Recent debates about children’s participation rights, formulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, primarily focus on ‘effectiveness’ of implementation. However, children’s participation remains problematic, its limited impact on adult power in decision-making or on the nature of decisions made persists, and implicated in both are reservations about children’s competence as participants. In respect of this, we analysed conceptualisations of competence in 67 articles, published between 2007 and 2017 in six childhood studies’ journals, where ‘competence’ and its variations appear in the abstract. Although competence was rarely defined, conceptualisations were wide-ranging, covering competence as skills, as compliance with adult views, and as a trope signalling the field of childhood studies. As a result of our findings, we argue that epistemological clarity is vital for this concept to be useful regarding children’s participation and that attention must be paid to the different kinds of competence relevant for ‘effective’ participation.
- social actors
- children's rights