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Constructs of Childhood

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Ashleigh Smart

on 4 August 2013

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Transcript of Constructs of Childhood

Constructs of Childhood
Early Middle Ages
"The Child as Innocent"
The Victorian Era
"Child Victim/Miniature Adult"
The above image portrays Sorin & Galloways (2006) “Innocent Child”, and in the middle ages children were thought of as incapable of making decisions, ignorant and naive, with very little opportunity for decision making. De'Mause (1974) stated that "the further back in history one goes, the lower the level of childcare, and the more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorized and sexually abused." Towards the late middle ages, children came to be seen as “innocent” and “protected” by adults (Sorin & Galloway, 2006).
History childhood, (n.d.) <http://tinyurl.com/cnr6xd6>
The Enlightenment
"Adult in Training"
The image above depicts a mixture of the “Adult in Training” and “Innocent Child” (Sorin & Galloway, 2006). This approach focuses on “deficiency in the child, developmental milestones, and developmental delay” (Hoffman, 2000). A theorist named John Locke spoke of "instilling good habits into a child that will last a lifetime, by taking reason as your guide" (Cunningham, 2006). Locke's theory was the beginning of the childhood that we see today in western countries, and the idea that "nine-tenths of how a child turns out as an adult, "Good or Evil, useful or not", will be the result of its education" (Cunningham, 2006).
Gainsborough, T. (1787). The Marsham Children
May 08, 2013|By JOHN ROSEMOND

"Your parents acted like they were bigger than you were too, like they knew what they were doing and didn't need your help making decisions. In fact, your opinion really didn't matter much. When they spoke to you, they didn't bend down, grab their knees, and ask for your cooperation in a wheedling tone. They spoke in no uncertain terms, and they thought you were smart , so they only said anything once. The rule was very simple: They told you what to do, and you did it, because they said so."
Raising Kids In 1950s Households Vs. Today's

The 1950's
"Child as Innocent"
This construct is similar to the ideas of the late middle ages, where it was believed that "the adult should care for the young and innocent" (Cunningham, 2006). Cunningham (2006) states that "children are granted little power; they are perceived as incapable of making decisions, and positioned as needing adult protection." Buckingham (1994) said that "the adult is expected to control (or limit) the child's environment and type of stimulus to which they are exposed such as the amount of time children can watch television as well as what they can watch."
Touchscreen Generation
"Snowballing Child"
The use of technology for children has assisted in creating the "snowballing child" where children are "represented through images of the 'spoilt brat' who has all the toys and accessories s/he wants, but remains unsatisfied and continues to demand." (Sorin & Galloway, 2006). There are many differing theories to the impact of technology on children’s development. The NAEYC (1996) stated that “it is the responsibility of early childhood educators to critically examine the impact of technology on children, and be prepared to use technology to benefit children.” As teachers, I believe we need to embrace the use of technology to enhance our children’s learning experiences, and prepare them for the technological society.
The Miniature Adult
The Commodified Child
The Agentic Child
The Out-of-Control Child
The Child as Victim
It is true poverty is a relative thing

A poor bloke buys his girlfriend a ten dollar ring

But to a pauper one with ten dollars is not poor at all

What to one seems big to another seems small,

That poverty is a relative thing seems so true

You may well be poor but many poorer than you

There are millions of homeless on Poverty Street

Searching in rubbish bins to find something to eat

And there are millions who lay down to rest hungry at night

And sleep in the open under the starlight

At least you have a roof over your head and a bed on which to lie

And it will not be of malnutrition that you will die

And of those down on their luck the singer may sing

But poverty can be a relative thing.

Duggan, F. (2008) <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/poverty-is-a-relative-thing/>
In Conclusion...
Woodrow (1999) stated that “the commodification of childhood and particular groups of children makes us aware of the self-interest of adults, and confronts us with the idea that adults may not always act in the child’s best interests.” This type of image is becoming more and more accepted in western societies, where children are exploited in the entertainment industry for adult purposes. Sorin & Galloway (2006) state that “powerful adults broker these images and construct the child as a saleable item.” This commodification is contributing to the increasing issues seen in younger girls and boys in schools, and as teachers we need to be observant and provide guidance to children in the educational setting.
This poem describes the life of a person living in poverty, and reminds us that although sometimes we may find times tough, we should be grateful for the hand we are dealt. Children of poverty are "child victims", both "faceless and nameless" in a forgotten culture (Sorin & Galloway, 2006). Sorin & Galloway argue that "neither the child victim, nor the adults in that child's life hold even an illusion of power." In other countries, children are attending school and playing with toys, while these "child victims" are struggling to survive. As teachers we need to provide families and children with access to support services to support them through difficulties.
This image depicts a child who is "out of control" and one would assume he has had poor support and guidance throughout his childhood. Herr (2012) stated Vygotsky’s theory that "children move forward in their cognitive development with the right social interaction and guided learning." Unfortunately neglected or unsupported children will tend to struggle throughout childhood and later in life. Sorin & Galloway (2006) believe that out-of-control children "feel that no-one is there to help them regain control" which is why supportive communities and teachers are very important in helping these children through life.
This image defines the most recent idealistic construct of childhood; the "Agentic Child" - where rather than "teaching" children, we guide them through their learning and development. The agentic child’s education is a combination of "planning based on observation, recording of children’s language, ideas and interests, and discussion with children to determine their agency" (Sorin & Galloway, 2006). Canella (2000) suggests "denaturalising childhood and positioning children as equal partners in life and in educational decision-making." The agentic child's voice is given serious consideration, and with guidance and team work, we can create a positive future for education.
Text Reference List
Canella, G. S. (2000). "Critical and feminist reconstructs of Early Childhood Education". Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 1(2), 215-221.

Herr, J. (2012). Child Development Principles and Theories. (n.d.). Retrieved July 31, 2013, from http://www.g-w.com/pdf/sampchap/9781590708132_ch04.pdf

Christensen, P., & James, A. (2008). Research with Children: Perspectives and Practices(2nd ed.). Falmer Press.

Cunningham, H. (2006). Re-inventing Childhood. Retrieved April 17, 2013, from http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/re-inventing-childhood

DeMause, L. (1974). The History of Childhood. Broadway, NY: The Psychohistory Press.
NAEYC (1996). Technology and young children: ages 3 through 8. Position Statement. Retrieved July 30, 2013, from http://www.naeyc.org/resources/position_statements/pstech98.htm

Sorin, R., & Galloway, G. (2006). Constructs of childhood: constructs of self (2nd ed., pp. 12-21). Children Asutralia.

Woodrow, C. (1999). Revisiting images of the child in early childhood education: Reflections and considerations. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 24(4), 7-12.

The image above shows how some cultures perceive children as "Miniature Adults" but these children are also victims of war, where it is part of everyday life. The use of children for soldiers of war is particularly common in third world countries, where children are born to fight for their countries and beliefs. Childhood is not perceived as a separate phase of development (Sorin & Galloway, 2006). Christensen & James (2008) state that “5-10% of war-affected children can develop serious problems due to conflict-related experiences; problems that will negatively influence their healthy development.”
The following presentation is a representation of different constructs of childhood, and how over time, children have been viewed in many different contexts, over various cultures.
The image above shows both the “Child Victim”, and “Miniature Adult”. The Victorian era was a time for change, but also hardship. Some children were lucky enough to have a childhood, but most were forced into long hours of work to due to poverty. Cunningham, (2006) stated that during this era children were seen to be "children without a childhood". Not until law enforced compulsory schooling, did working class children attend school.
Griffith, D. W. (n.d.) <http://societyandreligion.com/child-victorian-era/>
Rosemond, J. (2013, <http://articles.courant.com>

O'Brien, E. (n.d.). <mag-article-large.jpg?mjcukl>
Vision, (2008) <www.vision.org>
Boss Lady, (2011) <live.drjays.com>
Arbourlea, (2012) <www.stockland.com.au>
Teenage Smoking, (2012) <want2bsmokefree.wordpress.com>
As a future teacher, I believe the best way we can ‘teach’ children is to treat them as individuals. Understanding a child’s culture and family background is the first step to understanding the way each child develops, and assists them along their learning journey. As a teacher I would like to work with children in developing their framework to allow children a voice in their education, and be more of a 'guide' than a 'teacher'. Maintaining healthy, supportive relationships with both children and their families will allow us as a community to work together in creating our children’s futures.
Ashleigh Smart, 2013
Image Reference List
Arbourlea (2012). [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.stockland.com.au/residential/vic/arbourlea-about-arbourlea.aspx

Boss Lady (2011, January 6). Has French VOGUE Taken Child Models Too Far? [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://live.drjays.com/index.php/2011/01/06/has-french-vogue-taken-child-models-too-far/

Duggan, F. (2008, May 28). Poverty Is A Relative Thing. Retrieved from http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/poverty-is-a-relative-thing/

Gainsborough, T. (1787). The Marsham Children [Painting].

Griffith, D. W. (n.d.). The Child from the Victorian Era [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://societyandreligion.com/child-victorian-era/

Middle ages, Renaissance and the Puritans. History childhood [Digital Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://cuip.uchicago.edu/~bobfinn/2003/middleages.html

O'Brien, E. (n.d.). The Touch-Screen Generation [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/the-touch-screen-generation/309250/

Rosemond, J. (2013, May 8). Raising Kids In 1950s Households Vs. Today's. Retrieved July 27, 2013, from http://articles.courant.com/2013-05-08/features/hc-back-in-the-day-parenting-rosemond-20130508_1_raising-kids-more-attention-big-pond

Teenage Smoking [Photograph]. (2012). Retrieved from http://want2bsmokefree.wordpress.com/teenage-smoking/
Vision (2008). Child Soldiers [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/article.aspx?id=6684
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