Sociology essay: Evaluate sociological explanations of changes in the status of childWatch this thread
The essay question:
According to some sociologists, children in todays society lead lives that are segregated and controlled, but childhood was not always like this. Aries describes a medieval world where there was little distinction between children and adults in either work or leisure. According to this view, industrial society brought major changes. Children's lives became increasingly confined and regulated by adults. Not all sociologists share this view. Some argue that the distinction between childhood and adulthood is becoming blurred.
1. Applying material from Item A and your knowledge, evaluate sociological explanations of changes in the status of childhood.
Here is my essay:
Sociologists argue that what people mean by childhood and the position that children occupy in society is not fixed but occurs across different cultures and time. Pilcher states that childhood is a distinct life stage that is separate from adults. This is emphasized by laws, different rules, different toys, food and play area. Benedict argues that children in non-industrial societies are treated differently in 3 ways by taking responsibility from an early age, less value is placed on showing obedience and children's sexual behaviour is viewed differently. Previously childhood didn’t exist. There was a high mortality rate within children which resulted in parents not caring for their children and mostly referred to them as ‘it’. The reasons why for the changes is that it is now compulsory for all children to have an education by raising the school leaving age it has increased the levels of dependency; there are laws now restricting children from labour and paid work this has now caused children from now longer being economic assets: there is declining infant mortality rate this means that parents invest more emotionally and have ewer children; finally there are laws and policies that restrict children such as the drinking age.
The march of process view of the status of children is that over the past centuries the position of children has improved in the western society. This is due to children being more valued, better cared for, more educated and better healthcare. A result of better healthcare has resulted in children having better survival rates, reinforcing the idea that parents now invest more emotionally. This enforces that our society and families are child centered. Our society is child centered due to the media output and many there are now many leisure activities that are designed for children. Families are child centered where children are no longer to be ‘seen and not heard’ and they have become the focal point of our society.
On the other hand marxists and feminists reject the march of progress view. They see childhood as a time of domination and oppression by powerful groups. As children are more protected it has caused more neglect and abuse as childline have received 20,00 calls per year by children claiming they have been abused. There is huge control over space. Children have to go to school and are watched in shopping centres, road safety and stranger danger means that children aren't allowed to walk alone and parents are more afraid of letting their children out of their sight and letting them leave the house alone. Aswell having their space controlled their time is also controlled. Adults control their children’s time during the day and how quickly they ‘grow up’. Adults also control children’s bodies by how they sit, walk, run and what they wear. There is also the idea of age patriarchy, Gittens, where children are subject to their father’s power as well as women’s. The march of progress sociologists would argue that some of the control over children is justified but only in safeguarding interests.
Overall the status of children isn’t something that is fixed but rather up for debate depending on the culture and time.