A three-dimensional semantic of childhood and children's rights

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


This presentation proposes a conceptualisation of young children’s rights as social institution defining a semantic of early childhood in the material, social and temporal dimensions. The theoretical background combines sociological human rights studies (Madsen&Verschraegen, 2013) with structuralist analysis of childhood (Qvortrup, 2009) in light of a socio-constructivist interest in the construction of the category of childhood in communication systems (Baraldi, 2014) and its positioning in relation to adulthood (Alanen, 2001). The theoretical argument is supported by a comparative discourse-analytical investigation of legislation and policies of Early Years Education and Care in England, Ireland and Italy (2005-2015). In particular the analysis approaches the interrelations between conceptualisation of children’s rights and the different construction of childhood materialising in the institutionalised discourses on Early Years Education and Care. Data suggests that concurrent conceptualisations of young children’s rights are intertwined with a paradoxical status of childhood in the material, social and temporal dimensions. In the material dimension, the emerging ambivalence in legislation and policies between ‘human rights’, concerning the preservation of the individual, and ‘personal rights’, concerning inclusion in all social domains (Teubner, 2012), is discussed, with children occupying a metaphorical space as ‘migrants’ in society, protected by human rights but with conditional access to personal rights. In the social dimension, it is argued that the semantic of children’s rights as ‘human rights’ underpins a truth of children`s agency as subordinate to the ‘responsible adult’ (Lee, 2005; Wyness, 2012). Protection and dependency are key to the temporal dimension. The paper discusses how the discourse on children’s safeguarding and well-being posits adult’s protection of the ‘future citizen’ in opposition to the risk of children’s active citizenship in the present.
Period23 Jun 2017
Event titleOMEP World Assembly and International Conference
Event typeConference
LocationZagreb, CroatiaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Semantic
  • Childhood
  • Children's rights