Assessing child and youth functionings and capabilities in divergent territories: methodological and conceptual challenges in measuring well-being, human security, and territorial inclusion

Rivera, Elizabeth (2018). 'Assessing child and youth functionings and capabilities in divergent territories: Methodological and conceptual challenges in measuring well-being, human security, and territorial inclusion' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


The application of the capability approach is particularly informative when studying the determinants of children and youth well-being (Biggeri et al., 2011), as it introduces the assumption that children are not autonomous and that their capabilities are partially affected by the capabilities of the communities in which they grow (external capabilities, Foster and Handy, 2008). The recent recognition of the existence of this strong correlation between individual and collective capabilities has opened new perspectives on the capability approach, in particular, with respect to the definition and measurement of the multidimensional space of child well-being.

In this theoretical framework, the proposed panel aims at deepening the issue of the relationship between children’s well-being and the opportunities embedded in the specific territories and communities in which they live. It refers to the ways in which the safety of the environment and its level of violence contribute to shape the opportunities available to young people to acquire their fundamental freedoms. From different viewpoints, all presented papers address the following three questions: “Which children’s functionings and capabilities are impacted the most by the level of safety of the territory where they live? Which components of conflict and violence are most relevant in this sense? And which policies can contribute to reduce the disadvantage of children growing in unsafe environments?”

The first study, presented by Benvin, Rivera-Gomez and Sanchez, describes the relationship between the lack of human security and inclusion in “La Legua” (Chile) and the well-being of its children and youth. Its main purpose is to examine the concept of human security as a collective functioning necessary for the attainment of all basic capabilities by its younger generations. In so doing, the authors propose a multidimensional index of human security

The second paper by Bronfman and Hadad explores some of the most crucial elements of deprivation and poverty affecting the region of Araucanía in Chile, with specific emphasis on the well-being of the Mapuche children, impacted by the high level of discrimination and violence against their community. The study provides a poverty analysis and a comparison between the capabilities endowment of the Mapuche children and that of the rest of the young population of the region. Also, this paper highlights some cultural elements characterizing the Mapuche community, which should be considered when designing policy intervention aiming at reducing their exclusion and lack of opportunities.

The third paper by Raffaele Ciula approaches the Bolsa Familia program in Brazil by identifying the main mechanisms through which it affects children’s multidimensional disadvantage in some deprived neighborhoods (favelas). It provides an innovative perspective on the impact of Bolsa Familia on concentrated disadvantage: its ability to affect multiple dimensions of well-being by providing fundamental capabilities and protecting human rights in extremely deprived communities.

Finally, the presented panel, hosted for the first time in South America, is intended for scholars, researchers, practitioners and activists already involved in the activities of the HDCA Thematic Group on Children and Youth, as well as for new participants interested in the topic and willing to join the group.

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