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Dr Naomi Holford

Profile summary

Research interests

My broad research interests fall within sociology, in the area of gender, sexuality and class in childhood and youth, across different age ranges from the early years to teenagers. I work with queer and feminist perspectives to explore the making of gendered/sexual subjectivities, identities and relationships, with a particular focus on relations of power, conflict and violence, in their broader institutional and social contexts. I am also interested in children and young people's rights, and their participation in research. I am a member of the Open University Children's Research Centre, involved in research projects with Amnesty International focussing on children's understandings of their rights, and Chickenshed Theatre on creative learning in the early years (funded by Mercers Philanthropy). I am currently working on a project about young people's fanfiction writing, wellbeing and identity, with the Open University Centre for Children and Young People's Wellbeing.  

My ESRC-funded doctoral research focused on gender and power in teenage heterosexual relationship cultures, including issues of control, coercion and abuse. I explored these in relation to middle-class 14-16 year olds' experiences and identities, with a particular interest in the intersections of class, age, gender and sexuality. I have also worked on ethnographic research exploring gender, power and conflict in young children's peer cultures (age 5-6), affiliated with the EU ALLiES project (Teachers' and Parents' Alliance for Early Violence Prevention in Preschool), funded under the DAPHNE III programme. 

Teaching interests

My teaching expertise spans the undergradate and postgraduate curriculum in childhood and youth studies. Most recently I have co-chaired the production of Exploring childhood and youth (E232), an interdisciplinary and internationally-focussed Level 2 childhood and youth studies module, which foregrounds questions of belonging, identity, place and inequality. The co-published book that accompanies this module (Cooper, V. and Holford, N. (eds) (2021) Exploring childhood and youth is published by Routledge and examines core questions in childhood and youth studies, including children's rights, agency, and constructions of childhood and youth, taking a critical perspective highlighting some of the debates and controversies in these areas, and consisting of all newly commissioned material from leading experts and emerging researchers. I am now the module chair of E232 in its first presentation.

I have also worked on several other undergraduate modules, including the introductory open-access Level 1 module, An Introduction to childhood studies and child psychology (E102) which currently has almost 5000 students. I have been involved with developing many new modules in the undergraduate childhood and youth curriculum, including E102 (Introduction to Childhood Studies and Child Psychology), a wide-ranging interdisciplinary introductory module that brings together different perspectives on understanding childhood and currently attracts over 5000 students per year, and EK313 (Issues in research with children and young people), a third-level course critically examining research with children and young people. I am an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion champion within the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

I am currently supervising a PhD project examining young children's gendered experiences in the nursery from a feminist/queer theory perspective, and two EdD students in the areas of youth mentoring, and transgender students' experiences of higher education. I welcome queries from prospective doctoral students in the areas of gender, identity and sexuality in childhood and youth.


Creating playful spaces for collaborative development of online teaching capacity (2021)
Breeze, Kate and Holford, Naomi
Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 9(2) (pp. 91-100)

Gendered emotion work and the micro-practices of heterosexuality: Two middle-class teenage partner relationships (2019-05-31)
Holford, Naomi
Women's Studies International Forum, 74 (pp. 162-168)

What (else) can a kiss do? Theorizing the power plays in young children’s sexual cultures
Holford, Naomi; Renold, Emma and Huuki, Tuija
Sexualities, 16(5-6) (pp. 710-729)

Transitions to Adulthood (2023-08-09)
Gunter, Anthony and Holford, Naomi
In: Cooper, Victoria and Tatlow-Golden, Mimi eds. An Introduction to Childhood and Youth Studies and Psychology (pp. 218-232)
ISBN : 9781003358855 | Publisher : Routledge (In Press) | Published : London

Children and young people negotiating gender in context (2021)
Holford, Naomi
In: Cooper, Victoria and Holford, Naomi eds. Exploring childhood and youth (pp. 35-48)
ISBN : 9781003041573 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Lost innocence? The sexualization of childhood (2015)
Holford, Naomi
In: Kehily, Mary Jane ed. An introduction to childhood studies. Third edition. (pp. 173-190)
Publisher : Open University Press

Gender and sexuality (2015)
Holford, Naomi
In: Farrington-Flint, Lee and Montgomery, Heather eds. An introduction to childhood studies and child psychology (2nd ed.) (pp. 255-276)
Publisher : The Open University | Published : Milton Keynes

Transitions to adulthood (2015)
Holford, Naomi
In: Farrington-Flint, Lee and Montgomery, Heather eds. An introduction to childhood studies and child psychology (2nd ed.) (pp. 299-324)
Publisher : The Open University | Published : Milton Keynes

Exploring Childhood and Youth (2021)
Cooper, Victoria and Holford, Naomi eds.
ISBN : 9780367485443 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon