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- Kiran Buttar
Unit 11 History of the child
Task 1 : Using knowledge and understanding gained from study of this unit, together with independent research complete the following:
- Outline the history of the child including key events which mark significant changes in a child’s existence, together with description of example context of childhood
- Through independent research and demonstration of knowledge and understanding from study of this unit, draw comparisons between changes in childhood across a range of countries and cultures. Comment on similarities and differences, providing evaluation of underpinning rationale for these similarities and differences (for example economic, social etc.)
- Identify controls and strategies that have been historically and socially imposed on children
- Explain how the changes in family structure have influenced childhood experience; include comparisons between UK and other countries and cultures using independent research
- Define modern childhood and discuss current rights that are supported with legislation, policy and agency supervision Discuss conflicts that children may experience within a modern society .
Task 2 : Using knowledge and understanding from the study of this unit, together with independent research complete the following:
- Describe legislation relating to child existence; in order to fulfil this element of task 2 independent research will need to be undertaken in order to evaluate historical and current relevant legislation
- Explain and discuss some complexities and challenges of childhood in modern society; provide examples.
Restoring childhood historical record and further developing it has been taken up as major area of study by most historians and educationists who deal with children. Everyone would want to know how children grew up in the old times; what influenced their daily lives and what created meaningful impacts in their lives as they grew into adults (Lambert, 2008). It’s true when one goes through the history that children undergo stages in life that bring about significant changes in life. This also changes from time to time because of the continuing change in the way of life. The way a child was brought up in the Ancient Greece is different from the way it was in Egypt and further more different from the way it was in the United Kingdom and the present USA (Lambert, 2008). Similarly, the modern child is different from the ancient child. Upon this observing is where this paper is out to focus on outlining the history of children with emphasis on the events that have marks changes in a child’s life, comparison of childhood changes across countries and culture and a general commentary on the similarities and differences. The discussion of the above will further lead into the discussion of how changes in family structures have influenced children’s lives and the conflicts that children face in the current modern world. Any further legislation that has been set up to protect the child will also be reviewed.
History of Children and Comparison across Cultures
Children born some five hundred years ago had a rough life (Lambert, 2008). This was because few of the children born survived. Most of them died before their fifth birthday while others died their sixteenth birthday (Lambert, 2008). For those who survived, life was very difficult; they didn’t go to school. They instead helped their parents with work at home. The children grew up under strict discipline from their teachers and parents as most of the naughty children could be beaten up (Lambert, 2008). Despite this, the children had a lot of time to play.
The most important event that would take place in a child’s life was learning, discipline and play. For example, in the ancient Egypt, children played with dolls, toy soldiers, ball and marbles. This is similar to what happens to children today. Also, these children never went to school. Instead, boys learnt farming and trade while girls learnt sewing, cooking and other skills from their fathers and mothers respectively.
When compared to children in Greece, children were regarded as persons at the age of five. Parents were entitled to abandon newborns babies to die of exposure. Those babies got by strangers would later become slaves. Girls learned skills like weaving from their mothers. Unlike in Egypt, boys went to school and learnt reading, writing and arithmetic, and poetry and music. They believed physical education was important for boys.
The early life of children in the USA was characterized by early recruitment into the local factories as labourers. This was implanted by the colonial attitude that rocked the country at that time. This was later changed through championship for child rights. However, in the UK projects were established to help parents to be the first people to educate their children before anyone else (Evangelou & Sylva, 2007). This would give the children a good start in life. The focus was much on parent-child interaction which was seen as very vital for a child’s early learning (Evangelou & Sylva, 2007). It would also contribute to the child’s later academic achievement especially those from low-income households. In England, Scotland and Wales, it is reported that one child in every five households received mean-tested benefits in a case where their parents weren’t working (Evangelou & Sylva, 2007). Thus intervention programs were meant to do away with disparities in the preschool years so that poor children enter school on a more footing to their affluent peers.
Controls and Strategies historically and socially imposed on Children
The children in the early ties got controlled through strict discipline. For example, in Greece discipline was severe to the extent that could often be beaten (Lambert, 2008). Those who did wrong were denied important basic needs like food, put under harsh treatment and whipped for any offence (Lambert, 2008). Similar to UK, children were expected to show respect to their elders. They were to grow according to the morals that they would be taught by their grandparents. Children in the UK were given equal opportunities for learning. At some point, the parents were required to show recognition of their early literacy achievement (Evangelou & Sylva, 2007). They were also required to engage in interaction with children on literacy activities. High level of integrity was regarded as a virtue and whoever did not show it faced harsh consequences.
How changes in family structure affects Children’s Experience
It is a fact that children do display different patterns of life depending on the family context in which the child has been raised. For example, those children who have been raised in lone-parent families normally show little progress in their general well-being than those from two-parent families (Mackay, 2005). When parents opt to separate, the effects become adverse. This shows clearly that child outcomes are contingent on family contexts. With much reference to family separation, the impacts include interference in cognitive capacity, schooling, physical health, mental and emotional health, social conduct and behaviour, peer relations and criminal offending actions like cigarette smoking (Mackay, 2005). Such children often abandon their homes at early stages in life. Others later get subjected to sexual abuse (Mackay, 2005). In other words, research shows that children who experience multiple transitions in family structure normally face worse developmental outcomes than children raised in stable families (Fomby & Cherlin, 2007). However, these multiple transitions and negative child outcomes are most associated to common causal factors such as parents’ antecedent behaviours and attributes (Fomby & Cherlin, 2007).
Modern Childhood and their Current legislation, policy and rights
Comparative study of child history goes as far as exploring the differences that emerge in different nations and between the West and other societies. Unlike in the past where parents just gave birth to any number of children, in the modern world, there are policies that control the birth rates especially in Europe and USA. On the issues of Child Labour, there have been continuous reforms especially in the US. The US started it much earlier than Europe by developing a mass compulsory education. However, in America, children to date are allowed to express themselves and even dispute parental views and actions. In Europe, this goes against the crusade for obedience and good manners in the 19th century. Also, in USA, the enthusiasm for childish innocence and maternal affection surpasses that of Europe. To date the authoritarian parental approach ahs remained in Europe.
Conflicts that Children Experience in Modern Society
Children in the modern evidently have freedom to learn so much. However, the modern world also approaches them with conflicts that have great impact in their lives (Danziger, 2003). Some leave harsh experiences in their minds. The modern toady today faces conflicts like war in the society. According to the United Nations study on children, war in the form of harsh emotional, physical and sexual violence do shutter children’s world. War undermines their life foundations, destroys their homes and breaks down their trust in adults. There is need to reduce armed conflict for the sake of children.
Complexities and Challenges of Childhood in Modern Society
It is further a fact that the modern to some point has not taken issues of the child seriously. This is because of the so many complexities and challenges of modern childhood. This can be well seen through an exploration of the relationship between childhood and globalisation (Finn et al, 2010). Issues of social construction of childhood well present some of the challenges that affect children. These are: marketization, marginalization, medicalization and mobilization (Finn et al, 2010). These processes do shape the experience of the child as well as their social work policies and practises.
Educational Setting in children’s Lives
A focus on the historical educational practitioners shows how childhood was highly celebrated in the past. This is because these practitioners brought about an impact on the educational practice. Some of the impacts have been adopted into children’s early education today. To expand more on these, it worth discussing the philosophies that were presented by some of these theorists. An example is Fredrick Froebel. Fredrick had the idea that the key event that marked a child’s life was play. He presented the fact that children learn through exploratory, symbolic and free-flow play. Exploratory play meant children playing with natural materials consisting of clay, mud, water and sad, a type that would help them to get motivated and focus on building relationships between the child’s home and the nursery/school. Free-flow play entailed children learning freely without much use of adult supervision. In the end, the children would become independent. Symbolic play involved playing with objects to make them into something else. This would mostly happen in role-plays in that toddlers would use objects and transform them into something else. For example, a toddler playing using a bin would turn it around and use it as a drum.
The idea of Fredrick was later introduced in schools in the form of physical plays. Children would go outside and work on their physical skills. This has influenced today’s society as children would need to do more than staying in classrooms. They would go outside or go on field trips. This would in turn help with their exploratory play and physical play as they would develop their physical skills as well as their intellectual skills. At most times, they used symbolic play area for children to socialise with each other and express their emotions. They also let children become independent so would use free-flow play.
Another theorist was Rudolph Steiner: Rudolph Steiner saw children as having three developmental stages which would help them to become independent when they came into adulthood. These stages are the active stage; emphasis on feelings and the cognitive stage. The active stage started at the early ages of seven. This is where children play willingly but under adult supervision. However, the adult must ensure that the children show their independence. The stage where children would emphasis on their feelings starts at the age of seven to fourteen. This is where they would have emotional feelings from their heart and go further to express their feelings. Later came the cognitive stage which would start at the age of fourteen years onwards. This is when they would become independent without a lot of adult supervision. Rudolph saw children as having different developmental stages. His thoughts which had started at the age of 7 later came to influence today’s early years setting because the adult role would be to observe the children to see if they are on the right tracking.
Maria Montessori another scholar believed in motivating children. She believed that children are active learners, so would not need a lot of adult supervision as they should learn things on their own. She believed that children would learn naturally. This is a well-known placement around the world that showed Maria Montessori encouraged children to become independent and to do independent work. The reason why she decided to do this was because she wanted to encourage children to work alone so that they could get used to the routine when they are older. She argued that children are naturally self-motivated and that children are active learners. This would later enhance problem-solving skills in children. In her theory, Maria Montessori does not use free-flow play but considers it to be useful and important at times as it could be part of their daily routines, mostly at the ages of 3-5 years old.
Steiner and Frobel on the other hand, believed that children should do things without a lot of adult supervision. This is because it would make them independent and they would not need to rely on other people as much as they should. Margaret McMillan had the same views as Frobel about free play and natural play. This is because they believed that it would help children to learn and recognise the natural materials, and build their knowledge on where they come from. McMillan also influenced the school meals and medical services. School meals would be used for those whose parents worked and did not have time. They gave medical service so that children could get checked up while in school. These check-ups consisted of things like head lice and meningitis shots. McMillan also thought that children needed meals while they are in any environment. She also informed about the child’s safety. If a child had hurt himself/herself then the adult’s role was to record it for the parent/guardian so that they would realise what had happened.
Another theorist Susan Isaacs believed that at the age of seven, children should not do things such as exams so as to give them time to do things such as creative play that would help them learn to express and feel differently. They would be able to move around and develop different developmental skills in their own time and in turn get used to schools routines. Susan Isaac encouraged children to express their feelings and use their imaginative thought in dramatic play, which would also consist of creative play. This would help children with their social and language development. Dramatic play was thus considered as the home corner in early years setting. They would have a home corner in their activity plan as it would help children with their learning and development. In today’s society, they would use Isaac’s views of dramatic play. This is because it would help them with their social skills.
Reggio Emilia plays a role of artful balancing between engagement and attention which is based on careful and sensitive listening, observation/documentation, and reflection with other adults. She says that the teachers serve as resources and guides to the children. This would then help the teachers to work together with the assistance of other staff members and also the parents. This would in turn create a welcoming, learning and developmental environment.
After a thorough look at the different educational practitioners that may have an influenced the education settings, it is clearly that the ones whose ideas most impacted up to today’s education settings are Margaret McMillan and Maria Montessori. This is because it comes out clear through analysis that Margaret McMillan was the one who influenced the practices in the UK. The reason why the education practice has improved when looking at Margaret McMillan practitioners is because, Margaret McMillan had influenced things such as free meal times, snack time, free-flow play and natural play. She also influenced and brought up the idea that children would get medical check-ups each year to make sure that they do not have things such as head-lice and chicken pox . These are vital illnesses that most children would receive when they are at the ages of 3-8 years old. Medical check-ups are there so that the illnesses do not get spread around to the other children. Sometimes parents might not know if their children have the chicken pox. Therefore, they would send them to school where other children would receive them. This would be the same with head lice. Therefore, this called for regular check-ups. For example, when a child falls while playing in the playground, they would get it checked to make sure that there are not any bleeding/ bruising. If it occurs then the person who had witnessed it would need to write it in a witness book to show their parents/guardians. This book would in turn be signed by the parent on regards that they have spoken about the incident and had realised what had happened. This also helped to stop any dramatic effects that the parents/ guardian would use on the teacher in the future.
- Finn, J. (2010). The meaning and making of childhood in the era of globalization: Challenges for social work. Elsevier. (Online). Retrieved on 19th August, 2013 from < http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190740909002473>
- Danziger, N. (2003). Children and War. (Online). Retrieved on 19th August, 2013 from < http://www.redcross.int/EN/mag/magazine2003_3/4-9.html>
- Encyclopaedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society.( 2008). Comparative History of Childhood. Retrieved from < http://www.faqs.org/childhood/Ch-Co/Comparative-History-of-Childhood.html> On 19th August, 2013.
- Fombly. P. & Cherlin, A. (2007). Family Instability and Child-well-being. Retrievd from < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3171291/> on 19th August, 2013.
- Mackay, R. (2005). The Impact of Family Structure and Family change on Child Outcomes: A Personal Reading of the Research Literature. Ministry of Social Environment. Retrieved from < http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/journals-and-magazines/social-policy-journal/spj24/24-impact-of-family-structure-and-family-change-on-child-outcome-p111-133.html> on 19th august, 2013.
- Lambert, T. (2008). A Brief History of Children. Retrieved from < http://www.localhistories.org/children.html> on 19th August, 2013.
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