The Status of Child Citizens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This paper considers the place of children within liberal-democratic society and its related political morality. The genesis of the paper is two considerations which are in tension with one another. First, that there must be some point at which children are divided from adults, with children denied the rights which go along with full membership of the liberal community. The justification for the difference in the statue between these two groups must be rooted in some notion of capacities, since these are the only relevant differences between adults and children. Second, that linking an individual's capacities to her status undermines the central liberal commitment of political equality. This dilemma explains what I term the threshold view, which holds that children become adult citizens upon reaching an age of competence and that above this level differences in abilities cease to matter to an individual's status. While this view has attractions, this paper argues that this view must eventually be rejected because of its inability to deal with the actual process of human development. In its place, the paper proposes a modification to this view which sees the threshold constrained by moral demands and applied indirectly to age groups rather than individuals. These constraints preserve the commitment to equality in a way consistent with a plausible view of children's place in society.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitics, Philosophy and Economics
Early online date1 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


  • Children, Voting, Equality


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