What you will study
This broad-based module on the theme of childhood is:
- Introductory – Childhood has a place in everyone's lives, but recent commentary suggests that childhood is in crisis. The idea of childhood as lost or in decline is one of the starting points for the module, which will be equally relevant whether you are a parent, work with children, or are simply interested in how children and young people are treated and understood.
- Cross-disciplinary – This module introduces a range of perspectives on childhood, drawing on recent research and theories from sociology, anthropology, psychology, cultural studies, geography, social history, philosophy, social policy and children’s rights.
- International – You will learn about childhood (and cultural beliefs on the subject) in different societies and at different periods in history, with modern western childhood as one among many examples. Diversity and inequality are central themes, as are the ways in which childhood is becoming globalised and regulated by universal standards.
There are four blocks of study, each with a specially prepared text, along with extensive audio-visual material. Children’s own perspectives on their childhood are prominent in the module, drawing on case studies from Cape Town (South Africa), Chittagong (Bangladesh), Oakland (USA) and the UK. These case studies run throughout the module.
Block 1 asks ‘What is childhood?’ and introduces a range of disciplinary perspectives for studying the concept of childhood. Topics in this block include the history of beliefs about childhood; how childhood changes in different contexts and over time; the growth of scientific approaches to studying children; the significance of socio-cultural approaches for understanding modern childhoods.
Block 2 looks at the distinctiveness of children’s cultural worlds by exploring everyday activities of young children and teenagers. The block examines how children and young people in the twenty-first century encounter and creatively adapt to a range of cultural phenomena in an increasingly mediated, commercialised and globalised world. Topics in this block include friendships and the significance of play; youth culture; children’s engagement with the media and with information technology; and their power as consumers.
Block 3 highlights the places and spaces in which childhood exists. It builds on the theoretical perspectives introduced in Blocks 1 and 2 to emphasise the materiality of childhood, the physical environments on a macro and micro scale as well as the social context in which children and young people live. This will provide the framework for investigating wider questions about childhood including the power relationships between adults and children, and the influence of gender and inequality.
Block 4 looks at the obstacles that many children face which make childhood both a local experience and a global concern. Topics in this block include the effects of poverty and other adversities – such as violence – on children’s health and well-being. Different approaches to intervening in children's lives are discussed, with particular attention to their rights to participation and the ways they can become engaged with social issues, including issues surrounding their status as children.