Beyond cultural relativism in the sociology of childhood: the human rights approach
Department of Educational Sciences University of Jyväskylä Jyväskylä, Finland
The growth of sociological interest in children and childhood has coincided broadly with the development of the modern children?s rights movement, suggesting that they probably share some common social breeding ground. Curiously however, apart from some observations that there seem to be parallels in their notions (e.g. the emphasis given to children?s agency in the sociology of childhood and to children?s right to participation in the children?s rights discourse) not much dialogue has taken place between the two discourses.
The emergent field of the sociology of human rights provides a promising platform for engaging in such a dialogue. This paper explores how discussions in the sociology of human rights might contribute to the conceptual development of the sociology of childhood.
One key problem in conceptualizing children?s rights lies in the multiple definitions of childhood and the (cultural) relativism that versions of socio-cultural constructionism (prevalent in the sociological discussion of childhood) unavoidably bring to sociological understandings of childhood. The paper discusses some of the developments in the sociology of human rights that provide resources for overcoming the relativism that is troubling in theoretically advancing the sociology of childhood.