Postgraduate Course

MA Childhood Studies

MA Childhood Studies


The details
Childhood Studies
October 2024
1 year
Colchester Campus

Our MA Childhood Studies offers a unique psychosocial focus, seeking to understand not only the outer social experience of children but also their complex inner, emotional worlds.

Building upon our existing expertise in postgraduate courses like refugee care, psychoanalytic studies and psychodynamic counselling, this programme offers much more than you would find in other MA Childhood Studies courses.

Our inherently interdisciplinary programme is rooted in psychosocial, sociological and psychodynamic approaches. Drawing on the history of Childhood Studies and the best contemporary research, including the excellent research and practice experience of our academics, modules will explore a variety of subjects, including:

  • Families and peer relationships
  • Emotions and the inner worlds of children
  • Education
  • The role of play and leisure
  • Generation and intergenerational relationships
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Cross-cultural experiences of childhood
  • Children, popular culture and literature,
  • Children with disabilities
  • Children and the state
  • Ethical research with children and young people
  • Spaces and places of children's lives
  • Intersectionality

Our MA Childhood Studies programme will equip you for a career in sectors including education, health, international fields such as the charitable sector and NGOs, social care including children's homes, therapeutic communities and supporting children and their families. This course is available to study full-time or part-time, and also acts as a stepping stone to further qualifications in specific professions such as social work or counselling as well as PhD study.

If you're committed to understanding the child as a whole, incorporating their complex emotional worlds, and want to use this knowledge to improve the experience of children in a variety of settings, welcome home.

Why we're great.
  • Our unique interdisciplinary approach combines psychosocial, sociological and psychodynamic approaches
  • You'll be taught by lecturers who bring both academic and practical knowledge from years of working with children
  • Close links with health, education and social care services ensures our courses are highly credible

Our expert staff

Within Childhood Studies, our faculty are specialists in some key research areas, including: childhood geographies; relational and psychosocial approaches to childhood; childhood and popular culture; postcolonial and decolonial theory; critical methodologies for research with children; children's learning and education; feminist and queer theory; child psychoanalysis; YA literature and film; the social history of childhood; and critical race studies. As active writers and researchers, we are on the cutting edge of current trends in our field and publish regularly in leading academic journals like: Children and Society, History of the Human Sciences, Sexualities, Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society, Sociological Research Online, Studies in Gender and Sexuality, and Psychoanalysis and History. Check out three of our recent publications here, here and here.

Our Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies is internationally recognised as one of the leading departments for work that focuses on the role of the unconscious mind in mental health, as well as in culture and society generally. Our research and teaching is deeply grounded in the highest standards of academic thinking and derived from clinical practice.

Being part of a leading university in the study of social sciences means you are surrounded by strong departments that fully support and enhance our work. This allows you to gain the opportunity to work with and be taught by senior clinicians and world-class scholars in their fields.

Specialist facilities

If you are studying within our Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, you will have access to our extensive facilities to aid your learning and research. In particular, our Albert Sloman Library is well stocked with books, journals, electronic resources and major archives relevant to our work and, in addition, we have our own library of specialist books and journals.

Our Centre for Childhood Studies will offer a unique, international experience for students and staff, developing a collegiate research culture that is based on theoretically-applied research, relevant for child-focused academics, clinicians and policymakers. With regular internationally acclaimed speakers, postgraduate students will enhance their theoretical understanding, knowledge, and practical experience with children and young people, being a part of a learning community that is dedicated to the development of cutting edge research.

We hold free evening Open Seminars, which are open to students, staff and members of the public.

Your future

You will develop key employability skills including thinking analytically, evaluation, essay-writing, research methods in psychoanalysis and an understanding of psychoanalytic thinking, applicable to clinical and academic work. Our MA Childhood Studies will equip you for a career in sectors including education, health, international fields such as the charitable sector and NGOs, social care including children's homes, therapeutic communities and supporting children and their families. This course also acts as a stepping stone to further qualifications in specific professions such as social work or counselling as well as PhD study.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A 2:2 degree or international equivalent.

With your online application you must submit a personal statement; this should detail the reasons for wanting to study the course, including any relevant experience (work or voluntary) that may support your application.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please contact our Graduate Admissions team at to request the entry requirements for this country.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, we require IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 in all components.

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.


Course structure

We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We'll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website and in line with your contract with us. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, we'll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.

Components and modules explained


Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.

Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.

Status What this means
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.

The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.


Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.

In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.

Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:

HR 100  4  FY

The department or school the module will be taught by.

In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.

The module number. 

The UK academic level of the module.

A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules - increasing as you progress through the course.

A standard postgraduate taught course will comprise of level 7 modules.

A postgraduate research degree is a level 8 qualification.

The term the module will be taught in.

  • AU: Autumn term
  • SP: Spring term
  • SU: Summer term
  • FY: Full year 
  • AP: Autumn and Spring terms
  • PS: Spring and Summer terms
  • AS: Autumn and Summer terms


Critical Debates in Childhood and Childhood Studies

This module draws predominantly on psychosocial studies, sociology, and childhood studies and aims to explore and respond to debates at the forefront of childhood studies and of the experience of being a child. The historical development of both childhood studies and the concept of `children` and `childhood` are outlined and you are introduced to core disciplines including developmental psychology, psychoanalysis and sociology. You will be encouraged to reflect upon the position of certain bodies of knowledge within the field of childhood studies. This includes analysing the figure of the child embodied within each disciplinary approach and interrogating how this is manifest in theory and in children`s everyday lives. The module will use this foundation to go on to discuss core aspects of the conceptual frameworks which guide or govern childhood studies including agency, subjects, actors, relationality, and generation. Included crucially here are approaches to the rights, voices and participation of children.

View Critical Debates in Childhood and Childhood Studies on our Module Directory


Research with Children and Young People

This module introduces students to the philosophies and practical tools which characterise research with children to enable students to undertake primary research in their dissertations and future professions. The module considers a range of methodological approaches to both quantitative and qualitative research. Specific tools such as surveys and questionnaires, observation, interviews, focus groups, ethnographic approaches, and virtual approaches, are examined and practiced. You will critically consider ethical issues in research with children, adult and child power relations, and spaces and places of research with children and young people, including schools, children's homes and the therapeutic space.

View Research with Children and Young People on our Module Directory


Children’s Emotional Worlds

The study of emotions in the social sciences was a once relatively neglected field and now is one burgeoning with a huge diversity of different perspectives, approaches, and priorities. This module will explore how such understandings of emotions as social, developmental, individual, unconscious, discursive, and collective are applied to the study of childhood and to children's experiences. Within this module you will be introduced to the historical study of emotions in sociology and consider how children`s emotional development is framed in developmental psychology, psychoanalytic studies and neuroscience perspectives. The module will explicitly propose and consider the benefits of a psychosocial approach to understanding children's emotions and apply such perspectives to a range of topical issues in relation to children`s emotional experiences, wellbeing, and mental health.

View Children’s Emotional Worlds on our Module Directory


Geographies of Childhood and Youth

This module `Geographies of Children and Youth` will critically examine the diverse experiences of children and young people across time and space and consider how the discursive and material construction of childhood is shaped by these geographical concepts. Theoretical frameworks such as post-structuralism, post-colonialism, and critical race theory will be deployed to examine core issues in childhood studies such as home and homelessness, institutions and the institutionalisation of childhood, the street, cultural and community participation, and nation and nationhood. A critical approach to children`s rights is adopted throughout, taking a rights-respecting approach while evaluating the articulation and application of rights to diverse childhoods and children`s lived experiences.

View Geographies of Childhood and Youth on our Module Directory


Option from list


Relational Childhoods

The sociology of childhood emerged in the latter part of the twentieth century, developing the well- established paradigm of the social construction of childhood to examine the active construction of children`s lives, the lives of those around them and of the societies in which they live. This module on `Relational Childhoods` will critically explore the dominant theoretical assumptions that lie behind the social construction of childhood, developing an interdisciplinary perspective that can integrate the relational aspects of three related disciplines, sociology, developmental psychology and psychoanalysis. Relational concepts such as `habitus`, `love and learning` and `interdependencies` will be used to examine core issues in childhood studies such as parenting in families and educational institutions.

View Relational Childhoods on our Module Directory


Dissertation - Childhood Studies

This module provides the framework for students to complete their dissertation projects. Dissertations are an important and represent an intellectual journey where students can apply the knowledge gained and use this in a creative way to deepen understanding of themes and issues they are interested in. Time and energy can be devoted, in a supported environment, to demonstrate something significant about your insights and understanding. It can be thought of as the culmination of your course. Although you should be thinking and working on dissertations by developing ideas and exploring literature throughout the year it will be mainly written over the summer term and summer vacation period. Throughout this time you will be supported by your dissertation supervisor.

View Dissertation - Childhood Studies on our Module Directory


  • Postgraduate students in the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies typically have 2 hours of contact time for each module per week. This consists of a two-hour seminar or workshop, or a one-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar.
  • Teaching takes place in relatively small seminars and fora, with a focus on group discussion
  • You also have a personal tutor who advises you about your work on an individual basis


  • For most modules, assessment is by coursework only, typically an essay of between 3,000-5,000 words


  • You develop a dissertation of 12,000 words, in which you define and research into an area of special interest to you
  • We provide you with advice and guidance on researching and writing your dissertation
  • Your dissertation is submitted mid-September in your final year of study

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee


International fee


What's next

Open Days

We hold Open Days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

2024 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday 15 June 2024 - June Open Day
  • Saturday 21 September 2024 - September Open Day
  • Saturday 26 October 2024 - October Open Day


You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we'll ask you to provide as part of your application.

We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply' information.

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Visit Colchester Campus

Set within 200 acres of award-winning parkland - Wivenhoe Park and located two miles from the historic city centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded development. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

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Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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