Deconstructing Developmental Psychology 20 years on: reflections, implications and empirical work

Jane Callaghan, Agnes Andenæs, Catriona Macleod

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


Erica Burman’s book Deconstructing Developmental Psychology (DDP), which appeared in first edition in 1994 and in second edition in 2008, critically appraises mainstream approaches to child development, using feminist and post-structuralist theory. In the book, Burman (1994, 2008a) examines the historical contingencies and cultural assumptions that form the conditions of possibility for the establishment of various developmental psychology approaches. She shows how these approaches constitute powerful discursive resources in regulating women and families, in marginalising working class and ethnic minority people, normalising western, middle class family forms, and in pathologising mothers. Burman asks us in DDP to consider several themes in developmental psychology, including: (1) the tools of measurement, the ‘methods’, we use to produce research objects and subjects; (2) the way that the tools of developmental psychology produce subjects and objects (the kind of ‘child’ and ‘mother’ and ‘human’ that is constituted in this research); and (3) why developmental psychology has become so preoccupied with the facilitating mother as the focus of much developmental inquiry. What does this preoccupation with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mothering (or sometimes ‘parenting’) do? What kind of family and what kind of reading of individuals and of human development does it produce? These questions are taken up in a range of ways in the papers featured in this special issue.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFeminism & Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2015


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