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Childhoods, Youth and Sport

Our research contributes to nationally and globally important practices, policies and debates in education, childhoods, youth and sport. 

Our research employs a wide range of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, including developmental psychology, sociology, anthropology and ethnography, to address research questions in the areas of children’s, young people’s and sportspersons’ lived experiences and development. Our projects, many of which involve international collaborations, focus particularly on issues of learning, language, inclusion, social justice, mental health and interventions.

Positioned at the forefront of contemporary research on childhood, we have pioneered Childhood Studies as a multidisciplinary intellectual endeavour.  We draw upon a range of approaches and research methodologies, including anthropology, childhood studies, cultural studies, developmental psychology, ethnography, gender studies and sociology, to forge new theorisations of children and contemporary childhoods in ways that impact positively on local, national and global policies. We have special expertise in the anthropology of childhood and childhood studies, the sexualisation of childhoods; gender and sexuality; child development in the early years; children and food; children and digital media; children’s self-concept; experiences of school; supporting families with children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and developing innovative, inclusive pedagogies.

Our research programmes are developed through partnership (with schools, playgroups, hospitals, youth groups and other users of research such as international NGOs, e.g., the Bernard van Leer Foundation and the World Health Organization). Our research priorities engage with the diversity of childhoods (for example, related to social, economic and cultural contexts) and the diversity of children’s lived experiences (for example, related to poverty and disadvantage, age, gender, parenting/family experiences, abilities, disabilities and mental health). Allied to this, our international research has a strong policy/practice focus, notably in respect of early childhood care and education, the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

Our interdisciplinary team of sports researchers, led by Dr Helen Owton, undertakes reasearch projects which are ultimately aimed at educating, understanding and improving the lives of athletes. The multi-disciplinary team draws upon a range of approaches and methodological expertise (including: auto/ethnography, phenomenology, narrative inquiry, grounded theory, creative analytical practices) spanning across numerous disciplines including psychology, sociology, nutrition, strength and conditioning and biomechanics. Qualitative and quantitative research sporting projects cover particular expertise of different sports including, athletic injury, post traumatic growth, maltreatment/abuse, identity, embodiment, and specific sports activities. Their research blog can be accessed at http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/sport-research-group.