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Kirsten Elisa Petersen

Associate Professor

Kirsten Elisa Petersen
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Kirsten Elisa Petersen is currently employed as associate professor in learning and development within the area of psychology.  She is head of the Research Programme "Social exclusion and Pedagogy in the welfare state (SEP)" and works with social and special pedagogical perspectives within educational research.

Kirsten Elisa Petersen has a research approach within critical psychology as developed in a German tradition and later developed in a Danish context in association with socio-cultural learning theory. In this context a perspective on educational sociology is stressed out which helps to incorporate structural and social factors for socially vulnerable children and young people and their life chances, such as socially deprived residential areas.

Kirsten Elisa Petersen's research interests are mainly aimed towards children, young people and their parents and with a special focus on socially vulnerable children, adolescents, their parents and their living conditions, development opportunities and difficulties. In addition her research interest revolves around a preoccupation with the different institutional contexts in which the children, adolescents and their parents participate, including the professional personnel's skills, professionalism and work with socially vulnerable groups in society.

Empirically her research is based on a practice research perspective as inspired by critical psychology given that this perspective allows a development of knowledge so to speak from the inside and contextualized rather than from the outside and detached from the different contexts in which children, adolescents and parents live their lives. There is a special focus on developing new knowledge about socially vulnerable children, adolescents and parents' development and learning attached to the places they live their everyday lives. She is also working on developing concepts and phenomena that break with the classic developmental psychology that often illustrates this group of children and adolescents as having learning difficulties, difficulties with impulse control and social problems. The classic developmental psychology is in lack of concepts which are capable of analyzing socially vulnerable children and adolescents' living conditions, their development and learning without making use of diagnoses and pathology. There is also a special focus on a children's perspective which engage in exploring how children and adolescents think, feel and act in their own lives, including experiences of their own possibilities, difficulties, limitations and living conditions.

In summary, research is mainly aimed at the following fields:

  • Socially vulnerable children, adolescents and their parents. Their living conditions, development opportunities and conditions.
  • A special preoccupation with developing preventive measures in relation to socially vulnerable groups in society, in particular with the involvement of professional personnel who in different ways are working with vulnerability of the welfare state.
  • Development of research methods that connect socially vulnerable children, adolescents and their parents to research and knowledge development and not out of context, with the involvement of this group's own perspectives and positions in the research process.
  • A methodological preoccupation with ethical dilemmas, challenges and difficulties related to research with socially vulnerable groups.


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