able to invest more in the fewer children they had in terms oflove, socialisation and protection – SOCIETY BECAME CHILD CENTRED where thewishes and desires of children are often put before the adults own choices. REASONS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHILD CENTREDNESS Using the Browne Textbook, Page 165 make detailed notes on 3 of these reasons for child centeredness 1. 2 3.
  4. 4. 4Theory Link - The Rise Child- CentrednessBrigette and Peter Berger (1983) argue that the originof the traditional nuclear family lies in the development TASK – Put together an account of child centrednessof the middle classes in 19th century Europe. A key in modern society. Make a listfeature of this type of family is the way in which it of all the ways in which wetreated children – it was ‘child centred’ because the exhibit child centredness,decrease in infant mortality rate meant that children showing the amount of time,became an ever present feature of the household. They money and effort we pit intowere seen as in need of protection and care, emotional doing ‘our best’ for our children and protecting themcomfort, moral upbringing and discipline.Since that time children have increasingly become the focus of family life. Wehave developed to a point where ‘child – centredness’ is an acceptable, evenexpected, part of family life. LISTCOUNTER ARGUMENT: CHILDHOOD HAS WORSENEDFunctionalism and the New RightFunctionalists and The New Right both emphasise the key role the family oughtto play in socialising children into the shared norms and values of society. Theyboth express concern that any alternative to the nuclear family is not as capableof performing that function well. New Right thinkers such as Charles Murrayare especially concerned that the rise of single parent families is causing abreakdown in effective parenting. Family Diversity in contemporary societyleads to a less positive experience of childhood.What social problems might this create for children and society?
  5. 5. 5Marxism and FeminismMarxists and Feminists are also concerned about the role the family plays insocialising the next generation but their worries about childhood centre more onhow the family can be used as a tool of the powerful and used to pass onideologies of patriarchy and capitalism. Children are seen as the victims of adultexploitation either by being indoctrinated into gender role stereotypes or as miniconsumers helping boast the capitalist economy.Both theories see socialisation as potentially harmful to children. They seethe families’ key role as an agent of social control and view the socialisationprocess as one of indoctrination into the ‘status quo’ and a means wherebythe powerful legitimise their position in society. NEGATIVES OF SOCIALISATIONFeminist views Marxist views All I want for A MARXIST CONCERN Christmas is EVERYTHING PESTER POWER Read through your notes on Marxism and the bullet point on page 167 Browne and answer the questions Use the Marxist perspective to explain why children are consumers. What is pester power? How does the idea of children as consumers support the view that childhood is disappearing?Children’s Views:Robert (8yrs): If you were like going out with your mates you’d probably wear your coolstuff because you don’t want your mates to say you’re clothes are sad.Joe (6 yrs): I’m getting a Wii for Christmas this year and I want 6 new games. I better get it
  6. 6. 6Postmodernism and Contemporary IdeasPostmodernism and other contemporary Sociologists have a lot to say aboutChildhood in recent years. They question whether it has improved, worsenedor disappeared altogether. Make a note of which one applies to each theorist.Melanie Phillips (1997)___________________Sympathetic with the New Right view, she argues that the culture of parentingin the UK has broken down and the ‘innocence’ of childhood has beenundermined by two trends. 1. Children have too many rights and powers today. These rights have undermined parental authority and parents are increasingly criticised and penalised for resorting to sanctions such as smacking 2. The media and peer groups are more influential than parents, for example the media encourage young girls to see themselves as sexual from a younger age.Give examples of where children are sexualised in contemporary media?Nick Lee (2001):Childhood in an age of uncertainty: ________________Lee believes that the social construction of childhood is changing. Childrenused to be seen as ‘unstable and incomplete’ in comparison to adults who wereseen as ‘stable and complete’ human beings.However adulthood is now considered to be very ‘unstable’ at times due to highdivorce rates and the fact that a job is no longer for life. This means that ‘growing up’ is no longer seen as a journey towards personalcompletion and stability, as adulthood is far from stable.What does this mean?Morrow (1988) ______________________Found that children can be constructive and reflective contributors to familylife. Most of the children in Morrow’s study had a pragmatic view of theirfamily role – they did not want to make decisions for themselves but they didwant a say in what happened to them.Why could this be viewed as a positive development of childhood?
  7. 7. 7KEY RESEARCHNeil Postman (1983): The Disappearance of Childhood:_________________Postman argues that childhood is disappearing. His view is based on 2 ideas. The growth of television means that there are no more secrets from children. Television gives them unlimited access to the adult world. They are exposed to the ‘real world’ of sex, disaster, death and suffering ‘Social blurring’ has occurred so there is little distinction between adults and children. Children’s games are disappearing and children seem less childlike today. They speak, dress and behave in more adult ways, while adults have enjoyed looking more like their kids and youth generally. Over time, nearly all the traditional features that mark the transition to adulthood – getting a job, religious confirmation, leaving home, getting married – no longer apply in any clear way.To what extent to you believe childhood is disappearing?What evidence can you use to support your answer?Sue Palmer (2006)Toxic Childhood __________________Viewed increasing consumerism and targeting of children as a market forspecialist goods with some concern: In her 2006 study ToxicChildhoodsuggests that as parents become materially wealthy but time poor,they give in to demands for expensive consumer goods such as televisions andcomputer games which then act as electronic babysitters. Children are nothappy; in fact they are the victims of the heavy marketing of junk food anddangerous chemically enhanced foods that are contributing to rising rates ofhyperactivity, dyslexia, autism and dyspraxia. Palmer suggests that suchmarketing should be banned. It is worth noting that advertising targeted atchildren under the age of 10 has already been banned in Scandinavian countriesbecause it is accepted that children below that age cannot distinguish betweenadvertising and reality. COMPLETE THE EXTENSION SHEET ON SUE PALMER’S TOXIC CHILDHOOD
  8. 8. 8Frank Furedi (2001)Paranoid Parenting____________________Postmodernist Refers to paranoid parenting and suggests that children arerestricted to the home because of unrealistic parental fears of kidnap,paedophiles and abduction. This encourages parents to keep children virtualprisoners in their rooms. As evidence, he points out that very few children areallowed to walk to school.Conclusion – The Good and the BadMost people would see the lives of children in contemporary Britain as a major_________________compared to the lives of children in earlier centuries, andas better than the lives of children in many other parts of the world. The__________of children in the family has greatly improved and most childrenare better cared for, _________________________and enjoy happier healthierlives than ever before. Nevertheless, _________________ doesn’t mean that allchildren are well looked after. __________and ___________still exist and theexperience of family life is not a happy one for all children. Children’s________________on adults and their inability to obtain legal paid employmentmeans they have few opportunities to escape unhappy family lives. There is alsothe question of whether childhood still __________or whether it hasdisappeared and is now indistinguishable from adulthood. The role of the massmedia in ____________________childhood is seen as a negative and has evenled to the contemporary childhood experience being described as __________.child-centredness, commercialising,status, better educated,dependency, Abuse, toxic, neglect, improvement, existsShort Questions Exam Practise Explain what is meant by the term ‘child centred society’ (2 marks) Suggest two examples of ways in which the distinction between childhood and adulthood is ‘becoming blurred’ (4 marks) Identify two reasons why there is an increase in young adults who do not move out of their family home until their mid to late 20’s (4 Marks) Identify two government policies that have helped to create a more ‘child-centred’ society (4 marks) Identify 3 improvements in the experience of childhood since 1900 (6marks)
  9. 9. 9 Identify three ways in which childhood could be said to have worsened in the last 50 years. (6marks)