Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Accommodating Vulnerability
ExpressO (2012)
  • annette ruth appell, Washington University in St Louis
Unlike other social categories, such as race, gender, sexual identity, and disability, the category of childhood has received little critical examination in the legal academy. Like other socio-legal categories with natural referents, however, childhood masks the contingency and normativity of behavior, expectations, power, and regulation, rendering the social order natural and inevitable. Childhood also scripts behavior and produces subordination and privilege in a manner unique to the adult–child dichotomy, but which also intersects with class, gender, race, sexuality, sexual identity, and ability. As such, the category bears examination not only for what it reveals about ourselves—adults, but also how to conceive of children as complex and powerful subjects in their own right. Unlike other frames for and approaches to children’s rights, this paper recognizes and embraces the important foundational and instrumental roles of childhood, but challenges the dichotomous developmental approach that dominates the regulation of human beings and limits consideration of children and their place in the social and political order. This article offers a critical examination of the socio-legal categories of childhood and adulthood and invokes more contemporary approach to children’s rights which aims to protect and promote children’s human dignity. This approach, is part of a broader conceptual movement away from negative rights to liberty rights that enhance self-determination, demands positive engagement with children and recognition of their individuality and humanity.
  • children's rights,
  • childhood,
  • civil rights
Publication Date
Citation Information
annette ruth appell. "Accommodating Vulnerability" ExpressO (2012)
Available at: