9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN04 Sociology of Children and Childhood

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Citizenship and Participation Building II, C6.02

Experts of Their Own Lives: The Voice and Representation of Children and Young Adults

Lately, both political and societal interest have been devoted to participation of children and youngsters. This is directed to civics, hearing, leisure activities and voluntary participation. They have a right to participate in decision making that promotes development of the society. Their right to influence decision making that concerns them is emphasized in several legal instruments. Respect for the views of the child is one of the core principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the Constitution of Finland (731/1999) the public authorities shall promote the opportunities for the individual to participate in societal activity and to influence the decisions that concerns him or her. This obligation applies to children and youngsters as well.

The importance of children's and youngsters' views is also emphasized in the Finnish Government policy program for the well-being of children, youth and families (2007). The main goals of this program are to strengthen children's and youngsters citizenship, participation and possibilities to influence. Strong expectations are put on the willingness of citizens to actively and voluntarily participate for common good. From the point of view of child and youth studies this means that except for giving children and youth the possibilities to influence attention must also be paid on how institutional expectations and individual willingness meet. Are children and youth capable, in respect to their age and life experience, of making all these decisions and promoting active citizenship?

At Turku Institute for Child and Youth Research at the University of Turku a project ?Youngsters in focus? offers responds to this national societal and political demand. Research project produces information about the living conditions, thoughts and desires of children and youth. The research was carried out at schools of Southwest Finland in November 2008 and it aims to strengthen the participation of children and youth. The survey targeted 6th and 9th grade pupils at schools in Southwest Finland (N=2700). The paper focuses on Finnish children?s and young adults opinions on their possibilities to participate and influence their own lives. Comparisons with Swedish studies on the same topic will be made.