Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Since the Industrial Revolution, most Western societies have come to consider childhood as a time of innocence rooted in biological processes that gradually progress from infancy, childhood, and adolescence into adulthood. In this concept, all youth are defined as minors who are dependent upon adult guidance and supervision; accordingly, youth are denied legal rights and responsibilities until they reach the age that legally defines adulthood. Progressive social scientists view childhood as a concept dependent upon social, economic, religious, and political environments. Rather than see childhood as a time of nonparticipation and dependence, social constructionists see childhood as an expression of society and its values, roles, and institutions. In this sense, childhood is conceptualized as an active state of participation in the reproduction of culture. Indeed, constructionist views of childhood state that childhood is not a universal condition of life, as is biological immaturity, but rather a pattern of meaning that ...