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Introduction to childhood studies and child psychology

How can we understand children, childhood and youth today? What influences children’s development? What roles do families, society and culture play? This introductory module offers fascinating insights into children and young people’s lives. Through anthropology, sociology, childhood and youth studies and psychology, you will explore themes including mental health, education, diverse families, global childhoods, adolescence, development, children’s rights, and more, to learn about the factors that shape children and young people’s experiences, and their emotional, physical, intellectual, social and cultural development from birth to early adulthood. You’ll learn about these thought-provoking topics through audio, video and interactive online materials.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
1 7 4

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

This online module will be attractive to anyone with an interest in, and concern for children and young people, including those who work with children and/or young people and who want to learn more about contemporary theories and research from a range of different disciplines that help us to understand children, childhoods and youth. The module draws on research and theories from childhood and youth studies and psychology, an interdisciplinary perspective that is broader than mainstream psychology or childhood modules. This is designed to introduce you to different ways of thinking about the influences on childhood and children’s and young people’s lives and their development. There are four blocks, each comprising 5-6 weeks (units) of supported study. A 14-chapter Reader accompanies this module, An introduction to childhood and youth studies and psychology (eds. Cooper & Tatlow-Golden, 2023) and every student receives a copy in addition to a pdf.

Block 1 introduces childhood and youth studies and psychology as different and complementary ways of understanding childhood and youth. The units consider some of the complex influences that shape children’s and young people’s development, including their embodied experiences and the research approaches through which children and young people’s lives are explored and understood.

Block 2 considers social and emotional development, spanning the development of the self (Or the answer to the question, ‘who am I?’); the role of diverse families in children and young people’s lives; the many factors that influence how we can understand and support children and young people’s mental health and psychological wellbeing; and the role of learning, schooling and education in children and young people’s lives.

Block 3 addresses aspects of diversity in contemporary childhoods and youth. It introduces ideas about social and cultural ideologies of childhood and how these can affect children and young people’s lives. It considers core issues of disability, race, global childhoods with a focus on the global South, and gender in children and young people’s lives.

Block 4 discusses transitions and change in childhood and youth. The units consider children and young people’s new ‘hybrid’ digital lives as well as the transition from childhood and youth, through adolescence and into adulthood.

In addition to the set text, there are weekly, interactive online activities throughout the module to support your learning. The audio and video resources have been specifically designed, recorded, filmed and written to support the set text. They provide further background to some of the key concepts and theoretical issues that the module teaches and they include personal accounts from experts, parents, children and young people themselves on a range of important topics so that you can make links between ideas about children and childhoods and ‘real life’ issues.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you may need a headset with a microphone.

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.

Future availability

Introduction to childhood studies and child psychology (E104) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2030.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No examination

Entry requirements

There are no formal academic or other requirements to study this module.

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

Preparatory work

If you would like to learn more about childhood studies, we highly recommend reading Kehily, M. J., An Introduction to Childhood Studies (3rd edn, Open University Press, 2015). This book gives an excellent and very accessible summary of the field of childhood studies.

You may also wish to explore these free OpenLearn resources to prepare for this module:


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2030.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and, therefore, the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 18/05/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You will receive a printed full-colour book, the E104 Module Reader, An introduction to childhood and youth studies and psychology. It has 14 chapters, one on each of the key module topics and an introduction to studying childhood and youth.

You’ll also have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • introductory forum with FAQs and a way to connect with other E104 students your region
  • a bespoke forum for your individual tutor group
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

The audio recordings, films, and designed activities in this module feature OU academics, experts and professionals from across the UK’s four nations and Ireland, and from around the world. They also feature children and young people, and those who work with them, from the UK, Ireland and internationally.

All resources and content for this module, including the Reader, are designed bespoke to support your learning, and are written by experts in the field. If you are new or returning to higher education, you'll find the online activities include integrated study skills to support your learning.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying E104 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.