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Young lives, parenting and families

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Is this a good time to be young? How is childhood and youth, parenting and family life, shaped by society, history, politics and economics? How are young lives influenced by gender, social class, ethnicity, disability, sexuality and geography? This module takes an interdisciplinary approach to examining these issues, drawing on a range of data, analysis, research and practice. It will develop your study and employability skills and provide you with opportunities to consider and debate issues with academics and other students.

What you will study

The study material for this module is organised into eight learning guides, which include personal study weeks:

1: Young lives – begins to examine the range of factors that influence the divergent lives and complex experiences of children and young people today. Issues that students will explore include whether this is a good time to be young, and the impact of discrimination, poverty and inequality. They will also begin to consider the many issues for people working in children’s services today .

2: Society and community – encourages students to use a range of data and research in order to critically examine how community and society are experienced and related to the wellbeing and life chances of children and young people. Students will examine the concept of time within individual everyday experience and wider social change, such as demographic changes, changes in the law, changes in national life (such as a pandemic), and changes in adult/child relationships. They will also critically reflect on the extent to which society is a meritocracy and apply theories of social capital and cultural capital to explain social mobility and inequalities.

3: Working together – focuses on working with children and young people and explores how practitioners across a range of children's services support and protect children, young people, parents and families. Students will consider the opportunities, as well as the potential challenges, and they will look at ways in which values, ethics and legal frameworks inform practice in this area. They will also examine some of difficult, long-standing and deeply rooted problems that practitioners may encounter when working with families, and the ways in which they might deal with practical and ethical dilemmas in practice.

4: Children and childhood – focuses on children (particularly those aged 0–12 years) and examines several of the key issues embedded in modern childhood such as inclusion, gender, rights, childhood trauma and child protection. It uses a range of material to enable students to acquire a deeper and more nuanced understanding of children and childhood and of the skills and values of effective and equitable work with children.

5: Youth and young people – looks at social and cultural aspects of being young and the concept of ‘youth’. Students critically explore changing understandings of young people’s lives and examine how different professionals engage with young people. Young people’s involvement in crime and policing, music and popular culture are featured, alongside questions of gender, race and social class.

6: Parents and parenting – focuses on parents and parenting, and relationships between practitioners and parents. Students are asked to consider a range of perspectives on parenting, including what it means to be a ‘good parent’, and to 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, parenting classes, informal support and online communities. Children and young people’s perspectives on parenting will also be explored.

7: Families matter – examines the family and family structures historically and in relation to contemporary social change. It considers ways in which social and economic change impact on families and the role of service providers in addressing the disadvantages arising from these. It looks at the experience of children and young people living outside of their ‘birth families’, and their experience of the care system.

8: Reviewing your learning – focuses on supporting students in reviewing their learning over the course of the module and preparing for the end-of-module assessment (which is an EMA).

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. OU 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

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

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • the module guide and assessment guide
  • course-specific module materials organised into learning guides
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

There are online tutor group forums and online module-wide forums. You’ll also be provided with a printed KE322 Readings book, also available online.

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.

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.

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.

Of the four tutor-marked assignments (TMAs), one TMA requires you to select data and analysis and to create a visual representation of it. The others are essays of 1,000 to 3,000 words. They are designed to enable you to demonstrate both what you have learnt from the module material and your developing ability to think and write critically.

The end-of-module assessment is an essay and it will assess what you have learned from the whole of the module. This will be done by looking for a critical discussion that uses the arguments, data, concepts, analysis and examples from the module content. In addition, you'll also need to demonstrate your ability to find, and make use of, good external sources of study material. This means the material you have found, rather than that covered in the module.

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 (KE322) 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 2026.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

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