Children’s citizenship


In an article that I found quite thought-provoking, Allison James considers the concept of children’s citizenship. She looks at how it is enacted in local contexts (using two English children’s hospitals as examples). She discusses how the ‘sociology of childhood’ developed since the 1990s has influenced conceptions of citizenship (particular children’s).

The idea of the child is one that changes from one culture to the next. How ‘the child’ is conceived and understood, though, informs the possibilities open to children in terms of agency. Policy (ostensibly designed to ‘protect’ children) constrains and restricts them; citizenship, as it is lived by children, is limited.

A large part of this restriction stems from the way children are understood/defined in terms of their ‘non’-adulthood – the way they are defined in terms of what they are not (adults).

James asserts that “…exploring the ways that the identity of ‘child’ is practiced is core to understanding the cultural politics of children’s citizenship. It is out of the conceptual differences in indentity, between children and adults (Jenks 1996), that the very problem of children’s status as citizens arises.”” (168)

“Marshall envisaged children only as ‘becomings’, rather than ‘beings’; this view is consistent with the idea that it is children’s lack of social competence that separates thier citizenship status from that of adults.” (169)

“Lister (2007) … shows that in social investment states, such as England, Canada and those in the European Union, children’s citizenship is problematic, since a number of the basic building blocks of citizenship are ambiguous when they are applied to children.” (170)

“In societies where children are largely judged in terms of the future adults they will become, their citizenship status as full participants in society is often heavily circumscribed. This is because… such understandings assume that ‘competency’ is something that is acquired the closer one is to becoming ‘adult’. This means, in effect, that ‘competency’ is necessarily (and only) an adult characteristic, i.e. one that children cannot possess’ (Uprichard, 305)” (171) 

What James writes here is relevant to a number of textx/genres, but I couldn’t help thinking of its relevance to children’s spy fiction (Ally Carter, etc.)

Ref: Allison James (2011) ‘To be(come) or not to be(come): Understanding children’s citizenship’ The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 633, January: 167-179

Referring to:

Jenks, Chris (1996) Childhood. London: Routledge

Lister, Ruth (2007) Why citizenship: where, when and how children? Theoretical Inquiries in Law 8(2): 693-718

Marshall, TH (1950) Citizenship and social change. London: Pluto

Uprichard, Emma (2007) Children as ‘being and becomings’: Children, childhood and temporality. Children and Society 22: 303-13

Other references that looked interesting include:

Archard, David. 1993. Children: Rights and childhood. London: Routledge.

Birch, Joanna, Penny Curtis, and Allison James. 2007. In search of the child-friendly hospital. Built Environment 33 (4): 405–16.

Boyden, Jo. 1997. Childhood and the policy makers: A comparative perspective on the globalization of childhood. In Constructing and reconstructing childhood: Contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood, 2nd ed., eds. Allison James and Alan Prout. London: Falmer.

Cockburn, Tom. 1998. Children and citizenship in Britain. Childhood 5 (1): 99–117.

Hart, Roger. 2009. Charting change in the participatory settings of childhood. In Children, politics and communication, ed. Nigel Thomas. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

James, Allison, Penny Curtis, and Joanna Birch. 2008. Care and control in the construction of children’s citizenship. In Children and citizenship, eds. Jane Williams and Anatola Invernizzi. London: Sage.

James, Allison, and Adrian L. James. 2004. Constructing childhood: Theory, policy and social practice. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

James, Allison, and Alan Prout (eds) (1997) Constructing and reconstructing childhood: Contmemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood. 2nd ed. London: Falmer

James, Allison and Adrian L James (2008) European Childhoods: Cultures, politics and childhoods in Europe. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave

Jans, Marc (2004) Children as citizens: towards a contemporary notion of child participation. Childhood 11(1): 27-44

Kjørholt, Anne Trine. 2002. Small is powerful: Discourses on “children and participation” in Norway. Childhood 9 (1): 63–82.

Lee, Nick. 2001. Childhood and society: Growing up in an age of uncertainty. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Qvortrup, Jens. 1994. Childhood matters: An introduction. In Childhood matters, eds. Jens Qvortrup, Marjatta Bardy, Giovanni Sgritta, and Helmut Wintersberger. Aldershot, UK: Avebury.

Roche, Jeremy. 1999. Children: Rights, participation and citizenship. Childhood 6 (4): 475–93.

Spyrou, Spyros. 2008. Education and the cultural politics of childhood in Cyprus. In European childhoods: Culture, politics and childhoods in Europe, eds. Allison James and Adrian L. James. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave.

Such, Elizabeth, and Robert Walker. 2005. Young citizens or policy objects. Journal of Social Policy 34 (1): 39–57.

Woodhead, Martin. 1997. Psychology and the cultural construction of children’s needs. In Constructingand reconstructing childhood: Contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood, 2nd ed., eds. Allison James and Alan Prout. London: Falmer.

Wyness, Michael. 2006. Childhood and society: An introduction to the sociology of childhood. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s