A new paradigm for the sociology of childhood?
This chapter presents emergent paradigm as an approach to the study of childhood and encapsulates what people feel to be the nature of the social institution of childhood. The immaturity of children is a biological fact of life but the ways in which this immaturity is understood and made meaningful are a fact of culture. It is these facts of culture which may vary and which can be said to make of childhood a social institution. This chapter traces the origins of the approach, analyzes its benefits and outlines some issues confronted in its further development. It also shows the ways in which the socio-political context made possible alternative approaches to childhood study as the experience of childhood changed for children. People locate these changes in relation to the new theoretical directions taken by the social sciences and points to the potential which the emergent paradigm has for future developments in childhood sociology.