Childhoods Real and Imagined: Volume 1: An introduction to critical realism and childhood studies, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Childhoods Real and Imagined

Volume 1: An introduction to critical realism and childhood studies, 1st Edition

By Priscilla Alderson


224 pages

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Paperback: 9780415680981
pub: 2013-05-13
Hardback: 9780415680974
pub: 2013-05-22
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pub: 2013-05-29
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"This book is unusually rewarding in that its author has pulled off the rare trick of providing deep philosophical and theoretical underpinnings to a comprehensive reconsideration of childhood. Priscilla Alderson deploys Bhaskar's 'dialectical critical realism' to excellent effect, illuminating not only our understanding of the presence, and absence, of children in our lives and discourses, but also the field of childhood studies. It is rare that such an integrated text is accomplished and I look forward to the planned second volume. This is a work that should facilitate a rethinking of childhood for the new century." Graham Scrambler, Professor of Medical Sociology at University College London.

Childhoods Real and Imagined explores and charts the relation of dialectical critical realist concepts to many aspects of childhood. By demonstrating their relevance and value to each other, Alderson presents an introductory guide to applied critical realism for researchers, lecturers and students.

Each chapter summarises key themes from several academic disciplines and policy areas, combining adults’ and children’s reported views and experiences and filtering these through a critical realist analysis. The four main chapters deal with the more personal aspects of childhood in relation to the body, interpersonal relations, social structures, and the person, soul or self. The second volume will widen the scope to include the impact on children and young people of present policies relating to ecology, economics, ideas of social evolution or progress, and ethics. Each chapter demonstrates how children are an integral part of the whole of society and are often especially affected by policies and events.

Through developing the dialectical critical realist analysis of childhood and youth Childhoods Real and Imagined will be of great interest to critical realists and childhood researchers and policy advisers.


"Childhoods Real and Imagined is a compelling and engagingly written account of how and why the real experiences and capabilities of children are so often marginalized and ignored in academic scholarship and public policy. Alderson documents the myriad ways adults cloud inquiry by projecting their value orientations and biases on children in pursuit of their theoretical and policy goals. The effect of these practices is prioritization of adult interests over children’s. Childhoods, Real and Imagined deconstructs theoretical fallacies and empirical overgeneralizations, while offering readers an alternative, realist framework for studying and embracing children as they are and become."

Majia Holmer Nadesan, Professor, Arizona State University

"This first instalment in a two-volume project from Priscilla Alderson sets itself the task of exploring the impact of dialectical critical realism (DCR) upon the relatively new field of childhood studies. One of a group of researchers who have contributed to, and witnessed, the emergence of childhood studies as a field in its own right since the early 1990s, the work of Alderson (and colleague Nigel Thomas) is commonly encountered in the core readings of the new Masters of Childhood Studies courses that have proliferated in the last five to eight years."

Brad Shipway, Southern Cross University, Australia

Table of Contents

Part 1: Background 1.Introduction 2.Trends in research about children, childhood and youth Part 2 Experiencing and Imagining Childhoods 3.Real bodies: material relations with nature 4.Space: interpersonal relations 5.Time: social relations and structures 6.Inner being: alienation and flourishing 7.Conclusions: The relevance of DCR to childhood studies.

About the Author

Priscilla Alderson is Professor Emerita of Childhood Studies at the Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, London. She teaches on an international MA in the Sociology of Childhood and Children’s Rights and her work on children’s competence, wisdom and rights has been widely published.

About the Series

Ontological Explorations (Routledge Critical Realism)

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General