The governing of children: Social policy for children and young persons in New Zealand 1840-1982 (1988)
AuthorsMcDonald, Dugald Janshow all
This inquiry studies the changing position of children and young persons in New Zealand society. In structure, it is a chronological narrative that acts as a vehicle for setting out governmental and non-governmental policies and their implementation which have acted to control the lives of children and their parents or caregivers. It is about ways of governing children. The inquiry is directed towards justifying and elaborating a single and over-arching proposition: that children and young persons ought to be considered as a distinct social policy interest group apart from other social divisions. The notion of children's rights is given central importance as an indicator of the direction and influence of policy for children. The approach that links those second-order theories together, and which structures the overall study, is that of ascertaining social values through periodisation. In brief, this proposes that in the matter of policy for children, the events and practices which influence policy and rights assume a cluster of value characteristics. The values are cumulative but not mutually exclusive. So that they indicate potentialities rather than absolutes. The nature of social provision for children in each period is established to show these cumulative changes. The evidence shows that influential social values towards children over the period 1840-1982 fall into five main periods: • 1840-1879, in which the child is portrayed as a chattel of its caretakers and generally bereft of social rights; • 1880-1913, the period of the child as a protected person, guarded by the state but with limited individual rights; • 1914-1944, the period of the child as social capital worthy of investment for the value it may return as a productive adult; • 1945-1968, the time when the child was viewed as psychological being in which nurturance and intervention was consciously guided by theories of human behaviour both normal and abnormal; • 1969-1982, characterised by the emergence of the children's rights movement and the notion of the child as citizen. The inquiry concludes with these general findings: (1) That it is possible to defend the characterisation of time periods in which children have acquired explicit rights, (2) that children as a category of society have not usually been treated as an interest group in their own rights, (3) that policy for children should be treated as a discrete subject within policy studies, and (4) that the issue of children's rights in New Zealand society remains an open question and that that advocacy for children in the arena of social policy needs continually to be re-examined in the course of changing knowledge, beliefs and attitudes.