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December 2, 2013 / C H Thompson

Social construction

This brief page helps explain the concept of social construction, particularly with regard to childhood. Social construction places its emphasis on the manner in which society establishes its norms, values and beliefs.

Using childhood as an example, our contemporary and stereotypical understanding of childhood is a period of time without any responsibilities, where play is the primary activity in order to allow young people to discover and nurture their potential.

As a society we value such a view of childhood to the extent any divergence from this belief as to what childhood is deemed abnormal. From this our society has created a common-sense notion of childhood should be like.

Some sociologists argue common-senses are ideological outcomes. This means ideologies (ideas) cement themselves into people’s minds to the extent they become normalised so any alternative position is seen as being wrong (a counter ideology). Opposing or counter ideologies often struggle to get recognition as they swim against the tide of the dominant idea(s).

Therefore if your childhood doesn’t meet the idealistic image promoted in the media or adverts you can possibly feel you’re missing out; when in fact childhood as an age status, is neither fixed or universal. Indeed the experience and meaning of childhood differs across societies, time periods and between different social groups.

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