Who is ‘the child’? Best interests and individuality of children in discretionary decision-making

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While the substantiation of “best interests” has received much attention, the question of how “the child” is conceptualised to ensure any action taken or decision made is in the particular child’s best interests has been largely neglected. In this paper, I argue that the lack of robust understanding of who “the child” is means that we continue to make many generalisations and category-based assumptions in determining the child’s best interests. In addressing the challenge of doing right by the individual child, I propose a three-step approach based on a theoretical model of the child that avoids presumptions about child-typical needs and insists on an assessment of the child’s individual characteristics, needs, qualities, and circumstances, making it the only conceptualisation fully meeting the child centrism criterion required by children’s rights as determined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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Archival date: 2021-07-14
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