Taking children’s citizenship seriously
Whether or not children count as citizens is partly related to different senses of citizenship. In a narrow sense, citizenship is roughly coterminous with legal nationality, although the United Kingdom is a multi-national state where ‘British citizenship’ covers four home nations (Kearney 2006). Increasingly citizenship is used in a broader sense to refer to political and social entitlements. The impetus for the
expanding discourse on citizenship is the view that democratic citizenship requires active engagement; citizens should seek to make positive contributions to their communities beyond the private sphere (Oldfield 1990). In the past, these broad forms of citizenship were seen as initially confined to male heads of households and then gradually extended to all adults, but children were seen as lacking the capacity for such involvement. From this perspective, children are not yet citizens.