The term ‘child’ can be used to mean either an offspring or someone who has not reached full economic and jural status as an adult in a society. Individuals in the latter state are passing through an age-related period known as childhood.
Childhoods vary between cultures and historical periods. The French historian, Phillipe Ariès (Centuries of Childhood, 1962), was the first to point out that modern Western childhood is unique in the way it ‘quarantines’ children from the world of adults, so that childhood is associated with play and education, rather than work and economic responsibility. Other writers have pointed out that childhood is constructed on the inabilities of children as political, intellectual, sexual, or economic beings, despite empirical evidence to the contrary. This construction implies that children must be protected (primarily by women) in the family, which serves the needs of capitalist states for the reproduction and socialization of the labour-force, at minimum cost to the state. The child also provides state agencies with the excuse to intervene in irregular families, and to change or dismember them, if they do not comply with certain norms.
Studies in the sociology of childhood indicate that the term is a powerful symbol in the construction of modern, Western society. The term is highly ambiguous, which helps its symbolic functioning. On the one hand, children are the cherished and valued possessions of the parents; on the other, they are a cost and burden on society (and particularly on women). In the 1980s, through the ‘discovery’ of child abuse and also the development of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a new approach-stressing the rights, strengths and capabilities of children-has arisen in sociology, to challenge the prevailing image of childhood.
For different reasons, childhood has been a major topic of analysis in psychoanalysis , linguistics , the sociology of education , and in the study of primary socialization and gender differentiation. For an overview of the field see, Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood (1990).

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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