Participation and young people

Traditionally, young people have been excluded from active participation in many of the decisions that affect their lives. When we are very young, our parents, family members and other adults always make decisions on our behalf. Usually they are genuinely concerned with our interests.

But as we grow into adolescence, the period of transition from childhood to adulthood, we begin to develop our own sense of what ‘our best interests’ are, and we may not have the same perspective as the adults in our lives have.

However, adults do not always want to relinquish their role as decision-makers, sometimes because they see dangers that young people do not, and they do not always recognise when young people become able to begin to make their own decisions, and to take responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.

That point of change is a difficult one that requires careful negotiation. This struggle for greater influence and autonomy takes place not just within our families, but also at school and in community contexts, where adults may be even more wary of giving up some of the power invested in them.

The kind of actions and reactions that you have thought about are all framed within the relationships to power that the young people and their parents have. We look at notions of power next.