Mary Jane Kehily

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:

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Childhood and sexuality is a contested subject area that has been researched from different perspectives across a range of academic disciplines including sociology, science, psychology, anthropology, art history, education, history, and the emergent field of childhood studies. The social mores of contemporary Western societies position sexuality as firmly embedded in the adult world. In this context, children’s premature awareness of sexuality may signal a loss of innocence, assuming both that children are naturally asexual and that sexuality is something that children need protecting from. Normative discourses invoke childhood as a state of innocence to be preserved in the face of a dangerous and potentially corrupting adult world. Childhood studies approaches the concept of childhood innocence critically. Researchers in this field begin with the recognition that there are many different childhoods and, by implication, many different experiences of sexuality during childhood. Sexuality is often seen as a universal, biological norm, yet sexual acts and behavior do not carry the same meanings cross-culturally. This body of work recognizes children’s sexuality as a social and cultural construct dependent upon a range of social and cultural factors such as gender, social class, and ethnicity. Comparative studies suggest that children’s sexuality is particularly regulated and repressed in the West, often leading to a denial that children are sexually knowledgeable or experienced: a situation not found in other times or places. This entry documents bodies of work that offer a particular interpretation of childhood sexuality. Taking a broadly chronological approach, the sections identify research clusters located in time and place by academic discipline, method, or theme.

Article.  9369 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

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