Human Dignity and Children: Operationalizing a Human rights Concept

Global Bioethics 18 (1):17-35 (2005)
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This is an exploratory study of perceptions of human dignity in childhood as recalled by young adults. Our goal is to discover the range of dimensions, sources and experiences, both those that supported and violated, of the concept of human dignity. This research, drawing on responses from over two hundred university students, may help to develop a language with which to explore the concept of human dignity in a broader, more systematic way. The approach taken here permits us to move beyond the ‘legal’ frame that often confines us to discussions of the extremes of child abuse and neglect, to a frame that frees us to explore the meaning and real life experiences with human dignity in childhood and the impacts on later life. Violating and not supporting human dignity in childhood helps produce a world populated by adults who, having been harmed as children, go on to harm and violate others as adults. If our goal is to have a world populated by children who were nurtured to flourish into child-centered adults who are empathic, intelligent and responsive and who have no need to hurt others, then our understanding of human dignity in childhood must be increased. This paper and the materials on which it is based seek to provide preliminary insights into the language of human dignity.



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