There is no doubt that through the last decade, the meaning of childhood, or mere existence of it in society has changed dramatically. The three key changes to people’s childhoods has been through laws surrounding them, schooling and the welfare state regulations and protection for them. These have all contributed to children from early in the 20th century to be economic assets, admiring to their parents and independent turned into nowadays’ children being economically dependent on their parents with society focused around them.It cannot be argued that without the legal changes to children’s working laws, childhood would not be what it is today.
Getting young children out of work to earn a living for their family meant that they have more time to play, make friends and build relationships with their families. Many people were for the abolishment of child labour including the sociologist, Karl Marx who called for “Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form” in his Communist Manifesto.After the First World War, the amount of children working in places such as factories was very low and nowadays is non-existent. So the position of children in society has changed from a strong working force to support the nation to being dependent people being looked after through their families. Also to the family, with no children working, their position in the family was to be looked after, cared and nurtured for as they are spending more time at home.Once children were not in the work houses, compulsory schooling was introduced in 1948 as a human right and this changed the position of children in families and society even more so.
Having compulsory schooling for every child in the UK meant that children had more opportunities to achieve in their lives, get out of their way of living and class, gain social conducts and also have more rights and protection.Children have changed as they have gained a lot of importance in the family and nowadays the parent’s lives mainly revolve around their children as their education is key to getting a good job and living a good life after they leave home. Education has had a big impact on families such as many families currently move houses and areas to get into good catchment areas to get their children into good schools, giving up many of their own luxuries to afford private education and giving their children rewards for doing well at school.Compare this to when children were low in the pecking order in the family in the early 20th century as ‘Dad’ was the key figure in the household.
But recently, children have got a much better relationship with their parents, with children seeing their parents as friends and equal (or sometimes less equal) to them, compared to inthe early 20th century as well where they were ruling, dominant figures in the family.Evidence suggests that this is down to more laws and state regulation favoring the children in society as there are many things parents cannot do to children such as beating and forced labour. The changes in the welfare state and protections around children mean that they are living a more relaxed and easier childhood. The welfare state give out more benefits to parents to help children be as happy and provided for as possible, trying to wipe out child poverty altogether.
This has made the current lives of children in society having more rights and chances for an equal life with adults and the line between adolescence and adulthood has become more blurred, maybe cutting out the section of people’s lives altogether? Due to laws like these on children, they are getting more from their parents, such as emotional support and material items through the use of ‘pester power’. It could even be argued that many people get more out of their parents and are happier than was ever imagined a decade ago.The final point about how children have changed is that they are more open to the dangerous world we live in. Due to technology and the media, children see a lot more than was ever shown a few centuries ago. This may be for the worse or for the better, through watching violent movies and sexual adverts for example – but it is too early to show if there is any real damaging effect of this.
In society, this makes children more aware of the outside world we live in which is result in childhood becoming shorter and eventually perhaps running out?