Institute of Education


Childhood, Gender and Society

Exploring key issues in the sociology of gender and childhood through teaching and research

Woman holding girl in the street

Since the founding of the Social Science Research Unit (SSRU) in 1990, members of the Childhood, Gender and Society stream have played an important role in developing the sociology of gender and the sociology of childhood, including its relations with children's rights. Teaching, research and publication is international in scope, concerning family, generation, gender, and their intersections.

Our team
Study with us

Programmes associated with our work include:


Graduate taught

Graduate research

We are interested in receiving enquiries from potential MPhil/Phd students who have an interest in:

  • adult-child relations
  • children's rights and social justice
  • children, violence and conflict
  • ethnographic methods
  • everyday practices: migration, work, play, learning, and relationships in children's everyday lives
  • feminist practices
  • fatherhood, motherhood, childhood
  • gender, generation, and intersectionality
  • gender relations, femininities and masculinities
  • India and the Indian diaspora
  • intimate relations, marriage, love and friendship
  • the politics of children and childhood
  • sociology of childhood
  • sociology of personal life
  • unequal childhoods in global contexts.

More info:


  • Gender and Childhood

Feminism and the politics of childhood: friends or foes?

2015-present | Funded by UCL Grand Challenges Program


About the project

It brings together community and university-based academics and activists to unpack perceived commonalities and conflicts between children's interests and women's interests and, more broadly, intersections and antagonisms between various forms of feminism and the politics of childhood.

The project included an international seminar and follow up teaching and publications.

More info

  • Migration

A warm welcome? Separated migrant children in the care-asylum nexus

2017 | Pilot project funded by the UCL Institute of Education


About the project

This pilot study investigates unaccompanied or separated child migrants' experiences of care, and caring for others, as they navigate the 'Kafkaesque labyrinth' (Bhabha 2008: 200) of the asylum-welfare nexus in the UK.

The pilot brings together a multi-disciplinary team and involves interviews with various professional stakeholders and focus groups with migrant children.


New families? Unaccompanied migrant children, care and asylum

2016-present | Pilot project funded by the UCL Global Engagement Office



This project explores the care of children, by children, on migration journeys, as well as how these caring practices are taken into account (or not) in children's efforts to settle and claim asylum in the UK.

More info

  • Parenthood

Choice, gender equality and love in early parenthood

2016-2018 | Funded by The Leverhulme Trust


About the project

This is a mixed methods longitudinal study examining the intersections of intimacy, gender equality and parenting ideology through research with couples taking different maternity and paternity leave patterns. 

Related links

Equality at home? Exploring the experiences of couples where the father has taken additional paternity leave in the UK

2014-2015 | Pilot project funded by the British Academy



This was a qualitative pilot study to examine how parents who share leave reconcile UK gendered parenting norms with a more equitable share of leave, along with how and whether sharing leave impacts on couple and parent-child relationships, and the division of domestic and childcare work.


The study revealed how gendered norms and the particular policy constraints (which are in turn shaped by gendered norms) shape couples' narratives around leave. Specifically, men's uptake of Additional Parental Leave (APL) is constructed in the couple narratives as his individual choice, rather than a negotiated couple decision.

In couple interviews, women report presenting APL as an option to their partners, and then feeling 'grateful' that he has accepted to take up the leave. In terms of experiences of leave-taking, the context of the UK, where so few fathers take extended paternity leave, was the defining influencing factor in both men's and women's accounts of their leave-sharing experiences.

Men and women reported surprise from friends and family, feeling 'unusual' and different amongst their peers and having to defend their choice to use APL to others. Some couples enjoyed this process, whereas others felt less comfortable. Meanwhile, men's experiences while on leave were described as lonely.

Related links

  • Violence affecting children

Addressing violence affecting children: strengthening research, policy, and practice in Ethiopia and beyond

2015-present | Funded by the Oak Foundation


Kirrily Pells is collaborating on this project with the Young Lives study team based at the University of Oxford and in Ethiopia.


The project will include a qualitative study on violence affecting children in Ethiopia and use the findings to identify policy and practice gaps to promote violence prevention and response work.

This will be done by organising high-level national and regional dialogue among policy makers, practitioners and researchers to feed into the research design and dissemination processes.

It will involve a workshop organised in 2017, in conjunction with the Child Research and Practice Forum to bring together researchers working in this area from across Africa.

Related links

Multi Country Study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children: Italy, Peru, Vietnam and Zimbabwe

2014-present | Collaboration with UNICEF Office of Research and Young Lives.


Kirrily Pells is a research associate with Young Lives, a longitudinal study of childhood poverty where her research focuses on children's experiences of violence in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam.

This involves a collaboration with the UNICEF Office of Research on a Multi-Country Study of Violence Affecting Children.

About the project

The study is seeking to identify and analyse how structural factors - social, cultural, economic, legal, organisational, or policy responses - interact to affect everyday violence in children's homes, schools and communities, in order to inform strategies for violence prevention.

Related links

  • English childhoods

Teachers and head teachers' views on children's rights in education

2014-2015 | Funded by the Office of the Children's Commissioner



This was a mixed-method research project using journal-based interviews, focus groups, and a survey to investigate the experiences and perspectives of teachers across England about children's rights in schooling.


  • Many teachers have an awareness of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and of children's rights and generally consider that these are appropriate for school contexts.
  • Teachers do not, for the most part, use children's rights as a primary lens for planning, reflecting upon, or articulating their teaching practice.
  • Whilst teachers' comments about children's rights in education often paralleled the rights enshrined in the UNCRC, they were less explicit in their use of, and reference to, the UNCRC and its articles.
  • The broader context of schooling has significant impact on children's rights and teachers' ability to promote and protect these.
  • A key tension was noted between prioritisation of standardised, target-based systems, resource allocation, and children's rights.
  • Teachers highlighted a potentially irresolvable tension between the current educational context (accountability/progression orientation, and limited resources) and children's rights in education.
Histories of English childhoods



About the project

Berry Mayall is involved in research and writing histories of English childhoods.

Stage one

The first part of this project explores English childhoods at the start of the twentieth century.

This aims to address a gap in the literature on the start of state education: what it was like being a  child at the time, and where did school fit in with family and social and economic  life.

A book, published by Palgrave Macmillan, will be released in 2017.

Stage two

The second piece of work builds on a book that Berry Mayall and Virginia Morrow wrote in 2011, about children's contributions to the war effort in 1939-45.

The aim now is to use materials from the book to produce a package for primary school teachers to use when working with children on aspects of that war.

Berry Mayall is collaborating on this venture with staff in the publications department.

Related links

Private sector childcare in England

February 2019-March 2020 | Funded by the Nuffield Foundation 

This project will provide important evidence about the reach and impact of private sector childcare in England. 

More info

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