Towards a Sociology for Childhood: Thinking from Children's Lives

Towards a Sociology for Childhood: Thinking from Children's Lives

Towards a Sociology for Childhood: Thinking from Children's Lives

Towards a Sociology for Childhood: Thinking from Children's Lives


"This book moves the sociology of childhood forward. Berry Mayall argues that, since childhood is a permanent component of society, in order to understand how society works, we must take account of children as well as adults, otherwise our explanation omits an important social group. Children's lives are shaped by policies and practices, but they are also agents, who make a life for themselves through their relationships with adults and other children. This book argues that feminist theory and practice is useful for understanding childhood; we should start from the children's own accounts to show how the organization of social relations provides an explanation for their social position. It is essential reading for childhood sociologists and feminists, and for all those seeking to raise the social status of childhood. It is highly recommended to students of childhood studies, at all levels." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The only route forward for sociological investigation if it is to achieve
any detachment from the particular interests and values of the society
in which the sociologist is working is to assume the equal moral worth
of the inputs of all the workers involved, however they may rank each
other and whatever deference or superiority they may exhibit.

(Stacey and Davies 1983: 16)

This book is an attempt to work towards a sociology for childhood. It works towards including children and childhood within sociological thinking: children as participant agents in social relations, and childhood as a social group fundamentally implicated in social relational processes. This is a less unfamiliar enterprise than it would have been 15 years ago, but it is still difficult and necessarily tentative. Broadly I am following in the footsteps of those who worked to include women's work both at home and elsewhere in the division of labour, and thus to problematize the public/private divide; and to theorize women as a social group within the gendered relations of ruling. With childhood and adulthood, as with women and men, we are concerned with processes in relations between social positions. And, as gender emerged as key to understanding social relations between women and men, generation is emerging as key to understanding relations between childhood and adulthood. Further, alerted as we are to take account of gender in social relations, we will now have to take account of intersections of gender with generation.

This book uses data collected with a few of the UK's children — those I have worked with in London, in the 1990s, in order to think from their lives towards sociological understanding. Here again, I am following feminists . . .

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