Childhood: The Social and Cultural Concept

Childhood is neither timeless nor universal: it is not determined only by age or biological and psychological factors. Rather childhood is understood by reference to particular cultural and social contexts and periods in history. Childhood in Mexico is not the same as childhood in Madras or Madrid: childhood at the beginning of the third Millennium in London is not the same as two hundred years ago. In the more developed countries of the north, for example, childhood is now seen as an extended period of economic dependency and protected innocence during which play and schooling are seen as central components. However, this is far removed from childhood in many other cultures, where work, whether paid or work within the household, must take precedence over both schooling and play. In many countries of the south, the child-rearing environment is characterized by large families and high infant mortality: a heavy emphasis on parents’ efforts to ensure the physical survival of their children means that parents must devote much of their time to economic and domestic activity, with many “parenting” tasks delegated to other people, often older children. Western notions of childhood often emphasize children’s vulnerability and innocence, but again in other contexts, this may be much less appropriate.

Many child-rearing practices reflect particular cultural contexts: in some contexts in Asia, mothers may be quite protective of their children, seeking to keep their infants quiet and contented, and as they grow up, there may be an expectation of compliance and conformity, and an acceptance of adult authority. By contrast, many American parents may encourage open, expressive, autonomous and assertive behavior and allow a preschool child to take physical risks that would be unacceptable to many Asian mothers. In both instances, there may be marked ways in which girls are treated differently from boys. In some contexts, being a boy or a girl may be more significant than the fact of being a child. Different societies have contrasting ideas about children’s vulnerabilities and capacities, how they best learn, what is good for them, and what is bad for them. Within a given context, childhood is often highly differentiated not only according to gender but also according to social class or caste. Approaches to discipline and punishment will also vary significantly between cultures: severe corporal punishment may be the norm in some societies but be regarded as abusive in others. Clearly, for families who seek refuge in countries where norms are very different from those to which they are used, there is considerable potential for conflict and confusion” (Action for the Rights of Children 7-8).

Action for the Rights of Children identifies childhood as a complex stage in life that differs from one society to the other. It highlights that society determines childhood based on different factors such as biological and psychological factors and not necessarily due to the age of individuals. At this stage of development, one’s well-being is heavily reliant on the caregiver, who is almost always a parent at this stage. During this stage of development, individuals are provided with all of the essentials for survival that they could need. Because it is the role and responsibility of their caregivers to provide for and care for them, they are under no obligation to feed or care for them. It depicts the stage as one in which the individual is highly dependent on the parent’s caregiver. As a result of the analysis of the text, childhood is demonstrated as a phenomenon so general that it goes beyond the limits of sociological interpretation.

Childhood has been demonstrated in the preceding text to be a complex stage of development. According to this extract, childhood is a stage in a person’s life associated with their age, and that comes and goes. During this period, a person has the opportunity to take advantage of benefits that they would not be able to take advantage of once they reach adulthood. On the other hand, the excerpt emphasizes how childhood differs across cultures and historical periods. Due to the differences in how childhood is perceived in different environments, at different times of day, and at different ages, it is clear that childhood is a pretty complex stage of development.

According to the author, work is an essential part of human survival because it is only through work that humans can provide for themselves and their families, among other things. However, even though it occurs at a young age during which it is governed, the document criticized childhood as a period of economic dependency and protected childhood innocence. Because of the harsh language used to criticize this critical stage in the development process, the extract appears to demean the reader, who may interpret it as demeaning to the writer. Moreover, as previously stated, it serves as yet another demonstration of how complex the issue of childhood is for the entire human race.

In this excerpt, parents are shown to be solely responsible for their children under all circumstances. While the roles of parents may differ from one jurisdiction to the next, some parents are more protective of their children than others, ensuring their safety at all times, regardless of the circumstances they face. In this case, however, it is expected that the child will obey the instructions of the higher authority, which is, in this case, is the parent. The adult goes above and beyond to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. Therefore, it is only natural for the child to show appreciation by remaining disciplined and obeyed at all times.

The excerpt implies that different gender roles are typical in many cultures and societies and that this is true in many cultures and societies. In our current world, even though many people worldwide have called for gender equality, different genders are treated differently within society. As the extract implies, there are different expectations for men and women when it comes to reality because different genders are accorded varying degrees of importance. In addition, it elaborates on the various ideologies held by different communities concerning the challenges faced by either gender.

It further complicates childhood even more as it brings forth a new dimension on the concept of childhood. The extract illustrates further that not only can gender be used to differentiate childhood and social class. Logic reasoning states that childhood is experienced by people of all gender, race, social class, and even different economic statuses. Therefore, the idea makes the entire subject much more complex. The fact that the extracts try to make the reader understand childhood as a social and cultural concept proves that childhood is beyond comprehension.

Work Cited

ARC, Actions for the Rights of Children. Child and Adolescent Development Module – UNHCR. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. (2023, September 22). Childhood: The Social and Cultural Concept. Retrieved from


PsychologyWriting. (2023, September 22). Childhood: The Social and Cultural Concept.

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"Childhood: The Social and Cultural Concept." PsychologyWriting, 22 Sept. 2023,


PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Childhood: The Social and Cultural Concept'. 22 September.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Childhood: The Social and Cultural Concept." September 22, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Childhood: The Social and Cultural Concept." September 22, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Childhood: The Social and Cultural Concept." September 22, 2023.