Discourses in Childhood

Essay by greekqueenUniversity, Bachelor'sC+, October 2007

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What is a discourse? Describe two competing discourses of childhood and suggest the ways that they can have an impact on children's lives.

The concept of discourse is the key to understanding a social constructionist approach to childhood. A discourse is an independent set of interrelated ideas held by a particular ideology or worldview. The social constructionist approach tries to describe the different ways in which knowledge of children and childhoods are constructed.

Different discourses of childhood have different ideas of childhood which has different implications on the way in which children are treated. Within the social constructionist theory there are 3 main discourses - romantic, puritan and tabula rasa. This essay will look at 2 of those discourses, which directly compete with each other - the Romantic and Puritan, and suggest ways in which they impact children's lives.

The romantic discourse of childhood suggests children are naturally good.

InRousseau's (1979) view childhood and innocence go hand in hand - children are born pure and innocent. He believed children ought to be given freedom to be who they are, that their childhood should be carefree, and that their innocence should be protected. Rousseau believed children only learn evil and misbehave because they have been mistreated or corrupted in some way.

This is contrary to the Puritan discourse, which believes children are born wicked, are amoral, without conscience, and if left to their own devices will resort to savagery. According to Hobbes (1588-1679), who supports this discourse, children should be controlled and disciplined by adults - even if it causes the child unhappiness, short-term pain or distress. Unlike the previous discourse, the Puritan discourse sees children as being responsible for their actions.

These discourses of childhood are seen constructed in the media. The Peugeot television advert (Video 1 Band 3,