The twentieth century is said to be ‘century of the child’ and perhaps at no other time have children been so highly profiled. The ideology of the child-centred society gives ‘the child’ and ‘the interests of the child’ a prominent place in the policy and practices of legal, welfare, medical and educational institutions. Whole academic discourses, especially in psychology and medicine, are devoted to understanding the particular qualities of children and in magazines and on television popularized versions of these frequently appear. But despite this rhetoric any complacency about children and their place in society is misplaced, for the very concept of childhood has become problematic during the last decade. This volume of essays reflects these contemporary concerns by exploring the ways in which childhood is socially constructed. This means, as we shall show, exploring the ways in which the immaturity of children is conceived and articulated in particular societies into culturally specific sets of ideas and philosophies, attitudes and practices which combine to define the ‘nature of childhood’.