Engendering Development: Some Methodological Perspectives on Child Labour

Erica Burman


In this article I address when and why it is useful to focus on gender in the design and conceptualisation of developmental psychological research. Since methodological debates treated in the abstract tend to lack both the specificity and rigour that application to a particular context or topic imports, I take a particular focus for my discussion: child labour. In doing so I hope to highlight the analytical and practical gains of bringing gendered agendas alongside, and into, developmental research. While child labour may seem a rather curious topic for discussion of developmental psychological research practice, this article will show how it indicates with particular clarity issues that mainstream psychological research often occludes or forgets. In particular, I explore analytical and methodological benefits of exploring the diverse ways gender structures notions of childhood, alongside the developmental commonalities and asymmetries of gender and age as categories. I suggest that the usual assumed elision between women and children is often unhelpful for both women and children. Instead, an analytical attention to the shifting forms and relations of children's work facilitates more differentiated perspectives on how its meanings reflect economic and cultural (including gendered) conditions, and so attends better to social inequalities. These inequalities also structure the methodological conditions and paradigms for research with children, and so the article finishes by elaborating from this discussion of child labour four key principles for engendering psychological research with and about children, which also have broader implications for conceptualisations of the relations between gender, childhood, culture and families.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs060111


gender; children; women; work; household labour; public/private

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Copyright (c) 2006 Erica Burman

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