children and developed agency

andrew divers


That we treat children differently from adults is clear. The attitude of increased paternalistic standards can be seen in a number of cases – be it the rights which children have in terms of medical treatment, decisions about their lives which are left up to parents or guardians, or the prohibition of certain activities before a certain age. However, we can only treat ‘children as children’ if we can prove that this stands in great enough distinction from the adult. Either it can be shown that children are significantly unique (and certainly so in relation to adults) such that different treatment on this basis is justified, or, if it cannot be shown that children are different to adults or we cannot say who is and who is not a child, then the second conclusion must be that we cannot justify children as deserving of paternalistic treatment, and must either reject paternalistic intervention altogether, or else look for a new criteria upon which to base the application of these increased paternalistic standards. The second of these conclusions is that which I will defend in this paper, and will argue that we replace the notion of childhood with that of developed agency.


Autonomy; Agency; Rights; Responsibility

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e-issn 1984-5987 | p-issn 2525-5061