Governing Childhood

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The chapter provides an overview of ideas of childhood to explore how childhood as a domain is governed in cultural, social and educational discourse. The core assumption is that childhood is a modern invention: the child as potential, as knowable and describable and as essentially different to the adult has made childhood one of the projects of the modern state. Particularly in the twentieth century,childhood has been considered as a domain where future adults can be shaped.Childhood appeared as a cultural resource and provided a specific focus for reform,based on the understanding that childhood is essentially different to adulthood.There seems to be broad consensus that we now live in times of rapid change where traditional assumptions, beliefs and rationalities appear less coherent than in the past. The modern core beliefs in essential ‘truth’ as a possibility, and in progress as a given, are being contested. It is not surprising then that traditional ideas of childhood are currently ‘under reconstruction’. The chapter traces some of the shifts to outline how childhood is governed in discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Handbook of Early Childhood Education
EditorsMarilyn Fleer, Bert van Oers
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789402409277
ISBN (Print)9789402409253
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Childhood
  • Governmentality
  • Malleability
  • Discourse
  • Modernity

Cite this

Duhn, I. (2018). Governing Childhood. In M. Fleer, & B. van Oers (Eds.), International Handbook of Early Childhood Education (Vol. 1, pp. 33-46). Springer.