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Babic criticizes Sen for “not allowing children to make decisions. There doesn’t seem to be any recognition of the fact that children won’t just turn into an adult all of a sudden but need to go through processes of development and growth till they reach adulthood (which is hard to define), to also become more experienced and capable to make decisions”
1. How are children’s rights influenced by
theories of development.
2. What are the features of the capability
approach and how does this relate to
3. How can the capability approach help us
to understand the relationship between
rights and children’s development.
4. How might we measure capability
between children and across nations?
Brendan & Noggle (1997) defend
the view that children should not
have the same rights as adults, as
adult rights are associated with
particular roles and the adult’s
ability (capacity) to play that role.
Feinberg 1980 (cited in Archard 2003:29)
A – C
What might be included as C rights?
• The right to receive goods that they are
unable to secure for themselves because of
their childish dependence on adults.
• The right to be protected from the harms that
befall children because of their childlike
Fienberg goes on…
• There are some ‘C’ rights that may be
characterized as ‘rights in trust’: The ‘right to
an open future’.
Q: How open should
a child’s future be?
• Do we experience ‘education’ as
empowering us to have an open future?
• Or do we experience it under duress, as
‘good for us’ like nasty tasting medicine?
• How do we know ‘what is good for us’
(preparing us for greater things) when we
• Do we ever know ‘what is good for us’ even
• Can we ever be sure that we are acting out
of ‘free will’ and not coercion?
How are children’s rights influenced by
theories of development?
On a less abstract note, Bell (2011) sets
out how knowledge of influential
theories of human development is
crucial in enabling practitioners to
to help them make sense of their lives
and work in age-appropriate ways.
Social Workers, Child Development
• Traditionally, social work has been informed
by psychological theories based on biological
phases and parent-child attachment
• More recently sociological theories have
stressed the need to see children as
individuals with rights, agency, and competent
to make choices.
Ainsworth on attachment theory
• Distress at
• Calmed when
• Can be calmed
By stranger, but
• Child is anxious
• Not sure of
• Not emotionally
Connected to parent
• Equally calmed by
strangers and parent
• Attention seeking
Sociological Theories (1960’s – Present)
• Aries (1962) Childhood is constructed and is a
product of culture and politics.
• Bronfenbrenner (1979) Ecological Theories –
Child development is shaped by environment.
• Giddens (1991) Individualisation: Children are
Bell 2011: Critiques established
• Psychological theories are criticised for
providing a deficit model of childhood,
whereby children are seen as passive and
dependent (Lee 2001).
• Psychological Theories establish normative
standards of development which fail to take
account of children’s uniqueness.
What are the features of the capability
approach and how does this relate to
Amartya Sen Martha Nussbaum
UNCRC 1989 Article 5
“States Parties shall respect the responsibilities,
rights and duties of parents or, where applicable,
the members of the extended family or community
as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or
other persons legally responsible for the child, to
provide, in a manner consistent with the
evolving capacities of the child,
appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise
by the child of the rights recognized in the present
The notion of the child’s evolving capacities
(Art. 5 UNCRC) is also reflected in Article 12.1
“States Parties shall assure to the child who is
capable of forming his or her own views the
right to express those views freely in all matters
affecting the child, the views of the child
being given due weight in accordance with the age
and maturity of the child”. (UNCRC 1989: A.12.1)
The different understandings of children’s rights
correspond to different perspectives:
• On the one hand there is a protectionist or
• on the other hand an emancipatory or liberationist
tendency (see Hanson 2012; Liebel 2012: 29– 42).
• Both tendencies are represented in the UNCRC,
nevertheless with a protectionist bias and
emphasis on the responsibility of States/adults
(see Liebel and Saadi 2012a).
what a person
really is able to do
or be”. (Sen 1992, 1993, 1999)
• Sen does not see any sense in the distinction
of the ‘opportunity aspect’ (which relates to
the future self) and the ‘process aspect’
(which relates to the current self).
• Sen does not consider children as social
subjects with personal needs for autonomy,
but only as future citizens.
Will v. Interest (again)?
Babic criticizes Sen for “not allowing children to
make decisions. There doesn’t seem to be any
recognition of the fact that children won’t just
turn into an adult all of a sudden but need to go
through processes of development and growth
till they reach adulthood (which is hard to
define), to also become more experienced and
capable to make decisions”
Nussbaum proposes a list of ten
capabilities which should promote an
individual’s right to development
1. Being able to live to the end of a human life of normal length.
2. Being able to have good health, adequate nutrition, adequate shelter,
opportunities for sexual satisfaction and choice in reproduction, and mobility.
3. Being able to avoid unnecessary and non-beneficial pain and to have
4. Being able to use the senses, imagine, think, and reason; and to have the
educational opportunities necessary to realize these capacities.
5. Being able to have attachments to things and persons outside ourselves.
6. Being able to form a conception of the good and to engage in critical
reflection about the planning of one's own life.
7. Being able to live for and to others, to recognize and show concern for other
8. Being able to live with concern for and in relation to animals and the world
9. Being able to laugh, to play, to enjoy recreational activities.
10. Being able to live one's own life and no one else's; enjoying freedom of
association and freedom from unwarranted search and seizure.
• Developmental theories still rely on conceptions of ‘will’ and
‘interests’ in their formulation of rights.
• Existing theories of children’s development can provide an
empirical background: A rationalized benchmark of what children
can or cannot do at various stages of their development.
• Nussbaum’s capability approach argues that a list of rights can be
drawn up and are universal across cultures.
• By ascribing a list of rights (Nussbaum) we can promote children’s
capabilities to become ‘good’ adults.
• Nussbaum claims that all the capabilities must be present. A
deficit in one area cannot be compensated for by other capabilities
• Nussbaum: By undertaking research with children and making
comparisons across nations based capability rather than GDP as an