Concepts of Childhood

Subject 460-693 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

Semester 1, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Parkville campus

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 36 hours
Total Time Commitment: 120 hours total commitment
Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Kylie Anne Smith
Subject Overview:

The last decade of the 20th century saw keen interest by researchers in changing concepts of childhood, stimulated in part by the translation into English in the 1970s of Philippe Aries' influential book, 'Centuries of Childhood'. The subsequent research has drawn on insights from various disciplines, including history, philosophy, education, the arts, literature, law and medicine. This subject examines the questions raised by this continuing body of research and relates them to current understandings of childhood and to recent changes in policies regarding children in diverse local and international contexts.

An indicative list of topics in this subject is as follows: the Aries thesis; 'tabula rasa' views of children, in particular Locke and Skinner; the devleopmental model of childhood, in particular the contribution of Darwin, Freud and Piaget; childhood innocence and responsibility; the Confucian child; the child as sexual being; the child as a spritiual being; the child as consumer; the postmodern child as active agent in the construction of its own identity. There will be particular attention to the different types of evidence used to substantiate claims about the nature of childhood, such as cultural products including paintings, children's clothing, literauterfor and about children, educational and toehr institutions for shildren and research about children and childhood. In this subject, The united Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a starting point for broad investigations into the changing nature of childhood (from someone in need of protection to soemone with rights) and the universality of children's right.


On completion of this subject, students should be able to:

  • Identify and understand changing historical and contemporary theoretical perspectives on conceptualising childhood;
  • Analyse the changing role of specific institutions in constructing contemporary childhoods;
  • Explore and understand the ways in which different disciplines have studied and constructed childhood;
  • Critically evaluate diverse claims about the nature of chidlhood draawing from differnt evidentiary sources.
Assessment: Assignments totalling 4,000 words or equivalent
Prescribed Texts: Archard, David (2004). Children Rights and Childhood Routledge.
Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completing this subject, students should be able to:

  • Sharpen their analytical skills by identifying and analysing diverse contemporary and historical influences on the study of childhood;
  • Enhance their skills of scholarly critique through reading widely in diverse journals and texts;
  • Gain improved problem-solving skills through critical engagement with diverse evidentiary sources and their claims about childhood;
  • Gain reflective knowledge and understanding of cross-cultural concepts in the study of childhood.

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