Children’s rights and children’s wellbeing: Equivalent policy concepts?

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Children’s rights and children’s wellbeing are often casually paired together in both academic literature and policy discussions but they differ conceptually, methodologically and politically. This has become particularly evident in Scotland, where ‘landmark’ children’s legislation in 2014 has set up a clash between statutory requirements for children’s rights and children’s wellbeing. This article utilises the Scottish example to wrestle with the advantages and disadvantages of each concept as a framework for policy and practice. The article concludes that children’s wellbeing benefits from being aspirational and maximising, easily incorporating children’s relationships and collective needs, and its advanced quantitative measurement. But children’s wellbeing risks being apolitical, utilitarian and professionally-led in both measurement and practice. Children’s rights, in contrast, emphasises minimum standards, does not easily include important matters for children such as love and friendship, and has limited quantitative investment to date. Yet it is politically powerful, backed by law, and holds duty bearers accountable. Decisions need to be made about the relationship between children’s rights and children’s wellbeing – and which is the primary framing for policy and practice – because they are not equivalent concepts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-823
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Issue number4
Early online date3 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • children’s rights
  • children’s wellbeing
  • childhood
  • children
  • outcomes


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