Dr Marie Lavelle

Dr Marie Lavelle

Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies

Plymouth Institute of Education (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)

Marie can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Social justice
  • Parenting
  • Sure Start children's centres
  • Early intervention
  • Parental voice
  • Child poverty


Lecturer Early Childhood Studies


My route to Plymouth University has not been a conventional one, along the way I have gathered many wonderful and unforgetable experiences in the world that new parents inhabit as a midwife and working in the Third Sector with a great orgnaisation called Home-Start. 
My Phd study used an ethnographic methodology to explore what influences parental participation in two Sure Start Children's Centres. It explored what these new spaces mean, to those who use them, those who work in them and those who walk by them. It used a Foucauldian perspective to explore the small micro-processes of every day interactions within Centres to explore how government operates at a distance.

My current research interests focus on intergenerational dialogues of parenting, exploring this from the concept of hindsight. 

2012 PGCAP Plymouth University
2007-2011 PhD Plymouth University, Faculty of Education
2005-2007 Masters modules in Social Research Methods and Ethnography, Open University (both awarded with Distinction, study suspended until completion of my PhD)
2005 BSc (Hons) Social Science and Psychology (First class), Open University
1997 PGDip Health Sciences, Leeds Metropolitan University
1989 Registered Midwife
1986 Registered Nurse

Roles on external bodies

2015 External Examiner Herts University

Teaching interests

My teaching commitments reflect my desire to remain connected to my health and social care professional heritage, whilst at the same time expanding my interest in sociology of childhood and the critiquing of the various perspectives and theoretical positions that are offered in the study of children and childhoods.

Teaching 2015-16

EEC403 Children and Society
EEC501 Introduction to Research Methods
EEC/FLECS605 Current Issues
EEC/FLECS615 Politics, Welfare and Society
EEC601 Dissertation Supervisor
EYITT702 Leading Practice

PhD Supervision

Currently supervising PhD student exploring pedagogic documentation.

I welcome enquires from those wishing to undertake post-graduate study in my areas of research interests which include - parenting, motherhood, professionalisation of the early years workforce, motherhood and surveillance, early years social policy, auto-biographical methods or ethnography. 

Staff serving as external examiners

External examiner at University of Hertfordshire

Research interests

'Parenting in hindsight': over the last year I have been exploring the impact of parenting from the perspective of parents. To do this I have been exploring the use of post-humanist theoretcial perspectives.

'A sociological investigation of Sure Start Children's Centres: Understanding parental Participation' (Funded by Devon County Council and HEFCE) Supervisors: Dr Norman Gabriel, Dr Julia Morgan and Professor Bill Jordan. Examined by Profs Peter Moss and Mary Jayne Kehilly.

My PhD study is an ethnographic exploration of what influences parental particpation in Sure Start Children's Centres. The study takes a wide perspectival lens to analyse everyday micro social-interactions and practices in two Children's Centres in order to gain a deeper understanding of the issues that parents and these new institutions face in encourgaing access.

Conference presentations

2007 Devon County Council Research into Practice Conference, 'It's the little things that matter: an ethnographic study of two Children's Centres'.

2008 International Child and Youth Research Network Conference, Nikosia. 'Children's Centres, improving outcomes for children: the challenge of encouraging participation. Challenging dominant discourses - my first journey into 'troubling' waters'.

2008 Oxford Research Methods Festival Poster Presentation

2009 Invited lecture - E-map Conference, Earls Court London, 'Performance The challenge of encouraging participation: A researcher’s perspective'.

2009 University of Leicester, International Postgraduate Conference, 'Making a difference: the (un)intended consequences of doing research in the ‘real’ world'.

2010 University of Plymouth Methods Conference, 'Exploring the use of qualitative outcome measures in Children’s Centres' with Verity Campball-Barr and Karen Wickett.

2010 Methods Conference, University of Plymouth 'Exploring processes: Creating a storm in a tea cup?'

2011 European Sociological Association Conference, Geneva, 'Turbulence in a Tea Cup: Sure Start Children's Centres governing families at a distance' .

2012 International Child and Youth Research Network Conference, Preston. ‘Freedom to ‘be yourself': Understanding participation andnon-participation in Sure Start Children’s Centres’

2014 Plymouth Instituteof Education Workforce Development Conference

2014 ECERAConference, Crete, 'From professional to teacher: thecontinued metamorphosis of the early years worker and From professional to teacher: the continued metamorphosis of theearly years worker'

2015 ECERA Conference, Barcelona, 'Parenting in hindsight'

Research groups

  • Early Childhood Studies

Key publications are highlighted

Lavelle M 2020 'Mothering in Hindsight: Troubling time(s)' Genealogy , DOI PEARL
Lavelle M 2015 'A Storm in a Tea-Cup? "Making a Difference' in Two Sure Start Children's Centres' CHILDREN & SOCIETY 29, (6) 583-592 Author Site , DOI PEARL
Campbell-Barr V, Lavelle M & Wickett K 2011 'Exploring alternative approaches to child outcome assessments in Children's Centres' Early Child Development and Care 7, (182) 859-874 Publisher Site , DOI
Campbell Barr VJG, Lavelle M & Wickett K 2011 'Exploring alternative approaches to child outcome assessments in Children's Centres' Early Child Development and Care 182, (7) 859-874 Publisher Site , DOI
Parker-Rees ROD; Leeson C 2015 Early Childhood Studies. 4th London Sage/Learning Matters Limited 1 Publisher Site
Lavelle M 2018 'The Politics of Children's Services' in Fitzgerald D; Maconochi H Early Childhood Studies: A Students Guide London Sage 179-192