chapter  2
14 Pages

Experience, agency, and the children in the past: the case of Roman childhood

Modern childhood studies and the Roman childhood In modern family studies, one is able to recognize, very roughly, three different phases in relation to the study of childhood and children. In the first phase, children were understood to be worthy of study as objects of adult interest, especially in the contexts of education and legal status. Childhood was looked at as a fixed and separate period in a human life course, both preparatory and anticipatory as such – this approach dominated the scattered studies on children until the 1960s. Here, the influence of Philip Ariès and the idea of the historical embeddedness of childhood was essential: childhood is (also) socially constructed. However, one may claim that modern childhood studies really began only with the next phase of research, through the development of the idea of childhood socialization. The continuity of a community depends not only on its biological and economic survival but also on the transmission of its cultural and social norms and customs while learning processes of inheriting norms, behaviour, and ideologies provide the individuals

with the skills and ways of acting that are necessary for participation in their own society. This idea of a double process of socialisation was already central in the work of George Herbert Mead in the 1920s, but it was only after the Second World War, and especially in the 1970s and 1980s, that the study of childhood socialization became the way of studying childhood in the field of social studies.1