Engendering Development: Some Methodological Perspectives on Child Labour


  • Erica Burman Manchester Metropolitan University




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


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


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Author Biography

Erica Burman, Manchester Metropolitan University

Erica BURMAN is Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she co-directs the Discourse Unit and the Women's Studies Research Centre. She is author of Deconstructing Developmental Psychology (Routledge, 1994, 2nd edition in preparation), co-author of Challenging Women: psychology's exclusions, feminist possibilities (Open University Press, 1995) and Psychology Discourse Practice: from regulation to resistance (Taylor & Francis, 1996), editor of Feminists and Psychological Practice (Sage, 1990) and Deconstructing Feminist Psychology (Sage, 1998), co-editor of Discourse Analytic Research (Routledge, 1993) Culture, Power and Difference (Zed/UCT Press, 1998), and consulting editor to Critical Psychology (University of Cape Town/Juta, 2004). She is currently working on projects addressing intersections between methodological paradigms and practices in feminist and qualitative pedagogies; gender, culture and models of psychological therapy provision and practice; and the role of representations of childhood and memory within culture and international development (with a forthcoming book in progress Developments: child, image, nation to be published by Routledge). She is also a group analyst.




How to Cite

Burman, E. (2006). Engendering Development: Some Methodological Perspectives on Child Labour. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-7.1.69



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