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Childhood

  • By: Patrizia Albanese
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

When childhood is believed to begin and end varies from culture to culture, across time, and between institutions within every society. For example, at what age can children legally work for pay? When can a young person legally consent to have sexual relations? Who does child pornography legislation protect? When can a parent stop paying child support? The varying answers to these questions indicate that childhood is a social construct—a social creation subject to redefinition. Historically, differing philosophical approaches to understanding childhood exist, and childhood is experienced differently depending on a child's sex, race, and class background.

Defining Children and Childhood

There is little consensus in how the terms children and childhood are defined, even among contemporary legal documents. For example, according to the 2006 Canadian ...

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