Assess the Sociological Explanations of Changes

Childhood is such a universal feature of human life that we readily consider it a natural stage of development. People in modern Western societies have a widely held, unquestioned belief that children are fundamentally different from adults. We take for granted that children are and have always been innocent and entitled to nurturing and protection. However, in other cultures (for example, Japan) children are viewed as much more independent creatures who can act wilfully from the earliest moments of life.

Reasons for changes in the position of childhood are the laws restricting child labour, and excluding children from paid work, and from economic assets. Children went from bringing money into the house, to an economic liability. They were sometimes a burden on the family, because they would cost the family money. Another reason for the change in the position of children is the introduction of compulsory schooling in 1880. The raising of the school leaving age expended the period of dependency. Another reason for the change in position of children is the Welfare Legislation of 1889. The prevention of cruelty to children Act. This made the welfare of the child the fundamental principle. Another reason the position of children has changed is because of the declining family size and lower infant mortality rates. These have encouraged parents to make a greater financial and emotional investment in the fewer children that they now have. Another reason the position of children has changed is because of the policies that apply specifically to children, such as the minimum ages for a wide range of activities from sex to smoking, have reinforced the idea that children are different from adults and so different rules must be applied.

Aries believed childhood is a concept developed with the industrial age with the children getting education, not used as child labour. He also believes that in the middle ages the idea of childhood ‘did not exist’. Children were not seen...