Social Construct has many different definitions, according to Norozi & Moen (2016) “Social construction of childhood is grounded in varying conceptions among different cultures, societies and at different time period in history”. But how does this have anything to do with childhood or childcare? Well Childhood/Childcare are seen in many ways it as it is made up of many different factors e.g. time, age, policies, environment etc. Childhood is usually focused on theories and that’s how we observe them, but childhood should also be looked at with an empirical study as a child’s life experience is never the same so should be taken into consideration. (James & Prout, 1997)
What is a child? According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) state that “a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child.” (2010, P9) This shows that to be a ‘child’ you are classed as someone who is 18 years or under, but in other parts of the world this may not be the case e.g. in the United States you’re a child until you are 21 years old. The age a person is should not define weather they are a child or not, a person who is 18 years old may not be as mature as a person who is 16 years old, but a 18 year old is expected to start their lives as an adult? It all depends on the child, a lot of theorist insist that all children grow in certain developmental stages, but this is not that case, each child develops at different levels and stages. This all depends the child’s physical, social, and cultural context, defining someone as a child just because they are under a certain age does not give a fair definition. (Norozi & Moen, 2016)
The UN Conventional Rights weren’t always around, they were only established in the late 80s early 90s, so children didn’t always have rights. Before this pre-school weren’t around, this was mainly due to the marriage bar. Most woman who worked, which wasn’t very many before this 80s, had to stop working once they got pregnant to become the primary carer of the home. Even after the marriage bar was lifted if you did work outside the home usually someone in your family would look after you. (Flood & Hardy, 2013) This is completely different to the 21st century as most parents work outside of the home and most children go to pre-school before they go to primary school. Since the UNCRC there has been many other legislations, policies, practices and procedure which help improve a child’s livelihood. The White Paper was established as the main policy for all things affiliated with childcare. This helped start off the quality of pre-schools all around Ireland. Síolta, Aistear and the Free Pre-School Year were all introduced in the late 2000s, early 2010, This gave childcare a framework to go from and to show that early years are important for a child’s development and not just for playing. (Hardy & Flood, 2016) Children now and children back in the 80s would have had 2 completely different childhoods, now children have rights and are given the opportunity to have and education from the ages of 0. Secondary school wasn’t always free in Ireland, in 1966 The Minister for Education Donogh O’Malley introduced the free secondary school plan. Before this a lot of children would not have been able to afford secondary education “some 17,000 of our children, finishing the primary school course do not receive any further education. This means that almost one in three of our future citizens are cut off at this stage from the opportunities of learning a skill and denied the benefits of cultural benefits that go with further education. This is a dark stain on the national conscience.” (Ferriter, 2019) Before this there was already the idea that children who didn’t receive a secondary education were already not going to have as good as a future to those who did. Thanks to O’Malley most secondary school is free and everyone has a right to a secondary education and is given the chance to be able to progress to the next level of education.
The environment is a huge factor in a child’s life, depending where a child grows up and how they are treated can really affect their development. Thanks to the children’s referendum in 2012, children’s best interest is now seen as an important part of the state. In Ireland the state has the right to take any child off their parents if it seems to be in the best interest of the child and if the parent does not amend their actions then the child can be put for adoption. (Flood & Hardy, 2013) According to an Australian study this may not always be a good idea for a child, with many studies resulting in the fact that not all the children in foster care came out as the “happiness assumption”. (Hansen & Ainsworth, 2011) “The removal of a child from parental care is traumatising for the parents and the child”. (Hansen & Ainsworth, 2011) Even though the children are getting a second chance on life the emotional, social and physical damage they may have gone through can affect them in their future.
A social construct is the idea that people learn through experiences, and childhood should be understood as a social construct. Social Constructivism theories are very different to social construct, the constructivism theories are all about how children learn and what they need/use to learn e.g. schemas, scaffolding etc. (Flood, 2013) This is important to a child’s learning but each child as individual goes through different experiences in their lives. “Childhood is neither universal nor natural rather it is tied close to social circumstances and cultural process.” (Norozi & Moen, 2016, P79) Each individual has a different life experience to the next, depending on laws, environments, culture etc. and this does not differ in childhood.
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- Ali Norozi, S., & Moen, T. (2016). Childhood as a Social Construction. Journal of Educational and Social Research, 6(2), 37–38. https://doi.org/10.5901/jesr.2016.v6n2p75
- Children’s Rights Alliance. (2010). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved from https://mie.learnonline.ie/course/view.php?id=879
- Ferriter, D. (2019, January 19) ‘I was not a human being’: A History of Irish Childhood. The Irish Times. Retrieved from https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/i-was-not-a-human-being-a-history-of-irish-childhood-1.3758896
- Flood, E., & Hardy, C. (2013) Early Care & Practice. Gill Education. Dublin 12.
- Hansen, P. & Ainsworth, F. (2011). In ‘The best interests of the child’: Critical reflections on an overused construct. Children Australia, 36, 1, 12–17. DOI 10.1375/jcas.36.1.12
- James, A. & Prout, A. (1997). Constructing and reconstructing childhood. London: Falmer