The development of classifying minority groups is a 21st century sociological concept. According to Encyclopedia Britannica online, a minority is defined as a culturally, ethnically, or racially distinct group that coexists with but is subordinate to a more dominant group (Britannica.com, minority). Within this context, the definition here is not confined to a numerical definition of minority versus majority but in the identification of a subgroup of society. Generally, people identify discrimination attributable to the identification of these groups.
Wikipedia.org refers to sociologist Louis Wirth’s definition of a minority group. Wirth was a leading sociologist in the Chicago School that studied urban affairs, like city life, minority groups and mass media. He is quoted that a minority is, "a group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination (Wikipedia.com, minority group)." Children of today require equal protection under the law.
With the recent U.S. Census, statistics of children, shows them living in diversified family structures, amid the emergence of blended families, single parents, same sex parents and other non traditional family homes. Alarmingly, large amounts of data show that children are underrepresented as a group and that they face unprecedented conditions that are resulting in the maltreatment of children. One peril of childhood is child abuse and dysfunctional family living. The complex social and interpersonal relationships that children are intertwined with are within the development of nuclear families, non traditional families, resources, education, technology and communities. According to the American Medical Association, 72 percent of American homes harbor someone with an addiction. (The Onion)
From what perspective are children observed and recognized in today’s society concerning health and welfare from a historical, legal, sociological and psychological examination of abuse?
In regards to the welfare of children, the issue to tackle is the sociolegal perspective examined in the textbook, Law, Justice and Society A Sociolegal Introduction . The maltreatment of children began to establish the creation of protective laws for them which embodied the idea of child protection. It can be seen within the various cultural histories of children that natural law was ineffective in protecting them. The “say as I do and not as I say” statement undermined children’s sense of equality and fairness and during the course of history; children became a subgroup without a voice and deftly unprotected. In U.S. history and the formation of laws and legislature, it became more apparent that historically natural law heeded to common law, which manifested itself into legal realism. Public policy became necessary in regards to the needs of children as stories of maltreatment emerged and the idea of children having legitimate recognition as a group deserving legal rights and definition within the welfare of families and society.
From a numerical standpoint, the U.S. Census recognizes children as a group that is statistical measured. The online release of information at www.census.gov concerning population and families households shows the following:
• In 2005, working-age adults (18- to 64-year-olds) totaled 186.2 million, which was 63 percent of the population.
• The total number of preschoolers (under age 5) in the United States in 2005 was estimated at 20.3 million.
• The number of elementary school-age (5 through 13) children was 36.1 million, with high-school age (14 though 17) children numbering 17.1 million. (Bernstein)
The total number of school children (preschool too) is numbered at 73.5 million children, which is nearly 110 million less than working adults, which equates to 25% of the 2005 population. This ratio is symbolic to their representation in previous U.S. laws and policies.
The legal rights of U.S. children are also more of a 20th and 21st century concept. To better understand children’s history and their plight, from the earliest of civilizations, children were considered property. In ancient Rome, a father had the right to sell, maim, kill or sacrifice his child. (Barriere) Infanticide was often seen as a cultural test of survival and the fittest lived. According to the Introduction of The Encyclopedia of Child Abuse, Second Edition, newborns and infants could be put to death because they cried too much. Some Native Americans threw their newborns into pools of water and rescued them only if they rose to the surface and cried (Clark, xi). These are all examples of patria protestas, the Latin meaning “power of the father”.
In the U.S. during the Industrial revolution, child labor was a commodity. In England, 5-year-olds worked 16-hour days in factories while shackled in chains (Barriere). Colonial parents were implored to “beat the devil” out of their children (Clark, xi). Children were often indentured servants and used at the will of the parent and other adults, like teachers. Even before that they were used as apprentices that endured hard labor that would be considered abuse by today’s standards.
Nearly half of U.S. children are minorities