Childhood In America

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The idea that childhood is socially constructed can be related to the belief that the as economic, political, and social aspects of change over the years, so to does the definition on how society defines “childhood”. As many sociologists, such as Jenkins in his “The Historical Evolution of the Child”, have come to realize the important role this portion of a persons life plays in how one comes to perceive the world around them based on generational differences. When the idea of the importance of this time in one’s life called “childhood” first arose back in the 18th century, the way America socially constructed the term was centered in the idea that children were to be seen as sources of economic value for their families. A child’s worth was…show more content…
As the later portion of the 19th century came around, the social construction of childhood would see a drastic change due to the economic and social changes according to Fass and Mason’s excerpt “Childhood in America: Past and Present”. These sociologists both agree in this shift that has taken place within the United States has transformed from an agrarian society, where everyone works including the children, to one more firmly rooted on this idea of emotional value placed on children. And in more recent times, children have been seen as young adults who are ready to take on the world of responsibilities and punishment that has stemmed from the recent decline in family stability and parental authority. Like when the Industrial Revolution struck in America, the “ideal” perception of childhood revolutionized because the economy was becoming industrialized. This resulted in the disappearance for the need for child labor due to large advancements in technology and rapid pace that the machines could…show more content…
Prout and James define their “new paradigm” of childhood with six distinct features. The first of the six is the belief that childhood is understood as a social construction. This fact is pretty self explanatory and means that childhood is not a natural order of progression that is similar for everyone, but rather a time-period specific part of a child’s life that is influenced by external cultural and structural components of society. The second feature is the belief childhood is a variable of social analysis, meaning that while the definition of childhood is constantly changing, there are still distinct divisions such as race, class, and gender that are present from family to family. Prout and James echo the reality of how past historical events still effect the experiences of children based on the color of their skin. The third feature of the “new paradigm” is the belief that children’s social relationships and interactions are worthy of study separate from adults. This feature is extremely important in society today because the more we can learn about the mind of the child, the greater our knowledge can expand on children and how they construct meaning through life experiences. The fourth feature that childhood models today, and must also continue to improve on, is the aspect of children being active members in society. This idea goes against previous ideas of “innocence” by instead promoting the idea of “knowledge” being a key ingredient for children in order to

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