Is childhood getting better or worse?
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The position of children in society has improved
‘Childhood’ is a social construct. This means that it is different depending on the period of history that you look at or the place. Sociologists argue whether ‘childhood’ has improved or has got worse and use theories and evidence to prove this .There are to two sides to the argument and phrases used by sociologists to describe that either childhood has improved ‘The march of progress ‘ , or been made worse ‘ Conflict view’. ‘March of progress ‘argues that childhood has become better over time. One sociologist who agrees there has been a march of progress is Aries. Aries used painting s of past eras to compare childhood then, to current childhood.
He found that children were dressed as many adults, doing adult jobs, playing with adult toys. This for Aries was evidence that childhood has progressed as these days there is a clear distinction between adults and children and the treatment and expectations of young people is very different to adults , society is much more child centred now. Another sociologist who backed up the march of progress idea was shorter. Shorter based his conclusion on infant mortality rates (IMR). He said that as the years have gone on fewer children have been dying, this is due to advances in health care, diet etc. and this has caused parent to be more loving and caring to towards their children.
This therefore shows that there has been significant progress in regards to ‘childhood’. However some may argue that childhood is worse now that it has ever been. This view is given the name ‘conflict view’, this says that the march of progress is a idealistic view of childhood and ignores basic inequalities in everyday society for children .There are different groups of people that support this view .One of the groups of people is feminists. One argument a feminist might agree with is the research of Hillman .Hillman researched into gender inequalities in childhood and found out that in present day boys are more likely to be allowed certain freedoms. This shows a massive inequality for children and therefore childhood has not progressed but instead has worsened. Another sociologists work that a feminist might use to back up their argument is Bonke.Bonke said that women are far more likely to be given domestic chores to do, in this sense they would argue childhood is patriarchal and therefore has not progressed .Another sociologist many feminists use to support the conflict view is Broman .In his research he found out that Asian parents are much more hard on daughters than they are their sons. This shows the pressures and inequalities within gender in some cultures which are over looked by the ‘march of progress’ argument. Another group of people that would argue that there are still inequalities that are overlooked by March of progress sociologists are Marxists. Marxists believe that the ruling classes oppress the working class people.
When talking about childhood Marxists argue that working class families are at a disadvantage and have much worse and then upper class families. One sociologist Marxists would use to support this argument is Woodruffs idea that working class children are more likely to be hyperactive or naughty, this would support the idea that inequalities remain within classes and therefore as the gap between wealth has grown children from lower class families have been disadvantages. Another sociologist they could use to support their view is Howard. His argument is that IMR amongst the working class families is higher than that of middle or upper class familys.This shows that again because of the difference in class, working class families are not being able to provide the same standard of childhood as the wealthier classes. Therefore Marxists would agree that there are clear differences in childhoods for different classes, this is over looked by the march of progress view. On balance the evidence seems to support the conflict view in that there are many inequalities that the march of progress argument over looks and consequently in practice the march of progress argument simply don’t seem to take society as a whole into account.