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July 10, 2008 / C H Thompson

Different times, different families

The amount of time parents spend with their children has more than doubled since the 1950s and parents are more likely to take an interest in their children’s activities as well as discussing decisions with them and treating them more as equals, this is known as being child-centred.

Sociologists now say there’s been an increase in child-centredness in the UK. What do you think are the reasons for the increase in child-centred relations in families?

The reasons for an increase in child-centredness are as follows:

  • Families have got smaller since the 19th century so parents can spend more time with their children
  • Compared with the 19th century parents (especially dads) work less hours
  • Increasing affluence has allowed parents to spend more money on their children
  • The state has increased its role in guiding parents in the skills of parenting which tend to be more formal through the power of Social Workers, Children Acts of 1998 and 2004 with both established legal rights for children
  • Children’s lives have become more complex and roads more dangerous which has meant parents (mainly mum) have to drive them around more to after school activities
  • High house prices and the need for Higher Education degrees to get a good job has meant children live longer at home more which has extended these relationships

But are things as simple as this? Maybe life isn’t so child-centred but is instead used as a way of advertisers commercialising childhood by:

  • Advertising aimed at young children with sweets, toys etc
  • Advertisers using the internet to create ‘advergames’ to promote their products. An example is M & Ms red vs green game
  • Advertising aimed at sexualising childhood which is discussed here
  • Both parents working and the creation of latch-key children/families
  • The growth of bedroom culture with computer, mobile phones TVs and DVD players creating children’s lives which are separate to their parents

Plus there’s the dark-side of family life which is often neglected by those groups promoting child-centredness!

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