Adult-centered: what it is and how it affects children and society

From the earliest human societies and civilizations until just three centuries ago, childhood and adolescence were considered different stages and of great importance for the proper development of human beings, but children and adolescents were considered as young adults in training, having practically the same obligations, thus nourishing the perspective of adult-centrism.

Adult centrism is a concept linked to the social hegemony of people in adulthood., they are therefore the ones who have political, economic and social control and power. In turn, they are considered the reference group and those at the top of the social hierarchy.

In this article, we will see in more detail what the concept of adult-centrism is and what its origins are.

    What is adult centrism?

    The concept known as anthropocentrism refers to the social supremacy of adults over children and adolescents, can develop even above the young and the old, within a society.

    It is about the idea that adults are the ones who hold power in a hegemonic way and are also the reference group around the social and cultural view of the environment in which they live.

    In general, adult-centrism has a deeply rooted view of the world and of society in general in which the group of adults has the right to have power and, therefore, they are considered the set of people who are at the top of the hierarchical pyramid of society, with all that that implies.

    In this sense, other social groups, classified by age, which do not belong to the adult stage, have been excluded from the central thought of societies with a structural and hierarchical system centered on the adult.

    From the point of view of adult centrism, the adult stage is seen as the representation of those people who constitute a well-trained and successful role model which young people should aspire to, therefore according to this model, children and adolescents should be prepared to be successful adults who fulfill their jobs and the aspirations set by their society to be seen as such.

    This is why adult-centrism takes advantage of political power, in the Church or other religious institutions, and in the media to instill its values ​​in all citizens, ensuring that they are also transmitted from parents. to children.

      What is the origin of adult-centrism?

      Adult-centrism has been present in much of human history since For many years the concept of childhood was not what we know today, but children were treated as developing “little adults”. who generally had to work and help with the same tasks as adults. At the same time, boys and girls dressed very similarly to adults, since children’s fashion did not prevail until at least until the 17th century, arriving even later in some societies.

      If we look at literature, the genre of fairy tales and children’s books only appeared three centuries ago. And that’s before the stage of development of children and adolescents was not considered, as it is today, as a phase which required special attention, due to the great importance of correct development in the later adult stage.

      On the other hand, several historians and sociologists assert that the stage of the industrial revolution was the key to advances in the consideration of children and adolescents, being in large part due to technological advances that gave children the possibility to be dispensable at work, so that they can have more time to play, have fun, explore, learn and, above all, interact with other people of the same age, all these activities and others of the same style very relevant in the good development of childhood and adolescence.

        Adultocentrism and children’s rights

        In 1959, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child was adopted by all member states of the United Nations (UN), which was a major step forward in consideration and recognition of children’s rights to develop and grow up in good health, they must therefore receive special attention and care, the right to school education and many other equally important for the proper development of children and adolescents.

        Today, the vast majority of the population agree that children should receive basic school education and also that society and the state should provide them with a number of amenities and benefits, as well as a special protection. , during this special consideration until they reach the age of majority.

        However, despite these great and important advances in this area, in many cases, albeit indirectly, there is still a social vision of adult-centrism, because it is common to continue to take adults as a reference. and it is not uncommon for children to be valued more for what they can become as adults than for who they are as children.

        It is also common for this view of the adult-centered to influence interpersonal relationships, and it is that almost all of us have heard one of the following sentences: “When adults speak, children are silent”, I am straight the adult and you are still a child “,” stop behaving like a child “,” you will understand when you grow up “and much of the same style, without even listening to the opinion of the child; It will therefore be more difficult for the child to learn to express himself in an assertive manner while respecting the opinions of others.

        Of course, children should respect their parents and obey them when what they are looking for is always best for them, but what we are talking about here are the situations where children they do not feel listened to by adults and their opinions carry less weightwhereas it should be important that their opinions are taken into account so that they can learn to dialogue and to express themselves without clashing thanks to a dialectic developed from childhood.

        The adult-centered approach tends to take into account the views and opinions of adults in relation to younger ones, which tends to condition social relationships in all areas, so it is common for parents to do not listen to the opinions of their children or even that in a company the ideas of the youngest are not taken into account even if perhaps, being younger, they could be what the company needs to go from there the front. However, it often happens that the opinion of the adult person is always chosen before that of the younger person.

          The relationship to the authoritarian educational style

          Adult Centrism can lead adults with this vision to exercise an authoritarian style when it comes to educating their children, so that parents dictate how things should be done, but from a rigid and inflexible position, so children have to respect them without being able to express their opinion.

          From the point of view of adult-centrism, parents fail to conceive of the possibility of listening to their children’s opinions on certain issues that concern them, and it is also common for parents to be demanding of their children and not affectionate.

          Therefore, the adult-centered style of education is reflected in parents who they do not explicitly express their affection, they are not open to dialogue and to listen to the opinions of their children, and they often impose rigid rules and limits., being able to severely punish their children when they break the rules.

          According to studies on educational styles, it has been found that children who receive an authoritarian educational style tend to have low levels of self-esteem, immaturity, inability to make their own decisions, poor self-control. , high levels of impulsivity and little. tenacity or persistence in achieving goals.

          On the contrary it is democratic educational style, in which parents are more affectionate with their children, maintain good communication, so that their children can express their opinion, and their parents reasonably explain why they should behave in a certain way, as are also explained and reasonably justified limits, rules and restrictions.

          Following a democratic educational style, it has been shown that children feel supported and secure when communicating with their parents; they will also have good self-esteem, correct behavior and good dialectics, thanks to the correct development of social and communication skills.

          Bibliographical references

          • Duarte, C. (2015). Adultocentrism as a paradigm and system of domination: analysis of the reproduction of imaginaries in Chilean social research on youth. Autonomous University of Barcelona.
          • Duarte, C. (2012). Adult-centered societies: on their origins and reproduction. The last decade, 36, pp. 99-125.
          • Papalia, DE and Martorell, G. (2017). Human Development (13th ed.). Mexico: McGraw-Hill Education.
          • Unicef ​​(2013). Overcome adult centering: unite for childhood. Santiago de Chile: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
          • Vásquez, JD (2013). Adultocentrism and youth: Foucauldian approaches. Sophia, Collection of Philosophy of Education, 15, pp. 217-234.

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