The title of this volume, Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood, captures the spirit within which it is conceived. First, we discussed in the introduction what we there called the ‘emergent paradigm’. In this chapter we present it in precisely this light: an emerging and not yet completed approach to the study of childhood. Second, the title encapsulates what we feel to be the nature of the social institution of childhood: an actively negotiated set of social relationships within which the early years of human life are constituted. The immaturity of children is a biological fact of life but the ways in which this immaturity is understood and made meaningful is a fact of culture (see La Fontaine, 1979). It is these ‘facts of culture’ which may vary and which can be said to make of childhood a social institution. It is in this sense, therefore, that one can talk of the social construction of childhood and also, as it appears in this volume, of its re-and deconstrution. In this double sense, then, childhood is both constructed and reconstructed both for children and by children.