Childhood in crisis?
Research conducted by Dr Mary-Jane Kehily, an expert in childhood and youth at The Open University, suggests that the current perception that childhood is ‘in crisis’ is essentially a media construct and not a new phenomenon. Researching into the issue over the past six years, Dr Kehily argues in the paper, ‘Childhood in crisis? Tracing the contours of ‘crisis’ and its impact upon contemporary parenting practices’, that the perception is actually a reflection of adult anxiety and insecurity in today’s modern age.
Dr Kehily says: “Whereas once Western childhoods were something to aspire to, we are now led to believe that childhood in the West is in crisis, and imploding. This is a construct led by media hysteria and compounded by the loss of confidence amongst parents - who feel under increased pressure and surveillance. In what is now a risk-conscious society, the child is a treasured emotional investment, providing security for parents in an insecure world.”
Dr Kehily examined reports, books, media and particularly parenting magazines when researching, putting these into the context of past debates over childhood, and she found that there has been a “sea change in attitudes towards and perceptions of childhood.” Today, nostalgic romantic visions of how childhood should be are blended with consumerism and the increased availability of scientific knowledge, giving modern child-parent relationships a unique character. Dr Kehily argues this is typified by the rise in 4D scans, giving parents increased reassurance before the child is born. Scientific procedures such as stem cell harvesting are also increasingly popular, with parents seeing this as a way to minimise future health risks.
Dr Kehily’s article appears in the journal Media, Culture and Society.
Notes to Editors
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