Examine the ways in which childhood has been shaped and developed since the 16th century.
Childhood is widely viewed as a social construction, meaning that it is shaped through culture, society and different time periods. Within this essay I’ll be assessing how childhood has become socially constructed and how the terminology of childhood has changed since the 16th century.
Before the 16th century, children throughout medieval Europe did not attend school. It was only during this time frame that ‘upper class’ children first attended school. This is due to the fact that there had been no direct barrier between adults and children, with children working side by side with adults. Whilst children of the upper class were allowed to attended school, this didn’t apply to all classes within society. Throughout the industrial revolution, many children worked in factories and mills right up until the 19th century where laws regarding factory acts banned child labour in mines and factories.
Children were not only viewed as adults but also portrayed as adults. Victorian paintings often showed children as looking much older, and letters and documents investigated by Philippe Aries confirmed that there was no concept of childhood in this era.
The nineteenth century also saw the law change to compulsory education for children, making a distinct divide among adults and children. This gave children not only separate legal status but also a chance to be provided with an education. Laws were also put in place to rule out marriage for children under 12 – a law that had never been imposed before.
Stainton Rogers examined the idea of childhood in 20th century Europe. She classified two representations of childhood that have continued to the present day. These were the innocent child and the sinful child. She made her judgements based on observations through documents and novels. Each representations of childhood show a form of acting and treating children;
* Innocent child...