A Rights-Based Approach with Children in Street Situations

  • Daniel Stoecklin
Part of the Children’s Well-Being: Indicators and Research book series (CHIR, volume 21)


In order to highlight the discrepancy between the ideals of children’s rights and the actual experiences of children in street situations, the capability approach examines the transformation process of formal freedoms (rights enshrined in the UNCRC) into real freedoms (effective functionings). Different combinations of personal and social factors and their interactions mediate this process. The recursivity of the different translations of ideals into practices, whereby children’s choices have a retroactive effect on their entitlements, is highlighted. Human rights are a fictional symbolic order born out of the historical construction of individualism and humanism pervading perceptions of the child in street situations: the delinquent child, the victim child and the failing child. The General Comment on CSS is a symbolic structure reflecting the dominant entrepreneurial habitus pervading child rights’ governance. There is a need for an inclusive approach to the rights of the child which would make space for other modes of action, and accordingly, more participatory public policies.


Capability Human rights Individualism Humanism Recursivity Habitus Public policies General comment children’s rights Governance 


  1. Aptekar, L., & Stoecklin, D. (2014). Street children and homeless youth: A cross-cultural perspective. Dordrecht/Heidelberg/New York/London: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arendt, A. (1951). The origins of totalitarianism. Schocken books.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, U., & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (2001). Individualization: Institutionalized individualism and its social and political consequences. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  4. Bellah, R. N. (1973). Durkheim, individualism and the intellectuals. In R. N. Bellah (Ed.), Emile Durkheim on morality and society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bobbio, N. (1996). The age of rights. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bonvin, J.-M., & Stoecklin, D. (2016). Children’s rights as evolving capabilities: Towards a contextualized and Processual conception of social justice. In G. Graf, G. Schweiger, & M. Cabezas (Eds.), Ethical perspectives 23 (Vol. 1, pp. 19–39).Google Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (1979). La distinction. Critique sociale du jugement. Paris: Editions de Minuit.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P. (1992). The logic of practice. Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, P. (1994). Raisons pratiques. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  10. Cheng, F. (2006). The street Children’s street life and the victimizations against them: An ethnographic study. Youth Studies, 9, 1–9. (in Chinese).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cheng, F. (2008). Negotiating exclusion: An ethnographic study of the street children in Shanghai, China. Hong-Kong: University of Hong-Kong. (unpublished doctoral dissertation).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cheng, F. (2009a). The efficiency of Chinese welfare policy for street children: A perspective of the street children. Journal of Social Sciences, 4, 11.Google Scholar
  13. Cheng, F. (2009b). Failure of the traditional childcare model and the causes of street children: An ethnographic study of the street children in the Shanghai Railway Station neighborhood. Society, 5, 8.Google Scholar
  14. Cheng, F., & Lam, D. (2010). How is street life? An examination of the subjective wellbeing of street children in China. International Social Work, 53(3), 353–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chun, S. S., Brass, M., Heinze, H.-J., & Haynes, J.-D. (2008). Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain. Nature Neuroscience, 11(5), 543–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cockburn, T. (2013). Rethinking children’s citizenship. Studies in childhood and youth. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. De Benitez, S. (2011). State of the World’s street children: Research (Street children. Series 2). In Consortium for street children. London.Google Scholar
  18. de Singly, F. (2005). In Editions de l’Aube (Ed.), L’individualisme est un humanisme. La Tour d’Aigues.Google Scholar
  19. DRMC (1789). Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen. Accessed 29 Oct 2018éclaration_des_droits_de_l%27homme_et_du_citoyen_de_1789
  20. Ennew, J., & Connolly, M. (1996). Introduction: Children out of place. Childhood, A Global Journal of Child Research, 3(2), 131–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Epstein, I. (1996). Educating street children: Some cross-cultural comparisons. Comparative Education, 32(3), 289–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Epstein, I. (2000). Dependence served: Rhetorical assumptions governing the education of homeless children and youth in the US. In R. Mickelson (Ed.), Children on the streets of the Americas (pp. 99–107). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Foucault, M. (2012). Du gouvernement des vivants – Cours au Collège de France. 1979–1980 (Edition établie par M. Senellart, sous la direction de F. Ewald et A. Fontana). Paris: EHESS - Gallimard-Seuil.Google Scholar
  24. Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration (p. 1984). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hanson, K. (2012). Schools of thought in Children’s rights. In M. Liebel (Ed.), Children’s rights from below. Cross-cultural perspectives (Studies in childhood and youth) (pp. 63–79). Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hanson, K., & Nieuwenhuys, O. (2013). Reconceptualizing Children’s rights in international development. Living rights, social justice, translations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Harari, Y. N. (2014). Sapiens. A brief history of humankind. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  28. Harari, Y. N. (2016). Homo Deus. A brief history of tomorrow. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  29. Hart, R. (1992). Children’s participation from tokenism to citizenship. Florence: Innocenti Research Center.Google Scholar
  30. Israel, J. (1972). Der Begriff Entfremdung. Makrosoziologische Untersuchung von Marx bis zur Soziologie der Gegenwart. Hamburg: Rowohlt.Google Scholar
  31. Johnson, V. (2017). Moving beyond voice in children and young people’s participation. Action Research, Sage, 15(1), 104–124.. Article first published online: April 4, 2017; Issue published: March 1, 2017. Scholar
  32. Kirby, P., & Bryson, S. (2002). Measuring the magic? Evaluating and researching young People’s participation in public decision making. London: Carnegie Young People Initiative.Google Scholar
  33. Knoepfel, P., Larrue, C., & Hill, M. (2007). Public Policy Analyses. Bristol: The Policy Press.Google Scholar
  34. Lam, D., & Cheng, F. (2008). Chinese policy reaction to the problem of street children: An analysis from the perspective of street children. Children and Youth Services Review, 30(5), 575–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Leonard, M. (2016). The sociology of children, childhood and generation. Los Angeles/London/New Dehli/Singapore/Washington, DC: Sage.Google Scholar
  36. Libet, B. (1985). Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8, 529–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lucchini, R. (1993). Enfant de la rue. Identité, sociabilité, drogue. Genève/Paris: Droz.Google Scholar
  38. Martucelli, D., & de Singly, F. (2009). Vers une sociologie de l’individu. Les sociologies de l’individu (pp. 10–33). Paris: Armand Colin.Google Scholar
  39. Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  40. Moran-Ellis, J. (2013). Children as social actors, agency, and social competence: Sociological reflections for early childhood. Neue Praxis, 43(4), 303–338. ISSN 0342-9857.Google Scholar
  41. Müller, M. (2010). Doing discourse analysis in critical geopolitics. L’espace politique, 12(3), 1–21. (online), Accessed 29 Oct 2018üller_2010_Doing%20discourse%20analysis%20in%20critical%20geopolitics_Espace%20Politique.pdf.Google Scholar
  42. Naftali, O. (2014). Children, rights and modernity in China. Raising self-governing citizens (Studies in childhood and youth). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  43. Percy-Smith, B., & Thomas, N. (2010). A handbook of children and young people’s participation. Perspectives from theory and practice. London/New-York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. Pessoa, F. (2006). A little larger than the entire universe. Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  45. Poizat, J.-C. (2013). Hannah Arendt, une introduction. Paris: La Découverte.Google Scholar
  46. Poretti, M., Hanson, K., Darbellay, F., & Berchtold, A. (2014). The rise and fall of icons of ‘stolen childhood’ since the adoption of the UN convention on the rights of the child. Childhood, 21(1), 22–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Quennerstedt, A. (2013). Children’s rights research moving into the future–challenges on the way forward. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 21, 233–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rizzini, I. (2003). Vidas Nas Ruas. Rio de Janeiro: Editora PUC-Rio.Google Scholar
  49. Rizzini, I., & Lusk, M. W. (1995). Children in the streets: Latin America’s lost generation. Children and Youth Services Review, 17(3), 391–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rizzini, I., Princeswal, M., Caldeira, P., & Bush, M. (2012). A efetivação de políticas públicas no Brasil. O caso das políticas para crianças e adolescentes em situação de rua. Rio de Janeiro: CIESPI-PUC-Rio.Google Scholar
  51. Schumacher, S. (2011). Children in street situations in South Africa (Master of advanced studies in Children’s rights). Sion: IUKB.Google Scholar
  52. Shaw, C. R., & McKay, H. D. (1969). Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  53. Snodgrass, J. (1985). A biographical sketch and review of the work of Edwin H. Sutherland. History of Sociology, 6(1), 55–67.Google Scholar
  54. Stammers, N. (2013). Children’s rights and social movements: Reflections from a cognate field. In K. Hanson & O. Nieuwenhuys (Eds.), Reconceptualizing Children’s rights in international development. Living rights, social justice, translations (pp. 275–292). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Stoecklin, D. (2000). Enfants des rues en Chine. Paris: Karthala.Google Scholar
  56. Stoecklin, D. (2017). The general comment on children in street situations: Insights into the institutionalisation of Children’s rights. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 25(4), 817–869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stoecklin, D. (2018). Institutionalisation of children’s rights: Transformability and situated agency. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 26(3), 548–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stoecklin, D., & Bonvin, J.-M. (2014a). The capability approach and Children’s rights. In C. S. Hart, M. Biggeri, & B. Babic (Eds.), Agency and participation in childhood and youth. International applications of the capability approach in schools and beyond (pp. 63–82). London/New Dehli/New York/Sydney: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  59. Stoecklin, D., & Bonvin, J.-M. (2014b). Cross-fertilizing Children’s rights and the capability approach. The example of the right to be heard in organized leisure. In D. Stoecklin & J.-M. Bonvin (Eds.), Children’s rights and the capability approach. Challenges and prospects (Children’s well-being: Indicators and research 8) (pp. 131–152). Dordrecht/Heidelberg/New York/London: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stoecklin, D., Bonvin, J. -M., & Sedooka, A. (2017). Sociologie de l’enfant acteur. Capabilité participative dans les loisirs organisés. Rapport au Fonds national suisse (FNS), projet de recherché 100017_153589. (Research Report).Google Scholar
  61. Sutherland, E. H. (1992). Criminology. In E. H. Sutherland, D. R. Cressey, & D. F. Luckenbill (Eds.), Principles of criminology (11th ed.). Lanham, Boulder/New York/Oxford: Rowman & Littelfield Publishers.Google Scholar
  62. Tisdall, K. M. (2008). Is the honeymoon over? Children and young peoples’ participation in public decision-making. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 16(3), 419–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. UNCRC (1989). Convention on the rights of the child (UN, 1989). Accessed 27 Oct 2018
  64. UNCRC (2017). General Comment No. 21 (2017) on children in street situations. CRC/C/GC/21. Accessed 27 October 2018
  65. Verhellen, E. (1999). Facilitating children’s rights in education: Expectations and demands on teachers and parents. PROSPECTS (BRUSSELS)., 223–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Warming, H. (2013). Participation, citizenship and trust in children’s lives (Studies in childhood and youth). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Weber, M. (1978). Economy and society. In G. Roth & C. Wittich (Eds.). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  68. Weber, M. (2013). La domination. Paris: La Découverte.Google Scholar
  69. Wegner, D. (2002). The illusion of conscious will. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. West, A. (2004). Children and participation: Meaning, motives and purpose. In D. Crimmens & A. West (Eds.), Having their say: Young people and participation: European experiences. Russell House: Lyme Regis.Google Scholar
  71. White, S. (2000). Depoliticising development: The uses and abuses of participation. In D. Eade (Ed.), Development, NGOs, and civil society. Oxford: Oxfam.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Stoecklin
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Children’s Right StudiesUniversity of GenevaBramois/SionSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations