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Children and Youth Studies

For this specialization we advise you to register in the Major Social Policy for Development (SPD), but other Majors also give access to this specialization.

This specialization provides participants with an understanding of how children and youth are involved in development processes at the global and local levels.

CYS students will develop and strengthen their critical awareness of the global and comparative history of childhood and youth, and of the various underlying forces which have shaped (or have aimed to shape) that history. They will develop an understanding of the vastly different environments under which children and youth grow up due to social and cultural inequalities as well as global economic and political factors.

The specialization explores issues of poverty, equity, rights and social development of the young from an interdisciplinary perspective that draws on sociology, political economy, anthropology, law and social history. It similarly investigates organizations, youth movements, and interventions that have shaped, or have attempted to shape, childhood and youth in different contexts.


Karin Arts, Professor of International Law and Development, joined the ISS twenty years ago and has developed a very broad experience in teaching and researching human rights and social justice issues. In 2010 she was awarded a professorial chair by the Board of Erasmus University Rotterdam. She is a member of the International Committee on International Law and Sustainable Development of the International Law Association (ILA) as well as the Advisory Council on International Relations of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She has advised governments, the United Nations and NGOs and has published widely on human rights and in particular the rights of children as well as the European Union's policies on development co-operation.

For more information, see: www.iss.nl/arts.

Kristen Cheney is Senior Lecturer Children and Youth and Studies and also co-convener and advisory board chair for the 1300-member Anthropology of Children & Youth Interest Group. Her research focuses on children’s survival strategies amidst difficult circumstances in Eastern and Southern Africa. Her book Pillars of the Nation: Child Citizens and Ugandan National Development (2007, University of Chicago Press) looks broadly at the social intersections of childhood and nationhood. She is currently working on a manuscript entitled 'Crying for Our Elders: African Orphanhood in the Age of HIV and AIDS' based on her Fulbright-funded ethnographic research with orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Her work takes an explicitly child-centered approach while still considering the hegemonic practices of government, development industry, and family, and their effects on children’s choices.

For more information see: www.iss.nl/cheney

Roy Huijsmans is lecturer in Children and Youth Studies. He holds degrees in education, development studies and geography and has worked  in the field of children, youth and development for over a decade including work in/on Sub-Saharan Africa (Malawi), Southeast Asia (Lao PDR in particular) and the European Union (Netherlands in particular). His research interests are generally about the role and position of young people in processes of development such as migration, work, education and agrarian transformations. He earned a PhD in human geography from Durham University, UK.  

For more information, see: www.iss.nl/huijsmans

Loes Keysers is lecturer in Women and Development Studies.

For more information, see: www.iss.nl/keysers




Auma Okwany is lecturer in Social Policies and the convenor of the post-graduate Diploma in Children Youth and Development at the ISS. She is the coordinator of the ISS-ICDI collaboration for Child and Youth Studies (ICCYs). Her teaching and research interests center on the relationship between policy, practice and theory in childhood and youth more broadly and in education reform efforts in particular with a focus on factors that define exclusion for disadvantaged groups. She is a team member of the post-graduate diploma in poverty analysis, delivered in Tanzania in partnership with two research institutions based in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. She earned a PhD in Educational Policy Studies from Indiana University in the USA.

For more information, see: www.iss.nl/okwany

Children and Youth Studies Courses 

Child and Youth Studies in the Development Context: Society, Culture, Agency and Rights 

The late twentieth century witnessed a dramatic shift in conceptions and practices of child rights and youth participation. Since this time development studies has had to more critically engage with notions of citizenship, rights, and democracy in a global era. This course explores how changing conceptualizations of children and youth come into contact with rights and development discourses. It addresses key ideas and debates from the vantage point of critical pedagogy, human rights, social-anthropology, development economics, and social history and asks how childhood and youth are significant for development practice that values social justice, equity and inclusion.

In this course, students will develop and strengthen their critical awareness of the global and comparative history of childhood and youth, and of the various underlying forces which have shaped (or have aimed to shape) that history; they will develop an understanding of the vastly different environments under which children and youth grow up, due to inequalities in class, gender, ethnicity etc. as well as global economic and political factors. They will understand how various cross-cutting social categories intersect to manifest themselves as inequality among young people, and how these categories contribute to the inter-generational reproduction of inequalities.

Throughout the course participants will gain a familiarity with both the works of ‘classic’ and ‘critical’ thinkers whose ideas have shaped social constructions, policies and institutions relating to childhood and youth. In addition, the course will provide an in-depth understanding of rights based approaches and of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Students will strengthen their ability to understand, explain and engage with theories and debates about childhood and youth in the social sciences, development economics and (international) law and to link these perspectives to concrete situations and problems.

Specific areas to be covered include:

  • How children and youth are conceptualized in development and citizenship discourses
  • The impact of globalization on children and youth
  • Education’s role in development and citizenship
  • Critical pedagogies
  • New Youth cultures in an age of changing media and communication technologies
  • Youth social movements
  • The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), the CRC’s history and rationale, its definition of childhood, its main approaches, contents and instruments
  • Competing notions of childhood/youth vulnerability and agency
  • Research approaches in child/youth studies (innovative methodologies and ethical considerations)

Social policy: people, generations and regeneration

It is a truism that social policy is about how to change ‘people’ lives, and hopefully improve them. This truism ends as soon as one asks who the ‘people’ are and what the policies should be.

The course centres on the inter-relationship between generation (as a mainly demographic category as well as one based on  social relations),  reproduction of labour and social regeneration (that of labour, as in the case of nutrition, health and care, as well as social regeneration, social cohesion) and the role of social policy in this inter-relationship. The social regeneration in this context is more about changing than maintaining the existing social, cultural and economic structures that limit development of capabilities, freedom and human development.

To address the question of ‘people’ this course starts with population growth and dynamics (or demographic change) and their relationship with some key concerns of social policy such as health, education and labour force.

As far as social policy is concerned this course follows up on the core course of the Social Policy Major (Social Policy for Development: People, Vulnerabilities, and Social Development) where we started from a broad perspective of social policy: ‘collective intervention, directly affecting transformation in social welfare, social institutions and social relations’.

 Children Youth and Development: Policy and Practice

Growing awareness of the numbers of the world’s children and youth affected by poverty, insecurity, violence and abuse, forced migration, exploitation, HIV/AIDS, hunger, inadequate health and education has led to increased concern at international and national levels for the protection of children and youth, the promotion of their rights and well-being and their capacity to play an active role in their own development.

The course aims to engage students in critical overview of changing ideas and debates on selected policy/problem areas affecting children and youth including areas of education and work, health and sexuality, violence, abuse and neglect. This will enable them to place individual problems in their broader analytical and policy context, and enhance their ability to participate with confidence in policy debates in this area. Students will gain a critical awareness of the global and comparative history of organizations and institutions which aim to shape young people’s lives and the changing character of their interventions. They will strengthen their capacity to place individual problems in their broader analytical and policy context to enhance their ability to participate with confidence in policy debates in this area.

We begin by introducing the course’s overall framework which maps the scope of the course and helps to integrate its different components. This framework focuses on four main policy or problem areas: education and work, health and sexuality and violence/abuse. These are viewed in three important general contexts: biology (which does not determine childhood/youth, but provides one context for it), globalization and poverty (which shapes life chances and affects the ability to secure rights) and conflict (which confronts children and youth at many levels). All of these, in turn, are viewed and discussed in relation to four key cross-cutting dimensions: vulnerability (and resilience), differences (in particular, but not only, gender-based), rights, and agency. Emphasis is on children and young people as agents and active participants as well as the implications of child/youth rights-based approaches for policy and the work of state and non-state actors.

Throughout the course we aim to place special emphasis on the ‘rights, agency & participation’ dimension: taking a sober look at currently fashionable ‘rights-based’ and ‘participatory’ approaches. This will be a key theme throughout the sessions and for work-group discussions as well as the concluding forum which closes the course.

CYS blog

Children and Youth Studies

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