In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Children's Geographies

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Edited Collections
  • Journals
  • Precursors
  • Conceptual Debates
  • Participation, Politics, and Activism
  • Relevance and Policy Usefulness
  • Children’s Independent Mobilities and Travel
  • Migrations
  • Embodiment, Health, and Obesity
  • Memories and Emotions of Childhood
  • Lifecourse, Transitions, and Intergenerational Relations
  • Identity
  • Work
  • Play
  • Ethics and Research Methods
  • Technology and Popular Culture
  • Risk and Crime
  • Rural
  • Urban
  • Education

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section

Childhood Studies Children's Geographies
Peter Kraftl, John Horton, Faith Tucker
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0080


Children’s geographies is a large and vibrant subdiscipline in current human geography, which focuses on children and young people from birth to age twenty-five. The foundations of the subdiscipline are diverse, encompassing early studies of children’s play, identity and environmental cognition, and feminist studies of the family. The subdiscipline developed a distinct identity from the late 1990s onward, and research in this area has increased dramatically. Children’s geographers routinely draw on the central tenets of childhood studies: that childhood is a social construction, and that children are agents whose voices should be heard in research and societal decision making. The uniqueness of children’s geographies, however, lies in the centrality of space and place. Conceptually, this has meant attention to how social constructions of childhood are also spatial constructions. In other words, depending on context, certain spaces (schools, the home) may be constructed as being “for” children, whereas in others (such as the street), children may be deemed “out of place.” Similarly, children’s geographers argue that it is impossible to understand children’s agency without interrogating their experiences of place. Scholarship has tended to focus on the smaller scale and, particularly, the ways in which children negotiate their local neighborhoods. Thus, there are several recurring themes within the subdiscipline: how children often feel excluded from public spaces by adults yet seek to find niches in which to express themselves; how children negotiate rules and physical boundaries set by parents and other adults; how children hold important knowledge about their local spaces, often overlooked by adults; how children’s experiences of and access to particular places may be crosscut by identity categories (especially gender and class); how children may participate (or not) in planning or design programs that affect their lives. Children’s geographers have sometimes been criticized for their lack of theoretical innovation; however, especially since 2005, scholars within the subdiscipline have developed a range of conceptual approaches to children’s emotions, embodiment, intergenerational relations, political agency, and scale. In turn, such early-21st-century work has informed developments in wider disciplines (particularly human geography and interdisciplinary childhood studies), ensuring that children’s geographies has become increasingly visible beyond the subdiscipline. It is also important to note that children’s geographies has always been an interdisciplinary endeavor, drawing scholars from a range of disciplinary, conceptual, and methodological backgrounds (most evident when examining tables of contents for the journal Children’s Geographies, cited under Journals).

General Overviews

A number of authors have written overviews of children’s geographies. For a flavor of how the subdiscipline has changed and proliferated since the turn of the 21st century, compare and contrast McKendrick 2000, an earlier annotated bibliography, with the article you are currently reading. A number of important essays have charted changes within the subdiscipline over this period. For example, Matthews and Limb 1999 outlines how the diverse Precursors had become consolidated into a relatively coherent subdiscipline, while Holloway and Valentine 2000 explores interconnections between the emergent subdiscipline and broader social-scientific work on childhood and youth. More-recent reviews in Jeffrey 2010 and Holloway and Pimlott-Wilson 2011 suggest how the subdiscipline has changed over time, as children’s geographers have embarked on increasingly diverse, challenging, exciting, creative, and interdisciplinary work.

  • Holloway, Sarah L., and Helena Pimlott-Wilson. “Geographies of Children, Youth and Families: Defining Achievements, Debating the Agenda.” In Geographies of Children, Youth and Families: An International Perspective. Edited by Louise Holt, 9–24. London: Routledge, 2011.

    This chapter reviews the defining achievements of the rapidly changing discipline of children’s geographies. Holloway and Pimlott-Wilson critically reflect on three key debates within the subdiscipline: the subdiscipline’s culture of debate; the notions of childhood, youth, age, and adulthood, which are often taken for granted within the subdiscipline; and tensions between “theoretically rich” and “policy relevant” research.

  • Holloway, Sarah L., and Gill Valentine. “Spatiality and the New Social Studies of Childhood.” Sociology 34.4 (2000): 763–783.

    This paper reflects on the relationship between children’s geographies and broader social-scientific research with children and young people. Holloway and Valentine identify three ways in which geographical work should challenge social scientists to extend their work: by developing understandings of links between global and local scales, exploring how young people’s identities are constituted through particular spaces, and understanding how social constructions of childhood shape the meanings of spaces.

  • Jeffrey, Craig. “Geographies of Children and Youth I: Eroding Maps of Life.” Progress in Human Geography 34.4 (2010): 496–505.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132509348533

    The journal Progress in Human Geography contains review essays exploring the “state of the art” in different areas of geographical research. Jeffrey’s paper (the first in a series of three review articles) provides an overview of emergent conceptualizations of, and perspectives on, global childhoods that have invigorated children’s geographies.

  • Matthews, Hugh, and Melanie Limb. “Defining an Agenda for the Geography of Children: Review and Prospect.” Progress in Human Geography 23.1 (1999): 61–90.

    DOI: 10.1191/030913299670961492

    As the title suggests, this paper presents an agenda for research in children’s geographies. Matthews and Limb draw together arguments, propositions, and concepts from diverse sources and precursors to provide guidance for geographers undertaking research with children and young people.

  • McKendrick, John H. “The Geography of Children: An Annotated Bibliography.” Childhood 7.3 (2000): 359–387.

    DOI: 10.1177/0907568200007003007

    A relatively early attempt to provide an annotated bibliography covering children’s geographies. An interesting snapshot of an emerging subdiscipline, this is an excellent source for information about pre-2000 research and early classics within the subdiscipline.

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