What is Childism? Explanation, Meaning, Definition

The term „Childism“ is used both negatively and positively.

Childism can refer either to the movement that wants to grant children more rights and wants to empower and support them. Here, the term is used similarly to feminism, for example, to describe a positive movement.

On the other hand, childism can also be used to describe prejudice, disadvantage, or discrimination against children because of their age or limited cognitive and physiological abilities. The negative meaning, however, is less common – here, terms such as „ageism“, „adultism“ or simply „the patriarchy“ or „patriarchal structures“ are used more often.

Where does the term „Childism“ come from? Word Origin

The term „childism“ comes from the English language. „Child“ means „child“ and the suffix „-ism“ is used to describe a collective behavior, usually based on beliefs. The German suffix for „-ism“ is „-ismus“ (such as feminism).

There is currently no translation for Childism in German. The term was first used in 1975 and originally came from the field of child psychology research.

Positive meaning of Childism explained: explanation, meaning, definition.

In a positive sense, Childism is the radical belief that children are complete human beings who should be treated and respected as such. In this regard, according to its proponents, physical or cognitive disadvantages in children should not play a role compared to adults.

Childism advocates seeing children as full parts of society with the same seriousness and level of respect as is done with adults. It is thus a movement that demands more or better rights for children.

This way of thinking is also reflected in the parenting style that advocates of Childism practice with their own children. They treat their children as full human beings whose emotional and physical needs have the same priority as those of adults.

Children’s opinions and desires are given the same consideration as those of adults. Children are not seen as inferior parts of the family, but as equals to everyone else. Parents usually see their role as less about teaching children to be obedient.

For the most part, Childist mothers and fathers see their role more as accompanying the children on their journey and helping them develop into happy, successful adults. This is therefore done through mutual respect and a sense of connection rather than through the threat or implementation of punishment. The best-known parenting styles of the Chidism movement are „Gentle Parenting“ or „Responsive Parenting“ – known primarily in German as „bedürfnisorientierte Elternschaft.“

Negative meaning of Childism explained: explanation, meaning, definition

In contrast to this is the negative meaning of Childism. Here, the term childism is used to describe prejudice against children or discrimination against children. It was used by researcher and author Elizabeth Young-Bruehl to describe this behavior.

In her work, the researcher discussed that children who are raised out of fear and under the threat of punishment are more likely to engage in problematic behaviors and are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD or bipolar disorder.

The concept can be well described in a phrase that characterized the parenting style of the day, especially in the 1950s: „Children should be seen, not heard.“ – „Children should be seen, not heard.“. This phrase means that it was assumed at the time (and in many cases still is) that children could not have an opinion worth hearing and, at best, should always look neat and clean without making any noise.

This style of education sought to train children to behave like adults as quickly as possible. Only in this way would they be able to succeed later on. This belief is still deeply rooted in many people today and is reflected in large parts of society. However, many representatives of positive childism prefer to call this phenomenon „adultism“ or a by-product of patriarchal social structures.

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