New working paper: Children's Agency in Responding to Shocks and Adverse Events in Ethiopia

07 Jul 2014


Date: 23 Jun 2014

Series: Young Lives Working Paper 128

Author: Nardos Chuta

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This paper focuses on children's experiences of shocks and adverse events and their agency in dealing with the impacts of such events in Ethiopia, using survey and Children's agency in Responding to Shocks and Adverse Events in Ethiopiaqualitative data collected from individuals and groups of children and young people.  It draws on Young Lives data, including data from two qualitative sub-studies carried out in 2009 and 2010.  It finds out that children have their own experiences of shocks, different from the experiences of adults or of the household as a whole, and that some of the shocks have long-term consequences for children's well-being.

The paper also argues that during difficult circumstances or crises, children are active social agents.  Their agency is primarily reflected in their decisions to take on paid work and subsidise their families' incomes and their own basic needs during crises.  However, it also spells out that some of their coping mechanisms are so informal and fragile that they are only applicable in specific situations and then do not necessarily bring about sustainable change.  In some situations, children are seen resorting to unfavourable coping mechanisms which later give rise to other shocks with long-term developmental and health consequences for them.  Finally, the paper suggests that agency of children can be described as constrained and 'thin', cautioning that it is necessary to consider contexts and to acknowledge children's agency as active while at the same time offering protection, in case children's decisions lead to other vulnerabilities in the future.