Reconceptualising Early Childhood Practice: Exploring Social Constructivism Of Childhood

Different constructions of childhood

Discuss About The Reconceptualising Early Childhood Practice.

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The term social constructivism of childhood focuses on the construction of knowledge of childhood and children by different stakeholders. By constructing these knowledge on childhood, the theory of social constructivism outlines the purpose that it would serve. Social constructionist approach of childhood is premised on the conceptualization of childhood from diverse societies, value, time and cultures (Norozi& Moen, 2016). Another aspect of the social constructionist approach is the different circumstances and conditions through which childhood is experienced. According to Sorin (2005), the term child is replete with a plethora of connotations. In industrialized societies, the category of child is understood to be a social category. According to this view, the child should be encouraged to become educated and there should be a careful planning of his/her future.

This is the logo of UNICEF that depicts a mother nurturing a child. The UNHCR is known for promoting to the cause of child rights. There is underlined belief that children are in need of protection. However, UNHCR also advocates the rights of the children.

There are different constructions of a child. In the construction of childhood, an innocent child is the dominant image. There is a strong notion that a child is innocent and fragile, and the adult is the protector. This construction of childhood promotes the establishment of shelter homes for children, laws safeguarding children from trafficking, sexual abuse and domestic violence (Wood, 2014). There is also a belief that children should not  be exposed to violent content. This is manifested in the exclusion of stories with witches, monsters and demons from the primary school curriculum. It is also found that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child prescribes and codifies that there needs to be policies that is  befitting for the interest of children.

This image depicts Henry Leonard at the age of 12 who was a choir boy in Victorian England. He was imprisoned in 1873 for breaking into three houses.

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The notion of the out-of-control child refers to a child who resorts to self-destructive and violent modes of behavior to get their work done from their peers and adults alike. The out-of-control children are considered as deviant and are part of dysfunctional families (vanDijk et al., 2017). It is believed that they have turned deviant as their socialization is incomplete. These type of children are found to have perpetrated violent crimes. They are found to be expelled from the schools and find themselves as an outcaste in the so-called sanitized environment of the classroom.

Image 3- This image depicts the The Little Queen of Beauty which is a renowned beauty pageant that promotes the participation of children of different age group from diverse environments with the purpose of familiarizing them with the demanding lifestyle for the success in this field. Children are encouraged to dress up like professional models, use hair extension, make-up, cosmetic glitter and also spray tan.

This image of children focuses on the child as a commodity who is consumed by the capitalist market. Children are posited as marketing tools and are found widely in the advertisements featuring baby clothes, toiletries, toys and adult accessories. There are numerous examples of calendars and greeting cards that generously use the image of the child to satiate their agenda of profit making. They merchandize and monetize on the innocent image of the children. However, commoditization is not limited to the beautification of the children but also moves to the sexualization of children. This is evident in the banal representation of children in child pornography. Children are represented as sexual objects for the lascivious intentions of the adults. There is an image that the child is able to exercise her agency and therefore she is powerful. However, these representations serve as a befitting strategy to meet the needs of the adult.

The innocent child

Image 4- This is the image of AbdulrahmanHussainfrom (second from left) Egypt who is considered as the smartest kid in the world as he won the IMA (The Intelligent Arithmetic International Competition). To participate in the competition, he trained his mental abilities for a period of five years. His teacher Batul Mohammed Montasser was of the opinion that he has received early education that has led to a better mental faculty.

The agentic child harps on the notion of children as agents of their transformation of their condition. According to this theory, childhood is believed to a significant phase for a person to realize their potential and have a better understanding of themselves. In this case, the curriculum is developed though a child-adult collaboration (Hartung, 2011). The children and adults participate together to engage in a collaborative journey where there is a documentation of the interests of the children, recording of their ideas, language and also a sustainable planning based on observation. There is an evaluation based on portfolios that comprises of the work, selected by the teacher-student partnership. It also comprises of interviews of children regarding their day-to-day learning and the peer review that further emboldens children to exercise their agency (Quennerstedt&Quennerstedt, 2014). This image of childhood became popular during the Reggio Emilia Movement. This is considered as a revolutionary approach and is being widely embraced by primary school educators.

Image 5- This is the image of a displaced Iraqi firl who had to flee her home to evade the crisis posed as aresult of Islamic State militants and the Iraqi forces near the Badush area in Iraq. This war has resulted in the maiming, killing and the recruitment of children to participant in the military in the Syrian conflict.

According to this model, the child is perpetually viewed as a victim. The child is perceived as a victim of natural disasters like famine, poverty and considered powerless as well as voiceless (Kruger, 2016). The child victim is unaware that their representations are being used to stoke sympathy and for other charitable purposes. Their images appear in the cover of magazines or posters to generate sympathy. It is found that children are represented as victims in the early childhood classrooms. There are children who are not able to afford textbooks or participate in excursions due to the deplorable family condition.

The theory of out-of-control children promotes the images of these children as incorrigible and therefore, there is an underlined emphasis on abandoning these children (Katz, 2015). This becomes problematic as it closes down on possibilities rather than seeking innovative ways to reform these children. Critics feel that the violent attitude of these children needs to be understood as their untold expressions for help. Therefore, there is a need to pay attention to their behavior. As an alternative, there can be collaboration between the adult and children to find ways of new learning directions and behavioral expectations. The child as commodity approach is revealing of the actions that need to be taken to curtail the tendency of capitalist society to use children as tools for their marketing. This approach has correspondence with the child as victim theory but unlike the latter, this approach apparently provides the child with some agency and opportunity.

The out-of-control child

These chosen constructs of childhood conceptualized by Sordid and Galloway are important in understanding the different views about childhood and the ways in which children are imagined (Greenbaum, Crawford-Jakubiak& Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, 2015). Based on the constructs there are policies, initiatives and protocols. This section succinctly aims to compare and contrast the five above mentioned concepts of childhood and find their limitations and their further usage. The innocent child theory is replete with its own sets of limitations. The overemphasis on children as innocent deprives them of the opportunity to be the agents of change (Blaikie et al., 2014). They are perpetually portrayed as vulnerable who are in urgent need of surveillance and social control to protect them from the social evils. One major limitation of the child as victim approach is that there is a propensity to blame the parents of the children for being incapable agents for the better life of their child (Brady, Lowe,& Olin, 2015). Another emergent issue pertaining to this approach is that there needs to be an invigorating outlook from the educators to understand the lifeworld of these children and seek strategies that would enable the child to have agency. Much like the innocent child theory, this theory reduces the child as having no agency and therefore evokes sympathy for the children. Out of all the approaches, the agentic child theory is proved to more sophisticated and appropriate to respond to the events in one’s childhood. Carrying forward the legacy of this theory, scholars have exhorted to include diversity and the multiple values shared by children to render their voices as independent. There has also been suggestion for positioning children as equal partners in their educational decision-making.


The above discussion on the five selected constructs of childhood facilitated an understanding of the different constructions and representations of children in media along with different social institutions. It was found that in the present context the agentic child model is most appropriate as it brings out the true potential in children and encourages them to discover their talents through a collaboration with the adult.


Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I., & Wisner, B. (2014). At risk: natural hazards, people’s vulnerability and disasters. Routledge.

Brady, G., Lowe, P., & Olin Lauritzen, S. (2015). Connecting a sociology of childhood perspective with the study of child health, illness and wellbeing: introduction. Sociology of health & illness, 37(2), 173-183.

Greenbaum, J., Crawford-Jakubiak, J. E., & Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. (2015). Child sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation: health care needs of victims. Pediatrics, 135(3), 566-574

Hartung, C. (2011). Governing the’agentic’child citizen: A poststructural analysis of children’s participation.

hern, E. C., Hershkowitz, I., Lamb, M. E., Blasbalg, U., &Winstanley, A. (2014). Support and reluctance in the pre?substantive phase of alleged child abuse victim investigative interviews: Revised versus Standard NICHD protocols. Behavioral sciences & the law, 32(6), 762-774.

Katz, E. (2015). Domestic violence, children’s agency and mother–child relationships: Towards a more advanced model. Children & Society, 29(1), 69-79.

Kruger, P. A. (2016). Mothers and their children as victims in war: Amos 1: 13 against the background of the ancient Near East. Old Testament Essays, 29(1), 100-115.

Norozi, S. A., & Moen, T. (2016). Childhood as a social construction. Journal of Educational and Social Research, 6(2), 75.

Quennerstedt, A., &Quennerstedt, M. (2014). Researching children’s rights in education: Sociology of childhood encountering educational theory. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35(1), 115-132.

Sorin, R. (2005). Changing images of childhood: Reconceptualising early childhood practice. Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne.

vanDijk, R., Dekovi?, M., Bunte, T. L., Schoemaker, K., Zondervan-Zwijnenburg, M., Espy, K. A., &Matthys, W. (2017). Mother-child interactions and externalizing behavior problems in preschoolers over time: Inhibitory control as a mediator. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 45(8), 1503-1517.

Wood, E. A. (2014). Free choice and free play in early childhood education: Troubling the discourse. International Journal of Early Years Education, 22(1), 4-18.