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Children as Competent Social Actors

The idea that children are competent social actors was a founding tenet of the ‘new’ social study of childhood. It has been a powerful—and problematic—concept. Turning away from a purely developmental view of children and childhood, researchers were urged to recognise, and demonstrate, children’s active role in shaping their own lives, the lives of their families and communities, and broader society. There was a particular emphasis on reconceptualising the child in the research process itself, moving towards children as active participants in research about their own lives, and sometimes as co-researchers. However, at the same time that the concept of the child as a competent social actor was flourishing, the idea was also being contested—particularly regarding the moral and philosophical roots of the concept, and ...

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