Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Professor Pia Christensen

Professor of Anthropology and Childhood Studies

Professor Pia Christensen joined the School of Education at the University of Leeds in January 2013.

Previously, she was a Professor and Director of Research in the Institute of Education at the University of Warwick (2005-2012).

Her prior appointments include Professor in the Research Unit for General Practice at the University of Copenhagen, Senior Researcher at the National Institute of Public Health in Denmark, Research Fellow in The Institute of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen, and Lecturer at The University of Hull.

Research Interests

My research focuses on children and young people’s agency in everyday life through the lens of ethnography.

I have worked with children aged 3-18 years old in families, day-care settings, schools and local communities in England and Denmark.

My main research has investigated different aspects of children and young people’s everyday experiences including health, well-being and self-care; time and transitions; the meaning of food; risk engagement and management.

My most recent research concerns children and young people’s mobility, citizenship and participation in new sustainable communities in the UK (see the ESRC ‘New Urbanisms, New Citizens’ research).

This body of work included the design of an innovative mixed-methods methodology combining ethnography with GPS tracking and mobile phone technologies for research into children's mobility. This methodological design was piloted in a large ethnographic study of children’s physical activity and mobility in four areas of rural and urban Denmark.

My theoretical interests focus on children's agency, perception, sensuous experiences and the body, space and place. I have published extensively on the above topics and also written about methodological and ethical questions in research with children, including ‘Research with Children: Perspectives and Practices’ (second edition 2008). My publications about children and urban environments include ‘Children in the City: home, neighbourhood and community’ (2003).

Current Research Project

New Urbanisms, New Citizens: Children and Young People's Everyday Life and Participation in Sustainable Communities (NUNC) project. This is a major, ESRC-funded research project (RES-062-23-1549). The four-year project 2009-2013 investigates the experiences of children and young people aged 9-16 living in four new sustainable communities built since 2000 in the UK. The project involves the collaboration of academics at three institutions: Professor Pia Christensen (Principal Investigator); Dr Peter Kraftl (Co-Investigator, Department of Geography, University of Leicester; Dr John Horton (Co-Investigator) and Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill (Post-Doctoral Researcher), both from the Centre for Children and Youth at The University of Northampton. Recent news from the project.


Previous Research Projects

Children, Mobility and Urban Space: the influence of the environment on children’s physical activity, Danish Research Councils (PI).

Child Accidents: Risk factors, risk perception and risk management’, Danish Research Councils (CO-I).

Drinking Habits among Young Danes, Danish Research Councils (CO-I)

Children’s participation in family decision-making processes in relation to food choice and healthy eating habits, Innovation Foundation, Danish Research Councils (CO-I)

Children’s Diet: the negotiation and formation of food choice’, an ethnographic exploratory study into the cultural formation and negotiation of 3-16 year olds food choices, FELFO, Danish Research Councils. (PI)

Changing Times: children's understanding and perception of the social organisation of time’, University of Hull. ESRC ‘Children 5-16 Research Programme’. (CO-I)

Børns tid og sociale organisation.  Forskningsstyrelsen’s ‘Børn og Velfærd’ Program. (Children’s Time and Social Organization, The Danish Research Councils ‘Children and Welfare’ Programme). (PI)

Key Publications


  • Christensen PH, Research with Children: Perspectives and Practices, ed. by Christensen P and James A (RoutledgeFalmer, 2008)

  • Children in the City: home, neighbourhood and community, ed. by Christensen P and O'Brien M (London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2003)

Journal Articles

  • Christensen P, Mikkelsen MR, ‘There is Nothing Here for Us..!' How Girls Create Meaningful Places of Their Own Through Movement’, Children and Society, 27.3 (2013), 197-207
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1099-0860.2011.00413.x, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/106139/

  • Christensen P, Mikkelsen MR, Nielsen TAS, Harder H, ‘Children, mobility, and space: Using gps and mobile phone technologies in ethnographic research’, Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 5.3 (2011), 227-246
    DOI: 10.1177/1558689811406121

  • Mikkelsen MR, Christensen P, ‘Is children's independent mobility really independent? A study of children's mobility combining ethnography and GPS/mobile phone technologies’, Mobilities, 4.1 (2009), 37-58
    DOI: 10.1080/17450100802657954

  • Christensen P, Mikkelsen MR, ‘Jumping off and being careful: children's strategies of risk management in everyday life’, Sociol Health Illn, 30.1 (2008), 112-130
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2007.01046.x

  • Christensen PH, ‘Children's Participation in Ethnographic Research: issues of power and representation’, Children and Society: the international journal of childhood and children's services, 18 (2004), 165-176

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