217 – Rethinking children’s agency within families and ECE institutions

Presentation - ECV2022-217

Rethinking children’s agency within families and ECE institutions

Adrijana Višnjić-Jevtić, University of Zagreb, Croatia (adrijana.vjevtic@ufzg.hr)

Background: Nowadays, pedagogy is founded on a child-centred approach within early childhood education (ECE) institutions. Whether we discuss the child as the centre or in the centre (Chung & Walsh, 2000), the child has a main role. However, when positioning the child as the centre (of the world, of the learning), we may deny his/her real participatory role. We let the adults organise children’s learning from an adult perspective. To respect children’s participation, we should change perspective.

Aim: The research aimed to consider adults’ perspectives about children’s participation.

Method: Following the paradigm of qualitative research, two focus groups were held with parents of preschool children (n = 22) and seven educators were interviewed. Adults discussed how they respect children’s decisions and ideas. Answers were coded by Lundy’s model of participation (space, voice, audience, influence).

Results: Both parents and teachers give children possibility to express an opinion (space) and views through all forms of expressions (space). Neither ensures active listening of children (audience) nor acts according to children’s point of view and needs (influence). Both groups of participants claimed that children’s decisions are respected – as long as they are not in opposition to adults’ decisions.

Conclusions: Adults want to support children’s participation, but they might fear their possible decisions. There is a need to inform adults to support children’s agency.

Implications for children and families: If you want children who will change the world, you should be an adult who is ready to listen, learn, understand, and respect children. 

Implications for practitioners: If you want children who will change the world, you should provide them with opportunities for real, not artificial participation.

Key words: children’s participatory rights, children’s voices, decision-making, early childhood education

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:


Scroll to Top