Global Conceptualizations of Children and Childhood

  • Bahira Sherif Trask


Analyses of globalization, children, and childhood are currently only in the initial stages. From a superficial perspective, children belong in the “private” or domestic sphere. They are part of local environments and not directly influenced by globali-zation. In the eyes of many, globalization is part of the “public” sphere – it impacts macro processes and deals with shifting political economies, emerging markets, politics, and institutional arrangements. Upon closer examination, one finds that there is, actually, a multi-dimensional relationship between children, childhood, and globalization, and that it is analytically incorrect to dichotomize children and globalization into categories such as public vs. private, or domestic vs. international (Ruddick 2003). Also problematic is the current Western conceptualization of children as an age-specific group requiring the same resources, stimuli, and attention the world over. In the words of one prominent scholar on children and childhood, “In a period of scholarship emphasizing the historicization and de-naturalization of virtually every category of social identity (prominently including race, ethnicity, gender, class, and nationality) childhood has remained one of the most persistently biologized and universalized” (Stephens, 1998, p. 3).

Universalizing and biologizing approaches to children and childhood negates all we have learned about the importance of context, access to resources, and the variability of human nature. Globalization has produced a popular vision of what childhood is, and what children should do (Kuznesof 2005). From a Western perspective, children need to be “protected” from harsh environments and complicated issues, they need to “play,” and they ought to go to school. However, this conceptualization of children and childhood does not mesh with the experiences of children in many parts of the world, raising complex questions about their lives and rights.


Labor Market Young People Early Childhood Education Child Labor International Labor Organization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aitken, S. (2001). Global crises of childhood: Rights, justice and the unchildlike child. Area, 33, 119–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aitken, S., Estrada, S. L., Jennings, J., & Aguirre, L. (2006). Reproducing life and labor: Global processes and working children in Tijuana, Mexico. Childhood, 13, 365–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ambert, A. (1994). An international perspective on parenting: Social change and social constructs. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 529–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Archard, D. (1993). Children: Rights and childhood. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Aries, P. (1962). Centuries of childhood: A social history of family life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  6. Arnett, J. J. (2002). The psychology of globalization. American Psychologist, 57, 774–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blossfeld, M., & Hofmeister, H. (2005). Globalife: Lifecourses in the globalization process. Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press.Google Scholar
  8. Boyden, J. (1997). Childhood and the policy makers: A comparative perspective on the globalization of childhood. In A. James & A. Proust (Eds.), Constructing and re-constructing childhood (pp. 184–216). Basingstoke: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bruce, J., & Chong, E. (2006). The diverse universe of adolescents, and the girls and boys left behind: A note on research, program and policy priorities. Background paper to the report. Public Choices, Private Decisions: Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals. New York: UN Millennium Project.Google Scholar
  10. Burr, R. (2002). Global and local approaches to children’s rights in Vietnam. Childhood, 9, 49–61.Google Scholar
  11. Chugani, H. T., Phelps, M. E., & Mazziota, J. C. (1987). Positron emission tomography study of human brain function development. Annals of Neurology, 22, 487–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cigno, A., Rosati, F., & Guarcello, L. (2002). Does globalization increase child labor? World Development, 30, 1579–1589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cunningham, H. (1995). Children in Western society since 1500. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  14. Davis, S. G. (1997). Space jam: Family values in the entertainment city. Paper presented at the American Studies Annual Meeting. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  15. De Carvalho, M. (2001). Rethinking family–school relations: A critique of parental involvement in schooling. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Elder, G. (1999). Children of the great depression: Social change in life experiences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ennew, J., & Morrow, V. (2002). Releasing the energy: Celebrating the inspiration of Sharon Stephens. Childhood, 9, 5–17.Google Scholar
  18. Evans, J. L., Myers, R. G., & Ilfeld, E. M. (2000). Early childhood counts: A programming guide on early childhood care for development. WBI Learning Resources Series. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  19. Fass, P. (2003). Children and globalization. Journal of Social History, 36, 963–977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. French, J. L., & Woktuch, R. E. (2005). Child workers, globalization, and international business ethics: A case study in Brazil’s export-oriented shoe industry. Business Ethics Quarterly, 15, 615–640.Google Scholar
  21. Frones, I. (1994). Dimensions of childhood. In J. Qvortrup, M. Bardy, G. Sgritta & M. Wintersberger (Eds.), Childhood matters: Social theory, practice and politics (pp. 145–164). Avebury Press: Aldershot.Google Scholar
  22. Fyfe, A. (1993). Child labor: A guide to project design. Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
  23. Grew, R. (2005). On seeking global history’s inner child. Journal of Social History, 38, 849–858.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hareven, T. (2000). The history of the family and the complexity of social change. In T. Hareven (Ed.), Families, history, and social change: Life-course and cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 3–30). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hecht, T. (1998). At home in the street: Street children of Northeast Brazil. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hengst, H. (1987). The liquidation of childhood – an objective tendency. International Journal of Sociology, 17, 58–80.Google Scholar
  27. Hoffman, D. M. (2003). Childhood ideology in the United States: A comparative cultural view. International Review of Education, 49, 191–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hoffman, D. M., & Zhao, G. (2007). Global convergence and divergence in childhood ideologies and the marginalization of children. Education and Society, 25, 57–75.Google Scholar
  29. ILO (International Labor Organization). (2002). Progressive elimination of child labor at
  30. IPEC (International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor). (2004). Investing in every child: An economic study of the costs and benefits of eliminating child labour. Geneva: International Labor Organization.Google Scholar
  31. Joseph, S. (2005). Teaching rights and responsibilities: Paradoxes of globalization and children’s citizenship in Lebanon. Journal of Social History, 38, 1007–1026.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Katz, C. (1993). Growing girls/closing circles: Limits on the spaces of knowing rural Sudan and US cities. In C. Katz & J. Monk (Eds.), Full circles: Geographies of women over the life course (pp. 88–106). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Katz, C. (2004). Growing up global: Economic restructuring and children’s everyday lives. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.Google Scholar
  34. King, M. (1999). Moral agendas for children’s welfare. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Kjorholt, A. T. (2002). Small is powerful: Discourses on ‘children and participation’ in Norway. Childhood, 9, 63–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kuznesof, E. (2005). The house, the street, global society: Latin American families and childhood in the twenty-first century. Journal of Social History, 38, 859–872.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lee, W. (2001). Parents must read, 223, 13–14Google Scholar
  38. Levison, D. (2000). Children as economic agents. Feminist Economics, 6, 125–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Malkki, L., & Martin, E. (2003). Children and the gendered politics of globalization: In remembrance of Sharon Stephens. American Ethnologist, 30, 216–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mensch, B., Ibrahim, B., Lee, S., & El-Gibaly, O. (2000). Socialization to gender roles and marriage among Egyptian adolescents. Studies in Family Planning, 34, 8–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Myers, W. E. (2001). The right rights? Child labor in a globalizing world. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 575, 38–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nieuwenhuys, O. (1994). Children’s lifeworlds: Gender, welfare and labor in the developing world. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. NRCIM (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine). (2005). Growing up global: The changing transitions to adulthood in developing countries. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  44. Okin, S. M. (1989). Justice, gender and the family. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  45. Oldman, D. (1994). Adult–child relations as class relations. In J. Qvortrup, M. Bardy, G. Sgritta & H. Wintersberger (Eds.), Childhood matters: Social theory, practice and politics (pp. 43–58). Aldershot: Avebury Press.Google Scholar
  46. Penn, H. (2002). The World Bank’s view of early childhood. Childhood, 9, 118–132.Google Scholar
  47. Punch, S. (2004). The impact of primary education on school-to-work transitions for young people in rural Bolivia. Youth and Society, 36, 163–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Reynolds, P., Nieuwenhuys, O., & Hanson, K. (2006). Refractions of children’s rights in development practice: A view from anthropology. Childhood, 13, 291–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Richards, M. (1998). The meeting of nature and nurture and the development of children: Some conclusions. In C. Panter-Brick (Ed.), Biosocial perspectives on children, The Biosocial Society Symposium Series 10 (pp. 131–146). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Robson, E. (2004). Hidden child workers: Young carers in Zimbabwe. Antipode, 36, 227–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ruddick, S. (2003). The politics of aging: Globalization and the restructuring of youth and childhood. Antipode, 35, 334–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rust, L. (1993). How to reach children in stores: Marketing tactics grounded in observational research. Part 2. Journal of Advertising Research, 33(6), 67–72.Google Scholar
  53. Smith, J., & Johnston, H. (Eds.). (2002). Globalization and resistance: Transnational dimensions of social movements. Lanham, Maryland.Google Scholar
  54. Smith, R. (2004). Globalization, individualization and childhood: The challenge for social work. New Global Development, 20, 71–77.Google Scholar
  55. Stack, C. (1974). All our kin. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  56. Stephens, S. (1992). Children and the UN Conference on environment and development: Participants and media symbols’. Barn/Research on Children in Norway, 2–3, 44–52.Google Scholar
  57. Stephens, S. (1994). Children and the environment: Local worlds and global connections. Childhood, 2, 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stephens, S. (1995). Introduction: Children and the politics of culture in ‘late capitalism’. In S. Stephens (Ed.), Children and the politics of culture (pp. 3–48). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Wade, R. H. (2004). Is globalization reducing poverty and inequality? World Development, 32(4), 567–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. White, B. (1996). Globalization and the child labor problem. Journal of International Development, 8, 829–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wollons, R. (2000). Introduction: On the international diffusion, politics and transformation of the kindergarten. In R. Wollons (Ed.), Kindergartens and cultures: The global diffusion of an idea (pp. 1–15). New Haven: Yale University.Google Scholar
  62. Woronov, T. E. (2007). Chinese children, American education: Globalizing child rearing in contemporary China. In J. Cole & D. Durham (Eds.), Generations and globalization: Youth, age, and family in the new world economy (pp. 29–51). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

Personalised recommendations