Need a perfect paper? Place your first order and save 5% with this code:   SAVE5NOW

Representing Childhood – Children’s Rights

“The right of the child” was envisioned by Swedish feminist Ellen Key in her best-known work, “The Century of the Child (1900) as the central concern of modern society”. There were already similar initiatives to facilitate children in previous decades before 1900. Many people struggle with categorizing, managing, and safeguarding the ephemeral “Child.”

Child labor was outlawed or severely restricted almost everywhere in Western nations by 1900. The United States was a few years ahead of Britain when laws ended child labor, but this didn’t happen until 1918. Margaret McMillan was one of the most vociferous champions for reforms to enhance the quality of life for every child.

Since its establishment in the early twentieth century, the “National Child Labor Committee” in the United States has faced resistance in state compliance. Meanwhile, a slew of organizations in the U.S. and U.K. focused on various other facets of children’s welfare, from increasing the obligatory school age to teaching parents about proper cleanliness and child-rearing.

Because of advances in research and a heightened focus on maternal and child health throughout the first two decades of the twenty-first century, decreasing infant mortality rates showed that such initiatives on behalf of the child were having an impact. Unfortunately, further issues arose due to the deteriorating economic climate and the growing liberties enjoyed by women and children. It was difficult for the child’s family to provide for him now that he was alive but not working. This question sparked a lively discussion. On the other hand, many who relied on their children to make a livelihood during the Great Depression, which lasted for nearly ten years until the outbreak of WWII, were among those opposed to child labor laws (M. Campbell,). They contended that the state had no jurisdiction to stop youngsters from supporting their families in the manner they had traditionally done.

“True parental love” could only thrive if “the kid was characterized purely as an object of feeling and not an agent of production,” proponents of child labor laws contended. Children were long regarded as an economic asset and should thus be permitted to drain family resources instead of contributing to their survival. Increased demand for educated professionals and stronger compulsory education legislation contributed to the reality that more and more youngsters were receiving extensive schooling.

When women gained the right to vote in the 1920s, they brought new ideas about marriage and parenthood. The husband-dominated Victorian home gave way to a more egalitarian model known as “companionate family.” Immigrant couples, particularly those who could afford to marry, began to emphasize love as a factor in their decision-making.

In the 1930s, many families were forced to incorporate extended family members, fostering a sense of closeness and allowing children to have many adult caregivers at home. Many families were also forced to put their children in labor or care for their younger siblings during WWII, which made things more difficult. New problems and worries arose as more and more outside the house-shaped children’s personalities.

Juvenile courts are primarily a product of American law, a reaction to “adult worries about the hazards presented by the very teenage peer cultures that public policy’s division of children into age-specific categories encouraged” (Sealander 20). By the 1930s, parents were already concerned about their children’s moral growth because of a lack of parental monitoring. Because of this danger, the law expanded the concept of childhood following age-based responsibility and punishment.

More and more of America’s jail population was made up of people under the age of eighteen as the century wore on, particularly in states where gun ownership is less tightly regulated than in the United Kingdom (M. Campbell,). In the mid-century, the incidence of detention for teens dropped, even though adults’ concerns about their conduct increased even when the law began to differentiate between children as well as adults in relations to punishment. The controversy over whether a teenager should be tried as an adult remains to rage today.

The “Baby Boom” generation was born in the mid-1940s when the birth rate in the United States reached an all-time high. Parents might lavish their children with material goods with greater money and devote more time and attention to their children’s emotional and cognitive requirements. Educational programming grew significantly during the 1960s and 1970s, making period spent in front of “the tube” more productive.

Parenting in the twentieth century was marked by irrational fear, as per Peter N. Stearns. Even though the number of children who died or were orphaned was far lower than in previous centuries, parental worry rose throughout this period. Children were significantly more likely to be molested by their own families than by strangers.

Even after segregation was abolished, many low-income and minority kids are still forced to attend underfunded and underperforming schools. Millions of children are affected by poverty and insufficient health care. Many young people worldwide are dying from hunger, AIDS, or other avoidable illnesses. Political discussions on whether video games encourage violence seem particularly ludicrous in the face of such serious challenges.

Many children’s lives were bettered as a consequence of the “civil rights as well as women’s rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s.” Changes in children’s literature as well as culture reflected these breakthroughs. A period commenced with “Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1900), L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (1900), L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908), and P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins (1934) gave birth to the following: Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret (1970), Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), and, of course, J.K. Rowling’s stories of the boy wizard, Harry Potter.”

Pocahontas (1995) & Mulan (2000), two films by Walt Disney, are famed for reimagining old folktales into musicals. When children of color began to see themselves depicted in ways other than traditional or condescending ways, gender norms became less oppressive for everyone. Writers explored new approaches to language, character development, and narrative structure. “Roald Dahl, Virginia Hamilton, Jon Scieszka, and Lemony Snicket” pushed the boundaries with their sarcastic, dark, as well as literature books.

Ellen Key’s forecasts of a “Century of the Child” have come to fruition, if not quite as she had hoped, in that the majority of people now support programs to improve the lives of children and assist them in becoming successful content adults. But despite decades of attempts to define and safeguard youth, the border between children and adults remains incredibly hazy. Children in today’s society are being encouraged to behave like adults too early, whether wearing makeup and high-heels to participate in beauty pageants or performing educationally at a young age while balancing several additional activities. Even as teenagers and young adults strive to look their best in our youth-obsessed world, adults resort to drastic methods like cosmetic surgery and anorexia. In what year does childhood end? What are the characteristics of a typical family? Our romantic forebears defined infancy as a time of innocence. The state should adequately protect child rights worldwide and in the United States. Regardless of how far we’ve progressed, these issues still need to be addressed.

Works Cited

Mintz, Steven and Susan Kellogg. Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life. New York: The Free Press/Collier Macmillan, 1988.

M. Campbell, Lori. “Historical Essays: The Twentieth-Century Child.”,

Steedman, Carolyn. Childhood, Culture, and Class in Britain: Margaret McMillan, 1860-1931. London: Virago, 1990.

Seiter, Ellen. Sold Separately: Children and Parents in Consumer Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1993.

Sealander, Judith. The Failed Century of the Child: Governing America’s Young in the Twentieth Century. New York: Cambridge UP, 2003.

Stearns, Peter N. Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Child-rearing in America. New York: New York UP, 2003.

Zelizer, Viviana A. Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children. New York: HarperCollins, 1985.


Don't have time to write this essay on your own?
Use our essay writing service and save your time. We guarantee high quality, on-time delivery and 100% confidentiality. All our papers are written from scratch according to your instructions and are plagiarism free.
Place an order

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Need a plagiarism free essay written by an educator?
Order it today

Popular Essay Topics