In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Children and Young People in Africa

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Historical and Ethnographic Monographs
  • Anthologies
  • Literary Accounts of Childhood
  • Folklore
  • Gender
  • National Identity
  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Social Constructions of Children and Youth
  • Cultural Politics of Youth
  • Policy, Participation, and Empowerment
  • Poverty and Economic Development
  • Health
  • Sexuality/Sexual and Reproductive Health
  • Labor
  • Migration
  • Trafficking
  • Street Children
  • Violence
  • Child Protection

Childhood Studies Children and Young People in Africa
Kristen Cheney
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 February 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 February 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0036


Research on children and youth in Africa has played a formative role in the advancement of theories in child development, international development, and youth studies. Before the establishment of childhood studies as a distinct area of research in its own right, many Africa-focused texts—if they mentioned children at all—placed them in a corollary role to that of adults; child well-being was taken as a barometer of parenting or the state of a country’s development progress. With the advent of more child-centered research, much of the more recent literature developed on children, youth, and childhood in Africa centers on children as objects of—and sometimes respondents to or participants in—national/international development. Perhaps because Africa’s development indicators are comparatively low, scholarly work on children tends to take a development- or rights-centered approach. Popular topics focus on the hardships young Africans face: how poverty drives children into laboring, soldiering, or otherwise hazardous activity or how children suffer disproportionately from economic and political insecurity. The influence of HIV/AIDS is also ubiquitous. Because of its profound effect on every aspect of life, HIV/AIDS cross-cuts many sections in this bibliography. The literature on young people in Africa also considers the vast potential of this demographic majority of the population (nearly half of the continent’s population is under fifteen years old). Most research now focuses on child/youth agency in the face of social, economic, and political challenges, seeing young people as a resource for development—sometimes by drawing on and reframing African cultural traditions.


With the exception of Childhood in Africa, no other journals focus exclusively on African children, but there are a number of childhood studies journals that regularly feature articles about Africa, including Global Studies of Childhood and Childhood, which focus on children’s social relations and culture. The goal of Childhood in Africa is to encourage collaboration between scholars and development practitioners, while Childhoods Today is geared toward postgraduate students. Both Children’s Geographies and Children, Youth and Environments deal with young people’s space and place, although the latter, along with Children & Society, is more concerned with policy and service recommendations.

  • Childhood.

    Covering a range of disciplines and geographical regions, this journal concentrates on children’s social relations and children’s culture, particularly through the lenses of rights and generational analysis. While it has been largely academic and Eurocentric, more and more Africa-related articles are being published here.

  • Childhood in Africa.

    The only journal specifically focused on African children, this free, open-access journal was created to foster collaboration between African scholars and development practitioners around the world working on topics related to young people in Africa.

  • Childhoods Today.

    Online journal for postgraduate students. There are few pieces about Africa to date, but there are a number of pieces that discuss methodology for working with children.

  • Children & Society.

    This journal focuses on scholarship about child-related policy and services, with the aim of strengthening empirical and theoretical approaches to children’s all-around well-being.

  • Children’s Geographies.

    Concerned primarily with spaces and places of young people in their respective societies, this journal has published extensively on African children’s geographical worlds.

  • Children, Youth and Environments.

    Online, peer-reviewed journal that publishes action-oriented research about establishing suitable environments for child and youth well-being. This journal publishes a fair number of articles concerning Africa.

  • Global Studies of Childhood.

    Multidisciplinary journal that interrogates how children experience and navigate globalization and its effects. Interested in how childhoods are conceptualized differently across various global contexts.

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