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Children's agency, children's welfare

Children's agency, children's welfare: A dialogical approach to child development, policy and practice

Carolus van Nijnatten
Copyright Date: 2010
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  • Book Info
    Children's agency, children's welfare
    Book Description:

    Human development is about the growth of agency, which is developed in interaction with their parents and families but if parental agency is insufficient, agency in the form of child welfare will be required to fill the gaps. This book provides an holistic view of how children develop agency, combining social, psychological and child development aspects, as well as examining child welfare structures and the roles of social workers. This focus will make a contribution to current debates about child welfare and child protection and the book will therefore be essential reading for academics and researchers in social work, childhood studies, children's policy and social policy.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-490-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. About the author
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Child welfare is about agency, or rather about children and families lacking adequate agency. Child welfare gets involved when children and families manifestly have serious trouble in organising their lives. As a child born of an already widowed mother who was taken into hospital on several occasions throughout my childhood, I was always aware of how vulnerable children are and how easily they can find themselves at risk. Since childhood, I have been fascinated by the vulnerability of children. When I first became a student of developmental psychology, I was already sure that my main field of study would be...

  5. ONE Child, welfare, agency
    (pp. 5-16)

    Jennifer is a 16-year-old girl who, since the age of two, has lived in children’s homes and foster families. She has little agency and has problems maintaining relationships with other people. Whenever they come close, she pulls away. Although she was convinced that her last foster parents would always look after her, she felt she could not carry on living with the family, as she could not deal with its open character based on improvisation and mutual trust. After many rows she left home and is now trying to live on her own.

    Jennifer has a history of neglect and...

  6. TWO The development of individual agency
    (pp. 17-32)

    This chapter deals with the process of entering into human society, which all children undergo. It is difficult for any child to learn that in changing circumstances she and the people around remain constant. Spatial and temporal experience only begins after separation from the womb in which the infant was one with her mother, protected from the tensions of intensifying and decreasing needs. Human beings are forever being shuttled between experiences of fusion with the other and coming out on their own.

    The problems young children have with constructing continuity show early on, in functions such as their bowel movements....

  7. THREE Social interaction and interactive agency
    (pp. 33-50)

    Chapter Two explains how a child’s individual agency develops through interaction with its caretakers. Later chapters will explore how social agency develops as a result of social structures, but this chapter focuses on agency as an element of human interaction. Social interaction is where intrapersonal processes intersect with social structures; it is influenced by the characters of those who are involved in the communication and by the social categories that shape its context. But both personality and social structures are in turn shaped by social interactions; there is a process of mutual interaction involving intrapersonal, interpersonal and macro social processes...

  8. FOUR Social agency and social context
    (pp. 51-70)

    People’s agency depends not only on their personal history and interactional capacities, but also on the social context of their lives. Social agency is related to social identity and refers to what people have in common rather than how they differ (Verkuijten, 2005). A social identity is based on classifications, but although people may define others and themselves in relation to these categories, they are not completely determined by the class they are assigned to; they take an active stance and negotiate their identities. They may develop a sense of belonging to a social category that may confirm the social...

  9. FIVE Diagnosis and dialogue
    (pp. 71-88)

    So far this book has analysed human agency at the level of individual development, social interaction and social structure. Although in reality there can be no such thing as perfect agency, and a stubborn wish to achieve such perfection could be construed as pathological, the desire to become autonomous is nevertheless considered a ‘normal’ attitude in western cultures. However, these cultures differ in what they consider to be the minimum level of agency that people should achieve. Consequently, different levels of agency between individuals may reflect different cultural backgrounds.

    Parents help their children to develop agency. Children’s developmental continuity is...

  10. SIX Change and co-construction
    (pp. 89-112)

    In previous chapters, the dialogical nature of human agency has been discussed on three different levels: individual development, social interaction and social structure. Children may display pathologies at any level: when their development is interrupted or slows down, when they are unable to make their voices heard in conversation with other people or to live on the margins of society, or when they are not brought up according to accepted social norms. Various social programmes exist to support children who display symptoms of dysfunctional agency: orthopsychiatric services, courses in social communicative competencies, and compensation and participation programmes.

    Child welfare agents...

  11. SEVEN Dialogical management
    (pp. 113-130)

    Any analysis of child welfare needs a discussion about organisation, institutional agency. In line with the rest of this book, this chapter will analyse child welfare agencies from a constructivist point of view. In Chapter Five, the negative evaluations of child welfare were discussed as part of a more overall, neoliberal protest against the welfare state. Administrations were said to play a too big part in the provision of welfare, and it was thought to be better to let citizens organise it themselves. As a result, public human services tried to show that they met the highest standards, referring more...

  12. EIGHT Dialogical child welfare: conclusion
    (pp. 131-136)

    In this book, I have discussed the function of dialogue in development, the upbringing of children, child welfare and child welfare organisation. I started from the idea that words –spoken and written – enable people to build up psychological continuity. Words are instruments that give structure to constantly changing life conditions. But this continuity also has a social context, and a society is only a social order if its members speak more or less in the same culturally accepted way, producing a common sense. This common ground is the foundation of social institutions. Continuity is then a social and narrative...

  13. References
    (pp. 137-152)
  14. Appendix: Transcript conventions and abbreviations
    (pp. 153-154)
  15. Index
    (pp. 155-157)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 158-160)