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The Sociology of Childhood

1. The Social Construction of Childhood

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In this module, we think about the idea that childhood is socially constructed, focusing in particular on: (i) the extent to which race and gender are socially-constructed; (ii) the influence of the liberation movements in general, and of feminism in particular, on the development of childhood studies; (iii) the emergence of childhood studies as an academic discipline in the late 1980s, and the growing interest in the rights of children more generally at precisely the same time, e.g. UN Convention of the Rights of Children; (iv) the centrality of the idea that childhood is at least partially socially constructed; and (v) the work of Philippe Ariès (1914-84), including his (erroneous) claim that childhood 'did not exist' before the Middle Ages in Europe.


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 - The Social Construction of Childhood [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

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

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