The contribution of theories of personhood in the revaluation of children in African societies

SOURCE: Current Sociology
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
TITLE AUTHOR(S): A-N.Nyamnjoh, S.Swartz, K.C.Motha, M.Z.Radasi
DEPARTMENT: Equitable Education and Economies (IED), Office of the CEO (ERM), Office of the CEO (OCEO), Office of the CEO (IL), Office of the CEO (BS), Office of the CEO (IA)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 11777
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/15820

If you would like to obtain a copy of this Research Output, please contact Hanlie Baudin at


Children across Africa, not unlike elsewhere in the world, suffer myriad hardships, some of which include sexual and physical violence, economic exploitation and ritual killings. Using a literature review, this article maps the foci of research on the status and value attributed to children in various African contexts. The article also juxtaposes this value by considering how children have been maltreated historically and contemporaneously, discussing how notions of personhood contribute to the devaluation and possible revaluation of children. Here, the authors contrast two dominant positions in the treatment of personhood in Africa as communitarian personhood-as-acquired and personhood-as-endowed. Noting the appeal and limits of these positions, the authors articulate a synthesis of both that could contribute towards a revaluation of children in African contexts. They argue that while "personhood-as-endowed" safeguards against a hierarchy of persons that might be vulnerable to abuse and arbitrary excesses sanctioned by one's community, "personhood-as-acquired" holds adults to a high moral standard which has a protective effect for children while maintaining the role of community in cultivating moral development.