Preface (22.4)

This special issue on child protection reflects a growing awareness among many researchers and practitioners of the sheer numbers of boys and girls in developing countries who continue to be exposed to poverty and other related adversities, despite recent concerted efforts to improve children's survival and well-being. There is evidence that too often our efforts to protect children are not as effective as we hope and, worse, there have been nagging suspicions that they are sometimes even misguided and counterproductive. It has gradually become clear that the challenge to understand why and how children become vulnerable flows into the challenge of understanding why and how our efforts to protect them succeed or fail. It is that question that this journal issue addresses.

The Oak Foundation was concerned to better understand some of the numerous risks confronted by children in developing countries, taking into account as far as possible boys' and girls' own perspectives, and to propose ways forward for policy: to this end, the Foundation was keen to initiate an exchange between researchers and practitioners by funding a workshop hosted by the Young Lives study in Oxford in May 2011. Independent scholars and Young Lives staff were brought together to share findings from their research with children in diverse contexts and consider the implications for policy. The contributors are all experienced researchers and practitioners who have worked for many years with children in developing countries. It soon became apparent in the workshop that participants shared a critical perspective on current policies and a consensus was reached on the need for new approaches. The articles presented here reflect this critical perspective and offer suggestions for reform based on empirical findings around a range of child protection concerns, including children's work, independent migration, family separation, early marriage, and military occupation. The introduction and concluding reflections, co-authored by Michael Bourdillon and William Myers, who also facilitated the workshop, draw out the key messages. Together, these contributions provide an important body of knowledge which is applicable to humanitarian and development policy and practice.

Young Lives' involvement in this work has been motivated by evidence emerging from the study that poverty is a key indicator for multiple risks in children. Building on a multidisciplinary perspective and using a mix of survey and qualitative data, the study is tracking 12,000 children, their households, and communities over 15 years, in Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh), Peru, and Vietnam. The boys and girls in the sample are in two age groups, one born around 2000–2001 and the second, 1994–1995. They were drawn randomly from approximately 20 poor rural and urban sites in each country that were selected to reflect country diversity in terms of livelihoods, ethnicity, religion, and other social determinants. 

For more information about Young Lives, visit Longer versions of several of the articles in this special issue can be found on the Young Lives website (searchable at

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