( Update 2021) the concept of childhood in the western countries | IELTS Reading Practice Test

Table of Contents


The history of childhood has been a topic of interest in social history since the highly influential 1960 book Centuries of Childhood, written by French historian Aries. He argued that “childhood” is a concept created by modern society.

the concept of childhood in the western countries
the concept of childhood in the western countries

A. One of the most hotly debated issues in the history of childhood has been whether childhood is itself a recent invention. The historian Philippe Aries argued that in Western Europe during the Middle Ages (up to about the end of the fifteenth century) children were regarded as miniature adults, with all the intellect and personality that this implies. He scrutinized medieval pictures and diaries, and found no distinction between children and adults as they shared similar leisure activities and often the same type of work. Aries, however, pointed out that this is not to suggest that children were neglected, forsaken or despised. The idea of childhood is not to be confused with affection for children; it corresponds to an awareness of the particular nature of childhood, that particular nature which distinguishes the child from the adult, even the young adult.

B. There is a long tradition of the children of the poor playing a functional role in contributing to the family income by working either inside or outside the home. In this sense children are seen as ‘useful. Back in the Middle Ages, children as young as 5 or 6 did important chores for their parents and, from the sixteenth century, were often encouraged (or forced) to leave the family by the age of 9 or 10 to work as servants for wealthier families or to be apprenticed to a trade.

C. With industrialization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a new demand for child labour was created, and many children were forced to work for long hours, in mines, workshops and factories. Social reformers began to question whether labouring long hours from an early age would harm children’s growing bodies. They began to recognize the potential of carrying out systematic studies to monitor how far these early deprivations might be affecting children’s development.

D. Gradually, the concerns of the reformers began to impact on the working conditions of children. In Britain, the Factory Act of 1833 signified the beginning of legal protection of children from exploitation and was linked to the rise of schools for factory children. The worst forms of child exploitation were gradually eliminated, partly through factory reform but also through the influence of trade unions and economic changes during the nineteenth century which made some forms of child labour redundant. Childhood was increasingly seen as a time for play and education for all children, not just for a privileged minority. Initiating children into work as ‘useful’ children became less of a priority. As the age for starting full-time work was delayed, so childhood was increasingly understood as a more extended phase of dependency, development and learning. Even so, work continued to play a significant, if less central role in children’s lives throughout the later nineteenth and twentieth century. And the ‘useful child’ has become a controversial image during the first decade of the twenty-first century especially in the context of global concern about large numbers of the world’s children engaged in child labour.

the concept of childhood in the western countries
the concept of childhood in the western countries

E. The Factory Act of 1833 established half-time schools which allowed children to work and attend school. But in the 1840s, a large proportion of children never went to school, and if they did, they left by the age of 10 or 11. The situation was very different by the end of the nineteenth century in Britain. The school became central to images of ‘a normal’ childhood .

F. Attending school was no longer a privilege and all children were expected to spend a significant part of their day in a classroom. By going to school, children’s lives were now separated from domestic life at home and from the adult world of work. School became an institution dedicated to shaping the minds, behaviour and morals of the young. Education dominated the management of children’s waking hours, not just through the hours spent in classrooms but through ‘home’ work, the growth of ‘after school’ activities and the importance attached to ‘parental involvement.

G. Industrialization, urbanization and mass schooling also set new challenges for those responsible for protecting children’s welfare, and promoting their learning. Increasingly, children were being treated as a group with distinctive needs and they were organized into groups according to their age. For example, teachers needed to know what to expect of children in their classrooms, what kinds of instruction were appropriate for different age groups and how best to assess children’s progress. They also wanted tools that could enable them to sort and select children according to their abilities and potential.


Questions 28-34

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 3?

Write your answers in boxes 28-34 on your answer sheet.

TRUE if the statement is true
FALSE if the statement is false
NOT GIVEN if the information is not given in the passage

28. Aries pointed out that children did different types of work as adults during the Middle Age.

29. During the Middle Age, going to work necessarily means children were unloved indicated by Aries.

30. Scientists think that overworked labour damages the health of young children

31. the rise of trade union majorly contributed to the protection children from exploitation in 19th century

32. By the aid of half-time schools, most children went to school in the mid of 19 century.

33. In 20 century almost all children need to go to school in full time schedule.

34. Nowadays, children’s needs were much differentiated and categorised based on how old they are

Question 35-40

Answer the questions below.

Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 35-40 on your answer sheet.

35. what is the controversial topic arises with the French historian Philippe Ariès’s concept

36. what image for children did Aries believed to be like in Western Europe during the Middle Ages

37. what historical event generated the need for great amount child labour to work long time in 18 and 19 century

38. what legal format initiated the protection of children from exploitation in 19th centenary

39. what the activities were more and more regarded as being preferable for almost all children time in 19th centenary

40. where has been the central area for children to spend largily of their day as people’s expectation in modern society


the concept of childhood in the western countries answers
the concept of childhood in the western countries answers

IELTS Reading Practice Test

Cambridge IELTS Reading 5-15 Explanation

Leave a Reply