Consolidating Theory and Research: Childhood Studies

Essay This essay will discuss the new theories of Childhood Studies, possible benefits to teachers and children and how it relates to New Zealand early childhood practice. Let’s begin by looking briefly at what childhood studies entails. Childhood studies is a relatively new field of study that seeks to move away from the outdated theory of seeing children with a ‘social construction’ lens, where a child is a product of a particular set of culturally specific norms, to a ‘social constructivist’ lens, which focuses on the child as an individual and how they interact with their own environment. Not as passive earners, but people, with agency, who contribute to their own development (Clark, R. 2010). Childhood studies draw from different fields of study, e. g. , psychology, education, health, anthropology, law, and sociology, and looks at children using a Bronfenbrenner model. Bronfenbrenner saw a child as being within society, within the bounds of first, it’s family and setting, or the micro system. Then of its mesosystem, or the connections between the family and setting. Then of its community, or exosystem, where the microsystem function. Then in the macrosystem, or greater societal makeup of a child’s particular place of origin.

Then lastly the cronosystem, or particular time in which a child lives, and the historic and societal factors of that time, that influence children (Clark, R. 2010). Because childhood studies look at childhood from a wider viewpoint, it allows children to be seen as functioning individuals within many different societal norms. It highlights problems with older theories of development e. g. Piaget’s stages of development (Claiborne, L. , & Drewery, W. 2010) Piaget’s stages define children within a narrow beam, with expectations clearly defined. But in reality, using theories in Childhood Studies, you find children with astly different competencies depending on their societal context. E. g. a three year old New Zealand child will be mostly dependant, protected and facing nothing more challenging than kindergarten and play, whereas a three year old child from the Congo or the South American jungle is likely actively participating in serious household chores and contributing to family survival, undertaking tasks that a New Zealand parent would balk at (Berk, L. 2009). An interesting crossover is Steiner kindergarten’s practice of teaching children through participating in everyday life skills. e. g. , food preparation, cleaning, gardening, and useful echnological crafts like sewing and weaving (Oldfield, L. 2012), in a typically Western European setting of a teacher led service.

The discourse that underpins modern European views of ‘normal’ childhoods being vulnerable and needing to be protected (Clark, 2010), run into problems in the new theories of childhood studies. When you look at children as competent individuals and give them agency, empower them and give them room to develop beyond normal expectation, children often preform well beyond ‘normal’ capabilities. Looking at children through a Childhood Studies focus forces teachers and researchers to reassess their philosophies and xpectations of children (Clark, 2010). Although teachers can use normative guides for approximate development, it is too difficult to paint an exact measure of ‘normal’ and fit all children within that expectation (Clark, 2010). Average and ideal competency is relative to societal influences, and even in a small countries like New Zealand, cultural differences in Pacific, Maaori and European cultures provide stunning examples of different levels of competency, agency and expectation in children. For example, a strong focus on tuakana/teina relationships in Maaori whanau, or the xpectation of a larger role in siblings caring for each other (Tomlins-Jahnke, H. , & Durie, A. 2008), and the serious attitude of respect and responsibility afforded to Pacific children relative to community and cultural practice (Pereira, F. 2004) & (Poland, M. , Paterson, J. , Carter, S. , Gao, W. , Perese, L. , & Stillman, S. 2010).

Teachers can no longer presume that just because a child is of a certain age or size that the child’s developmental competencies will be at the expected normal level. From personal experience, I have a child who did not meet toileting self management at four, ut excelled in academics, and all my children were frequently mistaken for older children in early childhood settings because of their increased height and size. This often led to unreasonable expectation from other parents of their skill level and behavior. So in conclusion, Childhood studies urge us to know each child as an individual, so that we may cater to that child’s best interests and levels of competency. The best way to do this is work on building sound reciprocal relationships with children and their families (Ministry of Education, 1996), and by using qualitative methods of recording and presenting and valuating children’s learning in Early childhood settings (Ministry of Education, 2009). Childhood studies allow us to look holistically at a child and its surroundings and work to meet its needs within that setting, shedding typical expectations and working towards strengthening skills and competency. Part two Perspectives of children Sourcing and analyzing seven media examples concerning New Zealand children, I found strong connecting themes. These were overt consumerism in western culture, poverty vs wealth in normal discourse, overwhelming misunderstanding as to best normal development anging from personal to government level, and the frightening tide of misuse of technology in western society threatening children’s development. Children were discussed in all examples, but there was no children’s voice. It seems normal to discuss and analyze children in media, but never to ask them their opinion! Which seems to go against any rights that children have (United Nations. 1989) to be treated equally, and have an agency in their lives and culture. I will break the articles down to find the main themes underpinning each article, then link over lapping themes that run throughout.

Article one “Kiwi families conned by promise of free childcare” discusses the 20 hours free childcare policy. We see that although the government tries to provide all children with free early childhood education (ECE), centres are charging extra. We ask ourselves is this because government undervalues children in general and doesn’t fund enough? Or is it because children are seen as commodities by EC centres who are trying to make a profit. Either way, children are being given economic value and both parties are struggling to balance books, not develop children. In article two, “Should preschool be compulsory? two pundits debate compulsory preschool. The article points out the inability of the poor to afford what is in fact not free education for 3-5 year olds under the 20 hours free policy. A topic carried over from the first article. From a child studies point of view it raises these questions; How can government presume all children fit appropriately into services in multicultural society? How can government insure centres meet cultural needs of children attending centres? And who decides the ‘magic’ set of skills a child needs to acquire before starting school? Skills listed in the article do not fit skills