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posted on 20 Jan 2019

The social construction of childhood: Explored with reference to Roald Dahl's  ‘Danny, the Champion of the World’ by Jodie Walwyn

The author says:

This essay was submitted for the Level 4 module ‘Constructs of Childhood’ as part of an undergraduate BA Honours Degree in Early Childhood, Education and Care at Newman University. I selected the book ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ as the descriptive nature of Dahl’s writing provides a clear insight into the context of a young boy’s childhood. The story demonstrates the varying views surrounding childhood held by members within a society, and therefore effectively supported my analysis of childhood as a social construction.

The essay begins:

"Childhoods are socially constructed and differ depending on the type of society a child is raised within (Coster, 2007, p.3). As James and James (2004, p.13) explain, the way childhood is regarded “varies considerably across and between cultures and generations.” Therefore, childhood cannot be viewed alone since “it is deeply intertwined with other factors in society” (Norozi and Moen, 2016, p.79). The period of time in which a child grows up significantly impacts their experience of childhood, as societal views change. This is evident when comparing childhoods in the past to the current day, since there is remarkable difference. For example, in history children were expected to work in factories, whereas today “governments must protect children from economic exploitation and work that is dangerous or might harm their health, development or education” (Unicef, 2010). This essay aims to explore the social construction of childhood, beginning with a discussion surrounding its historical context and the changing perceptions of society. The work of Ariès and the impact of the industrial revolution will be addressed. Throughout this section links will be made to discourses in relation to historical views of childhood. Next, an analysis will be carried out on the children’s book “Danny the Champion of the World” (2013) by Roald Dahl. This story was first published in 1975 (Dahl, 2018) and reflects the time and context in which it was written. In relation to the story the romantic and puritanical discourses will be discussed. Consideration will be given to 2 the social context of the story and the time in which it was set. To end, the key themes and author’s messages within the story will be explored. Finally, a conclusion will be provided to consolidate the content of the essay. This will sum up the different aspects which contribute to the construction of childhood and influence the discourses present. A summary of what has been learnt will also be provided along with a reflection on the impact of childhood discourses on current practice."


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