Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood

Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood

Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood

Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood

Synopsis

This edition of James and Prout's seminal work on childhood study contains a collection of articles which draw on a variety of disciplines to show how childhood is constructed in society, and the direction in which childhood study is moving.

Excerpt

When the First Edition of Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood (hereafter CRC) appeared in 1990 the sociology of childhood was only just beginning to emerge as a distinct sub-discipline. Individuals and research groups existed in several different countries but they were scattered and communication between them, although developing, was partial-depending as it did on somewhat separate and certainly incomplete networks between academics and diverse, associated practitioners. Theoretical and empirical discussion was consequently somewhat limited. Six or seven years later the field has cohered remarkably: research centres and programmes have appeared and existing ones become more visible; conferences and seminars have mushroomed; a new journal has been established; courses on the sociology of childhood are now available and a number of important texts on childhood have been published. At the same time there is a growing recognition of childhood as a legitimate and problematic concern for research in sociology and cognate disciplines. For example, family sociology which we argued (following Alanen, 1988) had, rather surprisingly, rendered children almost invisible, has made some important moves in remedying its neglect (Brannen and O'Brien, 1996). In other disciplines, for example human geography and social anthropology, childhood is emerging as a significant area of study (for example, Valentine, forthcoming; James, 1993; Reynolds, 1996; Toren, 1993; Steedman, 1995). The traditional consignment of childhood to the margins of the social sciences or its primary location within the fields of developmental psychology and education is, then, beginning to change: it is now much more common to find acknowledgment that childhood should be regarded as a part of society and culture rather than a precursor to it; and that children should be seen as already social actors not beings in the process of becoming such. In short, although much remains to be done and these encouraging developments need to be taken much further, a significant change has occurred.

We would like to think that CRC made a contribution to this process. Certainly it posed a challenge to what we then characterized as the dominant and dominating conceptual pair of socialization and development.

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