Excursions as Corporate Agents: A critical realist account of children’s agency

Larkins, Cath orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2999-6916 (2019) Excursions as Corporate Agents: A critical realist account of children’s agency. Childhood, 26 (4). pp. 414-429. ISSN 0907-5682

[thumbnail of VOR]
PDF (VOR) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.


Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568219847266


A recent flurry of academic debate highlights the lack of theoretical underpinning for the concept of agency within childhood studies (Oswell 2016, Leonard 2016, Esser 2016, Spyrou 2018, Stoecklin and Fattore 2018). In many empirical studies of children and childhood the term agency is used without clear definition (Kallio and Häkli 2013). Raithelhuber (2016) referring to Author (2014), suggests there is a tendency for agency to be ascribed to children without an adequate explanation of its meaning, and influence is demanded for children without indicating how this might operate. A theoretically grounded approach to understanding influence would serve to create firmer ground for our ‘ontologically weak paradigm’ (Oswell 2016: 24). I suggest that critical realist relational sociology has potential to enrich this theoretical grounding, if modified by an adequate understanding of children and childhood.
This paper outlines recent understandings of the term agency in childhood studies. I summarise Archer’s (1995, 2000, 2003) critical realist account of agency and indicate how her work diverges from similar relational approaches. Drawing on participatory research with children and young people, I discuss the limitations and affordances of these approaches. I suggest that a modified version of Archer’s work could help address some of the challenges faced by our discipline and reground understandings of the many things that agency can mean in relation to children and childhood.

Repository Staff Only: item control page