Observing Children: Free Extract Numéro-Deux

So today I have another snippet of Gill Butler’s ‘Observing Children and Families’ book. For those of you that haven’t seen yesterday’s post, we will be giving you some exclusive extracts throughout the week just to share with you why this text has received an ample amount of great feedback.

In this chapter Gill discusses four main perceptions of children: children as victims, children as incomplete adults, children as a threat, children as redemptive. These perceptions can be problematic to practitioners.

This next extract discusses the first perception (children as victims) and shows how the text encourages the reader to be interactive and responsive with the text through the use of activities.


Similarly attitudes to children working have also changed, so within the framework of the law, there is now a ‘protectionist discourse’ (James, James and Prout 1998) that regards the employment of young children as intrinsically problematic. Cunningham suggests that this has had a problematic impact:

So fixated are we on giving our children a long and happy childhood that we downplay their abilities and their resilience. To think of children as potential victims in need of protection is a very modern outlook, and it probably does no-one a service.  (Cunningham 2006:245) 

My tendency to view children in this way was vividly illustrated when I was visiting South Africa some years ago.  I saw a young girl, at most six years old, carrying a baby (approximately 9-12 months) on her back, purposefully making her way along and across a busy road.  She did this carefully and competently. The baby on her back had his arms curled around her; he looked chubby and alert.  The image has always stayed in my mind, as it was a sight that did not fit with my view of children’s competence and the level of responsibility that they should be afforded.


Do you agree with Cunningham’s view, stated above, that it is unhelpful to see children as potential victims? Compile a list of the possible advantages and disadvantages.

For more on the book, click here. Please contact us if you have any queries, and keep an eye out for tomorrow’s extract.

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