Children’s Well-Being and the “Trap” of Protection Vs Autonomy

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:45
Oral Presentation
Roberta BOSISIO, University of Turin, Italy
Manuela OLAGNERO, University of Turin, Italy
The aim of the paper is to make some reflections on the different approaches to address children’s well-being. Notwithstanding the progress made at normative level to safeguard children’s well-being (see the 1989 UN CRC), the transition from the statement of rights to their implementation does not take place in a “neutral” time frame because it depends on the ability of the legal system to tap into the signals from the social system (King 1993, Wyness 2015). As known, the tension contained in the CRC between rights to protection and rights to participation and autonomy is reflected in the different perspectives looking at guaranteeing children’s well-being. The protectionist approach considers children in need of protection and care from family and social institutions, not looking at them as individuals in their own right (Ackerman 1984; Freeman 1983), and leaving sociability and peer to peer exchange in the background. In the liberationist approach children are attributed needs and skills that cannot be sacrificed for the sake of a future benefit (Franklin 2002).

Starting from these premises we present some findings from different research (recently conducted in Italy) whose aim was to analyse how children’s autonomy is promoted and practiced in daily life by the new cohorts of parents and children. These findings show that both 'autonomy from' and 'dependence on' adults give rise to unintended results. Protection can become invasive, making children to depend excessively on adults (Nelson 2010; Gomez Espino 2013). Encouraging autonomy could lead to parents shirking their responsibilities. In a context in which generations are coming closer together and the relational asymmetry of the past is vanishing it is getting more and more difficult for both parents and children to find a balance between autonomy and protection.