How Does “Age Matter” in Relation to Youth Wellbeing? An Examination of Minimum Age Legislation Research in Europe and Central Asia

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Cristina BACALSO, Youth Policy Labs, Germany
Minimum age legislation are contentious, contextual and at times, contradictory. They directly influence the realities of young people: for example, when they can make independent health choices, be tried and held in adult courts and prisons, access financial credit for business, be heard in judicial proceedings, or consent to marriage.

In 2016, UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office commissioned a the multi-year research project called “Age Matters!: Age-related barriers to service access and the realisation of rights for children, adolescents and youth”. The first phase, completed in October 2016, was a desk-based mapping of minimum age legislation in the region. The second phase, due to be completed in January 2018, is a consultation with adolescents in five countries in the region (Armenia, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Romania, Ukraine) to understand how the knowledge, perceptions and experiences of adolescents with minimum age legislation impacts their subjective well-being and aspirations for the future.

This paper looks specifically at the way the project considers the relationship between minimum age legislation, access to rights, and service provision, and concepts such as “vulnerability” and “wellbeing” as conceived by UNICEF. In particular, it will zero in on two key components of the project explicitly relating to wellbeing: the research scope, where the thematic domains selected are tied to domains of youth well-being popularised by global-level youth indicies, the Youth Wellbeing Index (2014, 2017) and the Youth Development Index (2013, 2016); and the outcomes of responses by adolescents during the consultation phase, in relation to their subjective wellbeing. Lastly, the paper will reflect and interrogate the policy, programmatic and advocacy impacts of research like “Age Matters!” for child’s rights organisations like UNICEF.