Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 19


JEREMY ROCHE School of Health and Social Welfare, The Open University Key words: children, citizenship, participation, rights Mailing address: Jeremy Roche School of Health and Social Welfare, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK [email: j.b.roche@open.ac.uk]
Childhood [0907-5682(199911)6:4] Copyright 1999 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi) Vol. 6(4): 475493; 010225

This article considers the possibility of rethinking citizenship so as to include children. Much current discussion of children and society is marked by a series of interlocking discourses which serve to problematize and marginalize children. This dominant negative agenda thrives untouched by recognition of the many complex and demanding responsibilities accepted by children or of the many degrading social forces that bear down equally on children and adults such as poverty and racism. To think anew about citizenship and children can prompt us to consider the similarity of concerns confronting child and adult, and to recognize the interdependence of our lives and how such interdependency is best fostered. What might such a rethinking of citizenship entail? The article argues that, in addition to reconsidering what we think it is to be a child (for instance ideas about incompetence and irrationality associated with childhood), we need to rethink the value of the language of rights and the social significance of this language. Rights are not just about statecitizen relations but about how civil society should imagine itself; in this context the imagery of social conversation and participation is central to the rethinking of citizenship. The language of citizenship, rights and participation is fragmentary and yet the contestation around these ideas is intensifying and opening up new possibilities of social organization and dialogue. By way of conclusion, the requirements of such a vision of citizenship are considered what will be needed to make it a social possibility.



Introduction In this article I explore the value and potential purchase of the language of citizenship in considering the position of children in society today. This language can be used to critically analyse the ways in which children are treated and positioned in contemporary society; and by the same token it can be used to imagine a different condition of childhood. At present children are not citizens in a constitutional sense because, for example, they do not have the right to vote and they can be, and are, discriminated against. However, the issue is what citizenship could mean for children and society. Once we move away from an exclusive concern with stateindividual or statecivil society relations and consider a more horizontal dimension of citizenship, which looks at relations within civil society and how children are positioned, then new relations are revealed and new questions of power, requiring justification, emerge. I consider the problematizing discourses surrounding children today (Griffin, 1993) and how, despite being social actors (Alanen, 1994), including the taking on of considerable responsibility in a range of contexts, children are often rendered silent and invisible by the attitudes and practices of adult society I use the example of young carers to illustrate this (Liddiard et al., 1997). I then go on to explore the developing citizenship debate, including the contribution of feminist and anti-racism scholars who have challenged and unmasked traditional notions of citizenship. Next I consider the growing importance of the idea of participation within debates on childrens rights and citizenship and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which can be seen as seeking to promote an inclusive politics for children. I conclude by considering the requirements of a child-friendly citizenship. I see the exclusion of children as operating to the detriment of all; a redrawn image of citizenship might serve to promote all our interests through its recognition of mutual needs and concerns.

Out of sight and out of mind

Jus cause weve not got a vote or anythin were not goin to come in for any of it. What about shorter hours an more money an all the rest of it for us? I bet we could do with a bit of freedom from want an fear, same as anyone else. . . . This Beveridge mans grown-up . . . so he only cares about grown-ups. Weve gotter do somethin for ourselves if we want anythin done at all. (William in The Outlaws Report, Crompton, 1997)

Williams assessment of this Beveridge man could be seen as irrelevant and misplaced. After all, the thing about being a child is that by definition there is little that the child can do for him- or herself. This is an observation on how children are seen, as well as a critical comment about the way society operates. Children are not seen as fully rational beings and as lacking in 476


wisdom (because they have not had sufficient experience of life). In a critical sense they cannot know their own best interests (as if for adults this is unproblematic). Thus they need looking after, they need protecting (even from themselves) and they need to have their needs met rather than their rights upheld. The not-yet-fully-formedness of the child is not the only obstacle in the way of a respectful recognition of children as social actors. Ennew observes that modern childhood constructs children out of society, mutes their voices, denies their personhood, limits their potential (Ennew, 1994: 125) the sociability of the street has given way to the privacy of the family, the filling up of childrens time and the scheduling of their lives (Ennew, 1994: 143). Often this is out of a concern to protect a commitment to the welfare of children in a world that is perceived as being increasingly hostile and dangerous. When children are visible it is more often than not as a source of trouble or as in trouble. The overwhelming imagery surrounding children and young people is negative; they either need to be better protected (better policed from the evils of the adult world) or better controlled (because of the failure of certain families to police properly their children). Running alongside this policing of children the dominant research tradition on children (rather than with them) constructs them as problematic. With reference to older children (or youth) Griffin refers to three main problematizing discourses: of dysfunction, of deficit and of deviance (Griffin, 1993). In short, youth is perceived as a time of trouble and this perception shapes adult research agendas. Youth comes to occupy an intermediate phase between childhood and adulthood; a critical (stormy and stressful) transition (Griffin, 1997). These discourses set youth apart from children and adults and serve to consolidate in the adult imagination the distinctiveness of adulthood.1 Increasingly a new kind of work with and writing on children is being done. There is much literature which explores how children and young people see the world (Stainton Rogers et al., 1997), their values and priorities and the ways in which they feel themselves marginalized: the child has become a research subject.2 A useful illustration comes from research into young carers.3 Liddiard, Tatum and Tucker in their research comment as follows on the role of the social services:
Usually, young carers are not considered by social workers or case managers in any assessment process, asked for their opinions, or included in discussions about the provision of care. Generally young carers believe that they should receive recognition for their work and efforts, and their parents feel that their childrens needs are largely ignored by social welfare personnel. (Liddiard et al., 1997: 17)

Why is it that where children take on very serious responsibility they are rendered invisible and mute by adults. It has been estimated that there are 50,000 young carers in the UK today.4 The work they do at home is 477


emotionally and physically demanding and often results in social isolation with the young carer unable to participate in extracurricula activities at school (if not actually truanting) or to engage in leisure activities with his or her peers. As Aldridge and Becker argue, the discussion of young carers poses fundamental challenges to conventional wisdom and understanding of the nature of caring, childhood, dependency, citizenship and childrens rights (Aldridge and Becker, 1995: 120). They later observe:
In particular, child carers may experience some of the harshest, yet most invisible forms of poverty and exclusion . . . they are denied the rights of social citizenship that pertain to adulthood . . . and yet they take (adult) responsibility, and (adult) accountability, for the primary care of others, often with no help or support from professionals paid to care. (Aldridge and Becker, 1995: 124)

It is ironic that those children who act in that highly responsible way (the way in which it is most often regretted they do not act) in relation to their family are made to disappear by adult practice. Why should this be? A number of perhaps interconnecting explanations spring to mind. First, many adult professionals are just not able (or used?) to dealing with children as partners. Practices of speaking with children, listening to them and involving them in the process of coming to a decision is unknown to too many professionals.5 Second, the ideology of family privacy results in family members being seen to volunteer to do a range of tasks such that it is not really a public matter so long as the family is able to function reasonably; what the young carers are doing does not really have to be taken seriously, they are just helping out (Tatum and Tucker, 1998). Third, it is a consequence of what Dalrymple and Burke refer to as adultism the oppression of children and young people by adults which they see as having the same power dimension in the lives of young people as racism and sexism (Dalrymple and Burke, 1995: 1412; Barford and Wattam, 1991). The parallel is helpful insofar as it alerts us to the question of power. One constant theme in much writing around childrens rights is the deep sense of powerlessness and exclusion felt by children and young people (Lansdown, 1995). Dalrymple and Burke (1995) argue that, in order for progress to be made, adults, and they are talking primarily of adult professionals, will have to be prepared to give up power.6 In order to make these points I have not acknowledged fully the ways in which children do resist and challenge adult practices, though not necessarily in obvious or constructive ways. However, the choices available to children, as a relatively powerless group in society, differ from those available to the relatively powerful. Jackson, writing on power and domination, has observed:
It should be immediately apparent that the exercise of exclusionary social closure can command the full resources of the state, the courts, and other institutions of law and order, while usurpationary strategies are much more likely to be considered illegitimate, if not downright illegal. This is one reason why



resistance often takes a symbolic rather than a directly instrumental form. (Jackson, 1989: 54)

Children often have little choice but to engage in such symbolic politics of protest when faced with an unlistening and prejudging adult world. Children have to start from where they are socially positioned. This means that they have to make their own space in spaces not of their making. We need to reinterpret the way in which adolescents use local places as social actors in their own right . . . to understand their actions as contingent upon their social and environmental circumstances (Percy-Smith, 1998). As Gittins (1998: 202) argues narratives of children abound but real children are disturbingly absent. Because of adult practice the child appears for public consumption only as victim and a source of trouble. We need to escape this obstructed vision. The combined effect of the problematizing discourses surrounding children, especially young people, adultism and the relative powerlessness of children is to marginalize their views and perspectives. And yet Zelizer (1985) argues that the 20th century has witnessed the transformation of the child with an economic value to the priceless child.7 This pricelessness of the 20th century child developed hand in hand with the expulsion of the child from the public sphere including the world of paid work. Now children properly belong in the private worlds of play, domesticity and school. Does this mean that any reimagination of citizenship, which does not engage with the economic exclusion of children, is doomed. I would argue not. If we consider the different meanings invested in the notion of citizenship and the debates surrounding the concept from the mid-1980s onwards we can see the possibility of a politics inclusive of children despite their socioeconomic marginalization. Rethinking citizenship The traditional model of citizenship was firmly linked with the question of property: in the West it was white men of property who had the vote. Women, slaves and children were excluded. I am not equating these exclusions; the terms of exclusion were different and often multiple. The story of citizenship over the past 150 years has been one of struggles for inclusion and that these struggles are unfinished is evidenced by the enduring brutalities of racism and sexism (see Donald and Rattansi, 1992; Evans, 1994; Sachs and Wilson, 1978). Much of these struggles were precisely about making a public issue of what had been seen as a private matter: about redefining the public and the private.8 The demand that children be included in citizenship is simply a request that children be seen as members of society too, with a legitimate and valuable voice and perspective. Marshall (1950) analysed citizenship as constituted by three elements: civil, political and social. The civil element is concerned with such matters 479


as the rule of law and personal liberties including freedom of speech. The political element relates to rights associated with participation in the formal political process, e.g. the right to vote. The social dimension of citizenship embraces not only basic issues of economic welfare but the right to share to the full in the social heritage and to live the life of a civilised being according to the standards prevailing in the society. Marshall defined citizenship as a status bestowed on those who are full members of a community. All who possess the status are equal with respect to the rights and duties with which the status is endowed (Marshall, 1950: 14). Citizenship, thus conceived, carried within it the implication of formal equality. It is clear from Marshalls writing that his vision of citizenship is linked with concerns around rights. The social element of citizenship (or social rights) is necessary to the exercise of civil and political rights by those who are socially marginal and disadvantaged in terms of power and resources (Lister, 1997: 16). Marshall recognized that without such rights people would not be in a position to be effective social agents.9 However, Marshalls inclusive notion of citizenship, an ideological argument for the postwar welfare state, excluded children. Marshall saw in the childs right to education evidence of the childs social citizenship yet he also observed that:
Fundamentally it should be regarded not as the right of the child to go to school but of the adult to have been educated. (cited in Yeatman, 1994: 73)

Children seem to be rhetorically central to much of the developments in the health and education systems, and issues such as bullying at school, which directly concern children, are now taken more seriously and in some instances dealt with in a way which connects with their concerns and perspectives. However, there is much evidence to suggest that the social citizenship of many children has been eroded over the past 20 years by a dramatic increase in poverty (NCH Action for Children, 1997). This said, in relation to civil citizenship, today children have some direct access to the legal system, they enjoy new avenues of complaint in a range of settings and new rights to information and services (see Timms, 1995). However, it could be argued that such a development is to be expected within a New Right politics. The New Right thinking of the 1980s and early 1990s downplayed social citizenship and emphasized a highly individualistic form of civil citizenship. And as Cooper points out, the Citizens Charter of the last British Conservative government had little room even for the active citizen (Cooper, 1993). It is not surprising, given the history of women and children and the linkages that connect them, that feminists have entered the debate around childrens rights (Firestone, 1970).10 I do not review this literature here and what follows should not be read as indicating that a consensus exists within modern feminisms on this question. Much recent writing, while conscious of the contribution made by Marshall to a 20th-century understanding of 480


citizenship have attacked the traditional image of citizenship. Feminist and anti-racism scholars (Lister, 1997; Yeatman, 1994; Williams 1991, 1995) have transformed our understandings of rights and citizenship since Marshalls seminal contribution almost 50 years ago. They have unmasked the standard citizen as male, white and provider. But this unmasking has not just been a matter of exposing a constitutional or legal bias; it has entailed an exploration of a range of social discourses, practices and attitudes that inhibited and obstructed the participation of women in the public life of their communities. While women have struggled for, and won, inclusions over the past 150 years, children have experienced multiple exclusions from the public world invariably in the name of their welfare and this shift had huge consequences for women with particular constructions of the public/private and the confinement of women in the private sphere. Feminist scholarship has analysed and explored the fictional unity of family life which served as a cover for male supremacy (ODonovan, 1993) and the ideological and material consequences of the public/private divide. The struggle for citizenship on the part of women has entailed a struggle to redefine the boundary between the public and the private and the rights that women enjoy in both spheres. Historically, the social position and treatment of women has been linked with their role as mothers and the child question has been part of feminists concern with the family.11 However, Alanen, having described the ways in which first and second wave feminisms addressed the issue of children,12 suggests ways forward for feminist research into childhood as part of a recognition of the distinctiveness of the child question: it cannot be merely subsumed under the woman question. She argues (Alanen, 1994: 37):
. . . parallel to a gender agenda we can also imagine a generational agenda being at work a particular social order that organizes childrens relations to the world in a systematic way, allocates them positions from which to act and a view and knowledge about themselves and their social relations.

But are women and children caught in identical histories? Women were once seen as irrational and too emotional. There was a sociobiological warrant for the presumption of their inferiority: they were fitted for the home:13 today such attitudes seem absurd. In relation to children, in part because of the undifferentiated nature of childhood, the same ideas have currency. Coles (1997) has consistently argued that the reasoning and moral capacities of many 9-year-olds are as sophisticated as those of many adults. Alderson challenges head on the presumption of childhood incompetence, arguing:
Treating children with respect can markedly increase their competence. . . . Anne Solberg has done research with hundreds of 12-year-olds. She found that when parents expected them to be responsible, the children responded in such adult ways that they were given more and more responsibility, and coped with it well. (Alderson, 1992: 175)



If older children are no longer to be distinguished from adults on the basis of a presumed intellectual and cognitive inferiority, on what basis can we routinely exclude children from full participation in the life of the community to which they belong? How can we justify practices, which presuppose the non-participation of children? Is there not a need to rethink those traditional ways of dealing with children, which are predicated on a denial of their intelligence and agency. In the following section, I argue that just as women have altered understandings of citizenship and belonging, a politics inclusive of children will produce a further shift in understanding.

Partial citizenship Walby has observed, in the context of womens involvement in nation-state formation:
In many countries citizenship did not arrive at one moment for all people, but different groups gained different aspects of this in different periods. . . . The winning of civil citizenship, while completed for most First World men before political citizenship, is barely completed for women in these countries, since only recently have women won control over their own bodies, the ability to disengage from marriage and the right to engage in all forms of employment. That is for First World women political citizenship is typically achieved before civil citizenship the reverse of the order for men. (Walby, 1992: 901)

This quotation introduces the notion of unfolding citizenship or incremental citizenship14 (Cockburn, 1998) and serves to render problematic the trajectory of the acquisition of citizenship.15 One explanation for the distinctive trajectory of First World womens struggle for citizenship (in which they had to gain political citizenship before they could more substantially advance their social and civil citizenship claims) is that the practices and values of civil society assumed or justified the exclusion of women. A critical piece in the exclusionary jigsaw was the public/private divide. Womens inferiority in matters public was assumed alongside a placing of their role and interests firmly in the private sphere. The idea of incremental citizenship carries with it suggestion of a linearity, a process of progress from exclusion to inclusion. At one level this is unobjectionable in that contestation around citizenship has produced change for the better. But the image of linearity does not catch the uneven and contested character of citizenship; it is for this reason that I prefer the term partial citizenship (Bulmer and Rees, 1996: 2756). Bulmer and Rees point out that the idea of partial citizenship permits an avoidance of the zero-sum thinking that characterizes some writing in this field. They argue that society does not comprise two classes of social beings citizens and non-citizens but that there are several groups that may better be viewed as part in, and part out, of citizenship (Bulmer and Rees, 1996: 275). They object to the 482


language of inclusion and exclusion as compounding the all or nothing view of citizenship. Whatever else can be said about the child, childrens rights and citizenship, there are two practical reasons why childrens claims to citizenship will be distinctive. First much literature around children increasingly draws a distinction between the younger child and the young person. The world and experiences of the average 15-year-old are closer to those of an adult than that of a 15-month-old baby yet both are children. The arguments for the increased participation of children in decision-making affecting their lives are both practically and theoretically more compelling the older the child is. In England and Wales the Children Act 1989 requires a court, making any decision regarding a childs upbringing, to consider the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding) (Section 1(3)(a) of the Children Act 1989; emphasis added). Simply put, the older the child is the more objectionable it is to fail to consult or take into account their wishes and feelings.16 This is not to say that they become the decision-maker, merely that they must be allowed (and perhaps assisted) to play a part in the decision-making process. Second, there is the linked and thorny issue of representation. The rational, autonomous individual is central to modern liberal thought. It is the rights-bearing adult individual who is endowed with citizenship. I can decide for myself what action to take on a whole range of matters including whether or not to invoke the formal legal process in order to assert my rights, to make a public issue out of a private trouble: children are not in such a position. Children should not and cannot be seen as unproblematically represented by the significant adults in their lives, usually their parents. This said, often it is adults who claim citizenship rights for children and do so on their behalf. So when is it legitimate for others to speak for the child and which others? The older child may well be able to speak for themselves and may attempt to do so. It is interesting to note that the Scottish Law Commission recommended that parents be under a duty to consult with their child on any major decision relating to their child. Section 6 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 created such a duty providing that children aged 12 or over are presumed to be capable of forming a view.17 The very young child will perhaps only acquire an effective voice through being represented, normally by his or her parents. Whether others should speak for the child or whether the child is able to speak for him- or herself in any effective way will depend upon the context and the attitudes and practices of the adults involved.18 The argument about children and citizenship is, on one level, part of a symbolic and practical reordering of what it is to be a child, an adult and a citizen.



The UNCRC, rights and participation The UNCRC can be seen as a bringing together under the umbrella of one document a range of commitments to the human rights of children; it can be seen as signalling a recognition that children have civil, political and social rights. These human rights for children are not just concerned with their welfare though many of its provisions are concerned with their protection (e.g. from abuse) and the adequate provisioning of childhood. The UNCRC with its three overarching and interconnected principles19 can be seen as providing a framework for a broader vision of citizenship for children. Article 12 of the UNCRC is the provision that most clearly gives expression to a model of citizenship, which includes children. De Winter, having referred to the importance of recognizing the potential capacities of children and the contributions they make to society, makes explicit the linkage between participation and citizenship in the following terms:
In practice this comes down to regarding children and youngsters as fellow citizens, people whose share in society is appreciated and stimulated because of the constructive contribution they are able to make. Participation, which we may provisionally define as opportunities for children and young people to be actively involved in [the decision making on] their own living environment is a major condition. (De Winter, 1997: 24)

Of course, both in the UK and in the international context children are social participants participating in homeworking, child labour, political protest, caring, keeping the family on the road, etc. However, often (as noted earlier) these activities are either redefined by concerned adults as simply exploitative and requiring action to protect better the child or denied through not talking about them/non-recognition. In Elsthains words children are never spared politics. Participation is about being counted as a member of the community; it is about governing and being governed. The traditional response to children traps them in the position simply of being governed. The complexity and sophistication of the welfare project firmly rooted in the problematizing discourses referred to earlier leaves little space for respect for the agency of children. In contrast, participation and the language of childrens rights presupposes and encourages their agency, the expression of their self-defined needs and interests. The idea of rights presupposes a more active role for the young person. Once we have to consider what young people themselves think and feel about a situation and act on them many things will be different. To act in a manner consistent with this version of rights obviously requires new approaches and skills as well as a clear understanding of how the rights of young people can be advanced. In our arguments about childhood, childrens rights and citizenship we are arguing about ourselves and our place in the world: it is an argument about politics and how we want to be and live our lives. Held writing on citizenship has argued:



If citizenship entails membership in the community and membership implies forms of social participation, then citizenship is above all about the involvement of people in the community in which they live; and people have been barred from citizenship on grounds of class, gender, race and age among many other factors. Accordingly, the debate on citizenship requires us to think about the very nature of the conditions of membership and political participations. (Held, 1991: 20)

There is a need to rethink the language of rights as part of the citizenship project. Minow has urged that we rethink rights in such a way that they are no longer seen as just being about statecitizen relations or autonomous individuals but about our interdependencies. She has written in the following terms:
Autonomy, then, is not a precondition for any individuals exercise of rights. The only precondition is that the community is willing to allow the individual to make claims and participate in the shifting of boundaries. (Minow, 1987: 1885)

And later:
I find something terribly lacking in rights for children that speak only of autonomy rather than need, especially the central need for relationships with adults who are themselves enabled to create settings where children can thrive. (Minow, 1987: 1910)

It is about recognizing the interconnectedness of our lives as adults, parents and children and no longer seeing the relationships between adult and child as naturally and necessarily hierarchic. In a subsequent text Minow (1990: 2978) observed:
Including children as participants alters their stance in the community, from things or outsiders to members . . . by signalling deserved attention, rights enable a challenge to unstated norms, to exclusion, and the exclusive perspectives. Rights discourse implicates its users in a form of life, a pattern of social and political commitment.

Once we see rights as expressing, in particular and contested forms, social relations (Nedelsky, 1993), the childrens rights movement can be seen as an attempt to rethink the relations of civil society and the public/private divide: as a challenge to accepted ways of thinking about adultchild relations and family life.20 Conclusion By way of conclusion I want to revisit three aspects of the children and citizenship debate. As Cockburn points out, traditional notions of citizenship will have to change to accommodate children (Cockburn, 1998: 112). But, whatever else such an accommodation might entail, promoting childrens rights can only be part of the story.



Moving away from problematizing children It is central to the citizenship project, whatever forms it takes, that children are not seen simply as trouble or in trouble. This is a denial of any real agency in the world. However, more will be needed. It is not sufficient to insist upon the full recognition of the contributions (positive and negative) that children make to their worlds and society but we also need to escape from the language of futures. Cockburn captures this nicely when he observes: This constant referencing of children to their future potentials and possibilities belittles their present actions (Cockburn, 1998: 107). We need to have proper regard to the contributions and insights of children in the here and now. Davis and Jones in the context of planning transport policy and the involvement of children in such decision-making processes draw out the significance of this way of thinking about children and how it contrasts with the child of the welfare discourse:
If children are seen as having empowering rights then they will have a call on adults time, and can question adult centred thinking and planning, whereas rights to protection do not enable children to take responsibility for themselves, they are rather a means of ensuring a baseline of protection to be administered and policed by adults. At worst they work to protect adults or adult social order against disturbances from the presence of children. Empowerment, on the other hand, requires adults to share power. (Davis and Jones, 1996: 1314)21

However, this is not necessarily a neat either/or issue. Moves to promote the welfare of children, which include a commitment to the childs view of their welfare, can be supportive of a practice, which is respectful of the rights of children. The context will often shape the extent to which the childs voice will be determinative. However, the fact of adult power is and will be inescapable and this raises the issue as to how can adults best include and foster the participation of children.

Practices of listening To listen to children properly will involve significant change in many social and institutional practices. The Children Act 1989 contains many provisions relating to the duty to consult not just those with parental responsibility but with children themselves. The following definition of the processes involved in consultation was provided by a lawyer (Sedley QC in R v Brent LBC ex parte Gunning (1985) 84 LGR 168):
First . . . consultation must be at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage. Secondly . . . the proposer must give sufficient reasons for any proposal to permit of intelligent consideration and response. Thirdly . . . adequate time must be given for consideration and response and, finally, fourthly . . . the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account in finalising any proposals.22

Defined in this way not only can we see how participatory such consultation can be; it is not a case of consulting the child or young person in order to 486


persuade him or her of the rightness or inevitability of a certain outcome. It is also clear that a number of other issues emerge, as I have argued elsewhere (Roche, 1997: 57):
To be committed to a practice with children and young people in which they are provided with proper information, in which they are able to express their thoughts and feelings on the matter in question at an appropriate time and place, in which the various possible courses of action are fully explored with them, and in which their views, whatever their social origins or location, are listened to and treated seriously, will be to transform the experience of child and professional.

And what are the costs of not listening to children? It is, and will be, children who bear the costs most heavily. Commenting on pindown,23 Levy and Kahan noted:
Pindown, in our view . . . involved elements of isolation, humiliation and confrontation to varying degrees. . . . We have no doubt that children were humiliated in many ways. . . . In addition during confrontational meetings numerous children were harangued and referred to in grossly abusive terms. . . . Pindown . . . was intrinsically unethical, unprofessional and unacceptable. (Levy and Kahan, 1991: 127)

Yet this practice continued for almost 6 years, despite resistance and complaints from some of the children involved and till the end, brought about by a High Court injunction, some of the professionals involved could not see what the fuss was about. Perhaps the failure to properly address questions of childrens rights and to listen with respect is part of the explanation.24

Participation, rights and citizenship

It is the very inequality and the continuation of this inequality between children and adults which gives children, so to speak, a right to rights. Children have rights because they do not have, and cannot expect to have, full citizens rights. (King, 1997: 170; emphasis in the original)

A few lines earlier King had argued that children cannot expect to have equal rights to adults. This is the crux of the children/citizenship argument. Save for the child liberationists (Archard, 1993), no one is arguing that children are identical to adults or that they should enjoy exactly the same bundle of civil and political rights as adults. What is being argued is that children are social beings too, they are social actors and have much to contribute here and now. Much research is now geared to finding out what children think, how they see the world, how they view issues ranging from planning, transport policy to the politics of peace in Northern Ireland (PercySmith, 1998; Davis and Jones, 1996; Democratic Dialogue, 1997). From this standpoint the language of childrens rights is the beginning not the end (McGillivray, 1994), it is about respecting and valuing the contribution children make and have to make to the world children and adults share: a world hitherto defined and imagined primarily in adult terms it is about power. 487


In order to be able to provide the kinds of support needed by children in different social locations adults will need to do things differently. Strategies will have to be thought through whereby children are empowered25in a range of settings and this will require at the very outset a recognition of the relations of power at issue and positive action to address these imbalances.26 However, the acquisition of a voice in itself is not enough. We need to get beyond the culture of disrespect if not outright hostility towards young people in particular. Williams (1995: 93) has observed, in the context of her analysis of racism, that
. . . if women enter environments where men have only been talking to men, the conversation is bound to change. If blacks enter spaces where whites have only been talking to other whites, the conversation is bound to grow somewhat more encompassing.

With no disrespect to the struggles that women and people of colour have had to wage for inclusion (and are continuing to have to do so), the inclusion of children in such spaces and conversations would also change things. Participation must not be limited to those of a particular class or ethnic group and agendas for discussion must not be so shaped as to exclude certain ideas or values. The participants, in particular the more powerful ones, must have genuinely open minds as to what might best be done. Participation is about making sure that children do not simply become exhibits in a show of concern or fear. And yet this ideal of participation is not new. In some educational circles there has been a long history of commitment to emancipation through a highly participatory pedagogy (Freire, 1973). Janusz Korczaks progressive orphanages in Poland in the early years of the 20th century were designed as just communities. The Declaration of Childrens Rights derived by Lifton from Korczaks writings on children provided, among other things, that the child has a right to respect, the right to make mistakes and the right to be taken seriously (Lifton, 1989). This links with earlier observations about the childs competence and while the young child is different in some ways from the older child this does not mean that the discussion about participation and citizenship is confined to older children. De Winter (1997: 163) writes:
What children can handle at a certain moment in their development is not a constant factor, but is partly the result of the space for learning and experiencing offered to them. By widening the field of development, for instance by involving children from a very early age in the organisation of the world in which they live, their repertoire of behavioural capabilities grows.

He goes on to observe that if we take this view children turn out to be capable of much more than adults think. Robert Coles (1997: 5) reminds us:
We grow morally as a consequence of learning how to be with others, how to behave in this world, a learning prompted by taking to heart what we have seen and heard. The child is a witness; the child is an ever-attentive witness of grown-up morality or lack thereof.



Childrens rights, like all human rights, are symbolically and practically important. An increasingly inclusive politics for children will require not only the proper resourcing of practices which are supportive of childrens citizenship claims and of those institutions which contribute to such claims. We need to think through the terms on which participation is being offered, to be aware of the context in which children are being invited in and the risk of responsibility for making a decision being thrust upon children in circumstances not of their choosing. The languages of participation and empowerment are cosy but we need to be more critical of the circumstances of inclusion and the kinds of adult support (e.g. advocacy and representation) that children might need. In this sense the childrens rights project and emerging demands for inclusion as citizens involves a redrawing of what it is to be an adult and a child. Ultimately the childrens rights project is not just about making a better world for children (King, 1997), it is about making a better world for all of us. Notes
1. Children are different from adults though as Freeman (1992) reminds us not as different as some would have us believe, and they are affected by the same social forces that beset and constrain adults. 2. Recently the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) launched a programme on children, which emphasized the importance of treating the children as research subjects and avoiding the dominance of the problematizing discourses, which Griffin analyses. 3. Young carers have been defined as children and young people who are placed in a position of responsibility for the care of a disabled relative at home (Heal, 1994). 4. The Guardian (6 May 1998: 12). The Report also stated that fewer than 10 percent of young carers who cared for a sick or disabled family member had had their own needs assessed under the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995. 5. Including social workers, a professional group, which readily acknowledges the value of strategies of empowerment when working with other client groups. 6. Of course when people start talking about giving up power they are usually talking about other people giving up power. 7. Zelizer (1985: 6) notes: In the first three decades of the twentieth century, the economically useful child became both numerically and culturally an exception. Zelizer refers to the sacralization of childrens lives the cultural process by which children came to be seen almost exclusively in sentimental as opposed to economic terms. It must be emphasized that Zelizers account of the transformation of the value attached to children is confined to the USA (and even then class specific); it cannot not be argued that the shift she identifies is a universal or even one. 8. The fact that these struggles are continuing is illustrated, for example, by campaigns around motherhood (parenthood!), domestic labour, childcare and employment, domestic violence, policing and immigration. 9. Most recently articulated in the debates around the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. 10. Firestone described the oppression of women and children as intertwined and mutually reinforcing. 11. See Olsen (1992: 192), who argued in the context of child protection:



Feminists also have a complex and ambiguous relationship to legal protection for children . . . the neglect and abuse of children is often part and parcel of the neglect and abuse of women. As the predominant caretakers of children, women are greatly influenced by the role and status of children. Where conditions are good for children, they are generally good for women. 12. For Alanen, first wave feminism focused on the importance of recognizing the special contribution women as mothers made and that this required that they take their rightful place in the public sphere. Second wave feminism has conceived the motherhood question in a very different way; as a social institution, which has contributed to the imprisonment of women. 13. The fact that women have been and are described as childlike is further evidence of the deep disregard society has for childrens capacities and standpoint as well as the struggle for inclusion women continue to have to engage in. To compare women to children was and is abusive because it is intended as such. However, the insult is predicated upon a set of beliefs about children and practices towards them, which are now coming under increasing challenge. 14. Neither term on the face of it catches the sense of struggle which is part of the citizenship project. With perhaps the exception of the granting of full citizenship by postcolonial states at the point of liberation (which was hugely symbolically important) citizenship has been won through struggle, e.g. the black civil rights movement in the USA. 15. In the 19th and 20th centuries, there was no neat and distinct gaining of political citizenship for women followed by a civil and social citizenship, which had hitherto been denied. There were overlapping campaigns, which fed into each and supported other and gave rise to further demands and struggles: the struggle for the vote was a key one. These struggles were not linear, did not unfold or evolve but were promoted and contested in many ways. 16. In part Lord Scarmans judgement in the House of Lords decision in Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority (1986) AC112 can be seen as concerned to recognize the developing capacities of the mature minor. Lord Scarman said: I would hold as a matter of law the parental right to determine whether or not their minor child below the age of 16 will have medical treatment terminated if and when the child achieves a sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable him or her to understand fully what is proposed. It will be a question of fact. 17. The Scottish Law Commission in its deliberations as to whether to include in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 a duty on parents to consult with their children on important matters noted: The question as we saw it was whether a parent or other person exercising parental rights should be under a similar obligation to ascertain and have regard to the childs wishes and feelings as a local authority was in relation to a child in its care. . . . There are great attractions in such an approach. It emphasises that the child is a person in his or her own right and that his or her views are entitled to respect and consideration. . . . On consultation there was majority support for a provision requiring parents in reaching any major decision relating to a child, to ascertain the childs wishes and feelings so far as practicable and give due consideration to them having regard to their age and understanding. . . . Many respondents clearly regarded such a provision as an important declaration of principle. (Scottish Law Commission, 1992: paras 2.6264) 18. The law has begun to give children rights traditionally associated with citizenship, e.g. rights of access to lawyers and the courts. 19. These are the primacy of the childs welfare (Article 3), the non-discrimination principle (Article 2) and the participation principle (Article 12).



20. Certainly the practice of hitting and smacking children might be seen differently. 21. However we can see in some of the participation literature such a welfarist emphasis, e.g. Schofield and Thoburn (1996). 22. Three things are made clear in this quotation. First, the young person must feel they are being listened to, that they and what they have to say will be taken seriously. Second, the young person will need to have access to information to allow her to respond in a way of her choosing. Third, the outcome will have to make sense to the young person. 23. Pindown was a system of punishments and rewards operated by social workers looking after children in some residential homes in Staffordshire and, among other things, involved the confining of children to their rooms, the denial of contact with their families and the denial of access to education. 24. See also the recent enquiry into the appalling catalogue of abuse of children in residential care in North Wales: here too the complaints of children were not heard or listened to. 25. This might entail the provision of a safe place to talk, a commitment to treating as confidential the confidences of children (see Roche and Briggs, 1990), providing advocacy services to children, representing them and supporting them in speaking for themselves in different settings (see Lansdown, 1995; Dalrymple and Burke, 1995). 26. However, as noted earlier, even consultation and participation can keep within what is fundamentally a welfarist agenda even though a number of texts in the process have challenged traditional notions of childhood incompetence and irrationality (Alderson and Montgomery, 1996). The test is whether we are able to listen properly to children and young people when they are saying things, which are new and unfamiliar.

Alanen, L. (1994) Gender and Generation: Feminism and the Child Question , in J. Qvortrup, M. Bardy, G. Sgritta and H. Wintersberger (eds) Childhood Matters Social Theory, Practice and Politics, pp. 2742. Aldershot: Avebury. Alderson, P. (1992) The Rights of Children and Young People, in A. Coote (ed.) The Welfare of Citizens Developing New Social Rights. London: Institute for Public Policy Research/Rivers Oram Press. Alderson, P. and J. Montgomery (1996) Health Care Choices Making Decisions with Children. London: IPPR. Aldridge, J. and S. Becker (1995) The Rights and Wrongs of Children Who Care, in B. Franklin (ed.) The Handbook of Childrens Rights Comparative Policy and Practice, pp. 11930. London: Routledge. Archard, D. (1993) Children Rights and Childhood. London: Routledge. Barford, R. and C. Wattam (1991) Childrens Participation in Decision Making, Practice 5(2): 93102. Bulmer, M. and A.M. Rees (eds) (1996) Citizenship Today The Contemporary Relevance of T.H.Marshall. London: University College London Press. Cockburn, T. (1998) Children and Citizenship in Britain, Childhood 5(1): 99117. Coles, R. (1997) The Moral Intelligence of Children. New York: Random House. Cooper, D. (1993) The Citizens Charter and Radical Democracy: Empowerment and Exclusion within Citizenship Discourse, Social and Legal Studies 2(2): 14971. Crompton, R. (1997) The Outlaws Report, in Just William at School. London: Macmillan. Dalrymple, J. and B. Burke (1995) Anti-Oppressive Practice Social Care and the Law. Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Davis, A. and L. Jones (1996) Children in the Urban Environment: An Issue for the New Public Health, Health and Place 22: 10313.



De Winter, M. (1997) Children as Fellow Citizens Participation and Commitment. Abingdon: Radcliffe Medical Press. Democratic Dialogue (1997) Politics: The Next Generation, Report 6. Belfast: Democratic Dialogue. Donald, J. and A. Rattansi (eds) (1992) Race Culture and Difference. London: Sage. Ennew, J. (1994) Time for Children or Time for Adults, in J. Qvortrup et al. (eds) Childhood Matters. Social Theory, Practice and Politics, pp. 12543. Aldershot: Avebury. Evans, M. (ed.) (1994) The Woman Question, 2nd edn. London: Sage. Firestone, S. (1970) The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. London: Jonathon Cape. Freeman, M.D.A. (1992) Taking Childrens Rights More Seriously, in P. Alston, S. Parker and J. Seymour (eds) Children, Rights and the Law, pp. 5271. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Freire, P. (1973) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Seabury Press. Gittins, D. (1998) The Child in Question. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Griffin, C. (1993) Representations of Youth: The Study of Youth and Adolescence in Britain and America. Cambridge: Polity Press. Griffin, C. (1997) Representations of the Young, in J. Roche and S. Tucker (eds) Youth in Society, pp. 1725. London: Sage. Heal, S. (1994) An Introduction to the Issues in Respect of Young Carers. London: Carers National Association. Held, D. (1991) Between State and Civil Society, in G. Andrews (ed.) Citizenship, pp. 1925. London: Lawrence and Wishart. Jackson, P. (1989) Maps of Meaning. London: Unwin Hyman. King, M. (1997) A Better World for Children. Explorations in Morality and Authority. London: Routledge. Lansdown, G. (1995) The Childrens Rights Development Unit, in B. Franklin (ed.) The Handbook of Childrens Rights Comparative Policy and Practice, pp. 10718. London: Routledge. Levy, A. and B. Kahan (1991) The Pindown Experience and the Protection of Children. The Report of the Staffordshire Child Care Enquiry 1990. Staffordshire County Council. Liddiard, P., C. Tatum and S. Tucker (1997) Young Carers Research Project. Study of the Common Experiences of Young Carers in Two Different Communities. Milton Keynes: School of Health and Social Welfare, the Open University. Lifton, B. (1989) The King of Children. London: Pan. Lister, R. (1997) Citizenship Feminist Perspectives. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Marshall, T.H. (1950) Citizenship and Social Class. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. McGillivray, A. (1994) Why Children Do Have Equal Rights, International Journal of Childrens Rights 2: 24358. Minow, M. (1987) Interpreting Rights: An Essay for Robert Cover, Yale Law Journal 96(8): 18602017. Minow, M. (1990) Making All the Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion and American Law. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. NCH Action for Children (1997) 98 Factfile. London: NCH Action for Children. Nedelsky, J. (1993) Reconceiving Rights as Relationship, Review of Constitutional Studies 1(1): 126. ODonovan, K. (1993) Family Law Matters. London: Pluto. Olsen, F. (1992) Childrens Rights: Some Feminist Approaches to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, in P. Alston, S. Parker and J. Seymour (eds) Children, Rights and the Law, pp. 192220. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Percy-Smith, B. (1998) Marginalisation of Children and Youth in Urban Neighbourhoods: Implications for Citizenship, paper presented to the Children and Social Exclusion Conference, Centre for the Social Study of Children, Hull University, March.



Roche, J. and A. Briggs (1990) Allowing Children a Voice: A Note on Confidentiality, Journal of Social Welfare Law 3: 17892. Roche, J. (1997) Childrens Rights: Participation and Dialogue, in J. Roche and S. Tucker (eds) Youth in Society. London: Sage. Sachs, A. and J.H. Wilson (1978) Sexism and the Law. Oxford: Martin Robertson. Schofield, G and J. Thoburn (1996) Child Protection The Voice of the Child in Decision Making. London: Institute for Public Policy Research. Scottish Law Commission (1992) Report on Family Law, Scot. Law Com. No.135. Edinburgh: HMSO. Stainton Rogers, W., R. Stainton Rogers, J. Vyrost and L. Lovas (1997) Worlds Apart: Young Peoples Aspirations in a Changing World, in J. Roche and S. Tucker (eds) Youth in Society, pp. 2634. London: Sage. Tatum, C. and S. Tucker (1998) The Concealed Consequences of Caring, Youth and Policy 61: 1227. Timms, J. (1995) Childrens Representation. London: Sweet and Maxwell. Walby, S. (1992) Woman and Nation, International Journal of Comparative Sociology XXXIII(12): 81100. Williams, P. (1991) The Alchemy of Race and Rights. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Williams, P. (1995) The Roosters Egg on the Persistence of Prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Yeatman, A. (1994) Postmodern Revisionings of the Political. London: Routledge. Zelizer, V. (1985) Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Value of Children. New York: Basic Books.