As childhood research advances and children’s rights become a more pressing matter across disciplines, research into vulnerability reveals more uncertainties in the ways we understand children’s role in the society. This becomes especially apparent as research from different countries and socio-cultural contexts pour in, to highlight the differences of children’s vulnerabilities. The second volume of the recently launched Childhood Vulnerability Journal offers five original research articles from a variety of countries across the world. In highlighting various dimensions of vulnerability contexts, this triple issue combines insights from psychology, history, critical childhood studies, and sociological analysis of child maltreatment. Bringing interdisciplinary and international perspectives together propose three questions: how children and youth experience vulnerability, how researchers conceptualize the term, and what are the implications of vulnerability research for policy and practice. Contributions complement each other in systematic approaches and mixed methods designs and report on structural, systematic, and individual dimensions of vulnerabilities in children and youth.
Structural factors such as daily regime of school hours can have detrimental effects on children and youth’s health when overlapping with sleep deprivation at night hours. John et al., (2020) show this in a comprehensive analysis of sleep health and wellbeing among 660 schoolchildren from Mangalore, India. Sleep health manifests as a rather novel angle into understanding youth vulnerability particularly in relation to academic performance, physical, and emotional wellbeing. A recent study supports the importance of sleep health and satisfaction among schoolchildren especially during the times of a pandemicFootnote 1 (Andresen et al., 2020).
However, structural factors are often only one determinant of children’s vulnerability (see Andresen, 2014). Individual characteristics and resources can be equally powerful forces in identifying children’s and youth’s vulnerability as well as in defining ways in which vulnerabilities can be overcome. Walugembe et al. (2020) in this volume argue that structural interventions aiming to reduce childhood vulnerabilities tend to underestimate individual household characteristics. Their study demonstrates the importance of nuance-based approach, unique traits, needs, and diversity among different vulnerable populations in the example of rural Uganda.
Meanwhile, research on child maltreatment as a form of childhood vulnerability is rising exponentially. Drawing on 104 articles from the period between 2010 and 2015, Barnetz and Levin (2020) systematically evaluate the gap in existing child maltreatment literature. Drawing on Facet Theory, authors map the selected studies across three dimensions of knowledge, perspective, and system demonstrating the merits of Facet Theory when arguing for a better research effort. The findings suggest that gaps in child welfare system are made visible through disentanglements between theory-focused technical knowledge and client-focused phenomenological knowledge.
In her powerful analysis of aboriginal film director Ivan Sen’s Toomelah, Joanne Faulkner (2020) analyses structural and cultural discrimination of Indigenous children in Australia. Arguing against the colonial legacy of a society where children of non-Indigenous Australians have better chances to “thrive”, Faulkner discusses ways of acknowledging this injustice, if the Australian government is to succeed in decolonisation and better welfare.
Finally, in a biographical analysis of a young woman who, as a child, was taken from a Namibian refugee camp and sent to the German Democratic Republic, Schmitt et al. (2019) carefully trace this historical account to show how adverse childhood experiences can become central determinants in adult life. The article compliments the culturally diverse interpretations of childhood vulnerability by offering an alternative reading of history.
All this leads to a point of acknowledgement that childhood vulnerability can be investigated and understood in endless accounts, while research has a strong potential to undermine harmful practices in ways human societies tell history, design interventions, and undertake scientific practices.
The Childhood Vulnerability Journal is currently calling for papers on children, youth, and their families’ wellbeing and daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can see the call via this link: https://www.springer.com/journal/41255/updates/17973936
Andresen, S. (2014). Childhood vulnerability: Systematic, structural, and individual dimensions. Child Indicators Research, 7(4), 699–713.
Andresen, S. et al. (2020) Erfahrungen und Perspektiven von jungen Menschen während der Corona-Maßnahmen: Erste Ergebnisse der bundesweiten Studie JuCo. Hildesheim. doi: https://doi.org/10.18442/120.
Barnetz, Z., & Levin, L. (2020). Critical, Habermasian examinations of research on child maltreatment: a review of the literature. Childhood Vulnerability. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41255-020-00009-6.
Faulkner, J. (2020). “Failure to thrive”? Imagining precarity, sensing agency, through Ivan Sen’s Toomelah. Childhood Vulnerability. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41255-020-00008-7.
John, B., Bellipady, S. S., & Bhat, S. U. (2020). Sleep deprivation and risk for cognitive vulnerability in school-going adolescents: Does the biopsychosocial correlates have a significant role over sleep behavioral practices? Childhood Vulnerability. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41255-020-00010-z.
Schmitt, C., Müller, K., & Witte, M. D. (2019). Vulnerability and Oral History. The Biography of a ‘GDR-Child of Namibia’ as a Narrative of Being Hurt. Childhood Vulnerability. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41255-019-00007-3.
Walugembe, P., Wamala, R., Misinde, C., & Larok, R. (2020). Child and household social-economic vulnerability: Determinants transition from moderate and critical vulnerability levels in rural Uganda. Childhood Vulnerability. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41255-020-00011-y.
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Andresen, S., König, J. & Sultan, A. Editorial to the Second Issue of Childhood Vulnerability Journal. Childhood Vulnerability 2, 1–2 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41255-020-00012-x