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.
In 2001, Professor Frank Furedi wrote ‘Paranoid Parenting’, arguing that a ‘culture of fear’ pervades parenting today, with parents perceiving their children as vulnerable, and as being perpetually at risk from several threats: from strangers, traffic, toys, and from the threat of falling behind in their development.
Parenting today has become an ordeal in which parents obsess over every detail of their child’s development, one in which they try to assess the risks of every activity and try to reduce these risks through surveillance and control (preventing them from taking risks in the first place).
Parents are now reluctant to let their children do unsupervised activities, such as walking to school on their own, for fear of them being abducted by strangers, and they are scared to let them go on school trips which involve long journeys, because of fear of traffic accidents or the possibility of them having moments when they might evade adult-supervision.
When purchasing products for young children, the safety of those products is also a concern – what are the risks of the child being injured or choking when playing with a toy, for example.
Parents are not only scared for their children’s safety when they go outdoors, they are also scared when they go online -virtual spaces are perceived as places where children may be prone to pedophiles, for example.
The causes of Paranoid Parenting
The most obvious cause is the exaggeration of the extent of stranger-abductions, and anything negative which happens to children in the news.
A less obvious cause is the growth of an ‘expert culture’ which has grown up around childhood, so that now there are a multitude of child-development professionals. There is an increasing norm in which parents are expected to defer to the authority of experts, rather than find their own way to parent.
The problem is that many of these experts have contradictory and unclear advice about what good parenting looks like, hence it just increases parental confusion.
A final reason is because the increase in alienation of parents – they have less power in the world of politics and work, and their children have become the main place where they can construct their identities, project their power and their dreams onto – so they are precious indeed!
The consequences of Paranoid Parenting
The increased control and surveillance that comes with Paranoid Parenting is a reduction in the amount of opportunities for children to develop independently – thus children remain children for longer because they are not allowed the freedom to take risks and make indpenedent choices that are required for transition to adulthood.
Another consequence is that children become more afraid themselves – with the constant messages that the world is risky, they become risk averse – and more vulnerable and anxious – paranoid parents create anxious kids. They inadvertently harm them.
Evaluating Paranoid Parenting
It’s now 20 years since Furedi wrote Paranoid Parenting, but today it seems more relevant than ever.
The video below involves an interview with Lenore Skenazy, the author of Free-Range Kids, who was dubbed ‘America’s Worst Mum’ when she let her 9 year old ride the Subway on his own, and made a video piece about it.
Note that her son had been asking to do this, and was familiar with the subway, so this was a rational ‘learning task’ for her son to do on his own!
This led to lots of TV appearances in which Lenore got demonised as the worst mum in America – she says in the interview that the TV hosts would often ask her ‘but what would you have done if he had never come back?’ and points out that this isn’t really a question, because they know how she’d feel – what they are doing is reinforcing the view that being a parent today involves going to the ‘worst case scenario’ – imagining the worst thing that could happen to your child and then concluding that they must always be under supervision, because that’s today’s norm, to be ‘Paranoid Parents’.
In the video and in this article there are several examples in the United States of the Police being called because of kids being unsupervised – in one example a teenage boy was chopping wood in his own yard with an axe, someone saw it, called the police, and they confiscated the axe, returning it to his parents.
The message is to not let your kids do anything that might help them develop as autonomous human beings, instead they should be doing ‘more homework’, and most definitely under surveillance.
Below is a timeline of some of the social policies which changed childhood, from the early 19th century through to the present day.
Most people would adopt a ‘March of Progress view‘ and argue that these polices improved the lives of children, however there are some sociologists who see these policies as placing too many restrictions on children.
The main types of social policies which have changed children’s lives are those relating to work, education and child welfare and protection.
Made it illegal for textile factories to employ children under the age of 9, and they had to provide at least twelve hours of education a week for children aged between 9-13.
The 1867 Factories Act
Made it illegal for any factory to employ children under the age of 8, and they had to provide all children aged between 8-13 with at least 10 hours of education a week.
Thomas Barnardo also opened his first children’s home in 1867.
The 1870 Education Act
Mass Education for children aged 5-12 was introduced
This is effectively the introduction of national primary education in Britain, although it wasn’t made compulsory for all 5-12-year olds until 1880, and the quality of education could be very poor indeed in some areas until the Education Reform Act of 1944.
The 1878 Factories and Workshop Act
Banned the employment of children under 10 in Factories.
The 1880 Education Act
Schooling in Britain made compulsory for every child up to the age of 10. Local Education Authorities
1889 – The Prevention of Cruelty towards Children Act, commonly known as the Children’s Charter
This Act gave the State the right, for the first time, to intervene in relationships between parents and their children. The Police could now enter a private residence and make arrests if a child were being mistreated.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Towards Children (NSPCC) was established in the same year.
This policy and new institution together laid the foundation for modern child welfare, and the idea that the state could intervene if parents were not being responsible.
The 1908 Children’s Act
This established juvenile courts, so that children would be prosecuted according to different standards from adults.
It also introduced a formal register of Foster Parents, formalising the idea of State approved Foster Parents taking over from ‘removed children’ who had suffered abuse from their biological parents.
The Punishment of Incest Act was introduced in the same year – this made sexual abuse within families a matter for state intervention and punishment, previous to this the Church had been responsible for dealing with this.
1918 – School Leaving Age Raised to 14
The 1944 Education Act
While students of sociology should be familiar with this date as the year in which the Tripartite System was introduced (and students probably familiar with criticising this act!), at the time this was a huge leap forward in the rights of children.
The 1944 Education act was the first time the State really took responsibility for education at a national level, rather than leaving education to Local Education Authorities. The act saw a huge increase in funding for education funding for education and a massive building programme of new secondary modern schools.
The School Leaving Age was also raised to 15.
The 1948 Children’s Act
This established a children’s committee and a children’s officer in each local authority and represents the emergence of ‘child protection and welfare’ being a major responsibility of each Local Authority.
A series of legislation throughout the 1960s and 1970s, often in response to high profile deaths of children at the hands of their parents or foster parents, consolidated children’s social services and safeguarding strategies in Local Authority in the UK.
1973 – School Leaving Age raised to 16
1989 – The Children’s Act
Gave children the right to protection from abuse and exploitation and put child welfare at the heart of everything the Social Services did. It also reinforced the central principle that children were best looked after, wherever possible within families.
1991 – The Child Support Act
This gave children protection in the event of Divorce – it emphasised that prime concern of family courts in a Divorce should be the welfare of the children.
2003 – Every Child Matters
This was a government report following the death of Victoria Climbie
It outlined five key principles that every child should have the right to:
enjoy and achieve
make a positive contribution
achieve economic well-being
The idea was that everyone working within children in any capacity should be ensuring these principles guided their interactions with children.
2013 – Children were required to remain in education or work with training until at least the age of 18.
The history of child labour, education and welfare legislation doesn’t stop here, there is more, but I am!
NB Safeguarding is now a big policy agenda, but to my mind it doesn’t really do anything new, it’s just refining and rebranding Every Child Matters and previous policies.
How has childhood in the UK changed since the 19th Century, and have these changes been positive?
There have been several changes to the lives of children since the early 19th century, and we can break these down as follows:
Work – Policies which regulated and restricted child labour, leading to the eventual exclusion of children from paid work
Education – The introduction of compulsory education and the increase in both funding of education and the raising of the school leaving age.
The Medicalisation of childbirth and early childcare – Rather than high infant mortality rates, the NHS now provides comprehensive maternity and early childcare to mothers and children.
Legislation has emerged to exclude children from a whole range of potentially harmful and dangerous acts
Children now have more money spent on them than ever – a range of specialist products and services have emerged and increased which are specifically aimed at children and child development. Link in money here.
Parents now spend more time with their children, actively engaged with ‘parenting’.
Child Welfare – The introduction of child protection and welfare legislation, and its expansion into every aspect of child services through recent Safeguarding policies.
The recent growth of the idea of ‘rights of the child’ has given children more of a voice in society.
Most people see these changes as representing a ‘March of Progress’ – they see such changes as gradually improving the lives of children by giving them more protection for the stresses of adult life. It seems that we have moved towards a ‘child centred society’.
However, there are sociologists who point to the downsides of some changes, especially in the last 50 years.
This post mainly adopts a March of Progress perspective, with the critical perspectives dealt with in my other posts on ‘Toxic Childhood’ and ‘Paranoid Parenting’. It has been written primarily for students studying the Families and Households option for A-level Sociology.
Childhood in Victorian Times
During the early 19th Century, many working-class children could be found working in factories, mines, and mills. They often worked long-hours and in unsafe conditions, which had negative consequences for their health, and could sometimes even result in children being injured or dying at work.
At home, children were also often required to take on adult-work, doing domestic chores and caring for sick relatives.
Social attitudes towards children started to change in the middle of the 19th century, and childhood gradually came to be seen more as a distinct phase of life, separate from adulthood, with children needing protecting from the hardships of adult life, especially work and provided with more guidance and nurturing through education.
These attitudes were reflected in the introduction of several social policies related to work and education, and the establishment of institutions dedicated to child welfare gradually changed the status of children
The changes below have happened over a very long period of time – from the 1830s, with the first factor acts restricting child labour, right up to the present day, with the emergence of the ‘rights of the child’, spearheaded by the United Nations.
Changes to childhood since Victorian Times: A March of Progress?
There were several ‘factories acts’ throughout the 19th century, which gradually improved the rights of (typically male) workers by limiting working hours, and many of these acts had clauses which banned factories from employing people under certain ages.
The 1833 Factories Act was the first act to restrict child labour – it made it illegal for textile factories to employ children under the age of 9, and required factories to provide any children aged 9-13 with at least 12 hours of education a week.
The 1867 Factories Act extended this idea to all factories – this act made it illegal for any factors to employ children under the age of 8 and provide children aged 8-13 with at least 10 hours of education a week.
The 1878 Factories Act placed a total ban on the employment of children under the age of 10, fitting in nicely with the introduction of education policies.
Today, children can only work full-time from the age of 16, and then they must do training with that employment. Full adult working rights only apply from the age of 18.
Children aged 13-15 can work, but there are restrictions on the number of hours and the types of ‘industry’ they can work in. Babysitting is one of the most common jobs for this age group.
The 1870 Education Act introduced Education for all children aged 5-12, although this was voluntary at the time.
In 1880 it was made compulsory for all children to attend school aged 5-12, with the responsibility for attendance falling on the Local Education Authorities.
The next century saw the gradual increasing of the school leaving age and increase in funding for education:
1918 – The school leaving age raised to 14
1944 – school leaving age raised to 15 (also the year of the Tripartite system and massive increase in funding to build new secondary modern schools)
1973 – The school leaving age increased to 16.
2013 – Children were required to remain in education or work with training until 18.
Today the UK government spends almost £100 billion a year on education, and around 500 000 people are employed in the child-education sector.
Children are expected to attend school for 13 years, and their attendance and progress is monitored intensely (some may say over-monitored) during that time, with extra support being provided depending on students’ ‘individual learning needs’.
The scope of education has also increased – the curriculum has broadened to include a wide range of academic and, later on, vocational subjects, as well as there being a focus on personal well-being and development.
The Medicalisation of childbirth and early childcare
Rather than high infant and child mortality rates as was the case in the Victorian era, the NHS now provides comprehensive maternity and early childcare to mothers and children.
There are several more, as outlined in this child friendly version of the document…
A Child Centred Society
Changes such as those outlined above seem to suggest that our society has become more child centered over the last century or so, with children occupying a more central role than ever, with more money and time being spend on them than ever, and with children being the ‘primary concern’ of many public services and often the sole thing that gives meaning to the lives of many parents.
According to Cunningham (2006) the child centered society has three main features (which is another way of summarising what’s above)
Childhood is regarded as the opposite of adulthood – children in particular are viewed as being in need of protection from the adult world.
Child and adult worlds are separated – they have different social spaces – playground and school for children, work and pubs for adults.
Childhood is increasingly associated with rights.
If we look at total public expenditure on children, there certainly seems to be evidence that we live in a child centered society! (Source below)
Criticisms of the March of Progress View of childhood
The common sense view is to see the above changes as ‘progressive’. Most people would argue that now children are more protected that their lives are better, but is this actually the case? The ‘March of Progress’ view argues that yes, children’s lives have improved and they are now much better off than in the Victorian Era and the Middle Ages. They point to all the evidence on the previous page as just self-evidently indicating an improvement to children’s’ lives.
Conflict theorists, however, argue against the view that children’s lives have gradually been getting better – they say that in some ways children’s lives are worse than they used to be. There are three main criticisms made of the march of progress view
1. Recent technological changes have resulted in significant harms to children – what Sociologist Sue Palmer refers to as Toxic Childhood.
2. Some sociologists argue that children today are too controlled. Sociologists such as Frank Furedi argue that children today are overprotected, or too controlled – We live in the age of ‘Paranoid Parenting’.
3. There are significant inequalities between children, so if there has been progress for some, there certainly has not been equal progress.
700 000 children in the U.K. are currently registered with an emotional disorder, that’s 7.2%, of 5-19 year olds, or about 1 in 13, according to a recent survey by NHS Digital.
And that’s just those children who have been formally diagnosed. That figure of 7.2% represents those children who have reached the clinical diagnoses threshold – where their distress impairs them so much that it gets in the way of their daily functioning.
The Children’s society says there are many who can’t get help because their problems are not serious enough, maybe as many as 3-4 times the above figure.
Mental health disorders have a huge economic impact, costing the UK 4% of GDP.
The show explores various possible contributors such as social media, pressurized exams, genetics and parents passing on their own worries to their children, as well as changing cultural norms which remove children’s agency.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is the buzz word of the moment, but the anxiety which stops children going to school is different to butterflies in tummies before going on stage at the school play. The word covers both, a human experience we all feel and a clinical diagnosis.
The later type of ‘ordinary’ anxiety can be helpful in some senses, and anxiety is a normal response to stress and entirely normally developmentally – e.g. up to the age of three separation anxiety is normal as are phobias for pre-school children, and for teens there is a heightened sense of awareness of our selves and how others see us.
In order to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the level of distress must be so debilitating that one cannot function – it’s where you can’t face going out because you’re so anxious.
There are also different types of anxiety: such as social anxiety – not being able to be scrutinized without going bright red, and generalized anxieties – about anything that can go wrong, for example.
If you get serious anxiety as a child, it harms your development – you’re behind your peers and with schoolwork, and it’s reinforcing – the more you get behind, then the more there is to be anxious about!
Anxiety Increases with age, more common with girls, strong link to deprivation and family history. It’s also affect by personality types – some are more cautious and socially shy.
What is it that’s making children feel more anxious?
Social context is important – not so long ago, children would be out playing at ages 6-7, away from their parents, developing a sense of their own agency, but we’ve now starved them of these chances to be independent in primary school – primary schools forbid children to travel their alone – hence why secondary school is now seen as more of a challenge!
It could also be parents are increasingly transferring their anxieties onto their children – linked to the fact that there are too many experts telling parents what to do and the increased pressure on ‘getting parenting right’ – anxious parents makes anxious children: they do share an environment, after all!
A recent column in The Times likened GCSEs to a type of child abuse, but increased exam pressure is dismissed as being linked to increasing anxiety, because we’ve been doing them for thousands of years, and they’re probably less stressful now than they were 30 years ago.
However, it doesn’t help that children are more sensitive about the future nowadays and that more creative subjects which many children prefer are now squeezed out in favour of English and Maths.
The show also considers the effect of Social Media – it makes sense because your social media presence is fundamentally linked to your social identity – and it doesn’t switch off, and this is especially likely to impact teens at the time of life when they’re thinking about their identities.
However, there is a lock of good evidence of the relationship between social media usage and anxiety levels: its just cross sectional but we don’t know what comes first, we don’t know what kind of social media activity teens are involved in and we don’t have longitudinal data.
Socioeconomic factors also play a role – giving time to children, both physically and emotionally is important for their development, but the lower an income you earn, then the more time you need to spend working, and the less time you have for your children.
Body Image and anxiety
There does seem to be evidence of a relationship between body image and anxiety.
A recent Mental Health Foundation Survey found that ¼ people aged 18-24 believed that reality TV shows such as Love Island makes them worry about body image.
1/3rd of young people worry every day about their body, feeling things such as shame.
Over 1/5th 17-19 year old girls have anxiety depression or both. Around 11-14 there is a relationship between obesity and anxiety, but the relationship is complex.
How to help children control anxiety…
Various solutions are offered
More resources for mental health services
Cognitive behavioural therapy is mentioned as a good way of dealing with more serious anxiety.
Forest Schools and meditation lessons in schools are day to day things we could be doing socially
Giving young people more of a sense of agency
Being prepared to listen to children and talking about anxiety.
We also need to remember that ‘normal’ levels of anxiety are helpful – without it, we probably wouldn’t care about how we perform in society, it’s a natural part of going through changes, and the best things in life don’t tend to happen in comfort zones!
Relevance to A-level Sociology
This is of relevance to the sociology of childhood, especially toxic childhood, and also research methods: we need to question whether these anxiety stats are valid or whether they’re socially constructed. The growth of anxiety might just be because there are more experts more willing to diagnose anxiety.
If you’re struggling to find useful resources to update the childhood topic within the sociology of the family then you should check out ‘Bringing Up Britain‘, a weekly radio 4 show/ podcast hosted by Mariella Frostrup.
Each episode lasts 40 minutes and consists of debate among ‘experts’ on an aspect of contemporary parenting and childhood. You can see from the screenshot above just how relevant some of these topics are to the sociology of the family as well as to A-level sociology more generally.
The programme tends to analyse issues through more of a psychological perspective rather than a sociological one, but it’s a useful resource nonetheless which does consider social issues such as labelling, the role of the media, and changing norms and values, and how all of these (among other things) affect modern parenting and childhood.
Recent topics include:
why do children lie (and is it a problem, not necessarily apparently!) – relevant to the family and crime and deviance
Generation anxious – relative to toxic childhood and just generally useful for helping kids deal with mental health issues.
Parenting in the Smart Phone age – also relevant to the media module.
1 in 3 children in the U.K. is either overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, with those from deprived areas twice as likely to be affected.
There are some pretty obvious downsides to childhood obesity to both the individual and society – such as the increased risk of obesity related illnesses such as diabetes, and estimated annual cost to the NHS of > £billion/ year.
The government today announced a set of measures designed to halve the number of children suffering from obesity by 2030, which included
A ban on the sale of energy drinks to children.
A uniform calorie labeling system to be introduced in all restaurants, cafes and takeaways.
Shops are to banned from displaying unhealthy food at checkouts and entrances
Shops are to banned from including unhealthy food in special offers.
Primary schools would be asked to introduce an “active mile” to encourage children to be more active, including daily running sessions and an emphasis on walking and cycling to school.
The plan forms the second chapter of the government’s childhood obesity strategy. The first chapter was criticized for being too weak when it was published two years ago.
Given the increase in childhood obesity, this seems to be like a timely intervention:
Arguments for banning advertising junk food to children
There is strong evidence that children who are more exposed to advertising are more likely to eat more junk food, which is a starting point argument for banning the ads.
Even if you argue that is is the parents’ responsibility to control what their kids eat, the fact that in reality, it is simply impossible for parents to regulate every aspect of their children’s lives: kids are going to go online and be exposed to whatever’s there: better that junk food adverts are not.
This move ‘fits into’ the general movement towards more child protection. In fact, I think it’s odd that junk food manufactures have been exempt from doing harm to children (by pushing their products onto them) for so long.
Those of a liberal persuasion would probably be against even more state intervention in the lives of families, however I personally don’t see these policies as ‘intervening’ in the lives of families, they are more about forcing companies to restrain their marketing of unhealthy food to children, so personally I can’t think of any decent arguments against these government policies…… suggestions welcome in the comments!
In a recent BBC documentary: ‘The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs’ Dr Chris Van Tulleken (Dr CVT) set out to answer the above question. Here I summarise this documentary and throw in a few links and additional commentary
You can watch the documentary on BBC iplayer until Late June 2018, although TBH you may as well save yourself 50 mins and just skim read what’s below.
There has been a dramatic increase in prescriptions for children with Cow’s Milk Allergy (CMA) in recent years: A 500% increase in the 10 years to 2016 in fact!
A ‘prescription’ basically means that children with CMA get put on a specialist cow milk free ‘alternative milk’ formula, which costs twice as much as regular milk formula for children, and costs the NHS £64 million/ year.
In this section of the second episode of the series: ‘The Dr Who Gave Up Drugs, Dr CVT asks why there has been such a rapid increase in prescriptions for specialist formula to treat Cow’s Milk Allergy.
He says that as a new parent, he keeps hearing about it, which is odd because only 2% of children suffer from it, and so he’s wondering whether or not the above increase in prescriptions is due to increase in the underlying numbers of children who actually have cows milk allergy (or better detection) or whether there is something else fuelling the increasing public awareness of the condition.
The Normalisation of diagnosing and treating CMA
The documentary also visits one parent who thought her child had CMA when he developed XMA (one of the possible symptoms, but also something which 20% of babies suffer from), she visited her GP, who confirmed he didn’t have CMA. However, when she took her child to hospital for a bump, the pediatrician there noticed the XMA and prescribed specialist formula for CMA.
The child hated it, and so often went to be hungry. It too a visit to a Dr Robert Boyle (in the skeptical about CMA camp) who confirmed the child didn’t have CMA and so normal milk service was resumed.
The worrying thing about the above case is that alternative formula is being pushed on parents against their will, the normalisation of the diagnoses and treatment for a condition which in this case didn’t actually exist.
Industry lead education for NHS staff
One of the reasons Dr CVT is sceptical about the increase in awareness and prescription being linked to an actual underlying number of cases of children with CMA is that a lot of the education provided to Doctors about food allergies among children is sponsored by the companies who make alternative, specialist formulas to treat allergies.
To illustrate this point, the documentary visits a training day for NHS staff in Newcastle, aimed at educating staff about food allergies in babies – the event is sponsored by Danone, the company which makes one of the specialist CMA formulas, and what Dr CVT finds is advertising literature (various ‘glossy mags) and product samples alongside proper medical advice.
Another ‘test’ for the involvement of industry in educating about food allergies is to simply Google ‘cows milk allergy’ – which Dr CVT does and finds that most of the advice websites which help parents to self-diagnose their children are run by the companies who make specialist formula to treat the condition.
He also explores the web sites which parents and professionals use to diagnose for CMA, again run by the companies, and finds that the ‘symptoms’ which indicate Cow’s Milk Allergy are pretty much the kind of symptoms which every child has at some point, whether or not they have the allergy – things such as ‘colic’ and ‘vomiting’
Finally, he interviews Dr Adam Fox, who is a consultant for the ‘Allergy Academy’, sponsored by Danone, and he doesn’t seem able to convince Dr CVT that there isn’t a conflict of interests between the companies who profit from increased diagnoses of Cow’s Milk Allergy providing education on how to diagnose for the condition.
Application to Sociology
There are lots of applications – mainly centering around labelling theory and the power of corporations to shape agendas! Also risk society.
A 10 mark ‘analyse with item’ practice question and answer for the AQA’s A-level paper 2: families
Applying material from Item A, analyse two changes in the position of children in society over the last 100 years (10)
Parents today spend a great deal of time and money trying to make sure that their children enjoy a comfortable upbringing. They want their children to have opportunities that they themselves never had. ‘March of progress’ sociologists argue that these changes in family life have led to an improvement in the position of children in society.
How to answer this question?
It’s pretty obscure (IMO) but the item gives you TWO obvious ‘hooks’:
Time/ money/ comfortable upbringing which is pointing to ‘improving living standards’
Improved opportunities – education being the most obvious!
The above two should be your two points, analysed in both cases from the March of progress view (how have these improved the position of children), and to my mind this question is also screaming for you to evaluate each of these points (unlike the not item outline and explain 10 mark questions, you do get marks for evaluating in these ’10 mark with the item’ question.
You might like to review these two posts before attempting this question:
I advise developing each of the points below still further!
Point 1: As it says in item A, one change in children’s position in society is that parents spend more time and money on them, and so they have a more comfortable life… the average child now costs about £250K to raise, much more than 100 years ago.
Development – this is because of economic growth over the last 100 years, parents now earn more money and so are able to spend more on children’s toys and ‘educational experiences’ which can further child development; as well as more nutritional food, which means children are healthier.
Further development – parents are also more involved with the socialisation of their children; this is especially true of middle class parents who invest a lot time ‘injecting cultural capital’ into their children.
Further development – lying behind all of this is the fact that children are no longer seen as economic assets: they no longer have to work, but rather there has been a cultural shift in which children have rights and should be allowed a lengthy childhood in which they are cared for.
Evaluation – However there are critics of this ‘march of progress view’ – not all parents are able to afford products for their children (lone parents for example) which can create a sense of marginalisation; also there is a sense in which parents spend time with their kids because they are paranoid about their safety in a risk society – Frank Furedi for example argues that this might stifle child development by preventing them from becoming independent.
Point 2: The second social change which can be said to have improved the lives of children is improved opportunities for children – such as with the expansion of education.
Development – 100 years ago (early 19th century) schooling was only compulsory up until about the age of 14, and this was gradually extended through the decades until today children are expected to be in education or training until the age of 18.
Further Development – From a functionalist point of view, education is meritocratic today and so provides opportunities for all children to achieve qualifications and get jobs appropriate to their skills. Children also benefit from the secondary socialisation schools provide, which many uneducated parents may not be able to provide effectively. We now have National Curriculum which ensures all children learn maths English and a broad range of other subjects
Further development – The expansion of education has been combined with the expansion of child welfare more generally – so schools are about improving child well being and safety more generally, meaning children have more opportunities to escape abuse than in the past.
Evaluation – However, from a Marxist point of view, not everyone has the same opportunities in school, and from a Feminist perspective gendered socialisation and stereotyping in school means that girls do not have equality of opportunity with boys.
A Level Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle
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