Reflecting on childhood and child agency in history

Haring, Ute, Sorin, Reesa, and Caltabiano, Nerina J. (2019) Reflecting on childhood and child agency in history. Palgrave Communications, 5. 52.

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In today’s fast changing and unpredictable world we tend to rely upon children’s agency to ensure their survival following traumatic events. Because of this, parents and teachers need to be conversant with ways of encouraging children’s agency to support their health and efficacy throughout the lifespan. This paper takes the form of a literature review covering historical and recent developments in the field of childhood, child abuse and child agency. It offers the findings of a qualitative document study that aimed to explore how childhood and child agency have been conceptualized historically in the Western world. It begins with a summary of theories and typologies of childhood throughout history, exploring the unique social and historical concepts in which theories of childhood and child agency developed. Furthermore, a paradigm shift in Western society towards women achieving agency is revealed. With this came greater attention to the child, especially the abused child. Focusing on abuse to which children have been exposed, this study looks at child agency and how it can be actualized for children’s wellbeing. Research findings make a strong case for the arts to provide valuable tools of resilience for the developing child. Arts-based activities have been increasingly appreciated as providing a voice for traumatized or abused children. Therefore, the findings of this study into agency and child abuse were distilled into a poem to demonstrate the potential impact on a child and to help adults better understand the historically perceived voiceless victim. The poem, as seen from the perspective of the child, offers a distinctive contribution to the literature on child abuse. Key findings of this study are discussed, including the importance of increasing understanding of children’s agency. It is argued that a shift in childrearing, incorporated child protection laws and agentic experiences build children’s confidence to challenge the traditional adult-child power relationship. The results of this research help to contribute to teacher knowledge about the intricate background to child abuse and child agency

Item ID: 59861
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2055-1045
Keywords: Childhood, Childhood in history, Child agency, Child Abuse
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2019. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2019 00:34
FoR Codes: 39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390199 Curriculum and pedagogy not elsewhere classified @ 40%
52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5201 Applied and developmental psychology > 520101 Child and adolescent development @ 60%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930202 Teacher and Instructor Development @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920205 Health Education and Promotion @ 50%
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