Chapter

Vulnerability, Children, and the Law

Jonathan Herring

in Law and Childhood Studies

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199652501
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739217 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199652501.003.0016

Series: Current Legal Issues

Vulnerability, Children, and the Law

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Vulnerability is commonly cited as a reason why children should not receive rights, or at least not the same rights as adults. We are told that if the law were to give children the same rights as adults we would see more exploitation of children, not less. Plenty of authors have criticized the way that the law and media have presented children as being vulnerable. It undermines children's agency and justifies inappropriately paternalistic interventions in the lives of children. It involves exaggerating the risks children face and downplays their abilities. Children, it is loudly asserted, are a great deal more competent and able than we give them credit for. This chapter argues that the law is right to regard children as vulnerable, where it is at fault is in failing to recognize the vulnerability of adults. Children are vulnerable as is everyone. In children we adults see our own vulnerability and flee from it. The author of this chapter does not reject claims that children are vulnerable: he thinks they are, even if the claims are often exaggerated and distorted to achieve adult purposes. The failure is to recognize that children's vulnerability is, in essence, no different from that faced by adults.

Keywords: children; adults; vulnerability; law

Chapter.  11443 words. 

Subjects: Family Law

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