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From this juncture the child became accepted as being entitled to individual rights, possessing a certain amount of responsibilities and free from “traditionally passive and often repressive protection” (Hendrick, 1997:57). New tensions arose surrounding the appropriate “balance between too much and too little intervention” and particularly between “competing claims of parents, children, social workers and local authority social services departments” (Hendrick, 1994:273).

Throughout the 1990s and early twenty-first century, studies of childhoods have shown influence of preceding concerns with children’s rights, but have been developed with the intersection of a new concern about children as social actors. Prout examines the ESRC1 Children 5-16 Research Programme undertaken from 1995 to 2001, within which the new approach to studying “children’s own actions, perspectives and experiences within…

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wider ‘structural’ contexts” is illustrated, stressing the view of children as “competent commentators” who speak from “multiple, combined and intersecting positions – of gender, class [and] ethnicity”. Research of this kind stresses the intrinsic contemporary shift in understanding of childhood. It is also perhaps these influences that are shaping contemporary tensions within studies of childhood processes such as institutionalisation, familialisation and individualisation. (See Prout, 2002).

In conjunction with these new complexities, our understanding of ‘childhood’ can now be seen to incorporate wide differentiation of experiences “according to key axes of difference” (Prout, 2002:69), thus broadening “the range of… contexts and meanings” of childhood. As a result of these new complexities and dynamic changes, Prout illustrates that a new focus on “generational order” has become a way of highlighting issues of childhood and adulthood as “a dimension of social organisation”. It allows for the much more “multidisciplinary”2 study of childhood and the focus on childhood separate “from the institutional contexts…

Within which it had long been hidden” whilst allowing all such individual concepts to remain essentially interrelated. However, it can be argued that whilst childhoods have become more complex, there is also evidence of a counterargument whereby traditional notions of childhoods are again being ‘lost’, not through a lack of understanding and depth of study as was historically the case, but through growing economic disparity and the increasingly sophisticated patterns of consumption which children are exposed to from an early age.

In conjunction with these commercial lifestyles it is argued that a ‘fall’ of childhood has occurred as a result of exposure to adult information creating a more worldly wise child of today, thus being “expelled from the garden of childhood” (Postman, 1983). (1000 words)

Bibliography  Hendrick, Harry (1994) Child Welfare: England 1872-1989, Routledge, London.Hendrick, Harry (1997) Constructions and Reconstructions of British Childhood: An Interpretive Survey, 1800 to the Present in James, A and Prout, A (1997) ‘Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood’ Second Edition, RoutledgeFalmer, London. Herlity (1978) Medieval Children in Stainton Rogers, R. and W. (1992) ‘Stories of Childhood: Shifting Agendas of Child Concern’ Harvester Wheatsheaf, Hertfordshire.

James, A and Prout, A (1997) ‘Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood’ Second Edition, RoutledgeFalmer, London.  James, A and Prout, A (1997), A New Paradigm for the Sociology of Childhood? : Provenance, Promise and Problems in James, A and Prout, A (1997) ‘Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood’ Second Edition, RoutledgeFalmer, London. ollock, Linda A (1996), Forgotten Children: Parent-child relations from 1500 to 1900, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Postman, N. (1983) The Disappearance of Childhood, in James, A and Prout, A (1997) ‘Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood’ Second Edition, RoutledgeFalmer, London.  Prout, Alan (2002) Researching Children as Social Actors: an Introduction to the Children 5-16 Programme, in Pugh, Gillian and Parton, Nigel (eds) ‘Children and Society’, Vol. 16, No. 2, April 2002, John Wiley ; Sons Ltd in association with the National Children’s Bureau, Chichester.

1 Economic and Social Research Council 2 The ESRC Research Programme used a multidisciplinary approach including researchers in socio-legal studies, anthropology, demography, psychology, social statistics, education, disability studies, criminology, socio-linguistics, architectural studies and human geography 1 Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Social Work section.

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