Past childhood freedoms and licences : their contribution to emerging selfhood

  • Simon Peter Knight

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


During the 1990's an emerging preoccupation with risk and safety was understood to be having a disproportionate impact on parents and in particular how they were bringing up their children. Fear was leading to children and young people's independent movement and association being severely curtailed. It was believed that this trend was having a detrimental impact on children's learning and sociability: subsequent generations of adults were potentially going to have deficits in their independence and competency. This research degree aims to establish what it was that past childhoods, ones that were more 'free', provided for the developing individual: what space they inhabited; what experiences occupying those spaces generated; what community relationships existed between children and adults; what expectations were place upon these children and how these factors drove the development of independent, autonomous, active adult subjects. The initial tasks facing the project were to pull the problem into focus and establish what changes to modern society were occurring. Further to this, was to understand what childhood is and what the teleological journey to adulthood entails. Furedi and Vygotsky were deployed to accomplish these ends and to help make sense of 108 extended interviews with older people born between the years of 1903 and 1965. The data reveals how freedoms and licence available to these children impacted on their learning and development. It shows, through a rich and textured archive, how a cultural script, at odds with the one at work today, shaped emerging individuals. Conclusions should not be understood to be neo-traditionalist. Much in the past is best left there. There are somethings however that we would do well to rediscover and deploy in society's reproduction. Chiefly, I believe that the distinction between childhood and a confident adulthood, as a context for adults taking collective responsibility for future generations of capable grown ups, needs to be redrawn.
Date of Award7 Oct 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde

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