Essay Childhood Wikipedia

Child discipline is the methods used to prevent future behavioral problems in children. The word discipline is defined as imparting knowledge and skill, in other words, to teach.[1] In its most general sense, discipline refers to systematic instruction given to a disciple. To discipline means to instruct a person to follow a particular code of conduct.[2]

Discipline is used by parents to teach their children about expectations, guidelines and principles. Children need to be given regular discipline to be taught right from wrong and to be maintained safe. Child discipline can involve rewards and punishments to teach self-control, increase desirable behaviors and decrease undesirable behaviors.[3] While the purpose of child discipline is to develop and entrench desirable social habits in children, the ultimate goal is to foster sound judgement and morals so the child develops and maintains self-discipline throughout the rest of his/her life.

Because the values, beliefs, education, customs and cultures of people vary so widely, along with the age and temperament of the child, methods of child discipline vary widely. Child discipline is a topic that draws from a wide range of interested fields, such as parenting, the professional practice of behavior analysis, developmental psychology, social work, and various religious perspectives. In recent years, advances in the understanding of attachment parenting have provided a new background of theoretical understanding and advanced clinical and practical understanding of the effectiveness and outcome of parenting methods.

In Western society, there has been debate in recent years over the use of corporal punishment for children in general, and increased attention to the concept of "positive parenting" where good behavior is encouraged and rewarded.[4]


Historical research suggests that there has been a great deal of individual variation in methods of discipline over time.[5]

Medieval times[edit]

Nicholas Orme of the University of Exeter argues that children in medieval times were treated differently from adults in legal matters, and the authorities were as troubled about violence to children as they were to adults. In his article, "Childhood in Medieval England," he states, "Corporal punishment was in use throughout society and probably also in homes, although social commentators criticized parents for indulgence towards children rather than for harsh discipline." Salvation was the main goal of discipline, and parents were driven to ensure their children a place in heaven.[6] In one incident in early 14th-century London, neighbors intervened when a cook and clerk were beating a boy carrying water. A scuffle ensued and the child's tormentors were subdued. The neighbors didn't even know the boy, but they firmly stood up for him even when they were physically attacked, and they stood by their actions when the cook and clerk later sued for damages.[7]

Colonial times[edit]

During colonial times in the United States, parents were able to provide enjoyments for their children in the form of toys, according to David Robinson, writer for the Colonial Williamsburg Journal. Robinson notes that even the Puritans permitted their young children to play freely. Older children were expected to swiftly adopt adult chores and accountabilities, to meet the strict necessities of daily life.[6] Harsh punishments for minor infractions were common. Beatings and other forms of corporal punishment occurred regularly; one legislator even suggested capital punishment for children's misbehavior.[8]

Biblical views[edit]

The Book of Proverbs mentions the importance of disciplining children, as opposed to leaving them neglected or unruly, in several verses. Interpretation of these verses varies, as do many passages from the Bible, from literal to metaphorical. The most often paraphrased is from Proverbs 13:24, "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (King James Version.) Other passages that mention the 'rod' are Proverbs 23:14, "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell," and Proverbs 29:15, "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame."[9]

Although the Bible's lessons have been paraphrased for hundreds of years, the modern phrase, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," was coined by Samuel Butler, in Hudibras, a mock heroicnarrative poem published in 1663. The Contemporary English Version of Proverbs 13:24 is: 'If you love your children you will correct them; if you don't love them, you won't correct them'.

Medieval views[edit]

The primary guidelines followed by medieval parents in training their children were from the Bible. Scolding was considered ineffectual, and cursing a child was a terrible thing.[10] In general, the use of corporal punishment was as a disciplinary action taken to shape behavior, not a pervasive dispensing of beatings for no reason. Corporal punishment was undoubtedly the norm. The medieval world was a dangerous place, and it could take harsh measures to prepare a child to live in it. Pain was the medieval way of illustrating that actions had consequences.[11]

Influence of John Locke[edit]

In his 1690 Essay Concerning Human Understanding English physician and philosopherJohn Locke argued that the child resembled a blank tablet (tabula rasa) at birth, and was not inherently full of sin. In his 1693 Some Thoughts Concerning Education he suggested that the task of the parent was to build in the child the strong body and habits of mind that would allow the capacity of reason to develop, and that parents could reward good behavior with their esteem and punish bad behavior with disgrace – the withdrawal of parental approval and affection - as opposed to beatings.[12]

The twentieth century[edit]

In the early twentieth century, child-rearing experts abandoned a romantic view of childhood and advocated formation of proper habits to discipline children. A 1914 U.S. Children's Bureau pamphlet, Infant Care, urged a strict schedule and admonished parents not to play with their babies.[citation needed]John B. Watson's 1924 Behaviorism argued that parents could train malleable children by rewarding good behavior and punishing bad, and by following precise schedules for food, sleep, and other bodily functions.[citation needed]

Although such principles began to be rejected as early as the 1930s, they were firmly renounced in the 1946 best-seller Baby and Child Care, by pediatrician Benjamin Spock, which told parents to trust their own instincts and to view the child as a reasonable, friendly human being. Dr. Spock revised his first edition to urge more parent-centered discipline in 1957, but critics blamed his popular book for its permissive attitude during the youth rebellions of the 1960s and 1970s.[12]

Conservative backlash[edit]

Following the permissive trend of the 1960s and early 1970s, American evangelicalChristianJames Dobson sought the return of a more conservative society and advocated spanking of children up to age eight.[13] Dobson's position is controversial. As early as 1985 The New York Times stated that "most child-care experts today disapprove of physical punishment."[14]

Corporal punishment[edit]

Main article: Corporal punishment in the home

In many cultures, parents have historically had the right to spank their children when appropriate. A 2006 retrospective study in New Zealand, showed that physical punishment of children remained quite common in the 1970s and 1980s, with 80% of the sample reporting some kind of corporal punishment from parents, at some time during childhood. Among this sample, 29% reported being hit with an empty hand. However 45% were hit with an object, and 6% were subjected to serious physical abuse. The study noted that abusive physical punishment tended to be given by fathers and often involved striking the child's head or torso instead of the buttocks or limbs.[15]

Attitudes have changed in recent years, and legislation in some countries, particularly in continental Europe, reflect an increased skepticism toward corporal punishment. As of 2009, domestic corporal punishment had been outlawed in 24 countries around the world, most of them in Europe or Latin America, beginning with Sweden in 1979. Thirty years after Sweden's ban, official figures show that just 10 percent of Swedish children are spanked or otherwise struck by their parents today. More than 90 percent of Swedish children were spanked prior to the ban.[16] The Swedish law does not actually lay down any legal punishment for smacking but requires social workers to support families with problems.[16]

Even as corporal punishment became increasingly controversial in North America, Britain, Australia and much of the rest of the English-speaking world, limited corporal punishment of children by their parents remained lawful in all 50 states of the United States. It was not until 2012 that Delaware became the first state to pass a statute defining "physical injury" to a child to include "any impairment of physical condition or pain."[17]

Cultural differences[edit]

A number of authors have emphasized the importance of cultural differences in assessing disciplinary methods. Baumrind argues that "The cultural context critically determines the meaning and therefore the consequences of physical discipline . . ." (Baumrind, 1996; italics in original). Polite (1996) emphasizes that the "debate over whether or not to use corporal punishment rages in many ethnic communities." Larzelare, Baumrind and Polite assert that "After ignoring decades of cultural differences in the effects of spanking, these 2 ARCHIVES [1997] studies and 2 other studies in the past year have each found significantly different effects for African Americans than for non-Hispanic European Americans. The effects of spanking in African American families are generally beneficial to children, unless it is used excessively, either in severity or in frequency." (Larzelere et al., 1998; references to other articles omitted). Our results confirm the serious differences of opinion on discipline, even in a relatively homogenous ethnic community.[18]

Parenting styles[edit]

There are different parenting styles which parents use to discipline their children. Four types have been identified: authoritative parents, authoritarian parents, indulgent parents, and indifferent parents.

Authoritative parents are parents who use warmth, firm control, and rational, issue-oriented discipline, in which emphasis is placed on the development of self-direction. They place a high value on the development of autonomy and self-direction but assume the ultimate responsibility for their child's behavior. "You live under my roof, you follow my rules!" is a cliché, but one that parents may often find themselves speaking—and it probably most closely mimics the authoritative parenting style.[19]

Authoritarian parents are parents who use punitive, absolute, and forceful discipline, and who place a premium on obedience and conformity. If parents exhibit good emotional understanding and control, children also learn to manage their own emotions and learn to understand others as well.[20] These parents believe it is their responsibility to provide for their children and that their children have no right to tell the parent how best to do this. Adults are expected to know from experience what is really in the child's best interest and so adult views are allowed to take precedence over child desires. Children are perceived to know what they want but not necessarily what is best for them.[21]

Indulgent parents are parents who are characterized by responsiveness but low demandingness, and who are mainly concerned with the child's happiness. They behave in an accepting, benign, and somewhat more passive way in matters of discipline.

Indifferent parents are parents who are characterized by low levels of both responsiveness and demandingness. They try to do whatever is necessary to minimize the time and energy they must devote to interacting with their child. In extreme cases, indifferent parents may be neglectful.[22] They ask very little of their children. For instance, they rarely assign their children chores. They tend to be relatively uninvolved in their children's lives. It's not that they don't love their children. It's just that they believe their children should live their own lives, as free of parental control as possible.[21]

A fifth type of parenting style is connectedness. Connected parents are parents who want to improve the way in which they connect with their children using an empathetic approach to challenging or even tumultuous relationships. Using the 'CALM' technique, by Jennifer Kolari, parents recognize the importance of empathy and aspire to build capacity in their children in hopes of them becoming confident and emotionally resilient. The CALM acronym stands for: Connect emotionally, match the Affect of the child, Listen to what your child is saying and Mirror their emotion back to show understanding.[23]

Non-physical discipline[edit]

Non-physical discipline consists of both punitive and non-punitive methods but does not include any forms of corporal punishment such as smacking or spanking. The regular use of any single form of discipline becomes less effective when used too often, a process psychologists call habituation. Thus, no single method is considered to be for exclusive use. Non-Physical discipline is used in the concerted cultivation style of parenting that comes from the middle and upper class. concerted cultivation is the method of parenting that includes heavy parental involvement, and use reasoning and bargaining as disciplinary methods.[24]


Main article: Child time-out

A common method of child discipline is sending the child away from the family or group after misbehavior. Children may be told to stand in the corner ("corner time") or may be sent to their rooms for a period of time. A time-out involves isolating or separating a child for a few minutes and is intended to give an over-excited child time to calm down.

Alternatively, time-outs have been recommended[by whom?] as a time for parents to separate feelings of anger toward the child for their behavior and to develop a plan for discipline.

When using time-outs as a discipline strategy, individuals must also take into consideration the temperaments of the child if one decides to use time-outs. If a child, for example, has a feisty temperament, or a temperament that expresses emotion in a highly intense way, then discipline strategies of using time-outs would be ineffective because of the clash of discipline strategy to the child's temperament trait.[25]

If an individual decides to use the time-out with a child as a discipline strategy, the individual must be unemotional and consistent with the undesired behavior. Along with taking into consideration the child's temperament, the length of the time-out needs to also depend on the age of the child. For example, the time-out should last one minute per year of the child's age, so if the child is five years old, the time-out should go no longer than five minutes.[26]

Several experts do not recommend the use of time-out or any other form of punishment. These authors include Thomas Gordon, Alfie Kohn, and Aletha Solter.[27][28][29][30]


Main article: Grounding (discipline technique)

Grounding is a form of discipline, usually, for older children, preteens and teenagers, that restricts their movement outside of the home, such as visiting friends or using the car and they are not allowed to go anywhere but school and few required places. Sometimes it is combined with the withdrawal of privileges for computer, video games, telephone or TV.


Scolding involves reproving or criticizing a child's negative behavior and/or actions.

Some research suggests that scolding is counter-productive because parental attention (including negative attention) tends to reinforce behavior.[31]

Non-punitive discipline[edit]

While punishments may be of limited value in consistently influencing rule-related behavior, non-punitive discipline techniques have been found to have greater impact on children who have begun to master their native language.[32] Non-punitive discipline (also known as empathic discipline and positive discipline) is an approach to child-rearing that does not use any form of punishment. It is about loving guidance, and requires parents to have a strong relationship with their child so that the child responds to gentle guidance as opposed to threats and punishment. According to Dr. Laura Markham, the most effective discipline strategy is to make sure your child wants to please you.[33]

Non-punitive discipline also excludes systems of "manipulative" rewards. Instead, a child's behavior is shaped by "democratic interaction" and by deepening parent-child communication. The reasoning behind it is that while punitive measures may stop the problem behavior in the short term, by themselves they do not provide a learning opportunity that allows children the autonomy to change their own behavior.[34] Punishments such as time-outs may be seen as banishment and humiliation. Consequences as a form of punishment are not recommended, but natural consequences are considered to be possibly worthwhile learning experiences provided there is no risk of lasting harm.[33]

Positive discipline is a general term that refers to both non-violent discipline and non-punitive discipline. Criticizing, discouraging, creating obstacles and barriers, blaming, shaming, using sarcastic or cruel humor, or using physical punishment are some negative disciplinary methods used with young children. Any parent may occasionally do any of these things, but doing them more than once in a while may lead to low self-esteem becoming a permanent part of the child's personality.[35]

Authors in this field include Aletha Solter, Alfie Kohn, Pam Leo, Haim Ginott, Thomas Gordon, Lawrence J. Cohen, and John Gottman.

Essential aspects[edit]

In the past, harsh discipline has been the norm for families in society. However, research by psychologists has brought about new forms of effective discipline. Positive discipline is based on minimizing the child's frustrations and misbehavior rather than giving punishments. The main focus in this method is the "Golden Rule", treat others the way you want to be treated. Parents follow this when disciplining their children because they believe that their point will reach the children more effectively rather than traditional discipline. The foundation of this style of discipline is encouraging children to feel good about themselves and building the parent's relationship with the child so the child wants to please the parent. In traditional discipline, parents would instill fear in their child by using shame and humiliation to get their point across. However, studies show that this type of punishment ultimately causes the children to have more psychological problems in their adolescence and adulthood. Physical and harsh punishment shows the child that violence and negative treatment is acceptable in some circumstances, wheres, positive discipline demonstrates the opposite. In positive discipline the parents avoid negative treatment and focus on the importance of communication and showing unconditional love. Feeling loved, important and well liked has positive and negative effects on how a child perceives themselves. The child will feel important if the child feels well liked and loved by a person.[36] Other important aspects are reasonable and age-appropriate expectations, feeding healthy foods and providing enough rest, giving clear instructions which may need to be repeated, looking for the causes of any misbehavior and making adjustments, and building routines. Children are helped by knowing what is happening in their lives. Having some predictability about their day without necessarily being regimental will help reduce frustration and misbehavior.[37] Not only are the children taught to be open-minded, but the parents must demonstrate this as well.


Praise and rewards[edit]

Main article: Operant conditioning

Simply giving the child spontaneous expressions of appreciation or acknowledgement when they are not misbehaving will act as a reinforcer for good behavior. Focusing on good behavior versus bad behavior will encourage appropriate behavior in the given situation. According to B. F. Skinner, past behavior that is reinforced with praise is likely to repeat in the same or similar situation.[38]

In operant conditioning, schedules of reinforcement are an important component of the learning process. When and how often we reinforce a behavior can have a dramatic impact on the strength and rate of the response. A schedule of reinforcement is basically a rule stating which instances of a behavior will be reinforced. In some case, a behavior might be reinforced every time it occurs. Sometimes, a behavior might not be reinforced at all. Either positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement might be used, depending on the situation. In both cases, the goal of reinforcement is always to strengthen the behavior and increase the likelihood that it will occur again in the future. In real-world settings, behaviors are probably not going to be reinforced each and every time they occur. For situations where you are purposely trying to train and reinforce an action, such as in the classroom, in sports or in animal training, you might opt to follow a specific reinforcement schedule. As you'll see below, some schedules are best suited to certain types of training situations. In some cases, training might call for starting out with one schedule and switching to another once the desired behavior has been taught.[39]

Example of operant conditioning

Positive reinforcement: Whenever he is being good, cooperative, solves things non-aggressively, immediately reward those behaviors with praise, attention, goodies.

Punishment: If acting aggressively, give immediate, undesired consequence (send to corner; say "NO!" and couple with response cost).

Response cost: Most common would be "time-out". Removing sources of attention by placing in an environment without other people. Careful: This can become (aversive) punishment, depending on how done. To be response cost, it can only simply be taking away a desirable thing; not adding a negative one.

Negative reinforcement: One example would be to couple negative reinforcement with response cost—after some period of time in which he has acted cooperatively or calmly while in the absence of others, can bring him back with others. Thus, taking away the isolation should reinforce the desired behavior (being cooperative).

Extinction: Simply ignoring behaviors should lead to extinction. Note: that initially when ignored, can expect an initial increase in the behavior—a very trying time in situations such as a child that is acting out.[40]

It is common for children who are otherwise ignored by their parents to turn to misbehavior as a way of seeking attention.[41] An example is a child screaming for attention. Parents often inadvertently reward the bad behavior by immediately giving them the attention, thereby reinforcing it. On the other hand, parents may wait until the child calms down and speaks politely, then reward the more polite behavior with the attention.

Natural consequences[edit]

Main article: Operant conditioning

Natural consequences involve children learning from their own mistakes. In this method, the parent's job is to teach the child which behaviors are inappropriate. In order to do this, parents should allow the child to make a mistake and let them experience the natural results from their behavior. For instance, if a child forgets to bring his lunch to school, he will find himself hungry later. Using natural consequences would be indicative of the theory of accomplishment of natural growth, which is the parenting style of the working class and poor. The accomplishment of natural growth focuses on separation between children and family. Children are given directives and expected to carry them out without complaint or delay. Children are responsible for themselves during their free time, and the parent's main concern is caring for the children's physical needs.[42] In order for this method to be effective the parents cannot shield their child from harm or from getting in trouble. They must allow for the mistake to occur in order for the child to learn the consequences. For example, a basic natural consequence is that if the child touches a hot pot he will get burned. The consequence is usually immediate, and the parent may have little control when protecting the child. However, the pain is the consequence of touching the pot which will teach the child to not do that again.

Internal discipline and democracy[edit]

Main articles: Discipline in Sudbury Model Democratic Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Sudbury model democratic schools, attended by children ages 4 to 19, claim that popularly based authority can maintain order more effectively than dictatorial authority for governments and schools alike.

Furthermore, they emphasize that much more important than the externals of order is the question of the sources of internal discipline: how does an individual come to develop the inner strength and character that endows his life with order and coherence, an independent person appropriate to a free republic of co-equal citizens, capable of making decisions within a rational, self-consistent framework—a person treating and being treated with respect?

They affirm that the hallmark of the independent person is the ability to bear responsibility and since there is no way of teaching or training another person for self-sufficiency, there is no technique for obtaining or transmitting these traits. Hence, the only way a person becomes responsible for himself is for him to be responsible for himself, with no reservation or qualifications. Thence the need to permit children, at home and school, freedom of choice, freedom of action, and freedom to bear the results of action—the three great freedoms that constitute personal responsibility.[43][44][45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"Effective discipline for children". Canadian Paediatric Society. PMC 2719514. 
  2. ^Papalia, D.E.; Wendkos-Olds, S.; Duskin-Feldman, R. (2006). A Child's World: Infancy Through Adolescence (10th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. 
  3. ^Smenyak, Sarah. "The difference between discipline and child abuse". Demand Media. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  4. ^"Encouraging better behavior - A practical guide to positive parenting"(PDF). NSPCC. 2003. Archived from the original(PDF) on October 14, 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2008. 
  5. ^Pollock, Linda A. (1983). "5". Forgotten children: parent-child relations from 1500 to 1900. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-25009-9. 
  6. ^ abFleming, Sandy. "How has child discipline changed?". Demand Media. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  7. ^Hanawalt, Barbara, Growing Up in Medieval London (Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 67.
  8. ^"ERIC - Student Discipline in Colonial America., 1984-Nov". 
  9. ^"Eight Misconceptions About Spanking". Learn The Bible. Retrieved 19 September 2009. 
  10. ^Hanawalt, Barbara (1986). The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England. Oxford University Press. p. 182. 
  11. ^"The Medieval Child, Part 4: The Playful Years". Retrieved 21 September 2009. 
  12. ^ ab"Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society - Discipline". Retrieved 21 September 2009. 
  13. ^Dobson, James (1977). Dare to Discipline. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-22841-2. 
  14. ^Wright, Susan (19 June 1985). "Parents and Experts Split on Spanking". The New York Times. p. C9. 
  15. ^Millichamp, Jane; Martin, J.; Langley, J. (2006). "On the receiving end: young adults describe their parents' use of physical punishment and other disciplinary measures during childhood". The New Zealand Medical Journal. 119 (1228): U1818. PMID 16462926. 
  16. ^ abSullivan, Tom (5 October 2009). "In 30 years without spanking, are Swedish children better behaved?". The Christian Science Monitor. Boston. 
    Amending Chapter 5, Title 11 of the Delaware Code by redesignating Section 1100 of Chapter 5, Title 11 as Section 1100A of Chapter 5, Title 11 and further by redesignating current Section 1103 of Chapter 5, Title 11 as Section 1100, of Chapter 5, Title 11, and by further amending the current language of that section ...
    This act amends Chapter 5 §1100 to provide as follows:
    Definitions relating to children:
    When used in this subchapter:
    (j) "Physical injury" to a child shall mean any impairment of physical condition or pain.
  18. ^Amuwo, Shaffdeen; Robert Fabian; Jacqueline Hill; Ardith Spence; George Tolley (2004). "Child discipline and family decision-making". Journal of Socio-Economics. 33 (2): 153–173. doi:10.1016/j.socec.2003.12.016. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  19. ^"Parenting Styles". 
  20. ^Baumrind, D. (February 1967). "Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior". Genetic Psychology Monographs. 75 (1): 43–88. ISSN 0016-6677. PMID 6032134. 
  21. ^ abParenting Styles. Written by Joseph Lao, Ph.D
  22. ^Steingberg, Laurence (2011). Adolescence. New York: Mcgraw-Hill. pp. 128–129. ISBN 978-0-07-353203-5. 
  23. ^last=Kolari |first=Jennifer |title= Connected Parenting|year=2009|publisher=Viking Canada|location=Toronto
  24. ^Lareau, Annette (2011). Unequal Childhoods. University of California Press. pp. 1–3. ISBN 978-0-520-27142-5. 
  25. ^Marion, Marian (2007). Guidance of Young Children. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 47. ISBN 0-13-154530-2. 
  26. ^"Effective discipline for children"(PDF). Paediatrics & Child Health. 9 (1): 37–41. January 2004. PMC 2719514. PMID 19654979. Retrieved 30 November 2012. 
  27. ^Gordon, T. (2000). Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
  28. ^Kohn, A. (2005). Unconditional Parenting: Moving From Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. New York, NY: Atria Books
  29. ^Solter, A. (1989). Helping Young Children Flourish. Goleta, CA: Shining Star Press, and Solter, A. (2013). Attachment Play. Goleta, CA: Shining Star Press.
  30. ^Solter, A. (2002). The disadvantages of time-out.
  31. ^Johnson, Sylvia (15 September 2009). "10 Tips for Parents of Defiant Children". ABC News. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  32. ^Toner, Ignatius J. (1986). "Punitive and non-punitive discipline and subsequent rule-following in young children". Child and Youth Care Forum. 15 (1): 27–37. doi:10.1007/BF01118991. 
  33. ^ abMarkham, Dr. Laura. "How to Use Positive Discipline". Aha! Parenting. Retrieved 28 October 2009. 
  34. ^"Non-punitive discipline". Inside Out Counselling. Retrieved 28 October 2009. 
  35. ^"Positive discipline". 20 May 2008. Retrieved 28 October 2009. 
  36. ^Savage, Jill; Koch, Kathy (2014). No More Perfect Kids:Love Your Kids for Who They Are. Moody PubLishers. ISBN 9780802411525. 
  37. ^"The Nanny Show and you". Parenting and Child Health Services South Australia. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  38. ^Skinner, B.F. About Behaviorism.
  39. ^SKINNER, B. F. The behavior of organisms. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1938.
  40. ^Zeilberger, J., Sampen, S., & Sloan, H. (1968). Modification of a child's problem behaviors in the home with the mother as therapist. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 47-53.)
  41. ^"How can I discipline my children?". London: BBC. Retrieved 13 July 2009. 
  42. ^Lareau, Annette (2011). Unequal Childhoods. University of California Press. pp. 2–4. ISBN 978-0-520-27142-5. 
  43. ^The Crisis in American Education — An Analysis and a Proposal, The Sudbury Valley School (1970), Law and Order: Foundations of Discipline (pg. 49-55). Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  44. ^Greenberg, D. (1987) The Sudbury Valley School Experience Back to Basics. Accessed 10 January 2010.
  45. ^Greenberg, D. (1987). Child Rearing. Retrieved 10 January 2010.

Further reading[edit]

Medieval schoolboy birched on the bare buttocks

For other uses, see Childhood (disambiguation).

Childhood is the age span ranging from birth to adolescence.[1] According to Piaget's theory of cognitive development, childhood consists of two stages: preoperational stage and concrete operational stage. In developmental psychology, childhood is divided up into the developmental stages of toddlerhood (learning to walk), early childhood (play age), middle childhood (school age), and adolescence (puberty through post-puberty). Various childhood factors could affect a person's attitude formation.[1]

The concept of childhood emerged during the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly through the educational theories of the philosopher John Locke and the growth of books for and about children.[2] Previous to this point, children were often seen as incomplete versions of adults.

Time span, age ranges[edit]

The term childhood is non-specific in its time span and can imply a varying range of years in human development.[citation needed] Developmentally and biologically, it refers to the period between infancy and adulthood.[citation needed]

In common terms, childhood is considered to start from birth,[citation needed] and as a concept of play and innocence, which ends at adolescence.[citation needed]

In the legal systems of many countries, there is an age of majority when childhood legally ends and a person legally becomes an adult, which ranges anywhere from 15 to 21, with 18 being the most common.[citation needed]

A global consensus on the terms of childhood is the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).[3]Childhood expectancy indicates the time span, which a child has to experience childhood.[4]

Eight life events ending childhood have been described as death, extreme malnourishment, extreme violence, conflict forcing displacement, children being out of school, child labor, children having children and child marriage.[4]

Developmental stages of childhood[edit]

Further information: Child development stages and Child development

Early childhood[edit]

Early childhood follows the infancy stage and begins with toddlerhood when the child begins speaking or taking steps independently. While toddlerhood ends around age three when the child becomes less dependent on parental assistance for basic needs, early childhood continues approximately through years seven or eight. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, early childhood spans the human life from birth to age eight. At this stage children are learning through observing, experimenting and communicating with others. Adults supervise and support the development process of the child, which then will lead to the child's autonomy. Also during this stage, a strong emotional bond is created between the child and the care providers. The children also start to begin kindergarten at this age to start their social lives.

Middle childhood[edit]

Middle childhood begins at around age seven or eight, approximating primary school age. It ends around puberty, which typically marks the beginning of adolescence. In this period, children develop socially and mentally. They are at a stage where they make new friends and gain new skills, which will enable them to become more independent and enhance their individuality.


Adolescence is usually determined by the onset of puberty. However, puberty may also begin in preadolescence. Adolescence is biological distinct from childhood, but it is accepted by some cultures as a part of social childhood, because most of them are minors. The onset of adolescence brings about various physical, psychological and behavioral changes. The end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood varies by country and by function, and even within a single nation-state or culture there may be different ages at which an individual is considered to be mature enough to be entrusted by society with certain tasks.


Main article: History of childhood

During the European Renaissance, artistic depictions of children increased dramatically, which did not impact the social attitude to children much, however.[citation needed]

During the 1600s, the concept of childhood began to emerge in Europe.[5] Adults saw children as separate beings, innocent and in need of protection and training by the adults around them. The English philosopher John Locke was particularly influential in defining this new attitude towards children, especially with regard to his theory of the tabula rasa, which considered the mind at birth to be a "blank slate". A corollary of this doctrine was that the mind of the child was born blank, and that it was the duty of the parents to imbue the child with correct notions. During the early period of capitalism, the rise of a large, commercial middle class, mainly in the Protestant countries of the Dutch Republic and England, brought about a new family ideology centred around the upbringing of children. Puritanism stressed the importance of individual salvation and concern for the spiritual welfare of children.[6]

The modern notion of childhood with its own autonomy and goals began to emerge during the 18th century Enlightenment and the Romantic period that followed it.[citation needed]Jean Jacques Rousseau formulated the romantic attitude towards children in his famous 1762 novel Emile: or, On Education. Building on the ideas of John Locke and other 17th-century thinkers, Jean-Jaques Rousseau described childhood as a brief period of sanctuary before people encounter the perils and hardships of adulthood.[7] Sir Joshua Reynolds' extensive children portraiture demonstrated the new enlightened attitudes toward young children. His 1788 painting The Age of Innocence, emphasizes the innocence and natural grace of the posing child and soon became a public favourite.[citation needed]

With the onset of industrialisation in England in 1760, the divergence between high-minded romantic ideals of childhood and the reality of the growing magnitude of child exploitation in the workplace, became increasingly apparent. By the late 18th century, British children were specially employed in factories and mines and as chimney sweeps,[8] often working long hours in dangerous jobs for low pay.[9] As the century wore on, the contradiction between the conditions on the ground for children of the poor and the middle-class notion of childhood as a time of innocence led to the first campaigns for the imposition of legal protection for children.

British reformers attacked child labor from the 1830s onward, bolstered by the horrific descriptions of London street life by Charles Dickens.[10] The campaign eventually led to the Factory Acts, which mitigated the exploitation of children at the workplace.[11][12]

Modern concepts of childhood[edit]

The modern attitude to children emerged by the late 19th century; the Victorian middle and upper classes emphasized the role of the family and the sanctity of the child, – an attitude that has remained dominant in Western societies ever since.[13] The genre of children's literature took off, with a proliferation of humorous, child-oriented books attuned to the child's imagination. Lewis Carroll's fantasy Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865 in England, was a landmark in the genre; regarded as the first "English masterpiece written for children", its publication opened the "First Golden Age" of children's literature.

The latter half of the 19th century saw the introduction of compulsory state schooling of children across Europe, which decisively removed children from the workplace into schools.[citation needed] The market economy of the 19th century enabled the concept of childhood as a time of fun of happiness. Factory-made dolls and doll houses delighted the girls and organized sports and activities were played by the boys.[14] The Boy Scouts was founded by Sir Robert Baden-Powell in 1908,[15] which provided young boys with outdoor activities aiming at developing character, citizenship, and personal fitness qualities.[16]

In the 20th century, Philippe Ariès, a French historian specializing in medieval history, suggested that childhood was not a natural phenomenon, but a creation of society in his 1960 book Centuries of Childhood. In 1961 he published a study of paintings, gravestones, furniture, and school records, finding that before the 17th-century, children were represented as mini-adults.

In 1966, the American philosopher George Boas published the book The Cult of Childhood. Since then, historians have increasingly researched childhood in past times.[citation needed]

In 2006 Hugh Cunningham, published the book Invention of Childhood looking at British childhood from the year 1000, the Middle Ages to what he refers to as the Post War Period of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.[citation needed]

The concept of childhood appears to evolve and change shape as lifestyles change and adult expectations alter. Some believe that children should not have any worries and should not have to work; life should be happy and trouble-free. Childhood is usually a mixture of happiness, wonder, angst and resilience. It is generally a time of playing, learning, socializing, exploring, and worrying in a world without much adult interference, aside from parents. It is a time of learning about responsibilities without having to deal with adult responsibilities.[citation needed]

A "loss of innocence" is a common concept, and is often seen as an integral part of coming of age. It is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child's life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or the world around them.[citation needed] This theme is demonstrated in the novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies. The fictional character Peter Pan was the embodiment of a childhood that never ends.

Geographies of childhood[edit]

The geographies of childhood involves how (adult) society perceives the idea of childhood, the many ways adult attitudes and behaviors affect children's lives, including the environment which surrounds children and its implications.[citation needed]

The geographies of childhood is similar in some respects to children's geographies which examines the places and spaces in which children live.[citation needed]

Nature deficit disorder[edit]

Main article: Nature deficit disorder

Nature Deficit Disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, refers to the trend in the United States and Canada towards less time for outdoor play,[17][18] resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems.[19]

With increasing use of cellphones, computers, video games and television, children have more reasons to stay inside rather than outdoors exploring. “The average American child spends 44 hours a week with electronic media”.[20] Research in 2007 has drawn a correlation between the declining number of National Park visits in the U.S. and increasing consumption of electronic media by children.[21] The media has accelerated the trend for children´s nature disconnection by deemphasizing views of nature, as in Disney films.[22]

Healthy childhoods[edit]

Role of parents[edit]

Main article: Parenting

Children's health[edit]

Further information: Childhood obesity, Childhood immunizations, and List of childhood diseases

Children's health includes the physical, mental and social well-being of children. Maintaining children's health implies offering them healthy foods, insuring they get enough sleep and exercise, and protecting their safety.[23] Children in certain parts of the world often suffer from malnutrition, which is often associated with other conditions, such diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria.[24]

Child protection[edit]

Further information: Child labor, Child labor laws, Risk aversion, Child abuse, and Protection of Children Act

Child protection, according to UNICEF, refers to "preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against children – including commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour and harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage".[25] The Convention on the Rights of the Child protects the fundamental rights of children.


Further information: Play (activity), Playground, Imaginary friend, and Childhood secret club

Play is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children.[26] It offers children opportunities for physical (running, jumping, climbing, etc.), intellectual (social skills, community norms, ethics and general knowledge) and emotional development (empathy, compassion, and friendships). Unstructured play encourages creativity and imagination. Playing and interacting with other children, as well as some adults, provides opportunities for friendships, social interactions, conflicts and resolutions. However, adults tend to (often mistakenly) assume that virtually all children's social activities can be understood as "play" and, furthermore, that children's play activities do not involve much skill or effort.[27][28][29][30]

It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers.[26] Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills. However, when play is controlled by adults, children acquiesce to adult rules and concerns and lose some of the benefits play offers them. This is especially true in developing creativity, leadership, and group skills.[26]

Play is considered to be so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as a right of every child.[31] Children who are being raised in a hurried and pressured style may limit the protective benefits they would gain from child-driven play.[26]

The initiation of play in a classroom setting allows teachers and students to interact through playfulness associated with a learning experience. Therefore, playfulness aids the interactions between adults and children in a learning environment. “Playful Structure” means to combine informal learning with formal learning to produce an effective learning experience for children at a young age.[32]

Even though play is considered to be the most important to optimal child development, the environment affects their play and therefore their development. Poor children confront widespread environmental inequities as they experience less social support, and their parents are less responsive and more authoritarian. Children from low income families are most likely to have less access to books and computers which affects their development as they do not have access to resources that would enhance their development.[33]

Street culture[edit]

Main articles: Children's street culture and Children's street games

Children's street culture refers to the cumulative culture created by young children and is sometimes referred to as their secret world. It is most common in children between the ages of seven and twelve. It is strongest in urban working classindustrial districts where children are traditionally free to play out in the streets for long periods without supervision. It is invented and largely sustained by children themselves with little adult interference.

Young children's street culture usually takes place on quiet backstreets and pavements, and along routes that venture out into local parks, playgrounds, scrub and wasteland, and to local shops. It often imposes imaginative status on certain sections of the urban realm (local buildings, kerbs, street objects, etc.). Children designate specific areas that serve as informal meeting and relaxation places (see: Sobel, 2001). An urban area that looks faceless or neglected to an adult may have deep 'spirit of place' meanings in to children. Since the advent of indoor distractions such as video games, and television, concerns have been expressed about the vitality – or even the survival – of children's street culture.

Children's rights[edit]

Main article: Children's rights

Children's rights are the human rights of children, with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care afforded to minors, and provision of basic necessities. Children's rights are not respected in all countries. Globally, millions of children are subjected to exploitation, including deprivation of education, child labour, forced military service, or imprisonment in institutions or detention centers where they endure poor conditions and violence.[34]

Research in social sciences[edit]

Further information: Childhood studies

In recent years there has been a rapid growth of interest in the sociological study of adulthood. Reaching on a large body of contemporary sociological and anthropological research, people have developed key links between the study of childhood and multiple disciplines including social theory, exploring its historical, political, and cultural dimensions internationally.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Ariès, Philippe. Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.
  • Boas, George. The Cult of Childhood. London: Warburg, 1966.
  • Brown, Marilyn R., ed. Picturing Children: Constructions of Childhood between Rousseau and Freud. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002.
  • Buckingham, David. After the Death of Childhood: Growing Up in the Age of Electronic Media. Blackwell Publishers, 2000. ISBN 0-7456-1933-9.
  • Bunge, Marcia J., ed. The Child in Christian Thought. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001.
  • Calvert, Karin. Children in the House: The Material Culture of Early Childhood, 1600–1900. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1992.
  • Cleverley, John and D.C. Phillips. Visions of Childhood: Influential Models from Locke to Spock. New York: Teachers College, 1986.
  • Cannella, Gaile and Joe L. Kincheloe. "Kidworld: Childhood Studies, Global Perspectives, and Education". New York: Peter Lang, 2002.
  • Cunningham, Hugh. Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500. London: Longman, 1995.
  • Cunnington, Phillis and Anne Buck. Children’s Costume in England: 1300 to 1900. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1965.
  • deMause, Lloyde, ed. The History of Childhood. London: Souvenir Press, 1976.
  • Ember, Carol R.; Ringen, Erik J. (8 September 2017). C.R. Ember, ed. "Childhood". Explaining Human Culture. Human Relations Area Files. Retrieved 22 February 2018.  
  • Higonnet, Anne. Pictures of Innocence: The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1998.
  • Immel, Andrea and Michael Witmore, eds. Childhood and Children’s Books in Early Modern Europe, 1550–1800. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Kincaid, James R. Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture. New York: Routledge, 1992.
  • Knörr, Jacqueline, ed. Childhood and Migration. From Experience to Agency. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2005.
  • Müller, Anja, ed. Fashioning Childhood in the Eighteenth Century: Age and Identity. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.
  • O’Malley, Andrew. The Making of the Modern Child: Children’s Literature and Childhood in the Late Eighteenth Century. London: Routledge, 2003.
  • Pinchbeck, Ivy and Margaret Hewitt. Children in English Society. 2 vols. London: Routledge, 1969.
  • Pollock, Linda A. Forgotten Children: Parent-child relations from 1500 to 1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Postman, Neil. The Disappearance of Childhood. New York: Vintage, 1994.
  • Schultz, James. The Knowledge of Childhood in the German Middle Ages.
  • Shorter, Edward. The Making of the Modern Family.
  • Sommerville, C. John. The Discovery of Childhood in Puritan England. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
  • Steinberg, Shirley R. and Joe L. Kincheloe. Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood. Westview Press Inc., 2004. ISBN 0-8133-9154-7.
  • Stone, Lawrence. The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500–1800. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.
  • Zornado, Joseph L. Inventing the Child: Culture, Ideology, and the Story of Childhood. New York: Garland, 2001.

External links[edit]

Look up childhood in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Childhood
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Childhood.
Children playing the violin in a group recital
Children in front of a movie theatre, Toronto, 1920s.
Older teenagers at the Bannu jail in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
  1. ^ abMacmillan Dictionary for Students Macmillan, Pan Ltd. (1981), page 173. Retrieved 2010-7-15.
  2. ^Eddy, Matthew Daniel (2010). "'The Alphabets of Nature: Children, Books and Natural History, 1750-1800'". Nuncius. 25: 1–22. 
  3. ^UNICEF The State of the World’s Children, 2005
  4. ^ abEnd of Childhood Report 2017 Save the Children, retrieved 12 August 2017
  5. ^Philippe Ariès (1960). Centuries of Childhood. 
  6. ^Vivian C. Fox, "Poor Children's Rights in Early Modern England," Journal of Psychohistory, Jan 1996, Vol. 23 Issue 3, pp 286–306
  7. ^David Cohen, The development of play (2006) p 20
  8. ^Laura Del Col, West Virginia University, The Life of the Industrial Worker in Nineteenth-Century England
  9. ^Barbara Daniels, Poverty and Families in the Victorian Era
  10. ^Amberyl Malkovich, Charles Dickens and the Victorian Child: Romanticizing and Socializing the Imperfect Child (2011)
  11. ^"The Life of the Industrial Worker in Nineteenth-Century England". Laura Del Col, West Virginia University.
  12. ^"The Factory and Workshop Act, 1901". Br Med J. 2: 1871–2. 1901. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.2139.1871. PMC 2507680. PMID 20759953. 
  13. ^Thomas E. Jordan, Victorian Child Savers and Their Culture: A Thematic Evaluation (1998)
  14. ^Howard Chudacoff, Children at Play: An American History (2008)
  15. ^Woolgar, Brian; La Riviere, Sheila (2002). Why Brownsea? The Beginnings of Scouting. Brownsea Island Scout and Guide Management Committee. 
  16. ^Boehmer, Elleke (2004). Notes to 2004 edition of Scouting for Boys. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  17. ^For more children, less time for outdoor play: Busy schedules, less open space, more safety fears, and lure of the Web keep kids inside by Marilyn Gardner, The Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 2006
  18. ^U.S. children and teens spend more time on academics by Diane Swanbrow, The University Record Online, The University of Michigan.
  19. ^Are your kids really spending enough time outdoors? Getting up close with nature opens a child's eyes to the wonders of the world, with a bounty of health benefits.[permanent dead link] by Tammie Burak, Canadian Living.
  20. ^Outside Agitators by Bill O'Driscoll, Pittsburgh City Paper
  21. ^"Is There Anybody Out There?", Conservation, 8 (2), April–June 2007, archived from the original on 2008-12-01 
  22. ^Prévot-Julliard, Anne-Caroline; Julliard, Romain; Clayton, Susan (2014). "Historical evidence for nature disconnection in a 70-year time series of Disney animated films". Public Understanding of Science. 24: 672–680. doi:10.1177/0963662513519042. 
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ abcdKenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSEd. "The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds"(PDF). American Academy of Pediatrics. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2009-10-11. 
  27. ^Björk-Willén, Polly; Cromdal, Jakob (2009). "When education seeps into 'free play': How preschool children accomplish multilingual education". Journal of Pragmatics. 41 (8): 1493–1518. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2007.06.006. 
  28. ^Cromdal, Jakob (2001). "Can I be with?: Negotiating play entry in a bilingual schooln". Journal of Pragmatics. 33: 515–543. doi:10.1016/S0378-2166(99)00131-9. 
  29. ^Butler, Carly (2008). Talk and social interaction in the playground. Aldershot: Ashgate. 
  30. ^Cromdal, Jakob (2009). "Childhood and social interaction in everyday life: Introduction to the special issue". Journal of Pragmatics. 41 (8): 1473–76. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2007.03.008. 
  31. ^"Convention on the Rights of the Child. General Assembly Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989". Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved 2006-06-22. 
  32. ^Walsh, Glenda. "Playful Structure". Council of University Libraries. 
  33. ^American Psychologist (March 2004), 59 (2), pg. 77–92
  34. ^

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