Contact Details

Childhood, Transition and Social Justice Initiative School of Law
28 University Square
Belfast
BT7 1NN
T:44 (0)28 9097 1341
E: s.mcalister@qub.ac.uk

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About the Initiative

Taking the concepts of childhood, transition and social justice in their broadest sense, the Initiative engages critically with academic, political and popular discourses.  Key to our work is analysis of the social, economic and political contexts of children’s and young people’s lives and development.  We recognise the persistence of inequalities based on class, gender, age, ethnicity, ability, locality and sexual orientation, and our work explores how multiple inequalities affect the ‘choices’ and opportunities available to different social groups. 

At a time of political, economic and social change in Northern Ireland, our research engages with and contributes to debates about: poverty and the legacy of the Conflict in Northern Ireland; interpretations of ‘anti-social behaviour’ and ‘crime’; regulation and social control of young people; children and young people in custody; the impact of parents in prison on children’s lives; media representations of children and young people; the ‘invisibility’ of girls and young women; the realities of ‘transition from conflict’ for those excluded from the mainstream political debate; and the meaning of children’s rights for some of the most marginalised groups.

As individuals we have undertaken research on a range of issues relating specifically to childhood, transition and social justice:

  • Child and youth identities
  • Child exploitation and protection
  • Children’s rights
  • Conflict and marginalisation
  • Criminalisation of children and young people
  • Disability
  • Education
  • Gender and sexualities
  • Imprisonment of children and young people
  • Media representations of children and young people
  • Mental health
  • Participation
  • Youth transitions and social exclusion

Recognising that research can reinforce the power imbalances with which we are concerned, our research is action-based in focus and underpinned by the principles of children’s rights.  We seek to respect, understand and empower those involved, recognising their expertise (as children, young people, young women, practitioners, parents/carers, community members), and prioritising their views or experiences.  We aim to ensure that our research is relevant, engaging and consciousness-raising and that research findings are disseminated in a manner appropriate to all audiences.

In addition to conducting research and sharing its messages, Initiative members also seek to inform policy and practice developments in Northern Ireland and in neighbouring jurisdictions.  We respond to consultations relating to the lives of children and young people, and support voluntary/community groups through workshop presentations, voluntary work and membership of steering groups/ management committees.  We are committed to proactive responses to the research needs and demands of the sector through regular consultation with those working with children and young people.  Our seminar series seeks to consolidate links between the Initiative and the community and voluntary sectors and promote the relationship between research, policy and practice.  For proceedings from our on-going Seminar Series, click here.

While our work has a distinct focus on Northern Ireland, it engages with international debates about the structural experiences of children and young people, seeking to identify and promote examples of good practice.