This assignment will analyse the history of childhood concept including the social construction of the family. This assignment will begin firstly by describing the concept of childhood with different views, arguments and definitions from various historians and authors throughout time. The next section will give different development stages of acts, policies and laws introduced for the education and working conditions of a child from centuries ago to present times with the latter giving a closer to date information on the legalisation of the rights of a child. Thereafter the following section will talk about the health inequalities and poverty families and young people have to experience. The inequalities of health experienced by family and young people can be unfair and unjust due to the living and working situations of families in comparison to what is expected of society. The reader will discover some examples of inequalities families have to deal with and subsequently the next section will give what can be done to help families arise from impoverished conditions to better their working and general wellbeing. This section will also talk about how the impact of the minimum acceptable standard of living income can affect families to get by financially. After which a conclusion of the findings will be given at the end.
Understanding the concept of childhood
Some historians believe the notion of childhood did not develop until the mid-18th century (Pound, 2014, p144) and Aries (1982) explored the idea of childhood being under the social construction process suggesting that infants and babies were taken care of concerning their biological requirements. Aries floated the idea that once the distinction between child and adult was made like being able to look after oneself independently then you can treat the person accordingly as an adult. Historians have always argued with questions about childhood and its meaning. When you ask someone the meaning of childhood you may receive a similar or different response and in this case, whatever the answer may be, we all must acknowledge the fact that we all experienced childhood once in our lives (Mouritsen 2002. P. 37-38). Rogers (2003) argues the understanding of what a child is, and how it can be a hurdle. He further goes to explain in detail that for the most of us a child is simply a matter of physical development and size. The definitions in dictionaries for childhood is to be in the state or time of being a child; the early days for development before puberty (Merriam-Webster, 2020). McDowall Clark (2013) argues that there are differing opinions to childhood such as the time it takes for a child to be grown up, at what age they are grown up and when they can look after themselves without the help and guidance of adults. McDowall Clark (2013) also describes the definitions of childhood to be based on the perception of development and growth, indicating someone who is not complete or finished. According to Mouritsen (2002), everyone has childhood memories, knowledge, attitudes and the sensory cognitive mindsets which involves some people who desire for childhood, some who are still stuck in their childhood and others who are trying to get rid of it. Pearson schools and FE colleges (2020) explores the principles of development from birth and research has been carried out to determine the different stages of a child’s capabilities including the rate at which the child is growing up and the age at which point a child should have reached their development stage like walking alone around 18 months or smiling at 6 weeks old, which is referred to a milestone of development (Pearson schools and FE colleges, 2020). Oliver and Pitt (2010) argue the key personal milestone of development can also be referred to the development stages of an adolescent person, for example, asking permission from parents to walk to school and home independently, leaving home and school, learning to drive, having one’s key to the front door and socialising with friends without parents being around. As Mouritsen (2002) argued that we all experienced childhood once in our lives, we can perhaps find the answer to the question by looking into our childhood development stages.
Development in Policies and Legislations
Centuries ago, parents and children worked together by herding animals, cultivating crops, searching water and firewood together (Weiner 1991, p.109–10). Children also worked in factories and mines in very dangerous conditions involving long hours, chemicals and machines, which led some people to feel the damage it was causing to the health and safety of children workers (Weiner 1991, p.109–10). Inevitably, Western Europe decided to pass laws around 1830, to remove children from work and put them into compulsory schooling with the UK leading the way as one of the first European countries to specifically introduce legislation for the rights of children at work (Milne, 2008 and Weiner, 1991). Around 1870, England and Wales introduced the Education Act which made a school for five to thirteen-year-olds compulsory with the notion of trying to extend the childhood development process without the burden of work (Hoyles and Evans, 1989, Hendrick 1997, Cunningham, 1998). Although the idea of children to be removed completely from work at a very young age and put them into school decades ago may have contributed to a child’s welfare, it wasn’t until 1989 when the United Nations General Assembly decided to adopt the Convention on the legal rights of a child. In 1989, the UN convention on the rights of the Child (UNCRC) authorised by almost all countries, decided to adopt the Convention on the legal rights of a child and defined a child to be someone who is under the age of 18 unless, “under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”(OHCHR | Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989). The convention also recognised childhood to be separate from adulthood by differentiating between adult and a child through what is appropriate for an adult may not be appropriate for a child. The convention also identifies children to be holders of their rights and development, therefore not being completely reliant upon adults or charities.
Health Inequalities and Poverty
Health Inequalities cannot be avoided as the status of our general wellbeing is determined by the differences between communities, people and groups and living in a community or society which is unfair or unjust can also contribute to health inequalities between different groups of people (Reducing health inequalities: system, scale and sustainability, 2017). Atkinson (2012) argues poverty can be the most common factor surrounding families and is defined by the department of work and pensions (2010), as living at or below 60% of the median national household income after taking out housing costs. A young person who is living in a society where they are exposed to poor health inequalities and living below the national household income also have to deal with other inequalities such as neglect, bad childhood experiences, suffering abuse, separated from parents and poverty are just some examples of the inequalities young persons have to endure (Atkinson, 2012). According to Townsend (1979) defining relative poverty is the lack of resources available to obtain different diets, lack of opportunities available to partake in activities and to live in conditions which are customary and acceptable in societies. As Townsend points out in his 1979 book, the participation in community and social life can also be the cause or effect of deprivation and that deprivation is a result of financial poverty which is the real harm. He also points out the other harms caused to families are the lack of good living conditions, diet, and access to opportunities as a result of their situation.
What can be done?
To better oneself from deprivation and inequalities one should participate in a variety of social inclusion such as leisure and cultural activities which could lead to building confidence, create networks between people and access to useful opportunities. It also helps people from different backgrounds to develop a good relationship with other people by breaking down prejudices and establishing common ground (Abrams, D 2010). Poverty should be tackled through approaches such as focusing on people, communities needs and improving the lives of those who live in that area ( Sherwood and Denty, 2017). Helping poor families to develop resources such as income will help alleviate a lot of issues facing vulnerable families. For example, a single person needs to earn £18,800 a year and each parent with two children need to earn £20,600 each, which is seen as a minimum acceptable standard of living in 2019 (JRF, 2019). The minimum standard of living will help to cover essentials such as needs and not wants as it is about what you need for opportunities and choices to happen, which will help you to relatively functioning in society (JRF, 2019). Whether the minimum acceptable standard of living is enough or not to get vulnerable families out of poverty, this approach can still be seen as someone who is headed in the right direction in particularly by helping children to progress in life.
This assignment began by giving various definitions from different historians and authors on the concept of understanding what a child is, such as Aries floated the idea that when a distinction had been made between child and adult, such as being able to look after oneself independently then that person can be treated accordingly and Mouritsen argued one should look into one’s childhood to discover the answer to what a child is, as we all experienced childhood once in our lives. Yes, we all have experienced childhood once in our lives and perhaps we may find the answer within our own childhood experiences to what the concept of a childhood maybe. Thereafter the assignment discussed policies and legislations, discovering over a duration of time the different Laws were passed for the wellbeing of children. During the 1800s, life for children was very difficult as they had to work in poor conditions with adults. The UK was one of the first European countries to introduce legislation for the rights of children at work and also went onto introducing Laws to make school compulsory for five to thirteen-year-olds to help children with their childhood development process. It was not until 1989 when children were respectively given legal rights to dictate their own lives instead of relying upon adults. Financial Poverty was linked to some of the health inequalities many people face as the general wellbeing of groups of people is determined by the differences between communities and people who live in a society that can be unfair and unjust. The latter part of this assignment discussed what can be done to help people from deprivation and inequalities. People living in communities that are segregated from other parts of the community by the income gap need to be helped into employment that meets the national living standards. Not only will you find those who earn the minimum acceptable standard of living to help them financially, but you will also find them to be able to participate socially and culturally. By being socially and culturally inclusive you will discover a new network of people and access to useful resources to help open up different opportunities, particularly helping children to prosper in life.