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J Adolesc. 1998 Jun;21(3):275-89.

Adolescents' and children's knowledge about rights: some evidence for how young people view rights in their own lives.

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Department of Psychology, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario, L5L 1C6, Canada.


The present study examined the development of knowledge about rights from childhood to adolescence. One hundred and sixty-nine 8-16-year-olds participated in individual semi-structured interviews assessing knowledge and importance of rights both generally and in children's and adolescents' lives. Detailed content analyses indicated that a global stage account may not capture key features of the development of young people's knowledge about rights. Even the oldest adolescents consistently "defined" rights in concrete rather than abstract terms. In contrast, by 10 years of age the majority of subjects were aware of the universal nature of rights. These results suggest that what adolescents and children think about rights appears to be influenced by how they view rights in their own lives. The findings are discussed in terms of developmental theory and in relation to practical implications for children's rights.

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