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Young lives, parenting and families

What does it mean to be a child, young person, or parent today? How is childhood and youth shaped by society and culture, and how do current ideas about parenting compare with those of the past? What is the impact of gender, disability, geography and inequality? How can we best support families? This module takes an interdisciplinary approach to exploring these issues, drawing on a range of data, research and audio-visual material. It will develop your study and employability skills and provide you with opportunities to debate issues with academics and other students.

What you will study

The study material for this module is organised into 8 learning guides, which include audio-visual material and online and print-based readings:

Learning Guide 1 – begins to examine the range of factors that influence the experiences of children and young people today. Issues that you will explore include what makes a ‘good childhood’, the impact of disability, discrimination and racism on children and young people, and the effects of poverty and inequality. You will also consider the issue of resilience and the factors that support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Learning Guide 2 – considers how the society and the community in which children and young people grow impacts on their experience and determines their life chances. You will be introduced to social policy and examine how it has changed across time, and look at theories of social and cultural capital that can help to explain social mobility and inequalities. You will also examine a range of data and research as a basis for developing your understanding of structural inequalities.

Learning Guide 3 – focuses on practice, and explores how practitioners work together to support children, children, young people and families. You will consider the opportunities, as well as the potential challenges, presented by multi-agency and inter-professional working, and look at ways in which values, ethics and legal frameworks inform practice in this area. You will also examine some of the ethical dilemmas that practitioners may encounter, and ways in which they deal with ethical dilemmas in their practice with children, young people and families.

Learning Guide 4 – focuses on children, in particular children from 0-11. Issues that will be examined include constructions of modern childhood and children’s agency. You will also consider ways in which practitioners work with children to support their rights and encourage their participation.

Learning Guide 5 – looks at the particular experience of being a young person, and ways in which the experience of youth has changed in recent years. You will examine diversity, discontinuities and continuities in young people’s lives, including from young people’s perspectives. You will also consider the implications of change for the professionals who work with young people, and the central importance of young people’s rights.

Learning Guide 6 – focuses on parents and parenting, and relationships between practitioners and parents. You will consider a range of perspectives on parenting, including what it means to be a ‘good parent’, and look at case studies and research related to the intersection of parenting and society. Issues examined include the role and function of parenting support and education, for example, the targeting of specific parents, parenting classes for ‘troubled families’ and the role of informal support and online communities. Children and young people’s perspectives on parenting will also be explored.

Learning Guide 7 – examines the family and family structures and considers ways in which social and economic change is impacting on families. It also looks at the experience of children and young people living outside their ‘birth families’, and their experience of the care system.

Learning Guide 8 – will support you in reviewing your learning over the course of the module, and help you to prepare for the end of module assessment.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. It’s designed to build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2, or equivalent study at another university. Level 3 modules are specifically written for students who are working towards a degree level qualification. Your previous higher education study does not have to include study in a relevant curriculum area (e.g. early childhood, childhood and youth studies, or health and social care). A general interest in issues related to children, young people, parenting and families will be of great value.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

A module website which provides a range of online resources including a study calendar, module guide, assessment guide, and 8 learning guides, with audio-visual material and links out to other readings. Online forums, learning events and access to an extensive OU library. Also includes a print-based module resources book.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • macOS 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will provide support and guidance throughout your studies and mark and comment on your assignments. You’ll have the opportunity to attend a number of learning events over the course of the module. Learning events may be face to face or online and will be led by your own tutor as well as other tutors from the module team.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

There are 4 compulsory tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

3 TMAs will be essay based, requiring you to demonstrate your understanding of material from the module and your developing ability to think and write critically. 1 TMA will ask you to put together a visual presentation. Each TMA will be between 2,000 and 3,500 words in length.

An end-of-module assessment will cover the key themes and issues from across the module. This will be in the form of an extended piece of writing.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying KE322 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Young lives, parenting and families starts once a year in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2025.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school