Dr Norman Gabriel

Senior Lecturer
Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Dr Norman Gabriel



I joined the Department in 2019 as Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies. Growing up in Glasgow my late father, Henry Gabriel, a playwright, novelist and essayist inspired me to read some of the great psychoanalysts (Freud, Reich, Fromm) and some of the lesser well-known ones who were keen to apply psychoanalytic theories to understand society, such as Theodor Reik (1888-1969) and George Frankl (1921-2004). He was psychoanalyzed by Karl Abenheim who studied under both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. R. D. Laing was also a student of Abenheim. My research interests are in relational sociology, relational psychoanalysis and the sociology of childhood. I have developed and applied the sociological work of Norbert Elias to the multi-disciplinary field of early childhood studies, focusing on the development of children’s social and emotional well-being in society, writing a distinctive book in this area, The Sociology of Early Childhood Studies – Critical Perspectives, published by Sage in 2017. In the Society of Individuals (2010) and On The Civilising Process (2012) Elias carried out one of the earliest interdisciplinary studies of the 20th century, trying to overcome the old paradigm which studied the ‘individual’ (psychology) and the ‘social’ (sociology) separately, divorced from the generational and historically specific conditions in which they evolved. He used innovative concepts that can help to explain the development of socio-psychological processes in society, emphasising the strong, affective ties that link people with one another across generations in different societies.


University of Essex

  • Director of Centre for Childhood Studies, Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex (15/6/2022 - present)

  • Programme Director, BA Childhood Studies, University of Essex (1/9/2022 - present)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Trouble and Taboo - Comparative Research on Childhood

How can we gain insight into the differences and similarities in childhood? Humour is one key area for research because it allows us to explore how children challenge and resist adult power by using jokes, scatological and other forms of humour as part of an overall comic ridicule and profanation of adult authority.

Key words: Relational Sociology
Open to supervise

Crossing the narrow bridge: the socio-emotional development of young children.

In the early twenty first century, the parent–child relationship has lost some of its hierarchical character: although young children have greater autonomy in their relationships with adults, both adults and young children are now expected to exercise a higher degree of self-restraint. An important long-term, unintended consequence of this process is that young children and parents live within families in highly interdependent relationships, where there are increasing pressures to control and regulate one’s emotions and behaviour.

Key words: Developmental Psychology, Socio-emotional processes
Open to supervise

Group Processes in Children's Relationships

How can we use the relational perspectives of Norbert Elias and Pierre Bourdieu to understand children and childhood? Their concept of social habitus is an important theoretical tool for understanding group processes in children's relationships. It focuses on the internalisation of wider structures and processes established through the daily routines and practices of different institutional settings.

Key words: Habitus
Open to supervise

Conferences and presentations

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Mechanisms of Defence

The Fantasy-Reality Continuum: Science, Religion, Politics, Culture, Warsaw, Poland, 9/12/2022

Processes of learning, unlearning and re-learning

Global Interdependencies, What’s new in the human society of individuals? The political and academic relevance of Norbert Elias’s work today, Brussels, Belgium, 12/2018

You are Young and Life is Long: Understanding Young Children’s Experience of Time

XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Toronto, Canada, 7/2018

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Perspectives in Child Development (PA141)

  • Childhood Wellbeing: Play, Socialisation and Resilience (PA331)

  • Critical Debates in Childhood and Childhood Studies (PA943)

  • Dissertation � Childhood Studies (PA945)

  • Relational Childhoods (PA948)

  • Dissertation (PA900)


Journal articles (10)

Gabriel, N., (2021). Beyond ‘developmentalism’: A relational and embodied approach to young children's development. Children and Society. 35 (1), 48-61

Gabriel, N., (2019). The social habitus of Early Years Education: Processes of learning and unlearning | O habitus social da Educação Infantil: processos de aprendizagem e de não aprendizagem. Revista de Educação PUC-Campinas. 24 (3), 385-385

Gabriel, N., (2017). Growing Up in Society - A Historical Social Psychology of Childhood. Historical Social Research. 42 (4), 207-226

Gabriel, N., (2016). Learning to mock – Challenging the teaching establishment. Research in Comparative and International Education. 11 (4), 369-379

Gabriel, N. and Kaspersen, LB., (2014). ‘Human beings in the round’. History of the Human Sciences. 27 (3), 3-19

Gabriel, N., (2014). Growing up beside you: A relational sociology of early childhood. History of the Human Sciences. 27 (3), 116-135

Gabriel, N. and Mennell, S., (2011). Handing over the Torch: Intergenerational Processes in Figurational Sociology. The Sociological Review. 59 (1_suppl), 5-23

Gabriel, N., (2011). Norbert Elias and Developmental Psychology. The Sociological Review. 59 (1_suppl), 202-219

Kaspersen, LB. and Gabriel, N., (2008). The Importance of Survival Units for Norbert Elias's Figurational Perspective. The Sociological Review. 56 (3), 370-387

Gabriel, N., (2004). Space exploration: Developing spaces for children. Geography. 89 (2), 180-182

Books (2)

Gabriel, N., (2017). The Sociology of Early Childhood Critical Perspectives. SAGE. 1473934222. 9781473934221

Gabriel, N. and Mennell, S., (2011). Norbert Elias and Figurational Research Processual Thinking in Sociology

Book chapters (4)

Gabriel, N. and Kaspersen, LB., (2023). Warfare, Survival Units, National Habitus and Nationalism: Norbert Elias’s Contribution to Political Sociology. In: The Anthem Companion to Norbert Elias. Editors: Law, A. and Mennell, S., . Anthem Press. 149- 165. 1839986662. 9781839986666

Gabriel, N., (2020). A sociology of early childhood education: Learning to be civilized. In: Scientific Influences on Early Childhood Education: From Diverse Perspectives to Common Practices. 106- 118

Gabriel, N., (2019). Figurational Sociology. In: The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Editors: Ritzer, G. and Rojek, C., . John Wiley & Sons. 1- 2. 9781405124331

Kaspersen, LB. and Gabriel, N., (2013). Survival units as the point of departure for a relational sociology. In: Applying Relational Sociology: Relations, Networks, and Society. 51- 81

+44 (0) 1206 874944


5A.210, Colchester Campus

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