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The Special Goods of Childhood: Lessons from Social Constructivism

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author GiesingerJohannes,
Project Paternalismus und der moralische Status von Kindern
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Ethics and Education
Volume (Issue) 12(2)
Page(s) 201 - 217
Title of proceedings Ethics and Education
DOI 10.1080/17449642.2017.1314168


To what extent does the common claim that childhood is ‘socially constructed’ affect the ethical debate on the ‘intrinsic’ and ‘special’ goods of childhood? Philosophers have referred to this kind of goods in their critique of overly adult-centred and future-oriented conceptions of childhood. The view that some goods are child-specific, in the sense that they are only good for children, not for adults, seems to presuppose an understanding of what children ‘are’, and how they differ from adults. However, if the social-constructionist view is accepted, it cannot be assumed that childhood is a given. This essay claims that the social-constructionist understanding of childhood does not undermine the debate on the moral status and the goods of childhood, but that nevertheless important lessons can be drawn from the insight that childhood, as we know it, is not a natural and universal phenomenon.