Is there a place for work in child development? Implications of child development theory and research for interpretation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, with particular reference to Article 32, on children, work and exploitation

This paper is about the role of child-development knowledge and research in international efforts to improve the lives and prospects for millions of working children. Article 32 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is framed in psychological terms. It declares that children must be protected from work that is harmful to their ’physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development’. Most interpretations of the Convention focus on a universal concept of child development. Many textboooks on this issue also seem to assume that there are universal, natural features of child development. This paper, however, presents the case for a sociocultural approach to child development as a more globally appropriate basis for conceptualising the place of work in children’s lives. This approach puts Western developmental knowledge into perspective, encourages caution in generalising research from one part of the world to another and relativises issues of harm and benefit.

Published 2010-04-26