Sociology: Societal Structure, Development of Childhood, and the Well-Being of Children

  • Jens Qvortrup


A structural approach to childhood hardly existed prior to the so-called social studies of childhood. A structural approach to childhood is not about the individual child and his/her development; it is about the (historical) development of childhood. Childhood is understood as a structural form or pattern determined by societal parameters, such as economy, politics, and technology. In this understanding, childhood is a permanent feature, even though it changes in time and space. As a structural form, childhood is a segment of the generational order, that is, it relates to adulthood and old age. It is important to distinguish between primary relationships between generations (e.g., within family and/or locality) and structural relations between generational segments. Historically, childhood has developed as a result of changing economic circumstances and has experienced a growing distance to other generational segments. The well-being of children as a collectivity is partly a political issue; children do not have a political constituency of their own; yet, childhood is an object of immense interest to various partners, most recently reflected in the social investment movement, the anticipatory concern of which coincides with that of traditional psychology and sociology. This chapter suggests that childhood is a minority group, the subjection of which through its corresponding (generational) dominance group has clear paternalistic attributes.


Social Study Generational Unit Societal Level Public Issue Structural Perspective 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Political ScienceNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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