Sociology: Childhood and Child Centred Society Essay

Submitted By BeyonceCarter
Words: 1589
Pages: 7

“Assess the view that Britain is a child-centred society”

Child-centeredness is the act of putting a child first and goes against the previous authoritarian way. It is about being focused on the protection and safety of a child, and emphasising that the early years of a Childs life should be a care-free time. Although it is becoming apparent that Britain is now a child-centred society, this hasn’t always been the case. Going back to the Middle Ages, things were totally different. Tudor Law stipulated that a 7 year old could be hanged for stealing. Now, there is “defence of infancy,” as the age of criminal responsibility in England is 10. Social historian Philippe Aries (1962) claimed that, in the past, children were “little adults” who took part in the same work and play activities as adults. He even went to the extent of saying that children were regarded as “economic assets.” However, in the middle of the 19th century, social attitudes towards children started to change. This was mainly due to campaigners who were concerned about juvenile delinquency, beggars and child prostitution, and consequently wanted to get children off the streets. Children were eventually excluded from the mines and factories where thousands of them had been killed or injured. Be that as it may, it was only until the 20th century where the emergence of a child-centred society was seen. This was probably the result of improved standards of living and nutrition in the late 19th century, which led to a major decline in infant mortality rate. This in turn encouraged the growth in marital and parental love in middle-class families. In addition, due to the fact that there was an increased availability and efficiency of contraception, it meant that people were allowed to choose to have fewer children, resulting in parents being able to invest more in their children in terms of love, socialisation and protection.

In today’s society, we are becoming increasingly more child-centred. The 1870 Education Act gave all children between the ages of five and thirteen an opportunity to attend an elementary school. This was a success, as it produced a largely literate generation. Since then, this Act has been built on, as the state supervises the socialisation of children through compulsory education, which lasts 11 years. Although this period vastly increases the opportunities for children later on in life, including improving their career prospects, there are some negative issues that arise from education, which would suggest that we can’t be child centred all the time. Such issues are ones like bullying and stress from exams. In addition, starting school at the age of 4 cuts off Children’s childhood at a very young age, which would contradict the “child-centred” view, as one of the aspects of being “child-centred” is for a child to have a care-free time. This cannot be the case if a child is expected to sit national exams at the age of 6, thus inducing stress.

Various pieces of legislation which support the view that Britain is now a child-centred society are the Factory Acts. Over the last 200 years, there have been all sorts of variations. As an example, the “Factory and Workshop Act of 1901” stipulated that the minimum working age should be 12, and it also introduced legislation regarding education of children, meal times and fire escapes. Now, the minimum working age for properly paid employment is 16, with some lenient exceptions such as having a paper round at the age of 14. All of this is clearly putting the welfare of children first, and thus, is an example of the state being child-centred. If we compare this to other societies in the world today, there is a clear difference. In India, there are many sweat shops where children as young as 10 are employed, working in conditions close to slavery, to produce clothes destined for the UK market. According to one source, it is estimated that more than 20% of India’s economy is dependent on children, the