Early as it includes socially constructed characteristics

Early years professionals find
it challenging to define childhood because of its complexities and encourage
diversity, at the same time, in a setting by equally applying these approaches
to theory and practice.  Smidt (2006) agreed with
this as he believed that this concept cannot be understood without knowing the
history and culture (background) of the child because childhood and children’s
development is a dynamic construct. Morrow (2011) acknowledges this complexity and views childhood
as relational, behavioural and legal. While, Turmel (2008) believes childhood is a “product of
a complex movement of cooperation, conflict and resistance between a broad ranges
of social actors, including children themselves”.  UNICEF (2005) defines childhood as the phase in life where children
are in school, they play, grow strong and confident with the love and support
of their loved ones including the family. It is seen as a precious time where a
child is fearless, safe and protected from violence and exploitation. It goes
beyond being a time from birth until adulthood, it refers to the state and quality
of a child’s life. Researchers argue that there is a difference between
children’s culture and adult’s culture as they live in their own world, playing
separate games which only they understand (Opie and Opie 1993). Many researches have seen
childhood in different sociological perspectives (ethnic, social class, gender
and culture) which the following essay will explore in great detail mainly
focusing on childhood in India and in the UK.

Gender is defined as something
that forms your identity as it includes socially constructed characteristics of
women and men, such as norms and roles (WHO 2017). 
A child’s gender can be seen as an advantage, however it may be
classified as a disadvantage in another culture as they all have different
norms, values and beliefs, especially in developing countries such as in India
which has traditional ideas that causes gender inequality because males are mostly
given the available opportunities which suggests that they are appreciated more
than women.  Girls tend to acquire less
schooling, participate less in the labour force, have a lower income and so
there is a higher chance they will have lower salaries, are more likely to live
in poverty and they lack rights, such as voting (Esther 2005). Additionally, Steele (1997) had the
belief that gender roles expectations and stereotypes can have an effect on
someone’s attainment. Desai
at al. (2010) states that these are norms influenced by family and
marriage which results in the parents spending more on resources and being
there for their sons, emotionally instead of daughters. In North of India it is
visibly seen that parents have lower aspirations for educating females so they
prefer to prepare them for marriage (Probe Team 1999). Since many years ago, young Indian girls
enrolled in school less than boys (GOI, 2000) and the girls who managed to enrol, came into
education late and dropped out at an early stage (Nayar 2002).  This is all because there were a limited
amount of nearby schools, cultural beliefs about girls having an education, and
because girls are believed to stay at home and complete childrearing tasks which
consequently affects the family’s economical value (GOI 2000; Probe Team, 1999). On the contrary,
this is different in the UK because almost all children, both genders, are
legally obligated to attend some sort of an educational institution up to the
age of fourteen which has been a right since 1944 (British Council, 2016). All children in England,
Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have been given the opportunity to
experience this universal service and participation rates are equally the same
for female and males (British
Council, 2016). Legalisations available in MEDC’s (More Economically
Developed Countries) such as the UK avoids discrimination from occurring, showing
that neither genders will be denied the right to have an education, which
improves gender inequality. The curriculum used ensures that children are
taught a variation of subjects and topics and not tradition subjects, for
example, art is seen as a feminine subject while physical education is more masculine.
EYP’s can promote the diversity of children by not introducing gender stereotypes,
an example would be when in playtime, allowing boys to play with dolls or girls
to play with toy cars, this gives them an opportunity to be independent (The Wishing Tree Children’s
Nursery, 2016). Another example would be organising role play activities
and allowing boys to play characters like princesses and girls like to be a police
officer, which all contributes to creating an inclusive environment (The Wishing Tree Children’s
Nursery, 2016).

“Ethnicity is a term that describes
shared culture—the practices, values, and beliefs of a group. This might
include shared language, religion, and traditions, among other commonalities” (Little, 2013). One of
the many aspects of ethnicity is language. Hindi is the most prominent language
in India, which is where they have the belief that if a child wants to interact
with others from different parts of the country they must learn more than just
their mother tongue so they do not completely isolate themselves from other
regions and other languages because India has people talking many languages. It
is important to empower all underprivileged, tribal and endangered languages (Illich, 1981).  Multilingualism in schools was strongly
supported (NCF, 2005).
such as Peal and Lambert
(1962),  Gardner and Lambert (1972), Cummins and Swain
(1986) demonstrated that there is a positive correlation between
bilingualism, cognitive flexibility, and academic attainment. As well as,
children who know more than one language, fluently, have more control and are
more creative and socially tolerant (NCERT, 2005). In a MEDC such as
the UK, no matter how culturally diverse it may be, English is spoken by the
vast majority. In education English is taught since a young age to aid children
and develop their language skills. Later on in the childhood stage, in Key
Stage Two, learning foreign languages become compulsory (Department of Education, 2013).
It has been said that having the ability to learn how to communicate in
additional language helps children develop an awareness of ways in which
culture interrelates with language whenever it is used (Liddicoat, Papademetre, Scarino, & Kohler,
2003). Suffolk County Council proposed that EYP’s can access
multilingual posters, such as ones saying greetings in as many languages as
possible, because it is “valuable, giving children and the community the
message that the setting values diversity” and so they feel integrated. Not
only this, but they may also teach the very basics of different languages as it
affirms the validity of languages and not just the home language (Suffolk County Council, no
date). Having available and accessible books in a setting can help
children with their language development as well as it offers them an
opportunity to get to know words from other languages which come from different

Meanwhile, the American Sociological
Association (no date) “understands culture as the languages, customs,
rules, arts, knowledge, and collective identities and memories developed by
members of all social groups that make their social environments meaningful”. Ethnicity
and culture can be mistakenly thought as one however there are small differences
between them which differentiate them. An example of an aspect of a culture is
religion, such as India is like a home for most Hindu’s (84% of the Indian population)
(Edward Elgar Publishing,
2013). Hinduism is a religion with the beliefs that a childs value is
expressed and seen in dedication to their wellbeing in society which include
needs such as play, nutrition, health care and education. They can show their
commitment to the religion by making a child happy because they believe they
must treat the vulnerable well (Rambachan, nd).  In the
UK, the majority of the population are Christians (59.3%) then comes Islam (4.8%)
but also around a quarter of the population claimed to have any religion (Office for National Statistics,
2011). It was found that London is the most diverse as it has a mixture
of religions such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism (Office for National Statistics,
2011). This shows how diverse the UK is, exposing young children to a
variety of cultures and ethnicities, helping them understand we are all
different, which may decrease discrimination, prejudice and racism, all because
of the exposure of the diversity and the legislations such as the Human Rights
Acts that allows and protects religious freedom (UK Parliament, 1998) and the ‘Equality Act’ states
that discrimination against religions are legally banned (Government Equalities Office,
2010). EYP’s can provide children with an inclusive environment,
improving their childhood experience, by inviting visitors from diverse parts
of the community to talk about their religions, for example to teach children
that all religions and their customs need to be celebrated and acknowledged (Suffolk County Council, no date).  Professionals can also help by “cooking and
sharing food” (Suffolk
County Council, no date) and keeping in mind dietary needs such as not
serving beef to Hindu children’s as they see cows as sacred animals or for
Christian children, not serve them meat on Fridays as an act of penance.

Social class can be understood
by looking at an individual’s wealth, occupation and education. Social class
can be referred to in many ways such as; “socioeconomic status, economic
background, wealth, poverty or privilege” (Woolfolk, 2016, p.240).  It is said to have three dimensions; cultural,
economic and social. BBC revealed that the UK has seven social classes rather
than just three. These are; “elite” ,”established middle”, “technical middle
class”, “new affluent workers”, “traditional working class”, “emergent service”
and “precariat/precarious proletariat ” (BBC, 2013). While, in India use a caste system
which assign individuals to one of the four classes according to occupation. These
are; “Brahmins/priests,
Kshatriyas/rulers, Vaishyas/merchants or farmers, and Shudras/artisans or
servants” (BBC, 2017).
Class in Indian works in
partnership with the caste system. It has been revealed that there are three
major and important classes; forward, backward and Dalit (Culture Smart! Consulting, 2012).
Experiences and environmental factors in an early childhood can have effects on
linguistic, cognitive and socioemotional learning, behaviour and health (Shonkoff & Garner, 2012).
Predictably, in all places, either LEDC or MEDC, children who belong to a
higher class have a better upbringing, better education, and more available
opportunities. Social class has been associated with psychological health as
the lower your social economic status the higher levels of emotional and
behavioural problems (DeCarlo
Santiago, Wadsworth, & Stump, 2011; Russell, Ford, Williams, & Russell,
2016; Spencer, Kohn, & Woods, 2002). Children who live in a majority
world then there is a higher possibility that they will be absent from school
across their whole or at least most of their academic life which increases the
education gap between the lower class children and the upper class children (Zhang, 2003).  Moreover, lower
class pupils have a limited amount of resources available to them, such as, less
library resources to draw on and less staff members than those serving
middle-income children (Pribesh,
Gavigan, & Dickinson, 2011). All these impacts means that children
living in great poverty have social disadvantage, as well as, it is harder for
them to leave this poverty which consequently negative impacts the country’s economy
as the citizens are not able progress and climb the social ladder.



To conclude, this essay has
looked at childhood experiences from a sociological perspective in terms of
gender, culture, ethnicity and social class. It has also explained how and to
what extent childhood is seen in less economically developed countries (for
example, India) as well as most economically developed countries (for example,
the United Kingdom). Furthermore, this essay has taken into consideration that…


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