Childhood, rights and justice in Northern Ireland

Authored by: Deena Haydon , Phil Scraton

The Routledge International Handbook of Criminology and Human Rights

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138931176
eBook ISBN: 9781315679891
Adobe ISBN: 9781317395553


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What is ‘childhood’? When does it start? When does it end? Seemingly self-evident, definitions of ‘childhood’ are not universally shared; varying over time, between cultures, within sovereign state policies and legislation. ‘Childhood’ as a distinct period of human development is a relatively recent construct. Developmental theories identify discrete ‘stages’ in the transition from birth to adulthood, the assumption being that the latter represents the ‘completed’ human condition. In contrast, social constructionist analyses affirm the significance of the determining contexts of culture, religion, learning and political economy in mapping this transition. At its simplest, the distinction between these quite different approaches has been represented as the ‘nature versus nurture’ dichotomy. A more complex, critical analysis focuses on social and political constructions of childhood within the dominant social order, differential power relations, and consequent impacts on the lives of children and young people.

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