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The Sociology of Childhood

2. Childhood and Agency

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the concept of agency within childhood studies, focusing in particular on: (i) the concept of 'agency' in sociology more generally, especially in relation to structure or structures; (ii) the emphasis within childhood studies on children as 'agential subjects', i.e. people with agency; (iii) the kind of agency that a child is thought to have – not simply basic desires such as "I want to move to the other side of the room", but reimagining the world, testing the 'structures' around them, etc.; (iv) the extent to which a child's perception of the world has a certain value because the child has not yet been submerged in the norms of the world that they are perceiving; (v) the extent to which it is even possible to be a pre-social social agent – is there a 'doer behind the deed', as Judith Butler puts it?


In this course, Professor Karen Wells (Birkbeck, University of London) explores the sociology of childhood. In the first module, we think about the idea is childhood is socially constructed, before moving on in the second module to consider the idea that children have agency. In the third module, we think about child rights and the emergence of a 'child rights regime', before turning in the fourth module to think about the inequalities that shape childhood. In a shorter fifth module, we think about different theories of identity emerging from psychology and childhood studies, before turning in the two final modules to think about two domains of childhood – school and work, and the juvenile justice system.


Professor Karen Wells is Professor of Human Geography at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research is focused on childhood studies, particularly the formation of childhood and the impact of inequality on children’s lives. She is author of The Visual Cultures of Childhood (2020), Childhood Studies: Making Young Subjects (2017), and Childhood in Global Perspective (2014).

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APA style

Wells, K. (2021, August 23). The Sociology of Childhood - Childhood and Agency [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Wells, K. "The Sociology of Childhood – Childhood and Agency." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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