Faculty of Social Sciences 1964-2014

I boken "Faculty of Social Sciences 1964-2014" Gudrun Dahl & Mats Danielson (eds) finns ett kapitel om Barn- och ungdomsvetenskapliga institutionens framväxt. Historik - Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten

Presently, the Department of Child and y outh Studies is housed in a building at the shore of Brunnsviken, an extension of Lake Mälaren. (Photo: Mats Danielson)
Presently, the Department of Child and y outh Studies is housed in a building at the shore of Brunnsviken, an extension of Lake Mälaren. (Photo: Mats Danielson)

Department of Child and Youth Studies

Karin Aronsson and Ann-Christin Cederborg

IN 2008, the Department of Child and Youth Studies (Barn- och ungdomsvetenskap, BUV) was inaugurated as a new department at Stockholm University. At the time, it housed a staff of about 33 persons, including four new doctoral students starting their joint doctoral programme on 1 September that year. Due to the crowded situation that had arisen when Stockholm University took over the teachers’ training, the Department could not initially be located on the main campus of the University. It was instead located in central Stockholm, in the main building of the former Stockholm Institute of Education (Lärarhögskolan, LHS), which was a teacher’s training college. On this campus, the Department received a couple of hallways in what was 1861–1986 the Konradsberg mental hospital (popularly called ‘the palace of fools’, dårarnas palats). Designed by the architect Albert Törnqvist, it is a stately building with a
clock tower and a chapel of its own (restored as a beautiful lecture hall) and a number of spacious offices with high ceilings. From 1995, this palace-style building, located in a park in central Stockholm along with a number of newly erected buildings, had housed LHS. The new Department also included a smaller unit, ‘The Centre for the Studies of Children’s Culture’ (Centrum för Barnkulturforskning), housed on the main campus. In 2010, the major part of the Department was able to move to its present location at Frescati Hage.

Several scholars at the Department have worked within child development or within critical approaches to developmental models. Below, we will sketch part of BUV’s own development, that is, its biography or brief history. This is followed by a section with a special focus on the Department’s ways of working with ‘children’s perspectives’, a core notion for the development of the Department. The chapter is written by two of the successive chairs, but it is not an exhaustive representation of all research that has taken place during the past seven years. Instead, it is a presentation of a specific research paradigm – children’s perspectives and child perspectives, and of some ways in which such perspectives may change our views of children and childhood.

Konradsberg. Törnqvist’s palace-like mental hospital building, rebuilt for academic use, was the first home of the Department of Child and y outh Studies. (Photo: Mats Danielson)
Konradsberg. Törnqvist’s palace-like mental hospital building, rebuilt for academic use, was the first home of the Department of Child and y outh Studies. (Photo: Mats Danielson)

Some historical roots and the planning of the Department

Kurt Lewin, a leading social psychologist with a focus on the phenomenology of groups, once said that nothing is more practical than a good theory. The Department of Child and Youth Studies has a history of applied work on children and youth. A Swedish pioneer of such work was professor Stina Sandels (1908–1990), working at the Stockholm Institute of Education (LHS) from 1969. She started out her professional career as a preschool teacher, but then moved on to various leading roles in the Swedish preschool movement, along with two sisters, Ellen and Maria Moberg, pioneers of the Fröbel Kindergarten movement and its focus on exploration and play for learning, foregrounding growth metaphors of childhood and development. Simultaneously, Sandels started research on children in traffic (publishing, for instance, in 1975, ‘Children in Traffic’). She also undertook work on children as witnesses, working together with Professor Arne Trankell at the Department of Education, Stockholm University. Her work on children’s own thinking concerning traffic was partly inspired by Jean Piaget’s (cf. e.g. 1932) earlier work on the meaning making of children. It can be noted that Piaget was one of the directors of UNICEF during the 1950s, and deeply involved in issues concerning children’s rights. Sandels’ work on traffic has had an important impact on Swedish lives. It is seen as one of many factors that have reduced the number of deaths in traffic from about 1,500 a year to 500 a year. For instance, she published work that showed that children under 12 are often quite impulsive in traffic and that some traffic signs (e.g. of running children) were read as an encouragement to run (not walk) rather than as signs telling drivers to drive slowly. After the publication of some of Sandels’ work, these traffic signs were substituted by novel ones. Moreover, she wrote booklets on children and traffic that were produced and distributed to the population at large by The Road Safety Office (Trafiksäkerhetsverket). More on Stina Sandels can, for instance, be found in Engdahl (1990) and, of course, in Sandels (1970, 1975).

In 2004, ‘Child and Youth Studies’ was approved as a PhD discipline by the Board of the Faculty of Social Sciences. In 2007, it was decided that all the activities and assignments of LHS would be taken over by Stockholm University. The different disciplines taught at the basic and doctorate levels had to be distributed over the four faculties of the university. The dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Professor Gudrun Dahl, had the task of finding a suitable organizational site for child and youth studies, a discipline which was small and quite ‘stepmotherly’ treated at its former organizational site. The representatives of the former LHS argued that the subject would most properly be placed under special education. The Faculty, however, were looking for a setup which would give a proper research base for teachers’ courses in the subject, and also be attractive to the multidisciplinary set of child and youth researchers already found in the various departments of the University. The Faculty considered that the focus on formal education within the teachers’ education needed to be supplemented by a holistic perspective that spanned aspects of the child’s inherent physical and psychological development, as well as its situation as a family member and citizen, and as object of cultural interpretation. At the time, in wider academic debate, ethics of recognition had become more widespread. There was also, among many researchers on children’s issues, a growing dissatisfaction with deterministic models of children’s development. There was therefore an ambition to give proper recognition to
the inherent capacities of even a very small child and at looking at the variation in developmental paths of different individuals. This occurred at the same time that the socially based structural vulnerabilities affecting childhood and youth were given attention.

The dean had a particular interest in the subject. She had in the 1980s offered an influential PhD course on the anthropology of childhood, showing the advantage of holistic approaches to children and childhood. As one
of the expert committee members for the child and childhood research unit at Linköping University, together with a historian, a psychiatrist and a social psychologist, she endorsed the advantages of multidisciplinary approaches to childhood issues in a background volume at the foundation of that centre (cf. Aronsson et al. 1984). She was, however, not the only one at Stockholm University who took an interest in developing research on childhood and youth issues. ‘The Centre for the Studies of Children’s Culture’ (CBK) had been operating in the Faculty of Human Sciences for a long time, and had under the leadership of Karin Helander initiated an interdisciplinary network of researchers. They were actively preparing for a programme of master’s courses on childhood issues, beginning with a course dealing with children and human rights. The participants of this shifting group came from many different disciplines: law, history, philosophy, literature studies, linguistics, Scandinavian languages, education, anthropology and education.

The Board of the Faculty of Social Sciences thus initiated discussions about a new department in 2007. In the autumn of 2007, Professor Gunilla Preisler, from the Department of Psychology at Stockholm University, was
appointed as head (prefekt) for a year, with Docent Peg Lindstrand from LHS as her co-head. Karin Aronsson, at the time professor at the Department of Child Studies (Tema Barn) at Linköping University, was recruited as head of the Department from its official start in the autumn of 2008. In 2011, BUV got its second and present head, Professor Ann-Christin Cederborg.

At the start of the Department, several of the senior faculty members (professors, docents) of the new department had a background in the research environment of the prior LHS: Eva Berglund, Jane Brodin, Åsa Bäckström, Gunilla
Dahlberg, Ingrid Engdahl, Christina Gars, Bodil Halvars, Ann-Christin Kjellman, Suzanne Kjällander, Peg Lindstrand, Ingrid Olsson, Anna Palmer, Karin Sandqvist, Kerstin Strander and Anna Westberg Broström.

Since then, other academic fields have also become represented, for example: social psychology (Karin Aronsson), developmental psychology (Ann-Christin Cederborg), sociology (Mats Börjesson, Nihad Bunar), social anthropology and education (Katarina Ayton, Sofia Frankenberg, Camilla Rindstedt), gender studies and education (Helena Bergström, Christian Eidevald, Rickard Jonsson, Hillevi Lenz Taguchi, Helena Pedersen) and education (Margareta Aspán, Maria Bergman, Ingela Elfström, Karin Hultman, Inge Johansson, Susanne Kjällander, Gunnar Åsén).

Today, some of the scholars above have retired or left the department while others have recently been recruited.

Normally, both doctoral and other positions are announced in the national press and, at times, internationally (professorships). Most of the positions announced at the Department have attracted at least 10 applicants per position and often more.

The entrance of Building 24 at Frescati Hage testifies to the rapid start of scientific production in this young department. (Photo: Mats Danielson)
The entrance of Building 24 at Frescati Hage testifies to the rapid start of scientific production in this young department. (Photo: Mats Danielson)

BUV today

Today, the Department has around 120 staff members, including more than 30 doctoral students. It has thus increased its size about three times. It is now housed on Frescati Hagväg, in the waterfront area of the main campus of Stockholm University in buildings built in 1910–1917 for the College of Forestry (Skogshögskolan, architect Charles Lindholm). The Department of Education used this building prior to BUV, before outgrowing the premises and moving north to a building behind the Museum of Natural History. The Department consists of three units that are presented below

  • The Centre for the Studies of Children’s Culture (CBK)
  • The Unit for Child and Youth Science (BUVA)
  • The Unit for Preschool Education and Research (FUFF)

The Department has both increased its size through large research projects and through two major fusions: the first with the unit of preschool didactics (förskoledidaktik) and education for preschool teachers-to-be (in 2010), and the second one (in 2011) with the unit for education of teachers with recreation time orientation (fritidshem). In both cases, the fusions involved much work by both faculty members and administrative staff, during the year of the fusion, as well as also during the immediately preceding year. Both these fusions thus required substantial planning time and time for anchoring various decisions, both with the original staff members and with the staff members-to-be, and their prior departments during at least two years: that is to say, the preceding year and the year of the fusion. Moreover, as is often the case, hundreds and hundreds of hours have been invested in so called förgäveskostnader (literally ‘costs in vain’), that is, investments that eventually did not lead on to any advancement. For instance, negotiations about recruitments that did not take place or provisional planning for buildings that eventually did not form part of the expansion. The growth of the department was thus not a matter of a smooth linear development, but rather a jagged development in spurts and big leaps. All this, of course, also involved some growing pains. By now though, things are, however, more or less in place and the Department is one of the largest departments in the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Centre for the Studies of Children’s Culture

The smallest, but most ‘ancient’ unit at Stockholm University among the three units is the Centre for the Studies of Children’s Culture (CBK), which was established at Stockholm University already in 1980 as a special centre with the task of promoting knowledge in the area of children’s culture. At first, the centre was led by Gunnar Berefelt, professor of art history and writer/illustrator of children’s books. After his retirement, Professor Karin Helander, theatre historian (but also a board member of Statens Kulturråd, child theatre critique and deputy dean of the Faculty of Humanities) took over the academic leadership. In 2008, the year that the Department was inaugurated, CBK simultaneously received the University’s Prize for Best Teaching and part of the motivation was that it had accomplished this on a small budget: for many years, Helander and her co-workers have managed to combine the presentation of novel research including encounters with famous authors and illustrators of children’s books, actors, theatre producers and other actors in the children’s cultural arena – to the students. The core faculty of the unit is very modest in size (around a handful of persons), but through a creative mix of resources, this unit has for a long time offered unique teaching by combining invited guest teachers from academia and the arts (at times around 40 persons) with the promotion of novel research. Each year, the unit houses a symposium which normally fills one of the lecture halls with an audience of around 250–300 persons for three entire days. Moreover, this unit publishes a yearly publication that has been edited by Gunnar Berefelt, Anne Banér, and then Karin Helander since the very first years of the Department. On a different note, it can be added that this unit was just reviewed by the Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslerämbetet) for its bachelor of art (kandidatexamen) and master’s degrees and received excellent evaluations.

Unit for Child and Youth Science

The second unit, ‘Child and Youth Science’, is in charge of various courses, for example ‘Children’s Social Relations and Vulnerabilities’. It also features the master’s programme ‘The Child’s Best Interests and Human Rights’
that emanated from the original transdisciplinary network that preceded the Department. It provides for the education of teachers with a school-age educare and leisure orientation (fritidspedagoger). The latter education was in the consolidating reorganization transferred to BUV from an initial unit, UTEP, the ‘Department for Educational Science with Emphasis on Technical, Aesthetical and Practical Subjects’.

The unit also houses two research programmes oriented toward the subject child and youth science (barn- och ungdomsvetenskap). The first is ‘Children and youth in socially deprived situations’. This is an interdisciplinary research area, gathering researchers from the fields of sociology, psychology, legal studies and anthropology. The main focus is on how children and young people understand and cope with various social circumstances and predicaments in their daily lives. Some of the research projects have, for instance, explored the asylum process, the integration of young refugees into the school system, bullying, children as crime victims and offenders. Theoretically, a basic premise of this programme is that the identities, cultural forms and daily practices of young people can not be understood without focusing on the effects of structural conditions.

The second research area is ‘Social interaction and discursive theory’. A common ground for this research group is a focus on detailed analyses of language use and language related phenomena. It involves both alternative readings of social and political documents, and the study of social interaction and meaning making in mundane  communication. These fields are explored through discourse analysis – including narrative and rhetorical analysis – and through conversation analysis or linguistically oriented ethnography. A shared methodological focus for this multi-disciplinary group is the study of discursive negotiations of various kinds, not least the social categorizations that take place within different societal arenas e.g. the legal, health, political, and computer mediated arenas. The group also looks at discourses found in historical archives, as well as in schools and other institutions for children and youth.

Unit for Preschool Education and Research

The unit for preschool education (förskoledidaktik) and its research programme has recruited its staff from the Department of Education, Stockholm University, from LHS, and from other universities in Sweden. At the university takeover of teachers’ training, the programme was at first placed in a separate department for ‘Didactics and Pedagogical Work’ (DOPA) before it was transferred to BUV at a second reorganization. The teachers are mainly
working within the preschool education programme. This education of preschool teachers is in high demand, and it was one of the programmes that received approval by the Swedish Higher Education Authority (Högskoleverket) to continue its work in 2010, when several other universities temporarily had to stop this programme due to poor evaluations. In the year that this unit started, a new research programme started simultaneously, financed by the Swedish Research Council (through a national grant to Gunilla Dahlberg and Karin Aronsson, along with colleagues in Uppsala and Umeå) that supported another four PhD students at BUV. This programme has since then been followed by another similar one.

Previously, the research has been focused on qualitative studies and on pedagogical documentation, illuminating the ways in which teaching can be done through interactivity (Lenz Taguchi 2009), and in many different ways, and on the role of philosophical and post-modern theorizing (e.g. Deleuze & Guattari 2004) in conceptualizing the changes and challenges of contemporary educational arenas. Moreover, several researchers orient themselves toward gender issues.

Two main research areas are identified in this new research unit. The first is ‘Learning-brain-practice: transdisciplinary studies in communication, language and literacy in preschool’. The question is how we can produce
neuro-sensitive practices that enhance preschool children’s communication, language and literacy skills. The transdisciplinary studies in this field traverse various theories of learning, child-development, linguistics, literacy, information and technology studies (ICT), and the neurosciences. They address the emerging fields of educational neuroscience and preschool didactics in order to, both critically and affirmatively, study, problematize and learn from what Cunha and Heckman (2007) have called ‘the technologies of skill formation’.

The second research area is ‘Children, ethics and sustainability’. This research area addresses ethical, social and ecological aspects of sustainability as integrated parts of pedagogical and social relations, aiming to build a research basis for developing equality and solidarity across gender, ethnicity, generational, religious, and species boundaries.

The corridors of the present premises in a prefunctionalist building at Frescati Backe convey a relaxed and cosy atmosphere that stands in contrast to the more industrial style that dominates Södra huset. (Photo: Mats Danielson)
The corridors of the present premises in a prefunctionalist building at Frescati Backe convey a relaxed and cosy atmosphere that stands in contrast to the more industrial style that dominates Södra huset. (Photo: Mats Danielson)

Child perspectives and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

The notion of ‘child perspectives’ has been a core notion in the formation of the Department that was founded in 2008. In the following, we will cover the notion of child perspectives, as well as some developmental trends of the Department itself: its start, expansion and growth.

Sweden was one of the first countries to ratify the ‘United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’, which in this year of jubilees celebrates 25 years. This means that Sweden has to respect the rights and responsibilities spelled out by the convention: For instance, children’s right to education or their right to be heard. Swedish authorities and official institutions have to organize their work in such a way that children’s rights are respected. However, the convention in its entirety is still not part of Swedish law.

The notion of child perspectives (barnperspektiv) is about as old as the convention. In Sweden, it was used in a number of texts around children and children’s conditions in the 1980s and 1990s (e.g. Aronsson et al. 1984, Halldén 1991).

During the last 25 years, a novel research arena has emerged: childhood sociology. In various ways, researchers within this tradition have foregrounded the importance of children’s agency and competences (Alanen 1988, James & Prout 1990, James et al. 1998, Prout 2005, Quortrup 1990). Within childhood sociology, a number of scholars have made us aware of the fact that children are often treated as inferior beings, less worthy than adults or ”real” persons, and often positioned in terms of a number of the more or less fixed dichotomies (Prout 2005) as observed in the Levi-Straussian tradition of structuralism:

child caregiver
small big
weak strong
incompetent competent
passive active

 

Normally, such dichotomies surface as implicit features in reasoning about children and childhood (in media debates or as part and parcel of institutional practices) rather than something explicit. What is common for these dichotomies is that children, to a high degree, are presented as ‘becomings’ rather than as ‘beings’, that is, persons in their own right (Prout 2005). In the child, the observer therefore often sees but a pale projection of a ‘real’ person, a potential for something more full-blown, the ultimate product of ambitious parents’ long-term projects for a proper upbringing (Halldén 1991). As mentioned above, many of the researchers at BUV have wished to rectify this towards a more balanced view of the child as a competent actor. Simultaneously, several scholars have emphasized the need for a critical debate around children’s conditions. A view of the child built on the recognition of capabilities should not obscure children’s need for care and protection.
In society at large, children’s needs are often invisible, not least those of particularly vulnerable children (Quortrup 1990). Large groups of children are more vulnerable than others during their childhood: through illness, poverty, war, family violence or through repeated separations and family break-ups (for global overviews, see the yearly report of e.g. UNICEF 2011).

Welfare and children’s visibility

Departing from a child perspective, several scholars have problematized to what degree children and young people are visible in society, for instance, when and if children are included in different types of register data, such as when
measuring poverty. The UN Convention, which has come of age some years ago, is in itself an expression of  children’s increased visibility. Through foregrounding children’s rights, children are made visible as inherently vulnerable in several ways. There is always something of an inherent asymmetry in that children lack target
experiences (including full mastery of language(s), a completed education, etc.), as well as material resources that adults have at their disposal. Very young children have at times restricted communicative resources for telling
about their lives, and older children are at least vulnerable through their material and emotional dependency on the parental generation. Moreover, children are at times more vulnerable through difficult life conditions that they share
with adults, such as refugee status (Bunar & Valenta 2010).

UNICEF publishes statistics yearly on a number of indices that mark children’s wellbeing and vulnerabilities. One such assessment is the nativity index. In order to reproduce themselves, grown-up women of fertile age in a given society have to show a nativity index of around 2.0 children. It is, for instance, striking that both Italy and Russia relatively recently reported nativity indices close to 1.0 (UNICEF 2011). Such figures, in part, mirror if a society is child-friendly and if having children is promoted or facilitated. Another related figure is child mortality. High mortality rates tend to reflect poverty, but they might also reflect to what degree child health is prioritized in the national policies. Globally, a high infant mortality tends to be linked to poverty but it also exists in modern Western nations, e.g. the US (see UNICEF 2011).

Child perspectives and children’s perspectives

Contemporary work on childhood and children’s best interests differentiates between ‘child perspectives’ that is, what is seen as the child’s viewpoint or best interest, and ‘children’s perspectives’, that is, what children themselves say about their lives.

With respect to the UN convention, child perspectives are close to the core paragraph about the child’s best interest (§3). Regardless if children themselves are aware of their interests, it is, for instance, in the child’s best interest that people in their environment do not smoke heavily, drive recklessly or neglect necessary medication. Much can be child friendly or in the child’s best interest that the participants themselves (the children) are not aware of with respect to the child’s right to health, education, or many other aspects that might be relevant for an assessment of what is in the child’s best interest (§3). School size, segregation, abuse and processes of exclusion might invoke child perspectives, even if the children themselves do not voice any discontent. However, the notion of child perspectives and the child’s best interest can of course – in its turn – invoke the principle of the child’s right to be heard (§12).

With respect to the UN convention, children’s perspectives on the other hand are close to the principle of children’s right to be heard (§12). Some scholars primarily emphasize children’s own voices, or the democratic and political aspects of what is in the child’s best interest, particularly how children themselves talk about their lives
in interviews or through texts, images or other documentations of their situation. In conversation analysis (Sachs 1992), this is what is called “the participants’ own perspectives”. Ulrich Beck (1997) has discussed how, increasingly, the modern child has more of a say in society. In family life, as in school, care and treatment contexts, adults are expected to listen to the modern child. The traditional divide between the two generations, children and parents, has decreased and particularly in the Northern countries, like Sweden and its neighbours, democracy has become an important principle in children’s lives; children are not expected to obey mechanically, instead they are to negotiate about their conditions (Beck 1997).

Children as citizens: rights and responsibilities in different age classes

Bourdieu (1984, 2001) shows that we can see ‘child’ as a class category, rather than as a biological category. To be a child of a given age is to belong to an age category with specific class attributes: someone entitled to specific privileges, rights and obligations. A child allowed to go around on a bike should also know the most important traffic rules. To have a watch of one’s own might also mean that the child should be able to learn to be on time, and a cell phone of his/her own might mean that the child is supposed to call whenever s/he is expected to be late in getting back home. Age hierarchies are intimately linked to rights and responsibilities in cultural and historical contexts. A child in Sweden today who cannot read at the age of 10 or 15 might risk marginalization or discrimination, whereas a child who could not read in the 1600s at the same age was part of the ‘normal’ illiterate majority. All such considerations aside, the UN convention categorizes anyone below 18 as a child. Below, we will primarily differentiate between different generations. A child is thus a member of the younger generation, rather than someone of the parental generation. This means that the social class of ‘children’ will also include adolescents and other young people, who have not as yet come of age.

An important aspect of a society’s child perspective is how it treats children of different ages as citizens with different rights and obligations. In traditional societies, as well as in modern Western societies, there are often implicit or explicit age hierarchies that regulate, for instance, when children should be able to spend a day with caretakers other than their parents, should start in school, should finish school, marry or vote (James & Prout 1990).
There are sometimes major differences between how different societies regulate age limits and age classes (Ochs & Izquierdo 2009), and there are often ironic inconsistencies. In Sweden, a young person might marry at the age of 18, but cannot buy wine for the wedding until two years later. Age hierarchies also have implications for our very view of children and childhood, for instance, in identifying persons seen as capable of taking care of not only themselves but also others, or of the ways in which we design narratives. Time perspectives are an important aspect of various types of narratives (Blomberg & Börjesson 2013).

Different cultures view school age in different ways (if a child should start at the age of 5, 6 or perhaps 7 years), as well democratic rights, for instance, the right to vote. During the Roman empire, young adult (males) were entitled to vote, but only those who had turned at least 25 were to be electable to the senate. The argument was that young adults in their early 20s are intellectually mature, but that they are still too easily influenced by impulses (Nygren 2004).

On a global scale, sibling caretaking is probably the most common form of child day-care (Weisner & Gallimore 2007). But simultaneously, the reviews documenting this show that it is first around school age that children are allowed responsibility for preschool age younger siblings. While young children are initially given some responsibility for sibling care-taking, they often have some adult as a kind of back-up, for instance, an older relative. Nevertheless, in some traditional societies, sibling caretaking is at times a responsibility that hinders school attendance. This means that local obligations might clash with the UN convention’s view of schooling as a right.

One of several reasons for the US not ratifying the UN convention is that the US prefers to be able to deploy child soldiers in a war situation. Children under the age of eighteen are mobilized in wars, which is something that is not compatible with the UN convention, yet has become more common in many conflict-ridden countries.
Nevertheless, regardless of what the young people themselves think or wish, the convention has applied a child perspective, where one of the interpretations is that it is not in the best interest of the child to engage in warfare below the age of eighteen. The concept of a ‘child perspective’ is thus broader than ‘children’s perspectives’.

The integration of the teachers’ training in 2008 implied a severe scarcity of offices and classrooms for the University. Here a temporary pavilion for teachers and researchers at the Department. (Photo: Mats Danielson)
The integration of the teachers’ training in 2008 implied a severe scarcity of offices and classrooms for the University. Here a temporary pavilion for teachers and researchers at the Department. (Photo: Mats Danielson)

Methods for exploring child perspectives

Traditionally, children’s perspectives have often primarily been associated with interview methodologies. Today, however, at the Department of Child and Youth Studies, there are a number of methodological approaches for how to capture a child perspective, including analyses of:

(i) interview data and children’s perspectives
(ii) children as citizens; children’s rights and obligations
(iii) demographic data and children’s visibility
(iv) social categorizations of children in documents with a bearing on youth and childhood
(v) children’s welfare; integration/segregation; inclusion/exclusion; poverty
(vi) agency and children’s resistance
(vii) children’s embodied perspectives (e.g. failure to thrive or anorexia as ways of giving testimony about troublesome experiences) (viii) analyses of social interaction and conversational data
(ix) analyses of educational documentation (pedagogisk dokumentation)

In the years 2008–2014, the Department has grown in spurts: first from about 30 to about 90 persons in 2010 when the preschool education was integrated into the Department, and then in 2011 when the programme for teachers oriented towards school-age educare and leisure (fritidshemsinriktning) was integrated. Moreover, there has been a successive growth of our doctoral programme, with about 30 PhD students today, due to successful research applications. Today, the Department is the sixth largest department in the Faculty of Social Sciences.
During its early development, it has had some bouts of growing pains. At large, however, it is a lively and active department, with an education that is in high demand. Its faculty members are highly visible on the national and international arena: in peer review contexts, on editorial boards, as authors of monographs, receivers of large grants and as the proud tutors of doctoral theses.

The prospect for the Department is bright, as we have two teacher training programmes that students line up for and that the government supports with extra allocations. In addition, as the Department keeps growing with its highly competent teachers, professors, and other staff members, we will be able to continue to develop outstanding research that is noticed both nationally and internationally. 

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