The Rights of the Child in Northern Ireland: Teenage Attitudes and Social Responsibilities

Author(s): Kerry O'Halloran
Document Type: Chapter
Year: 2002
Title of Publication: Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland The Eighth Report
Editor(s): Ann Marie Gray, Katrina Lloyd, Paula Devine, Gillian Robinson and Deirdre Heenan
Publisher: Pluto Press
Place of Publication: London
ISBN: 0 7453 1911 4
Pages: 138-157
Subject Area(s): Human Rights
Client Group(s) : Young People, Children

Abbreviations: NI - Northern Ireland, UN - United Nations, NILT - Northern Ireland Life and Times, YLT - Young Life and Times

Background to the Research

  • As peace begins to bed down in NI, and there is a return to normal politics, there is a growing awareness that groups such as the disabled, the travelling community, the gay and lesbian community and other minorities are relatively more disadvantaged in NI than in other United Kingdom jurisdictions.
  • Children and young people are such a group. In no jurisdiction in these islands have the needs of children been so pushed to one side and so dominated by the violence of their elders.
  • In the aftermath of the Westminster endorsement of the UN Convention on Children's Rights and the Declaration of Rights, it is appropriate to enquire as to how these provisions are now impacting upon the lives and perceptions of children and young people in NI.

Research Approach

  • The data used in this chapter are drawn from the Rights of the Child module, asked in the 1998 NILT survey and the 1998 YLT survey, which examines the attitudes of young people and adults on a series of 'rights awareness' issues.
  • Questions from the Rights of the Child module were asked of both adults and young people aged between 12 and 17. This allows for comparative analysis between the responses of adults and young people.

Main Findings

  • Around 80% of both adults and young people believe that 'these days, schools encourage teenagers to express their views'.
  • More young people than adults agree that 'most employers treat young people fairly' (43% and 38% respectively).
  • However, 60% of young people and only 37% of adults agree that 'teenagers are always treated like second class citizens in shops and cafes'.
  • Just under one third (32%) of young people and 44% of adults agree with the statement that 'none of our politicians are bothered about the problems facing young people in NI today'.
  • The suggestion that 'there should be a way to give young people a voice in politics in NI' is strongly endorsed by young people (85%) and by adults (81%).
  • Half of all young people disagree with the statement that 'young people are just not interested in politics in NI' while just over one quarter agree (26%). The adult responses are similar to those of the young people.
  • Few respondents had heard of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (25% of young people and 36% of adults).
  • Many more young people (84%) than adults (61%) believe that young people should have more opportunity to express their views.
  • However, responses between the two groups were much more similar to the question 'do you think that young people in NI today have more opportunity to express their views than young people 20 years ago, less opportunity or about the same?' - 80% of teenagers and 88% of adults affirm the view that more opportunities are now available.
  • Only 21% of young people believe that the drug problem in NI isn't nearly as bad as some people make out; this figure falls to 12% for adult respondents.
  • More than half (54%) of the young respondents agree that it is not hard to get hold of drugs in most schools. The adult response is more affirmative, with the proportion in agreement reaching almost two thirds (65%).
  • The majority (72%) of young people and adults (61%) agree with the statement that 'the best people to educate teenagers about drugs are other young people themselves'.
  • 84% of young people and 75% of adults think there should be more facilities for young people while 47% of the former compared with 65% of the latter think that schools should be opened up during the summer.


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