Yan Zhu

Personal statement

Yan is a Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at Bath Spa University. She teaches on modules around children’s voices, research methods, and internationalisation of childhood studies.

Before joining Bath Spa University in 2021, Yan was a Teaching Fellow in Childhood Studies and Programme Leader for MA Childhood Studies at University of Leeds after she gained a PhD in Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh in 2019. Yan’s doctoral research explored the complexity and diversity of Chinese children’s understandings and practices of peer friendships in the context of a rural primary boarding school (funded by the University of Edinburgh and Chinese Scholarship Council). Yan completed her MA Sociology at the University of Warwick in 2013 and MSc Childhood Studies at the University of Edinburgh in 2015. Yan’s undergraduate was BA in Sociology from Wuhan University in China.

Yan’s research focuses on the below areas:

  1. Children’s everyday lives and personal relationships;
  2. Intimacy and display in relationships;
  3. Children’s school experiences, with a focus on gender, sexuality, and power relations;
  4. Children’s rights, especially rights to protection and participation;
  5. Methods of doing researches with children and young people;
  6. Ethics in practices in China-based fieldwork;
  7. Childhood experiences in China.

Yan is a member of the following academic associations and research centres/networks: British Sociological Association (BSA); Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR, University of Edinburgh); Childhood and Youth Studies Network (University of Edinburgh); Inclusion, Childhood and Youth Research Centre (University of Leeds).

Academic qualifications

  • PhD in Social Policy, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, 2019
  • MSc in Childhood Studies (with Distinction), University of Edinburgh, 2015
  • MA in Sociology, University of Warwick, 2013
  • BA in Sociology, Wuhan University, 2012

Professional memberships

  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PR186099)
  • Inclusion, Childhood and Youth Research Centre, University of Leeds
  • Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR), University of Edinburgh
  • Childhood and Youth Studies Network, University of Edinburgh
  • British Sociological Association (BSA)

Teaching specialism

Children’s Personal Lives, Relationships, Family Support, Welfare, Children's Rights, and Research Methods/Ethics.

Research supervision

Yan is interested in supervising on such issues as: children's personal lives, children's rights, children's participation in decision-making, and play.


  • Zhu, Y. (2020), "Who are ‘Good’ Friends? Chinese Parents’ Influences on Children’s Friend Selection", Frankel, S. and McNamee, S. (Ed.) Bringing Children Back into the Family: Relationality, Connectedness and Home (Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, Vol. 27), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 113- 129. Read online.
  • Zhu, Y. (2020) Displaying intimate friendships: Chinese children’s practices of friendships at school, Families, Relationships and Societies, vol 00, no 00, 1–14, DOI:10.1332/204674320X16047229586741.
  • Cuevas-Parra, P., Stephano, M. & Zhu, Y. (2016), "Unpacking Gender Equality Approach to Children and Young People’s Participation." World Vision working paper. Available online.

Presented conference papers and research seminars

  • Zhu, Y. (2019) The children who are keeping quiet in your research: keep doing reflections in ethnographic fieldwork. Invited seminar at 7th Childhood Studies Jamboree, University of Edinburgh, UK (06/03/2019).
  • Zhu, Y. (2018) A social-oriented instrumental friendship between children in a rural boarding school in China. Paper presented at the BSA Annual Conference 2018: Identity, Community and Social Solidarity, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK (10-12/04/2018)
  • Zhu, Y. (2017) Children’s understandings and experiences of friendships with peers in China’s rural boarding school, Invited seminar at 6th Childhood Studies Jamboree, University of Edinburgh, UK (01/03/2017)
  • Zhu, Y. (2017) Friendship with peers as a source of help for children of migrant parents: the case of a rural boarding school in China. Invited seminar at Childhood and Youth Studies Network, University of Edinburgh, UK (24/01/2017)
  • Zhu, Y. (2016) Children’s rights: Gap between the rights under the U.N. Convention on the rights of the child and local practices in rural China. Paper presented at the 4th Children's Rights Research Symposium, Leiden University, Netherlands (08-09/12/2016)

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