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PERSPECTIVES ON PARTICIPATION: Children as Citizens

BySilvia Blitzer Golombek

Who is a citizen? Common definitions refer to individuals who have been born in a particular country (“jus solis”), are children of parents born in that country (“jus sanguinis”) or become citizens of a nation by choice. In the United States the concept also is associated to a person’s change in status at the age of 18 by which he or she acquires the right to vote in elections for public office along with other rights and responsibilities, including full employment, entering into contracts, and marriage. Citizenship, therefore, is understood as an affiliation with a nation-state and as a series of duties and rights acquired because of age. These definitions, however, leave out other behaviors that, if taken into account, broaden the concept of citizenship to include other activities that engage individuals in public life. By that expanded definition, children and youth under 18 can be considered citizens as well, regardless of place of birth.