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Children and, even more so infants, present a variety of challenges for a critical understanding of psychology. These challenges are not just methodological, empirical or theoretical. The concept 'childhood' is a vehicle for larger intellectual and social struggles, fundamental to the regulation of today's societies. What childhood and infancy 'are' for psychologists cannot simply have been constructed sui generis, by the impartial scientific work psychologists do when researching babies. Freud's baby -- that crucible of conflicting desires -- is primarily the product of the need to ground Freud's theory of instincts. Likewise, Piaget's very different baby -- the logician in the cradle -- seems to owe its character to its author's intellectual preoccupation with 'genetic epistemology.' It is this preoccupation that shaped Piaget's research, not vice versa (Bradley, 1989). In a similar way, infancy and childhood are conceived by psychologists as the bottom rungs of a ladder of development to adult 'normality.' Therefore, questions asked about the very young are questions about the nature of developmental foundations and their consequences for 'normality' in later life. It is the formulation of these questions that have proved so significant in the regulation of policy and practice around the rights, early care, 'good' parenting, education and mental health of the young -- with diverse consequences for us all.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Critical Psychology
EditorsThomas Teo
Place of PublicationNew York
ISBN (Print)9781461455820
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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