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Children’s well-being and politics

posted on 2023-06-09, 11:48 authored by Jo Moran-EllisJo Moran-Ellis, Anna Bandt, Heinz Sünker
Traditional approaches to understanding children’s political awareness and the journey toward political maturity have been heavily influenced by developmental thinking about the cognitive capacity to understand the political realm, often using a narrow definition of this realm. From a more sociological point of view, theories of socialization have been utilised extensively to explain how political consciousness arises and is shaped with the child positioned in a passive role in this process. Both of these approaches are limited in that they pay little attention to the agency of children in their engagement with political issues in their own lives, at the level of their everyday lifeworlds and on a wider societal scale. In this chapter we propose a more dynamic consideration of politicization and political action, reframing children as social actors, arguing for the recognition of the significance of historicity and materialist relations in the formation of political consciousness, and enlarging what is conceptualized as politics to capture power relations and authority across the domains of children’s lives. Drawing on early work of Garbarino and Bronfenbrenner (1976, The socialization of moral judgment and behavior in cross-cultural perspective. In T. Lickona (Ed.), Moral development and behavior: Theory, research and social issues. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston), and the more recent work of Holzkamp (1985, Grundlegung der Psychologie. Frankfurt am Main: Campus) and van Deth (2011), we argue that analyses of children as political agents and as emergent political citizens must be located in their own experiences of the world, and especially their experiences with the contradictions and punctuations they encounter, the knowledge that they can access to make sense of those, and the contexts in which they are embedded. We show that certain kinds of environments enhance their political well-being, but we also show that other situations can be highly detrimental to the development of a positive sense of self as a political agent. This is illustrated in the work of Nelles et al. (2011, Children of the resistance and their relationship to politics after 1945. In S. Bardgett, D. Cesarani, J. Reinisch, & J.-D. Steinert (Eds.), Justice, politics and memory in Europe after the Second World War: Landscapes after battle (Vol. 2, pp. 229–246). London: Vallentine-Mitchell) on the lives of children whose parents were German resistance fighters and as a consequence subject to Nazi terror. We conclude that while making the link between children, their politicization, and well-being is a complex task, at the centre of it lies the need to analyse the dynamics of children as social actors, the presence of politics in their lifeworlds, and the conditions under which they can contribute as political actors in their childhoods and later in their adult lives.


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  • Published

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Book title

Handbook of Child Well-Being



Department affiliated with

  • Sociology and Criminology Publications

Research groups affiliated with

  • Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth Publications

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F Casas, A Ben-Arieh, J E Korbin, I Frønes

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