The position of children has definitely been affected by social change. Social change is the way in which our society has developed and children’s lives and their position in society have changed due to this. Society has now become more ‘child centred’. The position of children changes over time as well as between different societies as historians argue that childhood is a recent invention. For example, Philippe Aries (1960) argues that in the Middle Ages the idea of childhood didn’t exist. This essay will be looking at the effects social change has had on the position of children.
The social construction of childhood means that childhood is not natural because it is a concept that has changed over time and differs between places and cultures. Philippe Aries (1960) argued that in the Middle Ages, ‘the idea of childhood didn’t exist’. Children began work from an early age and were considered ‘mini-adults’ with the same rights and duties as adults. To evidence his view, Aries used paintings from the Middle Ages. The paintings show children and adults dressed in the same clothing and working and playing together. The position of children also differs depending on the culture. For example, in rural Bolivia, once children are about five years old, they are expected to take work responsibilities in the home and the community, whereas, in other cultures, children aren’t even allowed to walk to school by themselves.
There are many reasons for the changes in the position of children. One significant change over the past 100 years is the development of many different laws. For example, there are now laws that restrict child labour and exclude children from paid work. These laws have made children an economic liability as they are financially dependent on their parents until they’re old enough to get a paid job. The 1989 Children Act defines parents as having responsibilities instead of having rights when it comes to their children and the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child allows children entitlement to healthcare and education, protection from abuse and the right to participate in decisions affecting them. All these laws reinforce the idea that children are different to adults.
The ‘March of Progress’ view argues that the position of children is gradually improving. Philippe Aries and Edward Shorter both take a march of progress view. They argue that children today are better cared for, protected, educated, have better health and have more rights than children did before. March of progress sociologists argue that the family has now become ‘child centred’. They are now the main point of the family as parents now invest in their children both emotionally and financially. They also believe that society has also become ‘child centred’, for example, there are many leisure activities that are specifically designed for children.
However, conflict sociologist such as Marxists and feminists don’t agree with the march of progress view. They believe that there are