Childhood

Childhood

Overview
Childhood is the age span ranging from birth to adolescence
Adolescence
Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and mental human development generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood , but largely characterized as beginning and ending with the teenage stage...

. In developmental psychology
Developmental psychology
Developmental psychology, also known as human development, is the scientific study of systematic psychological changes, emotional changes, and perception changes that occur in human beings over the course of their life span. Originally concerned with infants and children, the field has expanded to...

, childhood is divided up into the developmental stages of toddlerhood (learning to walk), early childhood
Early childhood
For the video game rating with a similar age group see ESRBEarly childhood is a stage in human development. It generally includes toddlerhood and some time afterwards. Play age is an unspecific designation approximately within the scope of early childhood.-Education:Infants and toddlers experience...

 (play age), middle childhood (school age), and adolescence
Adolescence
Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and mental human development generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood , but largely characterized as beginning and ending with the teenage stage...

 (puberty through post-puberty).

The term childhood is non-specific and can imply a varying range of years in human development. Developmentally, it refers to the period between infancy and adulthood.
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Encyclopedia
Childhood is the age span ranging from birth to adolescence
Adolescence
Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and mental human development generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood , but largely characterized as beginning and ending with the teenage stage...

. In developmental psychology
Developmental psychology
Developmental psychology, also known as human development, is the scientific study of systematic psychological changes, emotional changes, and perception changes that occur in human beings over the course of their life span. Originally concerned with infants and children, the field has expanded to...

, childhood is divided up into the developmental stages of toddlerhood (learning to walk), early childhood
Early childhood
For the video game rating with a similar age group see ESRBEarly childhood is a stage in human development. It generally includes toddlerhood and some time afterwards. Play age is an unspecific designation approximately within the scope of early childhood.-Education:Infants and toddlers experience...

 (play age), middle childhood (school age), and adolescence
Adolescence
Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and mental human development generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood , but largely characterized as beginning and ending with the teenage stage...

 (puberty through post-puberty).

Age ranges of childhood


The term childhood is non-specific and can imply a varying range of years in human development. Developmentally, it refers to the period between infancy and adulthood. In common terms, childhood is considered to start from birth. Some consider that childhood, as a concept of play and innocence, ends at adolescence. In many countries, there is an age of majority
Age of majority
The age of majority is the threshold of adulthood as it is conceptualized in law. It is the chronological moment when minors cease to legally be considered children and assume control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thereby terminating the legal control and legal responsibilities of...

 when childhood officially ends and a person legally becomes an adult. The age ranges anywhere from 13 to 21, with 18 being the most common.

Early childhood



Early childhood follows the infancy
Infant
A newborn or baby is the very young offspring of a human or other mammal. A newborn is an infant who is within hours, days, or up to a few weeks from birth. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate refers to an infant in the first 28 days after birth...

 stage, and begins with toddler
Toddler
A toddler is a young child, usually defined as being between the ages of one and three. Registered nurse, midwife and author, Robin Barker, states 'Any time from eight months onwards your baby will begin to realise he is a separate person from you...

hood when the child
Child
Biologically, a child is generally a human between the stages of birth and puberty. Some vernacular definitions of a child include the fetus, as being an unborn child. The legal definition of "child" generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority...

 begins speaking or taking steps independently. While toddlerhood ends around age three when the child becomes less dependent on parental assistance for basic needs, early childhood continues approximately through years seven or eight. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children
National Association for the Education of Young Children
The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the largest nonprofit association in the United States representing early childhood education teachers, paraeducators, center directors, trainers, college educators, families of young children, policy makers, and advocates...

, early childhood spans the human life from birth
Birth
Birth is the act or process of bearing or bringing forth offspring. The offspring is brought forth from the mother. The time of human birth is defined as the time at which the fetus comes out of the mother's womb into the world...

 to age eight.

Middle childhood



Middle childhood begins at around age seven or eight, approximating primary school age and ends around puberty, which typically marks the beginning of adolescence.

Adolescence



Adolescence, or late childhood, is usually determined by the onset of puberty. However, puberty may also begin in preadolescents. The end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood varies by country and by function, and even within a single nation-state or culture there may be different ages at which an individual is considered to be (chronologically and the legally) mature enough to be entrusted by society with certain tasks.

History of childhood



It has been argued that childhood is not a natural phenomenon but a creation of society. Philippe Ariès
Philippe Ariès
Philippe Ariès was an important French medievalist and historian of the family and childhood, in the style of Georges Duby. Ariès has written many books on the common daily life. His most prominent works regarded the change in the western attitudes towards death.Ariès regarded himself as a...

, an important French medievalist and historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

, pointed this out in his book Centuries of Childhood. This theme was then taken up by Cunningham in his book the Invention of Childhood (2006) which looks at the historical aspects of childhood from the Middle Ages to what he refers to as the Post War Period of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Ariès published a study in 1961 of paintings, gravestones, furniture, and school records. He found that before the 17th-century, children were represented as mini-adults. Since then historians have increasingly researched childhood in past times. Before Ariès, George Boas
George Boas
George Boas was a Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University.He received his education at Brown University, obtaining both a BA and MA in Philosophy there, after which he studied...

 had published The Cult of Childhood.

During the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, artistic depictions of children increased dramatically in Europe. This did not impact the social attitude to children much, however—see the article on child labour.

The man usually credited with - or accused of - creating the modern notion of childhood is Jean Jacques Rousseau. Building on the ideas of John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 and other 17th-century liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 thinkers, Rousseau formulated childhood as a brief period of sanctuary before people encounter the perils and hardships of adulthood. "Why rob these innocents of the joys which pass so quickly," Rousseau pleaded. "Why fill with bitterness the fleeting early days of childhood, days which will no more return for them than for you?"

The Victorian Era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 has been described as a source of the modern institution of childhood. Ironically, the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 during this era led to an increase in child labour, but due to the campaigning of the Evangelicals, and efforts of author Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 and others, child labour was gradually reduced and halted in England via the Factory Acts
Factory Acts
The Factory Acts were a series of Acts passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to limit the number of hours worked by women and children first in the textile industry, then later in all industries....

 of 1802-1878. The Victorians concomitantly emphasized the role of the family and the sanctity of the child, and broadly speaking, this attitude has remained dominant in Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 societies since then.

In the contemporary era Joe L. Kincheloe
Joe L. Kincheloe
Joe Lyons Kincheloe, , was a professor and Canada Research Chair at the Faculty of Education, McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He wrote more than 45 books, numerous book-chapters, and hundreds of journal articles on issues including critical pedagogy, educational research, urban...

 and Shirley R. Steinberg have constructed a critical theory
Critical theory
Critical theory is an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism...

 of childhood and childhood education that they have labeled kinderculture. Kincheloe and Steinberg make use of multiple research and theoretical discourses (the bricolage
Bricolage
Bricolage is a term used in several disciplines, among them the visual arts, to refer to the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process...

) to study childhood from diverse perspectives—historiography, ethnography, cognitive research, media studies, cultural studies, political economic analysis, hermeneutics, semiotics, content analysis, etc. Based on this multiperspectival inquiry, Kincheloe and Steinberg contend that new times have ushered in a new era of childhood. Evidence of this dramatic cultural change is omnipresent, but many individuals in the late 20th century and early 21st century have not yet noticed it. When Steinberg and Kincheloe wrote the first edition of Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood in 1997 (second edition, 2004) many people who made their living studying, teaching, or caring for children were not yet aware of the nature of the changes in childhood that they encountered daily.

In the domains of psychology, education, and to a lesser degree sociology and cultural studies few observers before kinderculture had studied the ways that the information explosion so characteristic of our contemporary era (hyperreality
Hyperreality
Hyperreality is used in semiotics and postmodern philosophy to describe a hypothetical inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from fantasy, especially in technologically advanced postmodern societies...

) had operated to undermine traditional notions of childhood and change the terrain of childhood education. Those who have shaped, directed and employed contemporary information technology have played an exaggerated role in the reformulation of childhood. Of course, information technology alone, Kincheloe and Steinberg maintain, has not produced a new era of childhood. Obviously, numerous social, cultural, and political economic factors have operated to produce such changes. The central purpose of kinderculture is to socially, culturally, politically, and economically situate the changing historical status of childhood and to specifically interroge the ways diverse media have helped construct what Kincheloe and Steinberg call "the new childhood." Kinderculture understands that childhood is an ever-changing social and historical artifact—not simply a biological entity. Because many psychologists have argued that childhood is a natural phase of growing up, of becoming an adult, Kincheloe and Steinberg coming from an educational context saw kinderculture as a corrective to such a "psychologization" of childhood.

Geographies of childhood


The geographies of childhood involves how (adult) society perceives the very idea of childhood and the many ways the attitudes and behaviors of adults affects children's lives. This includes ideas about the surrounding environment of children and its related implications. This is similar in some respects to children's geographies
Children's geographies
Children's geographies is an area of study within human geography and Childhood Studies which involves researching the places and spaces of children's lives....

 which examines the places and spaces in which children live.

Modern concepts of childhood


The concept of childhood appears to evolve and change shape as lifestyles change and adult expectations alter. Some believe that children should not have any worries and should not have to work; life should be happy and trouble-free. Childhood is usually a mixture of happiness, wonder, angst
Angst
Angst is an English, German, Danish, Norwegian and Dutch word for fear or anxiety . It is used in English to describe an intense feeling of apprehension, anxiety or inner turmoil...

 and resilience. It is generally a time of playing, learning, socializing, exploring, and worrying in a world without much adult interference, aside from parents. It is a time of learning about responsibilities without having to deal with adult responsibilities.

Childhood is often retrospectively viewed as a time of innocence
Innocence
Innocence is a term used to indicate a lack of guilt, with respect to any kind of crime, sin, or wrongdoing. In a legal context, innocence refers to the lack of legal guilt of an individual, with respect to a crime.-Symbolism:...

, which is generally viewed as a positive term, connoting an optimistic view of the world, in particular one where the lack of knowledge stems from a lack of wrongdoing, whereas greater knowledge comes from doing wrong. A "loss of innocence" is a common concept, and is often seen as an integral part of coming of age
Coming of age
Coming of age is a young person's transition from childhood to adulthood. The age at which this transition takes place varies in society, as does the nature of the transition. It can be a simple legal convention or can be part of a ritual, as practiced by many societies...

. It is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child's life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or the world around them. This theme is demonstrated in the novels To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. It was instantly successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature...

and Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding about a group of British boys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves, with disastrous results...

. The fictional character Peter Pan
Peter Pan
Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie . A mischievous boy who can fly and magically refuses to grow up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang the Lost Boys, interacting with...

 was the embodiment of a childhood that never ends.

Nature deficit disorder



Nature Deficit Disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv
Richard Louv
Richard Louv is an American nonfiction author and journalist. He is best known for his seventh book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder , which investigates the relationship of children and the natural world in current and historical contexts...

 in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods
Last Child in the Woods
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder is a 2005 book by author Richard Louv that documents decreased exposure of children to nature in American society and how this "nature-deficit disorder" harms children and society...

,
refers to the alleged trend in the United States that children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. With the advent of the computer, video games and television, children have more reasons to stay inside rather than outdoors exploring. “The average American child spends 44 hours a week with electronic media”. Parents are also keeping children indoors in order to protect them from their growing fear of “stranger danger
Stranger danger
Stranger danger describes the danger to children presented by strangers. The phrase is intended to sum up the danger associated with adults who children do not know. The phrase has found widespread usage and many children will hear it during their childhood lives...

”. Recent research has drawn a further contrast between the declining number of National Park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

 visits in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and increasing consumption of electronic media by children.

Child protection



Childhood play


Play is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. It offers children opportunities for physical (running, jumping, climbing, etc.), intellectual (social skills, community norms, ethics and general knowledge) and emotional development (empathy, compassion, and friendships). Unstructured play encourages creativity and imagination. Playing and interacting with other children, as well as some adults, provides opportunities for friendships, social interactions, conflicts and resolutions.

It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills. However, when play is controlled by adults, children acquiesce to adult rules and concerns and lose some of the benefits play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership, and group skills.

Play is considered to be so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 High Commission for Human Rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 as a right of every child. Children who are being raised in a hurried and pressured style may limit the protective benefits they would gain from child-driven play.

Street culture



Children's street culture refers to the cumulative culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 created by young child
Child
Biologically, a child is generally a human between the stages of birth and puberty. Some vernacular definitions of a child include the fetus, as being an unborn child. The legal definition of "child" generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority...

ren and is sometimes referred to as their secret world. It is most common in children between the ages of seven and twelve. It is strongest in urban working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 industrial district
Industrial district
Industrial district was initially introduced as a term to describe an area where workers of a monolithic heavy industry live within walking-distance of their places of work...

s where children are traditionally free to play out in the streets for long periods without supervision. It is invented and largely sustained by children themselves with little adult interference.

Young children's street culture usually takes place on quiet backstreets and pavements, and along routes that venture out into local park
Park
A park is a protected area, in its natural or semi-natural state, or planted, and set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, or for the protection of wildlife or natural habitats. It may consist of rocks, soil, water, flora and fauna and grass areas. Many parks are legally protected by...

s, playground
Playground
A playground or play area is a place with a specific design for children be able to play there. It may be indoors but is typically outdoors...

s, scrub and wasteland, and to local shops. It often imposes imaginative status on certain sections of the urban realm (local buildings, kerbs, street objects, etc.). Children designate specific areas that serve as informal meeting and relaxation places (see: Sobel, 2001). An urban area that looks faceless or neglected to an adult may have deep 'spirit of place
Spirit of place
Spirit of place refers to the unique, distinctive and cherished aspects of a place; often those celebrated by artists and writers, but also those cherished in folk tales, festivals and celebrations...

' meanings in to children. Since the advent of indoor distractions such as video games, and television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

, concerns have been expressed about the vitality - or even the survival - of children's street culture.

Research in social sciences



In recent years there has been a rapid growth of interest in the sociological study of adulthood. Reaching on a large body of contemporary sociological and anthropological research, people have developed key links between the study of childhood and social theory
Social theory
Social theories are theoretical frameworks which are used to study and interpret social phenomena within a particular school of thought. An essential tool used by social scientists, theories relate to historical debates over the most valid and reliable methodologies , as well as the primacy of...

, exploring its historical, political, and cultural dimensions in Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

.

See also

  • Birthday party
  • Child
    Child
    Biologically, a child is generally a human between the stages of birth and puberty. Some vernacular definitions of a child include the fetus, as being an unborn child. The legal definition of "child" generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority...

  • Childhood and migration
  • Childhood in Medieval England
    Childhood in Medieval England
    Childhood in Medieval England was determined by both social and biological factors. According to common law, childhood ranged from the birth of a child until he or she reached the age of 12. At this point, the child was seen as capable and competent to understand his or her actions, thus...

  • Children's party games
  • Coming of age
    Coming of age
    Coming of age is a young person's transition from childhood to adulthood. The age at which this transition takes place varies in society, as does the nature of the transition. It can be a simple legal convention or can be part of a ritual, as practiced by many societies...

  • List of child related articles
  • List of traditional children's games
  • Rite of passage
    Rite of passage
    A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person's progress from one status to another. It is a universal phenomenon which can show anthropologists what social hierarchies, values and beliefs are important in specific cultures....

  • Sociology of childhood
  • Street children
    Street children
    A street child is a child who lives on the streets of a city, deprived of family care and protection. Most children on the streets are between the ages of about 5 and 17 years old.Street children live in junk boxes, parks or on the street itself...


Further reading

  • Ariès, Philippe. Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.
  • Boas, George. The Cult of Childhood. London: Warburg, 1966.
  • Brown, Marilyn R., ed. Picturing Children: Constructions of Childhood between Rousseau and Freud. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002.
  • Buckingham, David. After the Death of Childhood: Growing Up in the Age of Electronic Media. Blackwell Publishers, 2000. ISBN 0745619339.
  • Bunge, Marcia J., ed. The Child in Christian Thought. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001.
  • Calvert, Karin. Children in the House: The Material Culture of Early Childhood, 1600-1900. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1992.
  • Cleverley, John and D.C. Phillips. Visions of Childhood: Influential Models from Locke to Spock. New York: Teachers College, 1986.
  • Cannella, Gaile and Joe L. Kincheloe
    Joe L. Kincheloe
    Joe Lyons Kincheloe, , was a professor and Canada Research Chair at the Faculty of Education, McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He wrote more than 45 books, numerous book-chapters, and hundreds of journal articles on issues including critical pedagogy, educational research, urban...

    . "Kidworld: Childhood Studies, Global Perspectives, and Education". New York: Peter Lang, 2002.
  • Cunningham, Hugh. Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500. London: Longman, 1995.
  • Cunnington, Phillis and Anne Buck. Children’s Costume in England: 1300 to 1900. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1965.
  • deMause, Lloyde, ed. The History of Childhood. London: Souvenir Press, 1976.
  • Higonnet, Anne. Pictures of Innocence: The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1998.
  • Immel, Andrea and Michael Witmore, eds. Childhood and Children’s Books in Early Modern Europe, 1550-1800. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Kincaid, James R. Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture. New York: Routledge, 1992.
  • Knörr, Jacqueline, ed. Childhood and Migration. From Experience to Agency. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2005.
  • Müller, Anja, ed. Fashioning Childhood in the Eighteenth Century: Age and Identity. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.
  • O’Malley, Andrew. The Making of the Modern Child: Children’s Literature and Childhood in the Late Eighteenth Century. London: Routledge, 2003.
  • Pinchbeck, Ivy and Margaret Hewitt. Children in English Society. 2 vols. London: Routledge, 1969.
  • Pollock, Linda A. Forgotten Children: Parent-child relations from 1500 to 1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Postman, Neil. The Disappearance of Childhood. New York: Vintage, 1994.
  • Schultz, James. The Knowledge of Childhood in the German Middle Ages.
  • Shorter, Edward. The Making of the Modern Family.
  • Sommerville, C. John. The Discovery of Childhood in Puritan England. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
  • Steinberg, Shirley R. and Joe L. Kincheloe. Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood. Westview Press Inc., 2004. ISBN 081339157.
  • Stone, Lawrence. The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.
  • Zornado, Joseph L. Inventing the Child: Culture, Ideology, and the Story of Childhood. New York: Garland, 2001.

External links