Asses the view that childhood is not a fixed universal experience-
Sociologists believe that childhood is not a fixed universal experience, this is called social construct, meaning that the idea about childhood is varied according to time, place, gender, ethnicity and social class. The definition of childhood is a state or period of being a child. Many children in today’s society do not experience this and in the past too. Aries (1960) suggested that today childhood is only a recent social invention. Children in pre-industrial society were mini adults who worked and played the same as adults. Children were seen as economic assets. Aires argued that in the middle ages childhood did not exist. After industrialisation working class children were frequently found working in mines, factories and mills. However, according to Aires, middle class started to change around this time. There was an increase in marital and parental love in middle class families as the infant mortality rate decreased and families had fewer children. This then led into the early industrial times, with the industrial revolution the position of children had changed, but this wasn’t any better. Children were still made to work, but now not in fields but in factories, coalmines and up chimneys.
There were no laws to protect the children from this, as the children were seen to be bringing in the much needed income to the household. Gradually laws did come into place to protect the children; this then led to the child-centred society. Aries claimed that childhood began from the early 13th century as fee-paying schools were open to provide the upper class education. The church also began to separate children from adults as saying that they are fragile creatures of god and needed to be punished differently Social attitudes started to change towards children in the nineteenth century. Children were excluded from factories and mines as it was far too dangerous to work in the conditions there. Some working class parents however, resisted these moves as they were ones that depended on their children’s wages to support and feed the family. Beginning of the twentieth century, a child-centred society emerged and the standard of living improved such as flushing toilets and sanitation, infant mortality rate continued to decline.
Due to this child centred society children have become very expensive and this is the reason why people are having less children so they can invest in love, socialisation and protection to the children they have. Attitudes of children had started to change when society slowly started becoming child centred, so children’s needs of special attention and protection became about to such as the child support act (1991). This law monitored the way parents reared their children. Childhood as we know it today started to come about in the 1950s onwards. Child-centred means that children are now loved, valued and cared for properly. Children now have to attend mainstream school from the ages of 5 to 16. They have their own doctors, teachers and social workers to care for them. Children’s books, magazines, TV programs and films are made especially for them and finally have laws in place to protect them.