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The Sociology of Childhood

5. Theories of Identity – Psychology and Childhood Studies

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In this lecture, we think about the question of identity is theories in psychology and childhood studies, respectively, focusing in particular on: (i) the separateness of childhood studies and psychology as academic disciplines; (ii) the idea that humans are hardwired to favour people who are 'like them' and to disfavour people who are 'not like them', and some of the issues with this statement – how do people find themselves as part of an 'us' in the first place?; (iii) Henri Tajfel and the minimum conditions experiment, which found that people are willing to form strong group identities on the basis of ostensibly trivial criteria (e.g. whether you prefer the paintings of Kandinsky or Klee); and (iv) the question of what structures are in place to encourage some identities and make others more difficult if not impossible.


In this course, Professor Karen Wells (Birkbeck, University of London) explores the sociology of childhood. In the first lecture, we think about the idea is childhood is socially constructed. In the second lecture, we consider the idea that children have agency. In the third lecture, we think about child rights and the emergence of a 'child rights regime'. Next, we think about the inequalities that shape childhood. In the fifth lecture, we think about different theories of identity emerging from psychology and childhood studies. In the sixth lecture, we turn to think about school and work as domains of childhood. In the seventh and final lecture, we think about 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).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Wells, K. (2021, August 23). The Sociology of Childhood - Theories of Identity – Psychology and Childhood Studies [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Wells, K. "The Sociology of Childhood – Theories of Identity – Psychology and Childhood Studies." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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