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Philosophical Perspectives on Childhood and Youth

Key information

  • Module code:


  • Level:


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Module description

What is it to be a child or a ‘young person’? How have these categories been applied to us, and by us, in our own lives, and how have they been applied elsewhere? These categories powerfully shape our personal and social worlds and social scientific analysis. For example, they create a whole range of hierarchies, relationships and social opportunities. At the same time these are not at all simple categories and we may have very different, and sometimes conflicting, intuitions about them. Indeed they throw up fundamental philosophical questions – about the nature of reality, about how we do and should make knowledge claims that rely on categories such as ‘children’, and about whether (and how) we can ethically defend  the range of ways we treat people by deploying such categories. This module provides a guide to recognising and tackling these philosophical questions and to exploring their practical relevance. It does so by starting from the personal experiences of course members along with contrasting case studies of diverse life courses.

Assessment details

  • 3,000 word essay (worth 100%)

Educational aims & objectives

This module aims to enable students to:

  • Understand that concepts of childhood and youth are contested and the relevance of this to studying in and across different historical and (inter)national contexts.
  • Understand that the familiar categories (such as child and adult) one uses to make sense of one’s own life and others’ biographies raise philosophical questions.
  • Develop skills and confidence in recognising and discussing philosophical questions.
  • Develop skills and confidence in relating philosophical questions to social and policy analysis.

Learning outcomes


The module will be delivered in the university setting. Students will collectively contribute to shaping the module direction by drawing upon their personal experiences and, through seminars, support one another in connecting biographical questions and case studies with the philosophical issues that frame the module and the assignment. In addition, for the summative assessment, through independent study and attendance at lectures students will be expected to develop a philosophical argument within specified parameters and integrate it with a case study of their own choice.


Knowledge and understanding

At the end of this module students will be able to demonstrate understanding of:

  • The relevance of philosophical perspectives to making sense of childhood and youth.
  • The relevance of philosophical perspectives to making sense of their own histories and experiences.
  • Some fundamental ontological, epistemological and ethical questions related to childhood and youth.


Cognitive skills

At the end of this module students will be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  • Articulate biographically reflexive accounts.
  • Elucidate and assess a range of assumptions that are deployed to differentiate between stages of life such as childhood, youth and adulthood.

In addition, they will have further developed the ability to:

  • Combine detailed work on specific case studies with theoretical and philosophical debate.
  • Construct and present reasoned arguments.*


Performance and practice

By the end of the module students will have:

  • Further developed strategies for, and confidence in, reading challenging texts.
  • Demonstrated their capacity to generate course themes and contribute to course agenda setting.
  • Demonstrated the ability to address a basic philosophical question with reference to its practical implications.


Personal, enabling and employability skills**

By the end of the module students will have strengthened the capability to:

  • Present complex ideas in an organized and coherent manner in writing.
  • Share personal experiences and debate personal insights on potentially sensitive (identity-related) themes.


**In addition, many of the outcomes listed above are relevant to employability. For example, see the item asterisked.

Module description disclaimer

King’s College London reviews the modules offered on a regular basis to provide up-to-date, innovative and relevant programmes of study. Therefore, modules offered may change. We suggest you keep an eye on the course finder on our website for updates.

Please note that modules with a practical component will be capped due to educational requirements, which may mean that we cannot guarantee a place to all students who elect to study this module.

Please note that the module descriptions above are related to the current academic year and are subject to change.