What does it mean to be a child in today’s world? Do popular images of childhood match the reality of young people’s lives? How is childhood affected by poverty, ill-health and adversity? Do children have different rights from adults, and if so why? How are modern lifestyles and technologies changing children’s relationships and identities? What part do children play in shaping their childhood? Such questions are the starting point for this cross-disciplinary introduction to Childhood and youth studies at The Open University UK, covering the age range 0–18 and including audio-visual case studies from three contrasting parts of the world.
There are four blocks of study, each with a specially prepared text, along with extensive audio-visual material. Children’s own perspectives on their childhood are prominent in the module, drawing on case studies from Cape Town (South Africa), Chittagong (Bangladesh), Oakland (USA) and the UK. These case studies run throughout the module.
Block 1 asks ‘What is childhood?’ and introduces a range of disciplinary perspectives for studying the concept of childhood. Topics in this block include the history of beliefs about childhood; how childhood changes in different contexts and over time; the growth of scientific approaches to studying children; the significance of socio-cultural approaches for understanding modern childhoods.
Block 2 looks at the distinctiveness of children’s cultural worlds by exploring everyday activities of young children and teenagers. The block examines how children and young people in the twenty-first century encounter and creatively adapt to a range of cultural phenomena in an increasingly mediated, commercialised and globalised world. Topics in this block include friendships and the significance of play; youth culture; children’s engagement with the media and with information technology; and their power as consumers.
Block 3 highlights the places and spaces in which childhood exists. It builds on the theoretical perspectives introduced in Blocks 1 and 2 to emphasise the materiality of childhood, the physical environments on a macro and micro scale as well as the social context in which children and young people live. This will provide the framework for investigating wider questions about childhood including the power relationships between adults and children, and the influence of gender and inequality.
Block 4 looks at the obstacles that many children face which make childhood both a local experience and a global concern. Topics in this block include the effects of poverty and other adversities – such as violence – on children’s health and well-being. Different approaches to intervening in children's lives are discussed, with particular attention to their rights to participation and the ways they can become engaged with social issues, including issues surrounding their status as children.
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This broad-based module on the theme of childhood is:
This programme requires students to demonstrate proficiency in English.
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