Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

The End of Childhood

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According to a new survey by Random House Children’s Books most British parents feel that childhood ends by the time a child goes off to secondary school (junior high).

“I think children act like adults at an alarmingly early age,” Dame Jacqueline Wilson said.  Wilson is a British author whose latest book My Sister Jodie will be released in early spring.  “I know girls are desperate to look cool but I wish they didn’t all want to wear very high heels and inappropriately tight trendy clothes. I’m not saying all under-12s should wear puff-sleeved dresses and little white socks and tee-strap sandals, but at least you could run about and play properly in them.”

But is this a new phenomenon of trying to hurry a child to adolescence or a resurgence of an old notion?  Until the nineteenth century children were thought of as mini-adults and in lower class homes the wives and children were expected to help make ends meet.  It was in the early 1800s that a shift came.

“… A new conception of childhood arose that looked at children not as little adults, but as special creatures who needed attention, love, and time to mature,” Historian Steven Mintz wrote in his article “Does the American Family Have a History”  in Magazine of History Summer 2001.  “Parents began to keep their children home longer than in the past.  The new urban middle class defined itself by a strict segregation of sexual spheres, intense mother-child bonds, and the idea that children needed to be protected from the corruptions of the outside world.”

The children of today aren’t returning to a yesteryear of work and drudgery.   The children are pestering their parents into buying them more mature clothes and lenient household rules.  In the survey three-quarters of the parents admitted they held not authority over their children and many allowed their children to drink alcohol at home before they turned 18.  Although Britain has the highest teen pregnancy rate of Europe 45% of parents allow their teens to have sexual relationships in the home.

Wilson urges parents not to give in. 

“Parents need to take a stand, to tell their children ‘I don’t care if everyone else in the class is allowed to do this or that. You’re not,'” she said.

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Written by rentec

3 March, 2008 at 8:49 pm

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