Title page for ETD etd-07062011-161610

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Viviers, Andries
Email andriesviviers@gmail.com
URN etd-07062011-161610
Document Title The ethics of child participation
Degree Master of Arts
Department Social Work and Criminology
Advisor Name Title
Prof A Lombard Supervisor
  • power relations
  • principles
  • ethics
  • child participation
  • children’s rights
  • rights
  • child
  • framework
  • human rights
  • participation
Date 2011-04-04
Availability unrestricted
Child participation is one of the fundamental principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which South Africa ratified in 1995, together with (a) the best interest of the child; (b) survival, protection and development; and (c) non-discrimination (Hodgkin & Newell, 2002:17). It can be viewed as one of the cornerstones of child rights (and also human rights) as far as the Convention is concerned. The strongest foundations for children’s right to participation in society can be found in universally agreed upon human rights treaties as well as domestic laws. These provide, either directly or by interpretation, for the right of children to participate in claiming their civil and political rights (first order rights) as well as their social, economic and cultural rights (second order rights). It is apparent that the construction of childhood by the adult portion of society directly affects children’s ability to claim and execute their right to participation as citizens. These constructions of childhood are largely determined by the large differences in power between children and adults, where adults hold the power and decide when and how much power will be given to children, and by children’s perceived status as “lesser” than adults and, as such, needing to behave and respond in certain ways. Both these perceptions influence the meaningful participation of children.

Despite progression being made globally on the importance and value of children’s participation, there remains a tension between children’s right to participation and society’s construct of children and childhood. While this tension prevails, it is important that mechanisms be found that will ensure that children’s right to participation is executed in a way that will ensure that society’s perceptions of childhood do not influence the quality of meaningful participation.

Authentic and meaningful participation can be safeguarded by ensuring that participation occurs within a framework that spells out the ethical principles to which child participation should adhere.

Research was undertaken to explore the foundations of child participation as a fundamental right, and to develop ethical principles for child participation for use in practice. As part of a qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with adult experts in child participation, and focus group discussions were held with children involved in child participation. From the study it was concluded that ethical principles for child participation are important to ensure that children are enabled to participate in an authentic and meaningful manner in all matters that affect them and their communities. Based on the findings and the conclusion, a framework for the ethical principles of child participation was developed.

Recommendations included the following:

  • Publishing and dissemination of the framework for the ethical principles of child participation.
  • Monitoring of child participation to ensure that it is ethical.
  • Training in ethical child participation for all role players.

© 2010, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Viviers, A 2010, The ethics of child participation, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-07062011-161610 / >


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