Below are some relatively recent examples of documentary video evidence which demonstrate how attitudes to children vary across cultures, supporting the view that childhood is socially constructed.
This post has been written primarily for students studying the families and households module within A-level sociology
In India, teenage girls aged 14-15 are sometimes pressurized into marrying by their family against their will, often due to financial reasons. The video below explores this, but looks at how teenage female victims try to avoid getting married when they do not want to…
In the less Developed United States of America, it appears that the agents of the State are sometimes less willing to protect child victims of rape and coerced marriage than they are in India.
The video below documents a girl whose family coerced her into getting married after she was raped and made pregnant by her 24 year old ‘boyfriend’.
For reasons that I don’t fully understand and aren’t really explored in the video, the 24 year old child rapist wasn’t prosecuted.
Instead he was legally allowed to marry his by then 15 year old pregnant ‘girlfriend’, with further violent abuse continuing after the marriage.
As I say, I don’t understand how the State can legally sanction violence against children, but that’s life in an underdeveloped country such as America I guess!
Ritualised Violence against girls
In the Hamar Tribe in Ethiopia,
When boys reach the age of puberty they have to go through a ritual to become men. The main event in this ritual (for the boys at least) involves jumping over some cattle four times. Once a boy has done this, he is officially a man.
However, before they jump the cattle, young teenage girls beg to to be whipped with sticks by the boys about to undergo the ritual – the more they are whipped, the more ‘honour’ they bring on their families.
NB this isn’t play whipping, some of the blows these girls receive are serious, as you can see from the scars in the video still below, the whipping often opens up quite significant wounds which take time to heal, and with healing comes scaring.
Towards the end of this video you get to see an example of this ceremony – the girls are quite willing volunteers in this ritualized violence, which seems to be a normal part of childhood for girls in the Hamar Tribe.
Child slavery in West Africa
In West Africa, thousands of girls and women have been enslaved by a practice called ‘trokosi’. Girls as young as seven are given away by their family to pay for the sins of family members. They get forcibly shipped to a shrine, possibly in a foreign country, stripped of their identity, and are forced to work as ‘servants of God’.
In the documentary below, one victim of trokosi revisits her home country of Ghana to find out why this happened to her.
She was lucky enough to get out because an American negotiated her release and became her adopted father, which kind of suggests this religion is pretty flexible!
Further examples of how childhood is socially constructed
You can probably also find videos on child labour and child soldiers, two other good examples.
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