Jan. 16, 2009
Faculty book examines the sociology of childhood
A new book by Dr. Roger Neustadter, professor of psychology, sociology and counseling, explores the significance and changing perceptions of childhood in society and culture.
Neustadter said "The Obvious Child: Studies in the Significance of Childhood" (University Press of America, 2008) grew from his own earlier published research and a synthesis of ideas presented by other scholars in the field. He plans to use the 132-page book in a course he teaches at Northwest on the sociology of childhood.
The first four-chapter section of "The Obvious Child" examines how childhood has changed in important areas of social life, while the final four chapters view facets of contemporary culture in which the images and status of childhood have become significant.
Within these broad areas, Neustadter discusses such topics as childhood in contemporary social thought; the emerging status of children in the courtroom; the media's focus on children and childhood issues; and the portrayal of childhood in utopian literature, science fiction films, popular music and memoirs.
An epilogue offers a review and assessment of recent issues linked to contemporary childhood, including obesity, child labor, sexual exploitation and the role of children as consumers.
Neustadter said his research into childhood has led him to the conclusion that "the status of children is changeable," and that certain features of modern society -- the Internet, films, books, television and the trappings of pop culture -- have caused increasing levels of "adultification."
Important changes in the way society views and treats children, and in the images contemporary culture creates of them, have resulted in a "new era of childhood and subsequently of childhood studies," Neustadter writes in the book's introduction. "... Once overlooked and viewed as a trivial subject of interest only to arcane specialists, the overlooked child has become the obvious child, now part of the cutting edge of disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship."
Neustadter joined the Northwest faculty in 1992. He holds a Ph.D. from Purdue University.
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