Skip to main content

Unit information: Constructing Childhoods in 2021/22

Unit name Constructing Childhoods
Unit code SPOL10023
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Staples
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


What is a child? Childhood is a universal experience - we have all been children - yet our understanding of why a child is defined as a ‘child’ and not an ‘adult’ varies depending on time, space and place. This unit explores the construction of childhood through history. It aims to enable students to recognise that childhood is dynamic, fluid and culturally subjective. The unit explores different ways that children and young people have been conceptualised, understood and treated within historical and contemporary contexts.

Drawing on history, sociology, psychology and criminology, students on the unit will be encouraged to critically engage with and challenge narrow definitions of ‘childhood’. The unit explores a diverse range of childhood experiences and understandings of childhood through history. By drawing on a wide range of primary sources such as official documents, statistics, diaries, novels, artwork, and oral histories, different representations and experiences of childhood will be compared.

Intended learning outcomes

After completing this unit successful students will be able to:

  1. Explain how and why the concept of childhood has changed over time
  2. Compare different theoretical and historical perspectives on childhood
  3. Describe and assess how and why children’s experiences of growing up has changed over time and been affected by political, social, cultural, religious and economic factors
  4. Assess the value of different primary sources of evidence in understanding historical childhood and children’s experiences

Teaching details

This unit will be delivered through blended learning involving a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including weekly lectures, directed individual activities and synchronous seminars.

Assessment Details

The assessment has two parts:

Part 1 - 3 x 500 words learning journal – student to nominate one of the three for marking (25%)

Part 2 - 1500 word essay (75%)

ILOs 2, 3, 4 assessed by learning journal and ILO 1, 2, 3 are assessed by 1500 words essay


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. SPOL10023).