I grew up in a working class family with 4 brothers and 3 sisters in Indianapolis, Indiana. Despite working from a very young age at my father's fruit and vegetable stand in the old city market in Indianapolis and then holding down many other part time jobs as a child and adolescent, I still had a happy childhood. I was the first in my family to attend college and received my B.A. degree in sociology at Indiana University in 1970. I then went on to the University of North Carolina where I developed a strong interest in studying young children and their peer interactions. I received my Ph.D. in 1974 and then did a year post-doctoral study in a Berkeley, California preschool. It was here that I discovered that young children have their own peer cultures and earned the nickname "Big Bill" from the kids I studied.
I later carried out research in Head Start centers, preschools and elementary schools in Indianapolis and Bloomington, Indiana, Bologna and Modena, Italy and in Trondheim, Norway. I joined the faculty at Indiana University, Bloomington in 1975 until my retirement in 2013. I now live in Mesa, Arizona. I was the Robert H. Shaffer Class of 1967 Endowed Chair and am presently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology. I taught courses on the sociology of childhood, children in contemporary society from a comparative perspective, and ethnographic research methods. My current research focuses on children's early life transitions and children in civil society. The fourth edition of my The Sociology of Childhood was published in 2014 by Sage Publishers. I cherish the many friendships I have developed with children, their parents, and teachers over the years and I strongly believe that the future of childhood is the present.