Have you ever wondered how our romantic notions of childhood as a curious, free developmental stage can coexist with our growing requirements for school attendance and success for young children? As a sociologist of education, I am interested in how social institutions intertwine and overlap in modern society; in particular, I am interested in family and schooling. My current research looks at the social constructions of parenting and childhood. Our ideas about childhood have changed significantly since 1950, part of this change includes the increased importance placed on schooling because educational attainment is now the main vehicle to adult opportunities. This has resulted in significant changes to the parenting role and even the earliest developmental stages.
My research includes several US and comparative areas such as the intensification of cognitive demands on young children, the cultural significance of education, and the expansion of child rights world-wide. My latest project is on the expansion of early childhood education. In the US, the proportion of children attending both kindergarten and preschool has steadily risen since the middle of the 20th century and now some states are offering universal preK. But what prompts this expansion of education and is a universal program the most effective and efficient use of our tax dollars? Or are targeted programs to low income children the best way to create equality of educational opportunity?