Communicating with Children and Adolescents: Action for Change

Communicating with Children and Adolescents: Action for Change

Communicating with Children and Adolescents: Action for Change

Communicating with Children and Adolescents: Action for Change

Synopsis

This text places action methods in a theoretical, technical and political framework and documents examples of good practice. Discussion of the application of action methods to work with young people focuses on differing issues and populations.

Excerpt

Anne Bannister and Annie Huntington

Action methods and child-centred practice

Attitudes to children and young people change over space and time. This is unsurprising when we consider the extent to which childhood can be said to be 'socially constructed', culturally defined and re-defined by actors on the stage of life (Aries 1962). Despite criticisms of the characterisation of childhood as a distinct and separate state from adulthood, and questions about the extent to which continuity or change has defined adult/child relationships, there is some consensus as to the importance of exploring the way we think about childhood and children (Cunningham 1995): not least as competing discourses shape the social spaces within which we engage in our everyday interactions as adults and children. For example, is there a disjuncture between the romantic ideal of childhood and the lived reality of childhood for many children? Are childhood and adulthood distinct and separate, or fused, states? (Cunningham 1995). However childhood is defined, and whether we can pinpoint a 'cut off' point that signals the end of childhood, there is a period of life that can seen as 'qualitatively different from adulthood'(Butler and Williamson 1994, p.1). Further, the 'early years' have been cogently demonstrated to be an important period in the development of any nation's citizens (Brandon, Schofield and Trinder 1998), as has the transition period into adulthood (see Cossa, this volume).

Thinking about and taking children and young people into account is important at many levels – for example, the strategic as well as the local. At the political level we could agree that 'child impact assessment is built into the process of government' (Newell 2000, p.47). Those nation states that have created children's rights commissioners, or are considering doing so, under-

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