Children, Morality and Society by Sam Frankel (auth.)

By Sam Frankel (auth.)

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These themes are echoed in Roman writing. Juvenal, writing some 400 years later than Euripides and Herodotus, continues to reflect on the worry that a child might bring their parents: ‘a handsome son keeps his wreathed parents in perfect anxiety: good looks and decent behaviour too seldom are found in the same person. However, strict the morality on which he has been brought up . . cash always wins in the end’ (Juvenal 1974: 215). This example reflects those worries in relation to future potential parental fears and a concern for those passions that drive the young, in this case, towards embarking on an adulterous relationship.

The ‘innocent child’ is the antithesis to this, presenting children as free from corruption and as examples of true, natural goodness. These latter views, which centre on the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, demand a very different undertaking for adults, underlining their responsibility to protect innocence through considering basic notions of children’s rights and the recognition of certain publicly recognised standards. Both will be returned to in more detail later. Such analysis is helpful in deconstructing representations of the child as we seek to understand attitudes towards children better and provide The ‘Ominous’ Child 43 a context in which to consider children’s lived experiences.

The work of Philippe Ariès (1962) has been pivotal in providing theorists with a foundation on which to investigate childhood. What Ariès did, through reflecting on painting and iconography, was to question the way in which European culture (particularly in France) reflected a view of the child, thereby demonstrating the extent to which notions of childhood and adult attitudes towards it changed with time and space. Ariès questioned where the ‘child’ was during the Medieval period, suggesting that notions of the child as particular and different were simply not visible.

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