Sociology Index

Sociology of Children

"I was not a desperate wandering soul in search of a body. It was no favour giving birth to me" - rvp

An estimated 215 million boys and girls aged 5-17 were engaged in child labour in 2008, 115 million of them in hazardous work. - State of the World's Children 2012 Report of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). We had laws to protect animals before we had them to protect children. The laws against cruelty to children that were enacted in the United States after 1875, at which time the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals demonstrated that it was possible to prosecute parents for the abuse of children under laws against cruelty to animals. Sociology of Children is about children's nature, needs, interests, values, morals, and capabilities.

An examination of the changing social circumstances of contemporary children's lives, social class differences in children’s life experiences, traditional and emerging perspectives on childhood socialization, recent research on gender and racial socialization of children, methodology issues involved in studying children and peer cultures created by children. Sociology of Children and Childhood puts all aspects of children's lives at the center of investigation. And, rather than assuming that children are passive participants in interactions that involve adults.

The new Sociology of Children and Childhood starts from the assumption that children are active participants; rather than simply responding to the demands, instructions, or interpretations of adults.

Until the late 1980s, sociologists tended to include children in studies as passive objects in an adult-controlled process of socialization and as causes or victims of social problems.

"Treacherous though memory is, it seems to me the chief means we have of discovering how a child's mind works. The child and the adult live in different worlds. --George Orwell, 'Such, Such Were the Joys'

Lenzer, Gertrud "Children's Studies: Beginnings and Purposes"
The Lion and the Unicorn, The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Excerpt: The real question is whether it is still normal for a schoolchild to live for years amid irrational terrors and lunatic misunderstandings. And here one is up against the very great difficulty of knowing what a child really feels and thinks. A child which appears reasonably happy may actually be suffering horrors which it cannot or will not reveal. It lives in a sort of alien under-water world which we can only penetrate by memory or divination. Our chief clue is the fact that we were once children ourselves, and many people appear to forget the atmosphere of their own childhood almost entirely.

Objectives of a course on sociology of childhood

To become familiar with research that describes changes in the societal definitions of childhood and children’s “place” in society.

To become aware of the methodological issues associated with research about children and childhood that puts their own perspectives at center stage.

To become more familiar with qualitative or interpretive research methods (e.g., ethnographies, case studies of children and childhood, participant observations).

To acquire in-depth knowledge about the social, emotional, and economic circumstances of children’s lives today and to learn how to find valid and reliable statistical information about children and childhood on an aggregate level.

To understand more fully the differences between sociological and psychological perspectives on children and childhood.

To have the opportunity to read original research about children and childhood that puts their perspectives rather than adult perspectives at the center of analysis.

To become familiar with examples of cultural artifacts created by, for, or with children.