Children’s Rights and the Capability Approach: Discussing Children’s Agency Against the Horizon of the Institutionalised Youth Land

  • Didier ReynaertEmail author
  • Rudi Roose
Part of the Children’s Well-Being: Indicators and Research book series (CHIR, volume 8)


“Agency” is a fundamental notion in both the frameworks of children’s rights and the capability approach. How can we understand the agency of children and how can it be supported in order to guarantee their human dignity? This concern is the central point of this chapter, where we will discuss children’s agency in the light of both the framework of children’s rights and the capability approach. Discussing children’s agency cannot be done without taking into account the historical and socio-cultural structuring of childhood in our society. This structuring can be grasped under what has been appointed as the “youth moratorium” or the “institutionalised youth land.”

Throughout this chapter, the argument will be developed that both the framework of children’s rights and the capability approach are characterised by a strong egalitarian individualism, which supports an understanding of agency as the individual responsibility of people. However, in applying the capability approach, the basis of egalitarian individualism seems to be abandoned in favour of a rather ambiguous position vis-à-vis children. What this means for children and childhood will be evaluated successively for the framework of children’s rights and the framework of the capability approach. In the concluding part, some suggestions will be made for a different understanding of children’s agency, one that acknowledges interrelationship and solidarity.


Human Dignity Capability Approach Public Reasoning Special Priority Ambiguous Position 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education, Health and Social WorkUniversity College GhentGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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