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Young people's participation and representation in society

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There has been a surge of interest in the geography of children and childhood. With it has come a growing awareness that children form a marginalised and subordinate group in (adult) society. A culture of non-participation by young people is endemic within the United Kingdom. For the most part, young people are provided with few opportunities to engage in discussions about their economic, social and environmental futures and seldom given chances to express their preferences outside of adult-dominated institutions. It would seem that participation is still conceived to be an adult activity. In this paper, we consider competing perspectives on the appropriateness and capability of children to participate and the form that participation should take; we then examine young people's participation and representation within the UK at the national level and consider some recent initiatives which encourage closer involvement at a local level; we discuss examples within mainland Europe where the political participation of children has been taken more seriously and where working mechanisms by which children are politically enabled are further developed; and lastly, we engage in further cross-cultural comparison in order to see whether ideas about children's participation and involvement in public life extends beyond 'the west'. By making such comparison we seek both to inform the debate on children's participation and representation within the UK and to draw attention to how an understanding of children's political engagement contributes to an emerging geography of children and childhood.




Matthews, H., Limb, M., & Taylor, M. (1999). Young people’s participation and representation in society. Geoforum, 30(2), 135–144.

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