DISCOVERY OF CHILDHOOD
Childhood refers to the age span of an individual between birth and adolescence. Ideally, childhood has two stages namely concrete operational alongside preoperational stages. From another perspective developmental psychologists divide childhood into toddlerhood, early childhood, Middle childhood, alongside adolescence (Montgomery, 2007:17). Notably, several factors of childhood have an immense deal of impact on the formation of an individual’s attitude. Holding to the position that childhood is not a phenomenon occurring in nature, there have been a number of arguments concerning its discovery. In the ancient times, adults held the perception that children are innocent beings depending on the adults for protection and training. The enlightenment period is of much significance to the emergence of childhood’s modern notion. This modern notion contradicts the notion of early thinkers according to whom childhood was a sanctuary period that occurred as individuals prepared to face hardships and perils associated with adulthood. According to Wells (2011), the discovery of childhood did not come in the nineteenth century; Instead, emergent rationalities and government techniques were responsible; these forces had significant impact on children’s psyches, minds, alongside their bodies thus producing them as intellectual, psychic, and corporeal subjects (Wells, 2011: 18).
Notably, childhood history presents a form of mystery with its unfolding just unfolding recently. Ideally, the past was characteristic of a trend in which child care was minimal; this meant that children were killed, terrorized, abandoned, and abused sexually (Heywood, 2001:15). In this traditional point of view, human beings gave birth to children whose souls are corrupted; in addition, these children had the meanest and nastiest instincts within themselves (Whitfield, 1987:16). This has the implication that, the relationship between childhood and innocence is a modern point of view. A number of historians argue that children were perceived to be small adults in possession of qualities that leveled those of grown-ups; this was before the 17th century. However, children of that time were not as daring as children of today. There were also ancient beliefs linking children with fallen angles. As a result of these beliefs children did not receive as much protection as today. In addition, adults held children responsible for their actions, alongside assigning them various duties. Children were vile creatures as proved by their actions; this was because of their inability to handle trouble and reason like adults. According to the Romantics, children represented noble savages (Dobrin, 2013:par2). These philosophers believed that the nature of humans was malleable and perfectible. Ideally, these philosophers gave a description of life that matched what life ought to be.
There is substantial evidence that emergent rationalities had significant influence on the discovery of childhood. Ideally, rationality refers to an individual’s quality of being reasonable on grounds of reason or fact (Flyvbjerg, 1998:2). Thus rationalists have reasons for their beliefs or reasons for their actions. New rationalists had an outstanding reason to appreciate childhood in the wake of romantic. Consequently, these rationalists impacted children’s psyches, minds, alongside their bodies thus producing them as intellectual, psychic, and corporeal subjects. Despite the fact that these rationalists did not have theories that matched their practices, they exhibited an immense deal of appreciation for childhood. The emergence of childhood came at a time when systemic observations had started being made via the use of science. Children exhibited spontaneous inclination in the direction of sympathy at the onset of the romantic era. Before the emergence of these new rationalists, children were perceived as fierce and gloomy little beasts. The globe witnessed societies which revealed children’s nature in broad daylight.
The new rationalists thus had reasons for a number of actions which contributed significantly to the discovery of childhood. These actions were responsible for a number of changes which came about as a consequence of Renaissance and Reformation (King, 2007:371). Such systems as the feudal and capitalism were responsible for the propagation of the changes, initiated by the new rationalists of the romantic era. These factors changed the existing belief that human efforts could significantly human condition. It can thus be argued that, the most significant achievement of new rationalists was the discovery of childhood. Notably, children existed before this time but people did not have a clear understanding of it entailed. This draws substantial illustration from the fact that many people treated children as miniature grown-ups. For example, unlike the current society, people did not provide separate clothes for children. Since the discovery of childhood, there has been a common practice that sees people provide their children with a kit specifically designed for small children. This is practiced, among others, to achieve the convenience of the child. On top of clothing, children are now provided with separate space and furniture; this is contrary to the era before the discovery of childhood. Notably, the emergent rationalists had the belief that their actions would bring about changes which would appreciate the importance of children thus the understanding of the concept of childhood. Arguably, before the emergence of the new rationalists, childhood did not exist.
Ideally, new rationalists saw the human as one defined by static and inherited roles. This perception was responsible for the understanding of the child as a different individual. The new rationalists influenced the change of houses’ structures thus the discovery of the essence of privacy, political and economic changes. One of t he consequences of these changes was that children could no longer be sent away from their homes to work. These events were of much essence in the birth of childhood. Ideally, people completely changed the perspective from which children were viewed. This has the implication that people’s view of children changed significantly both by observation and understanding. In the ancient time, people thought that children were small monsters that were in waiting to be made human beings. However, the emergence of new rationalists changed this notion in a significant manner. People developed an immense deal of respect for children accompanied by the realization of the need to provide them with substantial protection (Montessori, 2004:60). Following the emergence of the new rationalists, basic needs and part of the secondary needs of children became the responsibility of parents. In the real sense, this change was achieved after the new rationalists had influenced the discovery of childhood through a number of actions. The magnitude of care given to grown-ups was also separated with that given to adults (Elias, 1978:35). Parents developed the understanding that the age between birth and adolescence was a delicate stage for their children thus the need for maximum care. This did not exist before; not that parents of the time did not have children but because they lacked the understanding of the needs of individuals belonging in this age group (Prout, 2011:8).
Government techniques also had significant impact on the discovery of childhood, as observed in various initiatives by governments throughout the globe. For instance, following the birth of some of the world’s earliest democracies, several governments lobbied for the rights of children. As a result, parents would no longer view children as small monsters awaiting adulthood. Instead, parents would recognize that children had rights to several needs which had to be provided in a different manner compared to the adults. These included clothing and housing. Ideally, rights of children refer to human rights entitled to children (Fass, 2009:965). The rights of children, as stated by governments, have specific emphasis on minors’ care, basic necessities’ provision, and special protection. However, not all countries respect children’s rights implying that the role played by governments’ techniques towards full recognition of childhood still has a long way. Most of the governments, however, have implemented policies which outlaw such forms of exploitation as child labor, imprisonment, forced military service, deprivation of education, and detention. Before the implementation of such policies by governments, childhood was not recognized in several parts of the world. Consequently, children were subjected to an immense deal of violence and poor conditions especially in the current third world countries (Rahikainen, 2005:15).
Government techniques that led to the discovery of childhood also include research in social sciences. Ideally, governments have invested heavily in adulthood sociological studies. These governments have initiated programs regarding contemporary anthropological and sociological research in order to enable people develop essential links involving social theory and childhood study. An outstanding example of a nation where such studies have powered the recognition of childhood is Ethiopia in Sub-Saharan Africa. Social sciences have been essential in the enlightenment era since people were able to understand the psychological needs of children. It is via social sciences that people have been able to learn that the needs of adults are different from those of children. Notably, most of the poor conditions subjected to children in the ancient times were as a result of ignorance. People, in several parts of the globe, lacked information on the special needs of children but this has been alleviated by governments’ emphasis on social studies. There is still need for governments to put more emphasis on social sciences studies especially in countries that are still in the process of civilization (Quennerstedt & Quennerstedt, 2014:120). Notably, a number of Sub-Saharan African countries are yet to reach the civilization threshold that supports full recognition of childhood. For instance, in the recent years the world has witnessed the use of children soldiers in such countries as Liberia, Central African Republic, and Angola. The situation is, however, being restored by use of a number of factors inclusive of social sciences studies.
Governments’ techniques that have contributed to the realization of childhood are also inclusive of formation of global bodies. One of these bodies is the UNICEF which lobbies for child protection among other roles. This body indicates that child protection entails such initiatives as violence response alongside the prevention of child abuse and exploitation. Some of the common practices combated by UNICEF are trafficking, sexual exploitation, child marriage, child labor, and female genital mutilation (UNICEF, 2014). It is the responsibility of member nations to take part in the formation of policies and rules governing the body. On the other hand, governments ought to ensure that they adhere to all rules implemented by the body with respect to child protection. There are cases in which governments have presented individuals, involved in abuse of children’s rights, before international judicial systems; the ICC is an outstanding example.
It can thus be argued that, the 19th century did not mark the discovery of childhood. The discovery of childhood was not an evolutionary process marked by time but was rather triggered by government techniques and emergent rationalists. New rationalists had the belief that their actions would bring about the recognition of childhood. They exhibited new practices which were contrary to traditional practices that did not obey the rights of children. Various governments in the globe have also exhibited several initiatives that have contributed to the recognition of childhood. The most important is the implementation of various polices that outlaw all activities tat compromise children’s protection and rights to other services. This has also been aided by the formation of such international bodies as the UNICEF. Ideally, the discovery of childhood meant the recognition of children’s special needs thus ending the ancient notion that children were simply small adults. As a result, children could now access special services that match their special needs. Outstanding examples are different clothing, right to education, and right to protection against various forms of abuse and exploitation. It is thus evident that that the respect for children’s rights did not simply come about in the 19th century.
Dobrin, A., 2013. When Childhood was discovered. [online] Available at: < http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/am-i-right/201306/when-childhood-was-discovered> [24
Elias, N. 1978. The Civilizing Process. Oxford: Blackwell. (This is a book on the process of civilization. It was useful in forming the foundation of giving differences of childhood view between the ancient and current time)
Fass, P., 2009. “Children and globalization”, Journal of Social History, Summer, vol. 1, no. 126, pp. 963-977. (This is an article on children from a global perspective. It was useful in establishing the issues that face children in the entire globe)
Flyvbjerg, B., 1998. Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (This is a book on rationality. It was essential in giving the definition of rationality)
Heywood, C. 2001. A history of childhood: Children and childhood in the West from medieval to modern times. Cambridge: Polity. (This is a book on the childhood history in the West. It was significant in giving an overview of how people perceived children in the ancient times)
King, M. L. 2007. “Concepts of childhood: what we know and where we might go”, Renaissance Quarterly, vol.60, pp. 371-407. (This is an article on various childhood concepts. It was significant in giving changes that occurred on the life’s of children as a result of Renaissance and Reformation)
Montessori, M., 2014. The Discovery of the Child. New Delhi: Aakar Books. (This is a book on childhood discovery. It was useful in raising the key issues that came about with discovery of the child)
Montgomery, H. 2009, An introduction to childhood: Anthropological perspectives on children’s lives. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell Publishers. (This is a book on the basic concepts of childhood. This book was useful from giving an introduction of childhood from an anthropologist’s point of view)
Prout, A., 2011. “Taking a step away from modernity: Reconsidering the new sociology of childhood”, Global Studies of Childhood, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 4-14. (This is an article on emergent children’s sociology. It was useful in establishing the differences in children’s sociology between the ancient and modern eras)
Quennerstedt, A., and Quennerstedt, M., 2014. “Researching children’s rights in education: sociology of childhood encountering educational theory”, British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 115-132. (This is an article on social sciences studies and the rights of children. It was useful in establishing the essence of social sciences on children’s rights)
Rahikainen, M. 2005. Centuries of Child Labour: European Experiences from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Centuries. Aldershot: Ashgate.(This is a book on the life of children before the recognition of childhood. It was useful in giving the image of children’s life before childhood discovery)
UNICEF, 2014. What we do. [online] Available at: < http://www.unicef.org/whatwedo/> [24 September 2014]. (this is the official UNICEF website. It was useful in establishing the roles of UNICEF)
Wells, K., 2011. “The politics of life: governing childhood”, Global Studies of Childhood, vol 1, no. 1, pp. 15-25. (This is an article on politics surrounding the life of children. It was significant in establishing the essay’s thesis statement thus forming the argument’s basis)
Whitfield, C., 1987. Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families (Recovery Classics Edition). Deerfield: Health Communications, Inc.(This is a book on self help. It was useful in establishing various forms of abuses on children)