THE ASSESSMENT OF THE CONTEXT AND LEVELS OF THE RIGHT OF TEENAGERS ATTENDING CHILDREN’S DAY CARE CENTERS TO PARTICIPATE IN DECISION-MAKING

Vida Gudžinskienė, Gitana Gužienė

Abstract


This study was aimed at the evaluation of the practical implementation of the context and levels of the right of teenagers visiting children’s day care centers to participate in decision-making.
For the theoretical analysis, the methods of analysis and generalization of scientific literature were applied. The data of the empirical research were collected by means of a questionnaire survey. The methods of descriptive statistics and statistical analysis were applied for the analysis of the research data. The theoretical analysis of the context of children’s right to participate has shown that children’s right to participate is a construct that encompasses four main elements: aim, context, ways, and parties involved. This context is examined in terms of the social level and the topic of participation. The social level contains the levels of systems and environments. In the context of the social level, the implementation of children’s right to participate can take place in institutions operating at the micro, meso, or macro levels: in the family, in educational institutions, in health care institutions, in social service institutions, in community-level institutions, in public policy, and in society. Depending on the environment of the child’s right to participate, different topics of participation are possible, which are detailed in areas, problems that occur due to everyday choices, or solutions that are significantly more important for the child.
Participation may start even with the minimal efforts of the subjects implementing this right – hearing, informing, and consulting – while this right is most strongly realized when the child makes a decision and takes responsibility for it by themselves. Intermediate levels of children’s participation in decision-making include: expressions of support for children, taking into account children’s points of view, and involvement in the decisionmaking process.
In order to assess the subjective attitude of teenagers towards the implementation of their right to participate in decision-making in the environment of a children’s day care center, a questionnaire survey of 130 children aged 12–18 attending the “Gelbėkit vaikus” (“Save the Children”) day care center was conducted in January and February 2021. The results of the survey showed that the right to participate in decision-making, according to the subjective assessment of teenagers, is best implemented in educational institutions, health care institutions, and public policy. The least important environments, in the opinion of teenagers, are public policy, society, and health care institutions. The research results show that children’s participation in decision-making that affects them is least implemented in the family – the environment where the implementation of the right to participate for teenagers is the most important of all environments. The biggest gap between the importance of the right to participate and its implementation was recorded in the family.
The assessments of the importance of environments for participation in decisionmaking were highly biased by stages of adolescence. Participants of the research belonging to the early stage of adolescence completely identified all environments as less important compared to teenagers in the middle and late stages of adolescence. Research participants belonging to the stage of late adolescence assessed the importance of all environments with the highest scores. The assessments of the experience of implementing teenagers’ right to participate in decision-making that affects them were not as equal as they were regarding importance. The teenagers’ right to participate in decision-making that affects them is best realized: in the family, educational institutions, public policy, and society at the early stage of adolescence; in social service institutions and community-level institutions at the middle stage of adolescence; and in health care institutions at the late stage of adolescence.
The research revealed that according to the subjective assessment of more than half of all research participants, the implementation of the right to participate in the children’s day care center is very important. The implementation of the right to participate in decisionmaking in social service institutions was assessed rather poorly, but when research participants were asked about the implementation of the right in one of the social service institutions – children’s day care centers – almost half of the research participants believed that their right as teenagers to participate in decision-making was realized very well.
The results of the empirical research showed that teenagers in children’s day care centers have opportunities to participate and do participate in decision-making. Compared to girls, boys tend to attach slightly more importance to the implementation of the right to participate in decision-making in children’s day care centers. The importance was emphasized by teenagers aged 17–18. Special importance was also attached by those who had attended day care centers for 4–5 years, 4 times per week, and who spent 4 hours per day in day care centers. The assessment of the experience of the implementation of the right to participate in decision-making in groups of research participants with different demographic characteristics shows that significant differences are seen in terms of gender. It was established that, compared to girls, boys tend to assess their experience in terms of the implementation of the right to participate in children’s day care centers better. Fifteen-year-olds who had attended the day care center for more than 5 years, once per week, and who spent 2 hours per day there tended to best assess the implementation of the right in children’s day care centers.
The importance and experience of children’s participation in decision-making that affects them were assessed at the following five levels: hearing the child, supporting the child when one expresses one’s point of view, taking the child’s point of view into account, involving the child in the process of decision-making, and providing power and responsibility for decisions. The importance of the child’s participation is greatest at the first level – hearing the child. As the levels of implementation of the child’s right to participate increase, the importance of this right for teenagers steadily decreases. Participation in decision-making is least important at the level of involving the child in the process of decision-making. The implementation of participation in decision-making at the last, strongest level of providing power and responsibility for decision-making is only slightly more important. The assessment of the experience of the implementation of the child’s right to participation in the children’s day care center shows that the assessment of the experience also gradually decreases as the levels of implementation increase. It was found that the right to participate is best implemented at the level of hearing the child, and worst implemented at the level of providing power and responsibility for decision-making. The comparison of the assessments of the importance and experience of the implementation of teenagers’ right to participation in the children’s day care center reveals that there is no gap in this aspect – teenagers’ right to participation in children’s day care centers exceeds their expectations for the implementation of this right at all levels.
Ultimately, it can be stated that children’s right to participate is least implemented in the family – in the environment where the implementation of the participation right for teenagers is the most important. According to the subjective assessments of teenagers, the situation related to the implementation of the right to participate in decision-making is far from their expectations, as revealed by the subjective assessments of importance. The importance of the realization of the right to participate in decision-making for teenagers attending children’s day care centers in different environments grows as teenagers move from the early to the late stage of adolescence.
Participation may start with even the most minimal of efforts of those implementing this right by hearing, informing, and consulting; while the right is most strongly realized when the child makes a decision and takes responsibility for it by themselves. The results of the empirical research showed that teenagers in children’s day care centers have opportunities to participate and do participate in decision-making. It was established that actual participation in decision-making at all levels exceeds teenagers’ expectations; the implementation of the right to participate is most important and is actually best ensured, according to the teenagers’ subjective point of view, at the level of hearing. The level of providing power and responsibility for decision-making was identified by teenagers as the least important and least-experienced level of implementation of the right to participate.

Keywords


child, decision-making, levels of the right, teenagers, participation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13165//SD-21-19-2-02

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