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Chapter 2

Children in Canada Today - Chapter 2

5 Pages

Social Science
Course Code
SOSC 1800
Shirley Ramsarran

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Children in Canada Today: Chapter 2 Summary – Social Theories of Childhood Introduction Leena Alanen wrote study of children is „either totally absent in sociology or is treated with very limited contexts which are considered marginal for sociological theory and research‟ o Some parts of the world are rectifying this (UK, Australia, Germany, Scandinavia, etc.) In Canada, sociology of childhood remains on the margins of the discipline, with few sociology departments offering courses directly on or about children Body of research in Canada on children is growing but currently much of research and writing remains for the most part, add-ons to other courses and related sub-disciplines o i.e. children often mentioned in chapters on socialization, gender, families and education – but rarely in their own right, as the main focus of attention Theorizing the Pre- and Non-Sociological Child: The Familiar „Nature-Nurture‟ Debate 1700s & 1980s Europe saw the emergence of Enlightenment o Marked by questioning of religious authority and rise of science o Increasing emphasis on understanding how the laws of nature and social world works Charles Darwin prominent in this time for his theory on natural selection o Focused more on non-human animals than human behavior o He influenced a number of thinkers that came to be known as Social Darwinists (aka social biologists or biological determinists) o These people look to biological aspects of individuals to explain individual behavior (nature as opposed to nurture) o This expresses theory that children are born with a set of prescribed charactersticis that result in specific personality traits o General idea: psychological characteristics have evolved over time in response to social and ecological circumstances Michael Ghiglieri holds that boys and girls are hardwired differently and as a result they engage in different types of behavior Those who are in favor of the nature side in terms of children, often hold that „normal children‟ regardless of the culture or historical time period in which they lived develop the same way and along the same trajectory Twins often studied in relation to nature nurture debate o Evidence in favor of genes for areas of problem behavior and competence in school o Evidence in favor of environmental factors for other things like quality of social relationships, performance in school, anxiety/depression, and delinquent behavior o Some traits appear to result from combinations of both nature and nurture Psychoanalytic Viewpoints Freud‟s work influenced by biological assumptions o i.e. that „normal‟ children (across time and space) move through a series of relatively fixed stages of psychosocial development in their development of personality o he argued that children were born with a fixed set of innate drives – the id – driven by the pleasure principle (seeks to maximize pleasure and minimize pain) o recognized importance of interaction with others (Oedipus complex) o boys and girls both develop along same trajectory until phallic stage o Freud assumed existence of universal, naturally developing, unconscious child Erikson followed in Freud‟s footsteps o His stages of development emphasized the socio-cultural determinants of personality, rather than sexuality Piaget focused on background and education, and eventually the reasoning processes of children o Cognitive development proceeds in four genetically determined stages that follow the same sequential order Common view: stage-based developmental approaches in general and psychoanalytic approaches tend to see difference and developmental divergence from the fixed stages as problematic From Behaviourism to Symbolic Interactionism and Constructivist Approaches Watson and Skinner believed human development should be understood according to observations of overt behaviour rather than according to speculations on unconscious and innate motivations (genetic and otherwise) that are unobservable Watson argues for nurture – child‟s environment and people that surround them are responsible for who the child becomes Albert Bandura agrees with Skinner‟s emphasis on the external but is critical of his radical behaviourism for viewing humans too mechanistically and as thoughtlessly responding to positive and negative stimuli and not recognizing humans who process info cognitively Charles Horton Cooley  symbolic interactionism (stresses importance of human symbolic communication and interaction in human and social development) o in favor of nurture o criticized for having too deterministic a view of human/social development o most famous for notions of looking glass self  our self-image is constructed by what we assume others think of us George Herbert Mead criticized Cooley for having an over-socialized sense of self, too dependent on others‟ perceptions of us o self is inherently social, made up of 2 parts „I‟ (biological self) and „me‟ (learned, acquired social self) o children move through stages, eventually come to learn rules and regulations all these theorists have in common that children weren‟t a focus of their studies o they were interested in adults in the making, children often studied in transitional stages of development towards adulthood and as a way to better understand adult personalities and pathologies Adding Children to the Theoretical Focus… But Not yet Fully There increased emphasis on children is found in work of Albert Bandura, Lev Vygotsky, and Urie Bronfendbrenner o in their work, we still don‟t see children being studied as social actors, but rather they‟re discussed as being acted upon, into their interaction with others and their social environments around them Albert Bandura developed social learning theory aka social cognitive theory o Emphasized importance of children observing and modelling the behaviors, attitudes and reactions of others around them o Human behavior is learned observationally through modelling o Social learning theory explains human behaviour in terms of ongoing reciprocal interaction between childr
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