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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

A Universal Child?

ISBN 9781403907844
Publication Date December 2009
Formats Hardcover Paperback Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

What is a child?  Is childhood a universal concept or is it disappearing in modern society?

We all have our own idea of what childhood is, but it is surprisingly difficult to pin down – and widely debated among politicians, professionals, academics, and even parents and children themselves.

This important book questions and analyses what it is to be a child, focusing on the theory and evidence. Part I identifies aspects of childhood that provide an analytical framework for the book's subsequent discussion. Part II considers 'childhood in context' – examining both historical and contemporary evidence from around the world. Part III draws together these discussions to assess the question of whether, and to what extent, childhood is a fixed or fluid phenomenon. Throughout, the author:

■ Draws on evidence from an array of cultures, contexts and forms of social organization.
■ Explores the complementary value of psychological, biological and sociological theories.
■ Considers anthropological, geographical and environmental influences on children's lives.
■ Seeks to understand the impact of policy and law on how children are treated and perceived.

A Universal Child? makes you think about your own childhood, the world in which today's children live and the variety of experiences which can be defined as a childhood. It provides a clear base for further analysis and debate for all those interested in what it means to be a child, making it invaluable reading for students of Childhood Studies and those studying related social science courses

ROGER SMITH is Professor of Social Work Research at School of Applied Social Sciences, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.

Introduction: The Disputed Child
Alternative Perspectives on Childhood
Children and Time: Historical and Contemporary Ideas About Childhood
Children and Place – an Inevitable Source of 'Difference'?
The Attempt to Identify Common Features of Childhood
Children, the State and Social Policy
Children and the Market
Children and the Media
Childhood: An Adult Conception?
What do Children Think About Childhood?
Childhoods: The Same Only Different?
What Should We Do About Children (and Childhood)?


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