Diversity in childhood experiences of well-being and participation

Biggeri, Mario (2016). 'Diversity in childhood experiences of well-being and participation' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

Without accounting for human diversity and for the complexity of social relations that characterize societies, policies can hardly benefit those individuals that are disadvantaged also due to their identity. Indeed, in order for the policies and development programs to be inclusive they should also account for the nature of identity, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, class and other salient characteristics. This is based on the recognition that people, including children and the youth differ in their capacity to benefit from the economic and non economic opportunities offered by the societies.
This is also consistent with the recently released Human Development Reports that draw attention to the fact that even in the presence of economic opportunities, the salience of one’s social identity may affect eventual outcomes. At this scope, improving the ability to gather data disaggregated by gender, ethnic group, caste, religion,disability, etc is a basic step for understanding the processes of social exclusion and for planning inclusive policies.
The capability approach gives human diversity a crucial importance. As Sen (1992:xi) states: “human diversity is no secondary complication (to be ignored, or to be introduced ’later on’); it is a fundamental aspect of our interest in equality”.
There are at least three ways through which the CA takes into consideration human diversity(Robeyns, 2000; Comim, 2008). The first is through the adoption of a multidimensionalspace for evaluation. The second reason is strongly connected with the first one and relates to the fact that the CA focuses on the functioning and capabilities “that people value”. Finally, the CA accounts for human diversity through the notion of conversion factors and social policies (Sen 1985, 1999).
Furthermore, although the CA is usually used to assess the well-being of adults, it is particularly well placed for understanding the determinants of the well-being of children and the youth. Indeed, far from being empty vessels to be filled with love and care, children and the youth are social actors endowed with agency (Ballet et. al 2011) and can take decisions over matters that concern them.
This panel departs from the recognition that children and the youth are social actors and that we need to situate their well-being and deprivations in accordance with their age, context, identity.
Furthemore, this panel is based on the assumption that childhood is a critical period: critical not only for individual children’s development, but for achieving social justice and for the prosperities of the societies and that tackling childhood deprivations is crucial for creating the bases for equality of opportunities and for reducing intergenerational transmission of poverty
Thus, this panel dicusses the multidimensional nature of well-being, the role of participation in fostering evolving capabilities, and the role played by the intersectional nature of identity. All these aspects are addressed by posing different research questions and by using different methods, but all of them relate to childhood and youth as a critical stage of life.

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