An Introduction to Childhood: Anthropological Perspectives on Children's Lives / Edition 1

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In An Introduction to Childhood, Heather Montgomery examines the role children have played within anthropology, how they have been studied by anthropologists and how they have been portrayed and analyzed in ethnographic monographs over the last one hundred and fifty years.

  • Offers a comprehensive overview of childhood from an anthropological perspective
  • Draws upon a wide range of examples and evidence from different geographical areas and belief systems
  • Synthesizes existing literature on the anthropology of childhood, while providing a fresh perspective
  • Engages students with illustrative ethnographies to illuminate key topics and themes
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Although this work will be most useful for an upper-level undergraduate audience, more advanced readers will also enjoy it for its readability, the considerable breadth of literature covered, and its serious attempt to place children at the forefront of anthropology.” (Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 1 April 2011)

"Heather Montgomery illustrates the many ways that anthropologists have written about children over the past 150 years with enviable clarity and economy. Her book will be required reading for students, academics, and professionals in understanding childhood in context." (Journal of Folklore Research, 19 January 2011)

"An Introduction to Childhood is nicely written and makes the case well for undergraduate audiences that it is important to consider cultural differences in ideas about childhood. This is a timely issue and the book should be a useful addition to introductory undergraduate courses." (International Joumal of Sociology of the Family, February 2010)

"A timely, readable, and important work for all academic libraries. Summing Up: Highly recommended." (CHOICE, October 2009)

"This book deserves a wide audience; it is an important resource not only for students of anthropology but also to people working in child protection in cross-cultural settings. ... Invaluable." (Children & Society, 2009)

"Throughout the book, the discussions give an insight into classic and contemporary anthropology related to children, which is important for everyone working with research in similar fields. The book is especially relevant for students. The style is clear and approachable … .Although it is not required of the reader to read the book from cover to cover, I strongly recommend doing so." (Childhood in the Past, 2009)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405125901
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 11/3/2008
  • Edition description: New
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 1,352,719
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Heather Montgomery is a Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies at The Open University. She has written on children and sexuality, tourism, children’s rights and on the role of children in anthropology. Her publications include Modern Babylon? Prostituting Children in Thailand (2001), Understanding Childhood: An Interdisciplinary Approach (2003, with Martin Woodhead), and Changing Childhoods: Global and Local (2003, with Martin Woodhead and Rachel Burr).

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Table of Contents



1 Childhood within Anthropology.


Children: The First Primitives.

Culture and Personality.

Cross-Cultural Studies of Child-Rearing.

Children in British Anthropology.

The Gendered Child.

Child-Centered Anthropology.


2 What is a Child?


Childhood as a Modern Idea: The Influence of Philippe Ariès.

Conceptualizations of Childhood.

Children as Incompetent or Subordinate.

Children as Equals.

Children as a Means of Forming Families and Giving Status.

Children as an Economic Investment.

Unwanted and Nonhuman Children.


3 The Beginning of Childhood.



Spirit Children.




4 Family, Friends, and Peers.


The Role of Parents.

Adoption and Fosterage.

Children outside the Family.


Friends and Peer Groups.


5 Talking, Playing, and Working.


Learning Language.

Children and Play.

Work or Play?


6 Discipline, Punishment, and Abuse.


Discipline and Punishment in the Western Tradition.

Physical Punishment.

Alternatives to Physical Punishment.

Who Can Punish Children?

Child Abuse.


7 Children and Sexuality.


Anthropology, Sexuality, and Childhood.

Children and Sex: The Influence of Freud.

Incest and Abuse.

Ethnographies of Children and Sexuality.

Child Prostitution.


8 Adolescence and Initiation.


What is Adolescence?

Adolescence and Globalization.


Initiation: A Psychological Approach.

Initiation and Education.

Initiation and Gender.

Initiation: The End of Childhood?





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