Histories of Childhood
Purpose: Exploring how the context and quality of childhood has changed over time, place, and across social groups reveals to us the constructed nature of childhood. Understanding the social construction of childhood helps us explore how social institutions influence the lives of children. Are there times/places where childhood is defined in ways that are better/best for children? Or is childhood an entirely relative phenomenon?
Description: Select a time period and social group of children. Remember that childhood has always varied by social class, race, and gender; you will need to be very specific about the time period and the social group that you are examining. Do an internet search to answer the FIVE questions below. Use at least THREE different websites.
Reference List: Use in-text citations. When quoting directly from a website, use quotations and citations. Attach a reference list.
Possible ideas:poor/wealthy white boys/girls/children under slavery, black children under slavery, Civil War children, child labor in the early U.S., immigrant children, WWII, children in the 1950s, colonial children (Puritan), American Indian children (select a time period/era), children with exceptionalities/disabilities during different historical eras, children in Japanese internment camps, orphans, American Revolution, childhood in the Progressive Era, Great Depression….etc.
1. What era of childhood did you select? What group are you exploring?
2. How did children during this era spend their time?
3. How did adults view children during this era?
4. What social structures shaped the lives of these children? Conversely, in what unique ways did these children exercise agency?
5. Discuss how your findings demonstrate the sociological principle that childhood is a social construction.