The Literatures

There are three main sources one uses these days for getting to know the academic literature: Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar. Web of Science indexes over 2,000,000 items since 1899 containing “child” in one of the topic fields and over 1,100,000 of those items have been published since 2010. There were over 125,000 items in 2020 alone, well over 300 per day. Scopus indexes over 3,300,000 items since 1863, over 1,300,000 since 2010, and pushing 150,000 in 2020. Google Scholar claims to index over 3,800,000 items, though one can only ever get at the first 1000. It claims over 1,900,000 items since 2010 and ‘about 104,000’ in 2020. But if the exact scale isn’t clear, the point is: there’s an awful lot of academic literature available about children and childhood and roughly half of it dates from just the last decade. There’s no way it could be reviewed without computational help, with all the limitations that imposes. But this page aims to offer some orientation to the available literatures and will eventually include reviews of parts of them.

Childhood Studies

Based in sociology, geography, anthropology, history, literary studies, and philosophy (in roughly that order), with Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research as their flagship, this literature is at the core of discussions of ‘constructions of childhood’.

Sources in Childhood Studies

Journals, book series, texts, methods books, associations

A review of Childhood Studies

To do

Early Childhood Education

There are at least two quite distinct literatures of interest in Early Childhood Education (ECE): the self-described ‘reconceptualist’ literature and what they describe as ‘mainstream’ or ‘developmentalist’ ECE.

Sources in Reconceptualist ECE

Sources in ‘Mainstream’ ECE

Journals, book series, texts, methods books, associations

Sociology of the Family

One of the two traditional homes of studies of children in Sociology. Distinct from the sociology of childhood, which now goes by Childhood Studies. Mostly still hung up on the fact that fewer people are getting married and having children.

A review of (one part of) Sociology of the Family

What is child well-being? – A decade of the Journal of Marriage and Family in review

Child Indicators

At the intersection of sociology, social work, education, public health, economics, anthropology, geography, policy analysis, and psychology, this discussion is all about measurements and methods. An outgrowth of the Social Indicators movement and quality-of-life research, all now closely tied with Happiness Studies. The flagship journal is Child Indicators Research.

A review of Child Indicators

To do

Political Socialization

The main literature for the discussion of ‘children and politics’ in political science, sociology, education, communications, and linguistics.

A review of Political Socialization

To do

Sociology of Education

The other traditional home of studies of children in Sociology. All about school, school achievement, and ‘educational attainment’.


The largest literature about children, by far, though that’s largely because medical articles are much shorter and many, many, many more of them are published (and therefore cited) than anything else. Probably more influential than many of us appreciate, in terms of our ‘images of children’. Though harder to parse for such purposes.

Developmental Psychology

While family psychology and educational (or school) psychology are treated as distinct literatures, the dominant literature in psychology is developmental psych. It’s second only to pediatrics in sheer size and its influence is dominant across education, social work, public health, policy analysis, and much of sociology.

Social Work

The discourse of child protection. Maltreatment, neglect, abuse. A large part of what gets discussed as Family Studies.


You will have noticed all those schools, right? Where pretty much the entire population of countries like Canada spend their days from not later than age 6 (and often age 4) through age 18 (sometimes later)? Leads to a lot of literature.

And more …

Should probably touch on anthropology separately. And socialization. Perhaps history of childhood too. At that point, it boils down to breaking down ‘Childhood Studies’ into its parts. Then there’s parent beliefs, teacher beliefs, and social values. Economics of education and human capital. Demography distinct from sociology of the family? Family law. Children’s literature. Architecture? Film? Fashion and industrial design (equipment, toys and games)? Other things?