Children and Society presents a comprehensive sociological portrayal of children and childhood from birth to the beginning of adolescence. A major theme is the tension between children's active agency and the socializing influences of the family, school, peer groups, and mass media. The book incorporates the most recent research and theories of childhood socialization. Its theoretical perspective is primarily symbolic interactionism which emphasizes the development of the self. The volume features research that documents cultural variations within American society shaped by social class, race and ethnicity, and gender.
Children and Society is organized into four parts, each with an introduction. Part I, "Understanding Childhood Socialization," consists of four chapters. Chapter One reviews how social scientists have conceptualized children, leading to today's understanding of childhood as a social construction. Chapter Two briefly discusses the characteristics of the human organism that both require and make socialization possible, and the characteristics of society that receives the newborn. Chapter Three reveals the range of meaning of the concept of socialization in western and non-western societies and includes a review of the history of western childhoods. Chapter Four offers a careful exposition of the development of the self.
Part II, "Agencies of Socialization," focuses on the major agencies that help shape the development of the self in the United States and similar societies. One chapter each covers families, schools, peer groups, and mass media respectively. "Diversities of Socialization" are the focus of Part III. Whereas Chapter Four presented a general account of how the self develops, the three chapters of Part III examine the variations that are shaped by social class, race, ethnicity and neighborhood, and gender. The single chapter in Part IV, "Looking Back and Looking Ahead," stresses that socialization is a life-long process. It briefly sketches issues of continuity and discontinuity in socialization throughout adolescence, adult life, old age, and death.