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Child as a subjective word to be defined is what we call a ‘structuring becoming” and childhood thereby, can be termed as the time a child takes to be a complete adult. Some take childhood as an age from infancy to adolescence. However, most of the people believe that childhood includes all the three stages:-
Infancy: One steps into the golden period of life, childhood, with the birth. During the stage on infancy, a child is in his early stage of his childhood. Infancy is generally considered till 1 year of age. However, without words or self independent movements, a child can express a lot with his innocence and crying and sobbing. (Moss & Petrie)
Kid: The next stage is what is called a kid stage. Child grows with time and so his childhood experiences. Knowing the family, getting to the new school, making new friends and having fun most of the time is what this stage is all about. (Moss & Petrie)
Adolescence: When it is about adolescence, it is to be noticed that it is the most complicated stage. This stage brings in various confusions along with tough learning procedures. Coping up with the study pressure along with the competition in friends is one of the most common features of this stage. (Moss & Petrie)
As such, three phases of childhood brings in all new and different experiences in the life of a child. This is what is called the structuring becoming. A child is incomplete, an extending ladder, a learning process and the future. In all, it can be said, childhood is actually the base of the person made in future. Childhood is innocent and childhood is what we call the incomplete adult age. It brings in various colors, colors of confusions, colors of innocence, colors of fear, colors of happiness and colors of truthfulness. (Moss & Petrie)
NATURE OF CHILDHOOD: CONSTRUCTION AND RECONSTRUCTION OF CHILDHOOD
Childhood is uncertain and one of the most integral part of a person’s life. The most prominent feature of childhood is its immaturity and innocence. However, how this immaturity of the child is studied and understood by the society is what we mean to be a part of “child a social institution”. The culture of the societies may differ from region to region and so these facts of culture and its impact is what is the integral part of the social construction of childhood. (James & Prout, 1997)
Alan Prout and Allison James have well presented the childhood as a part of society. They studied childhood as theory rather than just a function. Childhood, as believed depends on various sociological factors. Hence, how these factors affect the childhood along with the development of child is what is needed to be understood. These changes made in child with relation to the theories of social sciences indicate the theory of new emergent paradigm for the childhood sociology. (James & Prout, 1997)
The paradigm can be well understood under following heads:
- Childhood as a social constructive study: we are here talking about the early years of human life. The constructive study contributes in putting down in the context, the early stage of human life.
- Childhood is a variable in social representation: Every child has his own experiences along with the individual perspective. Hence, childhood is not a fixed factor. Rather, it is one of the variable factors while studying the representation of the society.
- Childhood carries variant social cultures and relationships: each society carries its own norms and values. A child is a blend of various societal norms and the cultural trends prevailing in the society.
- Childhood is an active social constructive stage: childhood is learning and constructive phase of human life. It is all about gaining the knowledge whether though books or experiences. It is a constructive phase which represents the prevailing norms in a society.
- Childhood is an input to future societal culture: today’s child is the future adult. Hence, when the discussions are about the input provided in form of knowledge and culture to a present child, it is representing the future of frame of society.
(James & Prout, 1997)
Hence, with the above points indicated in the theory of Alan Prout and Allison James, it is quiet clear that study of sociology of childhood is inevitable. It is a device through which the present and the future intellectual state of mankind can be determined. Also, the sociology will well indicate the importance of child development and the factors affected it.
THE EMERGING MODERN APPROACH TO CHILDHOOD
Before getting to the sociology of children, it is important to know what has been the approach to childhood and how it has been changing with the time. The primitive concepts to childhood with the restrictions and strict teaching has transformed to a modern, rational and friendly approach. The trends of knowledge have been changed to teaching to learning and from book to technologies like computers and microchips. Today, knowledge is everywhere. Unlike older times when school and home was the main source of information, today’s children experience a wider field of exposure. The reasons can be studied as follows:
Modern technology: technologies like internet and virtual world has opened gates to the massive source of information. World has become smaller with internet. It is easy to access and informative at the same time. Sitting at home, one can have detailed data of any other place. Also, the immediate updates are added flavor to modern technologies.
Resource: commercialization of children. (Williams, Compass (Organisation), 2006)
Media: media has been playing a crucial role when it comes to children. It’s affect can be studied by a fact that a 1 year kid is able to recognize Cadbury chocolate though he may not know his sir name. Similarly, kids recognize heroes or cartoon characters like Superman, Spiderman, Tom and Jerry etc though important things like their addresses etc may not be known. (Williams, Compass (Organisation), 2006)
Modernization: one of the direct effects of modernization on children can be seen in their fashion statements. Today, every child wants to follow fashion trends of the movie stars like Hanna Montana and so on. Each child is aware of the current prevailing clothing and trends in accessories. (Williams, Compass (Organisation), 2006)
It can be seen that with the modernization childhood has been transformed in a different way. Not only the parents but various other organizations also have a transformed approach. Now-a-days, children are commercialized and they carry a proud tag of being a different target segment for various companies. (Williams, Compass (Organisation), 2006)
CHILDREN- A BRAND RECOGNITION
Children are modern and well aware of the current market trends. They are no more shy and follower of their parents. Modern children, as today, are known for their individual choices and rock-star attitudes. Parents are well dedicated towards completion of each choice of their children and so do children make sure to get things of their own choices. This is the actual reason of commercialization of children. Kids are well aware of the market trends and thus are grabbing strong positions in the decisions of the family. From ice-cream to shampoos and school bags to mobiles, a child has a say in the decision making. Even the brands are aware of the strength a child is having, hence, they are focusing on these kids. A sheer example can be taken as the increasing emphasize on child artists in advertisements. Apart from that, brands like Hanna Montana specially produce products for children. (Williams, Compass (Organisation), 2006)
As such, it can be well seen that with the increasing awareness among children, various problems has been increasing. The common problem is obesity and depression. Increasing stress levels and competition scale are responsible for increasing pressures on children. Apart from that slaughtering time from childhood and early maturity is another problem that is being faced by the society. This again adds to already increasing stress levels. Hence, children are more and more pressurized, be it because of the society or because of the modernization. (Williams, Compass (Organisation), 2006)
Now, the changing trends of society can be well noticed with reference to the above discussion. Here the question arises how and why to bring in the changes in the childhood. The answers can be well understood with the contextualization of sociology of childhood. (James & Prout, 1997)
SOCIOLOGY OF CHILDHOOD
A child is an integral part of the society and the childhood is the inevitable part of child. Not, only it brings in the base of an adult but also provides with huge learning process that is at its height during childhood. As Alan Prout and Allison James has widely discussed, it can be said that, construction and restructuring of childhood is inevitable. (James & Prout, 1997)
Child – a social actor
A child is a part of society and so the childhood is. Children are no more the neglected part. They are brand in themselves which can be noticed with the increased interest of traders in children. However, it is to be noticed that they are innocent and immature. Hence, they actually require more care and guidance than any part of society. They are active participant in social science as it’s the child who transforms to a responsible adult of a country. (James & Prout, 1997)
Child – generational order
There are major generation gaps prevailing in the society. It has been rightly said that children are ahead 25 years of their parents. The change in the time and change in the trend should be taken care off. Major responsibility lies with the parents when it comes to the generation gap as children are innocent and immature. Only the present situation is the foremost concern for them and forecasting future is out of their capabilities. The generational order has been one of the most fixed yet variable ingredients of social sciences. It is quiet fixed to be present but its extent varies from family to another.
(James & Prout, 1997)
Child – futuristic approach
It is the child of today that will be the earning and responsible adult of tomorrow. They are the future of the current society. It is important to understand the childhood needs as the experience of childhood is what that frames an adult.
(James & Prout, 1997)
Child – the ethics
Inculcating the sense of responsibility and humanity is the function of society. Human is a social animal, hence, it becomes inevitable to learn the norms and rules of the society. Social ethics are to be learnt by a child so as to be a responsible part of society tomorrow. As such, the norms may differ from a culture to another but; ethics, to be a part of the society are to be inculcated in a child. It not only helps retaining the essence of humanism but also tracks a positive future force.
(James & Prout, 1997)
WELL BEING- CONSTRUCTING AND RECONSTRUCTING THE CHILDHOOD
One of the major objectives of sociology of children is enhancing and improving child’s well being. Well-being here may refer to various ingredients of childhood that includes the material conditions, development of relationship of a child with family, friends and teachers, physical and mental health and facing the fears of life. It is the central motive of society to take care of the complete and concrete development of childhood. (Child wellbeing and child poverty, 2009)
One of the factors that have been affecting quality of childhood is poverty, though being a different aspect of wellbeing. It is the poverty that leads to poor living conditions along with deteriorated childhood experiences. In European countries the figure has been absurd in child wellbeing index, especially in case of UK. UK is the 24th country in child well being index, out of 29 European countries, listed. When it comes to health, subjective well being, education and material inputs, UK is one of the last five countries. However, taking into account the factors like housing, environment, relationships etc UK somehow manage to get a middle position. This figure very well describes the condition of childhood in advanced country like UK. Similarly, indexes of other countries are like Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria are not much acceptable. Hence, some steps are to be taken by these countries to construct the childhood in a better way. (An overview of child well-being in rich countries, 2007)
Child health and safety: special measures should be taken for the health of children. Initiatives regarding better immunization and infant care should be taken. Low rate of immunization is one of reasons of low health care. Right vaccination at the right time is the mantra to be followed. Also, hygienic conditions should be provided to children so as to avoid any mishap with health.
Mental and emotional health: emotional and mental strength de[ends on he upbringing of child. To have a positive attitude towards life along with taking care of development of mental strength in a child should be the central objective. Helping in the development of relationships with friends and family and guiding them on right path should be the prime objective of society. (An overview of child well-being in rich countries, 2007)
Stop the classroom discretion: it further adds to the difficulty of the poor child when classroom are divided on the basis of performances and competition. Increasing competitiveness adds to the stress levels in children. Hence, may hamper a healthy growth in a child. Especially, when it comes to the children who are already living in economically chaotic conditions, the classroom divide further stops them to have a better exposure to knowledge. (An overview of child well-being in rich countries, 2007)
Incentives and public services: Poverty is one of the common factors that is affecting childhood to major extent. Hence, there should be some incentives for children who are not able to have a standard childhood due to lack of resources. A fair set of public services like free education, job opportunities etc should be provided to children so as to make sure that their future is safe and bright. (An overview of child well-being in rich countries, 2007)
Rational approach: Modernization of world has changed a lot of things. Rational and practical approaches should be part of guidance. Stale and old ideas and approach may affect childhood adversely and stop from a better growth. (An overview of child well-being in rich countries, 2007)
Practical study: children today are getting matured faster. Unlike, older times challenges of life today are tougher and approaches faster. Hence, rather than the bookish knowledge it is important to inculcate experiences through practical study. Live projects, case studies are few of the realistic approaches that may help a kid to grow in a better person. (An overview of child well-being in rich countries, 2007)
The emerging new paradigm laid by Alan Prout and Allison James has a rational and new approach. It very well claims that childhood is a continuous phenomenon that is being structured and restructured by society. It is the norms of the sociology of childhood that is directly proportional to the approaches prevailing in the society. However, there are few things that are to be taken care off. First thing, the sociology of childhood is important. It is the present sociology of the childhood that determines the future adult and right combinations of approach in future society. Hence, there is the need to protect the children mentally, physically and economically. Also, the process of construction of childhood in society is important. It is the societal approach that provides a firm base or the childhood. Hence, there is a need to reconstruct the societal norms with the change in time. A modern and informed approach help today’s children to grow better and have a profound future.
Apart from that, the negative impressions of children being over-loaded with information and competition are to be removed. Negative factors like poverty and division of education must be removed with initiates taken in the society. Also, the new paradigm approach relating to the modern world and new technologies should be taken care of. It is to be understood that children are no more unaware, they may be immature though, and however, their thoughts and ideas should be welcomed to the society. Basically, a child is a bud that takes time to blossom, hence it is the duty of the society to provide that time in form of quality childhood and retain a better quality of future adult force.
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