Living Reference Work Entry

Families, Intergenerationality, and Peer Group Relations

Volume 5 of the series Geographies of Children and Young People pp 1-22

Date: Latest Version

Children’s Agency and Welfare Organizations from an Intergenerational Perspective

  • Florian EsserAffiliated withDepartment of Social Pedagogy and Organisation Studies, University of Hildesheim Email author 


“Agency” is one of the key concepts of Childhood Studies and Children’s Geographies. A large number of recent studies have empirically contested a prevailing naturalistic and liberal understanding of agency as a general human property. Nevertheless, the presented theoretical alternatives often assume there is a dichotomy between actors on the one hand and society on the other and therefore reproduce a notion of children as outsiders to society. As an alternative, a relational approach to agency will be suggested that is able to work as a shared social theoretical framework for different post-structuralist concepts recently stimulating further research in Children’s Geographies. A relational understanding is especially helpful regarding children’s agency in respect to welfare organizations. Following Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), considerable research interest has arisen in welfare states’ and societies’ awareness of children’s voices. This leads to the empirical question of children’s capacities to participate in welfare organizations. Many of the studies within this field focus on face-to-face interactions between individual professionals and children and come to rather critical and disillusioning results stating that children’s voices often do not have any effect in practice or are too quickly transformed into an institutional logic. But other studies are also able to show that children’s agency does not just depend on individual professionals’ awareness but is much more networked, “messy,” and produced in several different (intergenerational) relations.


Agency Organization Welfare State Social Theory Relationalism Citizenship Participation Institutionalization of Childhood