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ECS4003 Understanding Childrens Worlds

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ECS4003 Understanding Childrens Worlds

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Course Code: ECS4003
University: Cardiff Metropolitan University

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Country: United Kingdom

Discuss the concept of ‘childhood’, the historical development of this concept and how it is portrayed in contemporary contexts.
Describe and discuss Contemporary discourses of childhood, using examples from Britain or internationally. 
Describe and evaluate the historical development of Concept of childhood in Western Europe.

The term “childhood” can be discussed as the age span ranging from birth to adolescence. According to the theory of cognitive development, childhood is consists of two stages namely, preoperational stage and concrete operational stage. According to researchers the concept of childhood came into being during the 18th century (Cunningham 2014). Before this era children were barely distinguished from adults. It was during the 18th century several children rights movement came along with the awareness that children should not be confused to be mini-adults as their psychology works completely differently from adults. As being stated by the theory of developmental psychology, childhood can be integrated into 4 developmental states that includes toddlerhood, early childhood, middle childhood and finally adolescence. Researchers states that the attitude formation of an individual takes place during his or her childhood period and is highly dependent on various childhood factors like the ambience of the family a child lives in, relationship between the parents, school environment and others (Stearns 2016). For instance, healthy relationship between parents imposes positive impact on the physiological development of the children. As per modern researchers, conflicting views of childhood is rooted in the self interest of the adults (James and James 2012). For instance, children who belong to a lower middle class or poorer family are considered as economic assets and are exploited by both their parents as well as the employers. In a remote district in England, the full day of child labor is 16 hours and often children are forcefully made to travel miles after miles for mine works. When it comes to middle and upper middle class children, almost 43 percent of the woman with offspring of age range 2-14 years is working (Wyness 2006). This in turn results in lack of adequate care which is available for children while their parents are working.
In this paragraph the relation of childhood with relevant policies has been discussed. Children are considered to the future of a nation since the future society will be comprised of adults who are currently at their childhood stage. Hence the fact that government posses a huge responsibility to ensure a safe and secure childhood that will help parents to rise responsible and mature adult, can’t be ignore. In UK, several policies to support a healthy childhood are their under the Childcare and parenting policy (Wells 2009). Under the policy, pregnancy and birth, both maternity as well as paternity pay and leaves are provided to the parents so that they can spend a good amount of time with the child. Along with that in order to ensure that children are not adopted for unjustfull purpose, the fostering, adoption and surrogacy policy has been implemented. In order to ensure that children with both parents working are able to obtain effective care, financial help is provided to the parents for employing baby sitters (Wild and Street 2013). In order to ensure effective education, free early childhood education to poor children is provided.
In this paragraph, description and evaluation of historical development of the concept of childhood in Western Europe has been performed. The history of childhood has been a subject of interest in social history since the highly significant book Centuries of Childhood, published by French historian Philippe Ariès in 1960. According to him, before the 17th Century, children were considered as mini-adults. When it comes to history of childhood in Western Europe, it can be divided into the Preindustrial and medieval era, early modern period, the enlightenment era and the modern childhood. During the preindustrial era, the upper middle class as well as elite families generally involved grandparents, patents, children as well as relatives. However, the typical pattern of middle class Western Europe families involved parents and children. Children were often sent off to relatives as servants in case they needed help. In this era, marriage at a very tender age was a social norm in Europe. Until the 19th century, education in the sense of training was the function of families for the majority of children.  Thus, it can be evaluated that in this era the concept of childhood was not at all well developed and children were treated as adults. When it comes to the early modern period, in the initial period of this era children were taught basic etiquettes of manner and respecting others. During the 16th century, the concept of childhood arrived in Europe. Adults gradually saw children as beings completely different from adults, innocent and are needed to be protected and trained by the adults around them. It became widely known that children hold rights on their own behalf (Penn 2008). This included the rights of poor children to nutrition, association in a community, schooling, and professional training. The Poor Relief Acts in Elizabethan England set accountability on each Parish of taking care of all the deprived children in the area.
The enlightenment era followed the trend. Instead of demonstrating children as small version of adult who possess the potentiality to perform adult tasks, they were seen as innocent and totally different both physically and emotionally from adults. However, with growing industrialization in England a recognizable difference between the romantic thoughts of childhood and reality was evidenced (Taylor and Woods 2005). Children were forced to work in mines. . By the late 18th century, children were specifically employed at the factories, mines as well as chimney sweeps, in order to work long hours in dangerous jobs for low pay (Mukherji and Dryden 2014). With the emergence of modern technology and education, in the modern childhood era, more studies stated to be be conducted on child psychology. One of the major crisis that were prominent in the initial period of this era includes gender inequality and lack of attention from working parents. Since majority of the families in Western Europe in this era are nuclear families with both parents working, the child is lacking care which he or she needs in order to have a healthy childhood.
In this paragraph, Description and discussion on contemporary discourses of childhood in Britain or internationally has been performed. One of the major concern of psychologists when it comes to contemporary childhood is juvenile crimes. Juvenile crime can be defined as major or minor criminal offences performed by children. One of the major discourse of juvenile offence ideas the murder of James Bulger, a 2 years of child who was killed by two ten years old kids named Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. James was kidnapped by the two mentioned children while his mother was shopping. He was then physically tortured by the two children and killed. His mutilated body was found on a railway track two days after he was murdered.  This incident had shaken the concept of innocence associated with children. The exact reason behind the murder is still unknown. Physiologists across the world states that this act is highly unnatural and there prevails proximity that the children were demonstrating a psychopathic attitude. According to a good number of researchers, lack of parental care is to be blamed for the incident that has taken place (Brocklehurst 2017). Lack of care, love as well as firm parental control is suspected to be the chief reason behind the brutal act performed by the two mentioned children. From researchers, it was found that both Venables as well as Thompson grew up in circumstances that posses striking similarities as well as profound differences (James and Prout 2015). Both the children had parents who have got divorced. Not only that, both of them had difficulties with learning lesson, behavior as well, as attendance at school. Both of them had the habit of bunking school and shoplift when they got violent. It has been report that bad parenting is also a major reason behind the death of innocence in the mentioned children. Both Robert and Jon lived with their mother since their parents had got divorced. Their childhood is not only influenced by the absence of father but also lacked motherly care (Maynard and Powell 2014). Ann Thompson, the mother of Robert Thompson was highly alcoholic. On the other hand Susan Venables, the mother of Jon Venables had several extramarital affairs which had led to social isolation of the family. All this had slowly destroyed their innocence and ruined their childhood. A account of two childhoods prejudiced not just by the flaws of parents or the dearth of a father, but by the surroundings in which these children lived, a world of social as well as economic deficiency, of trashy television as well as cultural poverty, inadequate social services, unsuccessful schooling as well as general confusion. Demonstration of power towards the weak is one of the major symptoms of the mentioned disease. The story of Roald Dahl further demonstrates cruelty in children. A 15 years old boy Ernie used to catch younger children and tortured them by twisting their hand behinds their back. Dahl stated that his experience as a child of being brought up in a family where physical valance is an everyday occurrence can be stated as one of the chief read so behind the development of cruelty within him. According to researchers, children are highly sensitive and different children treats differently when they face regular violence (Jahoda 2015). The chief target of violent children is weaker individuals that are children who are younger than them. Physiologists also state that the emotion of jealousy also plays a major role here. Children who suffer from regular violence as well as misery are more like to victimize children who reside in a healthy family. Ernie, being a violent child had kidnapped Peter Watson, a bookish and calm child younger to him, in order to murder him. According to the Dahl’s story, children with bad intention can easily get turned into evil (Kehily 2009). Children’s cruelty is as dangerous as adults and is liable to spill over at any time.  These cruel acts however can be restrained to a great level if kept under adult supervision. This is also true for James burglar murder case. As being discussed earlier, the family of Thompson was highly dysfunctional. Being the fifth f the seven children Robert along with his siblings had devastating childhood. After being abandoned by their father, the house they used to live in got burnt due to an accident. Being highly poverty stricken, Susan Thompson chose to find consolation in alcohol rather than taking care of her children (Lee 2001). Lack of care and attention along with hunger, lust, ignorance had given rise to the monster inside the 10 years old child who develops the cruelty to kill a 2 years old child without hesitation. Thus it can be said that social isolation, poverty along with proper parental guidance are the chief reason behind the act pursued by the two juvenile offenders.
In this paragraph, evaluation of the impact of different childhood discourses on children, families and communities has been conducted. According to researchers, juvenile crime does impose a stronger impact than adult crime on the society (Mosse 2018). Juvenile offence has the potential to highly enhance the concern of the communities and families about safety. Considering the fact that children are considered to be the sign of innocence, brutal crime performed by them can slowly cause disbelieve in the innocence of children within the society. This in turn, posses the potential to ruin the companionate behavior of the elders towards children in the society (Foley et al.. 2001). Another fact is that juvenile offenders, since they are children are not given stricter punishment as that of the adult criminal by the government. As a result of this, juvenile offenders due to lack of punishment develops the tendency to repeat crimes and becomes future adult criminals. The criminal acts by children impose highly negative impact on the innocent children in he society. A development of fear, anxiety along with guilt may take place within the children which has the potential to adversely affect their physiological development.
Brocklehurst, H., 2017. Who’s afraid of children?: Children, conflict and international relations. Routledge.
Cunningham, H., 2014. Children and childhood in western society since 1500. Routledge.
Foley, P., Roche, J. and Tucker, S. 2001. Children in Society. 1st edn. New York: Palgrave Macmillan in assoc with Open University.
Jahoda, G., 2015. Images of savages: Ancient roots of modern prejudice in Western culture. Routledge.
James, A. and James, A., 2012. Key concepts in childhood studies. Sage.
James, A. and Prout, A., 2015. A new paradigm for the sociology of childhood?: Provenance, promise and problems. In Constructing and reconstructing childhood (pp. 6-28). Routledge.
Kehily, M.J. 2009. An Introduction to Childhood Studies. 2nd edn. Berkshire: Open University Press.
Lee, N. 2001. Childhood and society: Growing up in an age of uncertainty. Berkshire: Open University Press.
Mosse, G., 2018. The culture of Western Europe: the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Routledge.
Stearns, P.N., 2016. Childhood in world history. Routledge.
Maynard, T. and Powell, S. 2014. An Introduction to Early Childhood Studies. (3rd Ed) Sage: Los Angeles
Mukherji, P. and Dryden, L. 2014. Foundations of Early Childhood: Principles and Practice. 1st ed. London: SAGE.
Penn, H. 2008. Understanding Early Childhood: Issues and Controversies (second edition) Open University Maidenhead (UK)
Taylor, J. and Woods, M. 2005. Early Childhood Studies: An Holistic Introduction. 2nd edn. London: Hodder Education.
Wells, K. 2009. Childhood in a Global Perspective. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Wild, M. and Street, A. 2013. Themes and Debates in Early Childhood. 1st edn. London: SAGE.
Wyness, M. 2006. Childhood and Society. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Yelland, N. (2010) Contemporary Perspectives on Early Childhood Education. Berkshire: Open University Press.

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