Is there a missing middle in childhood and youth studies? : upcoming roundtable discussion

Thursday, April 28
4:00 – 5:00pm
Chrystal Macmillan Building Practice Suite, Rm 1.1

There is, perhaps, a tendency in research to be drawn to extremes, to subjects whose lives and experiences are extraordinary in their deprivation or their abundance in a number of ways (health, education, social status, achievement). By definition, however, these works can therefore fail to tell the stories of the majority of children and youth — the experiences of ‘ordinary’ research subjects. In youth studies since the 1980s, for example, there has been a call for researchers to investigate the ‘missing middle’ in educational achievement: those students who ‘neither leave their names engraved on the school honours board, nor gouge them into their desktops’ (Gayle et al 2013, Brown 1987). On the other side of the coin, in (European) childhood studies there has perhaps been a move away from ‘the middle’, with calls for increased humanitarian emphasis on the complex circumstances of children’s lives, particularly in the diverse contexts of the Global South/Majority World (James 2010).

This roundtable discussion will explore the topic of missing middles — in specific childhood and youth subgroups, in particular subject areas in your field, and what may be overlooked in the pressure to tell ‘extraordinary’ stories. What other ‘missing middles’ exist in your research fields (or, does this concept not exist at all)? What makes a research subject ‘ordinary’ or ‘extraordinary’?  How does a ‘missing middle’ affect what we know about life course events for all children and youth? What does the idea of a ‘missing middle’ imply about the purposes of social research?

Come join us to share your views and experiences, and to learn from others inside and outside your discipline. If possible, please RSVP to Sarah Weakley at


Brown, P. (1987). Schooling ordinary kids; inequality, unemployment and the new vocationalism. London: Tavistock.

Gayle, V et al. (2013) ‘Exploring the ‘Middle’: School GCSE Attainment and Ordinary Young People’. ESRC Centre for Population Change Working Paper Number 39

 James, A. (2010) Competition or integration? The next step in childhood studies. Childhood 17(4) pp. 485-499.



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