My broad research interests fall within sociology, in the area of gender, sexuality and class in childhood and youth, across different age ranges from the early years to teenagers. I work with queer and feminist perspectives to explore the making of gendered/sexual subjectivities and relationships, with a particular focus on relations of power, conflict and violence, in their broader institutional and social contexts. I am also interested in children and young people's rights, and participation in research. I am a member of the Open University Children's Research Centre, involved in research projects with Amnesty International focussing on children's understandings of their rights, and Chickenshed Theatre on creative learning in the early years (funded by Mercers Philanthropy).
My ESRC-funded doctoral research focused on gender and power in teenage heterosexual relationship cultures, including issues of control, coercion and abuse. I explored these in relation to middle-class 14-16 year olds' experiences and identities, with a particular interest in the intersections of class, age, gender and sexuality. I was principal researcher on an ethnographic research project with Emma Renold (Cardiff University) and Tuija Huuki (University of Oulu), exploring gender, power and conflict in young children's peer cultures (age 5-6), affiliated with the EU ALLiES project (Teachers' and Parents' Alliance for Early Violence Prevention in Preschool), funded under the DAPHNE III programme.
My teaching expertise spans the undergradate and postgraduate curriculum in childhood and youth studies. I am module chair of Childhood (E212), an interdisciplinary and internationally-focussed second level childhood studies module, and I work on several other undergraduate modules, including the introductory open-access Level 1 module, An Introduction to childhood studies and child psychology (E102) which currently has almost 5000 students. I am also the Academic Conduct Officer for the Childhood and Youth programme, focussing on developing understandings of good academic practice among students.
I have also been heavily involved with developing new modules in the undergraduate childhood and youth curriculum, including E102 (Introduction to Childhood Studies and Child Psychology), a wide-ranging interdisciplinary introductory module that brings together different perspectives on understanding childhood, and EK313 (Issues in research with children and young people), a third-level course critically examining research with children and young people.
I am currently supervising two EdD students in the areas of youth mentoring and transgender students' experiences of higher education, and welcome queries from prospective doctoral students in the areas of gender, identity and sexuality in childhood and youth.
I am currently developing a new module as co-chair in production of E232 (Exploring Childhood and Youth), which will be the compulsory Level 2 module on the BA Childhood and Youth Studies, and editing the co-published reader to accompany it, consisting of all newly commissioned material from leading experts and emerging researchers. Published by Routledge in 2020, Exploring Childhood and Youth (edited by Victoria Cooper and Naomi Holford) will examine core questions in childhood and youth studies, including children's rights, agency, and constructions of childhood and youth, taking a critical perspective that highlights some of the debates and controversies in these areas.