Deconstructing Developmental Psychology

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Deconstructing Developmental Psychology


Feminism & Psychology

2015, Vol. 25(3) 402–407

! The Author(s) 2015

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DOI: 10.1177/0959353515578016

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psychology F P


Whose development are we talking about? Commentary on Deconstructing Developmental Psychology

Lindsay O’Dell The Open University, Walton Hall Milton Keynes, UK


Erica Burman asks in Deconstructing Developmental Psychology, whose development privi-

leged in developmental psychology and other disciplines, and whose development is

therefore unaccounted for. Reflecting on Burman’s work, particularly on this question,

has informed my research and teaching since I first read the book in 1994. In this short

commentary, I discuss the impact of Burman’s theorising beyond her original focus on the

development of young children and their relationships. I focus on how her work has

informed research into understandings and representations of children and families who

are for some reason considered to be ‘different’. I focus on three themes addressed in the

book: the production of universal development and the ‘normal’ child, selective abstrac-

tion and the (im)possibility of singularised representations of traumatised children.

I consider how Deconstructing Developmental Psychology has relevance to an understanding

of children, young people and families’ lives and (beyond psychology as a discipline) to

examine how dominant ideas of children’s development is implicated within national, and

international policy and other public arenas that regulate lives of children and families.


difference, children’s rights, development, international development, care

Universal development and the production of the ‘normal’ child

A key theme within Deconstructing Developmental Psychology is how developmen- tal descriptions produce particular kinds of subjects, where description provides the

Corresponding author:

Lindsay O’Dell, The Open University, Walton Hall Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK6 7AA, UK.