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Children's agency in communities: a review of literature and the policy and practice context

6 Nov 2008

Learnings from the sociology of childhood and the children’s rights discourse have informed our understanding of children as competent beings who exercise agency in their own lives and in their communities. Starting from this perspective, we explore the literature, policy and practice contexts which explain and shape the Australian approach to supporting children living in disadvantaged communities.

We find that these theoretical, policy and practice frameworks seek to support and protect children in communities, but do not acknowledge or work with children’s capacity to act in and shape their environments. We then turn to the literature which explores children’s agency, and examine the limited body of research which points to the benefits of adults engaging with children’s agency.

Finally, we draw together key principles and suggested methods from the literature which can assist adults who wish to explore and engage with children’s agency in communities. Our hope is that these approaches can contribute to theory, policy and practice which take account of children’s agency thereby enriching our understanding of the strengths and potential of children in communities.

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