Type: Exploratory
Pages: 3 | Words: 769
Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Childhood is a social artifact, not a biological category. Human genes do not contain clear instructions about who is a child, and who is not; the survival laws also do not require differences between the adult world and the world of children. In fact, if we consider that the word “child” refers to a special class of people aged between 7 and 17 years, requires special forms of treatment and protection, and is considered to be qualitatively different from the adults’ class – then there are many evidences to suggest that the children exist in this world at least for 400 years. In the Medieval ages, there was almost no difference between adults and children because when the latter were reaching the age of 6-7 years old, they were starting to work in factories and fields together with their parents. In many countries, the tradition of birthday congratulation appeared less than 200 years ago.

In today’s world we got used to think that children should have happy childhoods; nevertheless, the stream of research literature about childhood proclaims about gradual disappearance of the childhood category in the modern world. In order to create a general idea about the development of childhood as a period, we need historical evidence for the past two and a half thousand years.

Greek antiquity had no idea about childhood as a separate age category. Extant literary and mythological sources, which involve the young characters, do not allow thinking that they are talking about children. For example, in ” Oeconomicus” Xenophon showed fourteen years girl, brought up in the idea that she has to “see less, hear less, and talk less” (Postman, 1994), that seems more like an example of a young woman and future wife, than the child. Up to the IV century BC in Greece, there were no moral or legal prohibitions of infanticide. It was very cruel, in comparison with modern standards. Even Aristotle, with some restrictions, approved the abortion practice and the “rejection” of disabled children. However, it is necessary to note that the Greeks cultivated the idea of education. Postman argued that the existence of schools can be viewed as the fact that the Greeks had already begun to develop the idea of childhood. In Roman culture, the concept of childhood was much clearer than in the Greek one. First of all, Rome picked up and developed the Greek idea of the education need for the young generation. Secondly, Roman culture made a critical step towards the institutionalization of this age group, because it proclaimed the concept of shame. With the fall of the Roman Empire and the onset of the Middle Ages the attitude towards children has dramatically changed. Important social parameters towards childhood such as literacy and shame acquired at school had disappeared:

To revive the social idea of childhood, the world had to face significant changes. In the Middle Ages there were many tragic and large-scale events – such as the plague (“Black Death”), and the invention of many important things (such as mechanical watches), but they do not significantly impact the world view of Europeans. Only the invention of the printing press in the middle of the XV century has radically transformed the whole symbolism of European culture and led to the formation of the concept of adulthood, and thus childhood. Moreover, the first book for children – “Jack – the giant-killer”, was published only in 1744.

The vast spread of technology, tendency of the “flatting” world, and the appearance of huge informational streams have changed the way people think about the childhood. In modern culture these trends has led to the fact that society approved a new age of human life. Traditional life stages: infancy, childhood, adulthood (adult age) and old age gave way to the new, three-part division: childhood, child-adult, extreme old age (senility). Adult-child has intellectual and emotional capabilities that are feasible, but in our time this social type becomes the norm. Therefore, for many children aged from 7 till 17 the childhood has disappeared, because people can see the 12-13 aged girls posing for the fashion magazines in sexual poses and apparel. Clothing differences among adults and children had also vanished; the latter look like the former with cosmetics, fashion clothes, accessories, etc. Children stopped to play games, for example, the traditional “hide-and-seek” is so unpopular that many children even do not know the rules of this game.

At the end of the chapter Neil Postmen said that the childhood has slipped from people’s grasp. Disappearance of childhood is the broad topic to think about for everyone, who still thinks that it is important part of everybody’s life.

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