How Do Society's Ideas About Children Change over Time? Why Is This Significant for Those Working with Children and Families? Essay
There has been a significant change of ideas about children and childhood within our society for the past fifty years and across the centuries within different cultures. Therefore, I will look in further and explain in detail how society’s ideas about children have changed over time and why it’s important for those working with children and family. A child is legally defined as a ‘Minor’ which is used to ‘refer to a person who is under the age in which one legally assumes adulthood and is legally granted rights afforded to adults in society’ (The Free Dictionary, 2000).
The definition of ‘Childhood’ is a ‘The time or state of being a child’ (The Free Dictionary, 2000). Many children in today’s society and in the past did not get the opportunity to experience this, as children were seen like little adults who took part in the same work as adults such as Indian children are still seen today working in factories. However, I believe in today’s British society, lives are more enjoyable for children better than ever before. They have extraordinary expectation of longer lives then 50 years ago, including their parents living healthier, happier and longer lives.
This is due to children in Britain today receiving a decent education and technology offering astonishing benefits to their understanding of the world, but most of all they have their rights to be heard. The change of childhood has changed in recent years, which has improved the material circumstances in some situation, better health and education, and children are more likely to play and spend time more indoors doing activities that will keep them away from crime. We are surrounded by many powerful stories, both negative and positive, about the way in which childhood has changed.
Some have a very little opinion of children and their potential, and therefore are seen as needing to be controlled and disciplined. Others view children as worthy of the same rights and respect as adults. In the western industrialised societies, we see children as innocent, lovable and life long responsibility and we see childhood as a ‘time of learning and preparation’ (Topic 2, P11). However, other societies are opposite us and see children like little adults, working alongside their parents and contributing to the household income.
Anthropologist Beatrice and John Whiting found in their research that ‘attitudes to children’s involvement in work and play varied enormously’ (Topic2, P11). They found out that childhood in the USA was seen as ‘prolonged’ (Topic2,p 11) period of play and preparation for adult life, whereas in Kenya Childhood is seen differently and children after the age of 2 are ‘capable of being trained for work’ (Topic2, P11). I feel overwhelmed that within our society, childhood has changed dramatically since 1950s as children were categorized separately such as teenagers and toddlers and have and interest, need and characteristic.
Many people view children in the past and present as either ‘innocent, pure and untarnished’ or ‘innately corrupt, sinful and morally blemished’ (Barry Goldson, P34). In my point of view, I view children as innocent and totally dependent on us. In 1996, children and young people were seen as ‘in some way turning feral’ (Quote: Jeffs & Smith, 1996, Barry Goldson, P35), even in today’s society children are still seen as ‘feral children’ (BBC news, 2010).
Shahur argues that children and adults are very different and goes much further back in history and argues that children are born either ‘innocent or sullied by original sin’ (Quote: Shahur, 1990, Wendy Stainton Rogers, P28) and gives an example of Adam and Eve story in Christianity showing children are born with the sin and have to be baptised to remove the sin. Ideas about children are very important because they develop the way we treat and work with them. The government policy has changed children’s outlook towards care. There has been many Acts for children to help them improve their safety and give them the support they need.
One of these Acts is The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 was introduced to tackle the increase of juvenile crime. The United Nations Convection on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has improved children and protects them from any form of discrimination & to take positive actions to encourage their rights. Article 12 has brought together children to be heard and taken into account. Their aims were to ‘promote children’s right to voice their views and … taken seriously whenever decisions are made that affects their lives and to promote all the rights guaranteed to children in the UK by the UNCRC’ (Topic2, P28-29).
These laws have changed the society as children have better lives and the same protection under law on assaults as adults, which they never had in the past. The media has a big influence on our views on children, for example, the stories about children’s involvement in crime makes the newspaper headlines and shows us that children are becoming out of control and aggressive and a threat to the society. This also shows that children will need to be disciplined in order to avoid them being linked to any sort of crime. Looking at the pictures of he two boys in Topic 2, P25, shows one child as evil, violent and may become abusive and the second child shows cheekiness and in need of protection. These images give us two different views on children as either victims or threat to our society. This shows that the media plays an important role within our lives as today, Disney world movies and adverts show children as naughty but adorable, charming and a blessing. Children’s quality of life can be improved by the main benefits to understand what we need to provide for our children and working with children.
These are reassessing the child’s need by loving them as ‘lack of love in childhood does emotional harm’ (Topic3, P10). It is argued that in the Western culture those basic needs will allow the child to survive and become ‘well-functioning members of society’ (Topic3, p10). Woodhead mentions that children are not incomplete humans they have ‘needs… aspirations… and rights’ (1996, Topic3, p10). Some argue that the problems family’s faces are by social problems such as ‘poverty, racism and social exclusion’ (Topic 3, P11) that can only be tackled by society and requires major political change.
According to the Unicef report 2000, UK was worse than the EU of Childs wellbeing, including child poverty and teenage birth are very high. Those working with children and families should help them to improve their situation to help them enhance their lives and give those opportunities. Those working with children and families will need to be professional and able to develop competence work. This includes having ‘clear objectivise… able to monitor personal emotions and actions’ (Topic1, p29). Those workers should have knowledge to be able make judgement. They are also required to understand how different context i. e. laces of work help to produce and define different roles and relationships workers have with children and their families. Those working with children and families should follow procedures and be accountable for their actions. Organisations that provide a service for children and their families must have a clear aim and objective monitor and evaluate and also plan ahead and be trustworthy. Having a development of competence will promote confidence & respect in service users. Overall, although ideas and childhood have changed dramatically over the past 50 years or so, we are still facing some of the social problems like poverty.
WORD COUNT: 1225 References: ?The Free Dictionary (2000) Childhood, Houghton Mifflin Company, http://www. thefreedictionary. com/childhood [Accessed 23rd March 2010] ? BBC NEWS (2010) Question Time, http://news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/programmes/question_time/8576036. stm [Accessed 24th March 2010] ? Open University (2009) K204 Working with children and families, Topic 1 ? Open University (2009) K204 Working with children and families, Topic 2 ? Open University (2009) K204 Working with children and families, Topic 3 ? the open University (2001) children in Society