Children and Politics

Thomas, Nigel orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5310-9144 and Montgomery, Heather (2013) Children and Politics. In: Oxford Bibliographies: Childhood Studies. Oxford University Press (OUP), New York, NY, USA.

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Children’s relation to politics can be understood in a variety of different ways, including the impact of politics on children, the political rights and status of children, children’s understanding of politics, and children’s involvement in political activity. Several academic disciplines have shown an interest in these topics at different times. In the 1960s children and politics tended to be the province of political sociologists and psychologists, using a lens of socialization theory; more recently it has begun to receive some attention from scholars in the new social studies of childhood, with greater attention paid to children’s agency. (This topic area has been given greater force by the impact of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations in 1989.) The impact of political decisions and processes on children has been an abiding area of interest not only for children’s rights advocates but also for economists and political scientists. Lawyers and political philosophers have also addressed questions of children’s status in relation to the political world. However, children are remarkable in mainstream political theory mainly by their absence. The general picture is of a working assumption in the field of political writing that children, except as objects of policy, are not relevant to the discourse. The occasions when this notion is explicitly stated are rare and worth noting for that reason. More often it is unstated and, to all appearance, unthought. Apart from a period early in the last century when child labor was a major issue and a spell in the 1960s and early 1970s when political socialization received a great deal of attention, this lack of attention has been the picture for more than a century, and remains so now.

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