Matthew Happold
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Childhood and children’s rights
Changing perceptions
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Perceptions of childhood vary across time and space. One criticism that can be made about viewing the issue through a children's rights prism, however, is that it obscures the fact that children and adults frequently face the same pressures and act for the same reasons. Appreciating that conceptions of childhood have differed across time and space helps us understand why child soldiers continue to be recruited and how child soldiers themselves might view their experiences. The idea that children have rights, and that those rights operate to oblige their parents and other adults to do or refrain from doing certain things to them, is new. Nevertheless, it is argued that it is an idea whose time has come. With regard to younger children, the argument that their development right not to be recruited trumps their autonomy right to make their own decisions seems much simpler.

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