Building an Inter-Disciplinary Perspective on Children's Agency: More Insight or More Noise?

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Übungsraum 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Jo MORAN-ELLIS, University of Sussex, United Kingdom
Achieving inter-disciplinarity in childhood studies is a complex challenge. There are already many examples of research which bring together biological and psychological approaches in studying children and childhood but few of those also incorporate a sociological perspective. Some exceptions can be found in the field of health, and to some extent in social work research, under the rubric of ‘the psycho-social’. However, many studies are multi-disciplinary rather than inter-disciplinary. In other fields of social scientific study, trans-disciplinarity is emerging as an important move which seeks to dissolve the epistemological boundaries implicit in the term 'discipline' although this is not yet evident in childhood studies. I argue here that developing an inter-disciplinary perspective for childhood research means grappling with two key questions: firstly what does the term ‘inter-disciplinary research’ mean and entail? Secondly, what are the implications for the sociology of childhood as a disciplinary perspective? This latter is relevant since establishing a sociology of childhood involved carving out a specific disciplinary engagement with the lives of children, distinct from the approaches taken by, for example, psychology. This distinction was important since, as is well documented, developmental psychology occupied a hegemonic position in regards to empirical and theoretical accounts of childhood. An early challenge for a sociology of childhood was establishing the theoretical and empirical warrant for locating the child as a social actor, an agent, and as a member of society. Following this, the question is how to reconcile the premises of the sociology of childhood with those of the other disciplines most commonly concerned with childhood in interdisciplinary work? In this paper, I explore this in relation to the concept of children’s agency and social competence, paying attention to the difference between inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches, and examining the gains that can come from inter-disciplinarity both theoretically and empirically.