Children start life as dependent beings that are totally reliant on others for survival, well-being and guidance. They need to grow towards independence. For example, babies need someone to feed them; a school-going child will need financial and moral support to access education. But as they develop, they become more independent. Such nurture is ideally found in adults in children’s families, but when primary caregivers cannot meet children’s needs, it is up to society to fill the gap.
This is a gradual process that is influenced both by the biological changes taking place, and also the social, cultural, economic and political environment in which the child is living. Children may have many responsibilities put upon them at a young age. As children grow up and acquire both the capacity and the desire to take greater responsibility for themselves, they seek greater autonomy and more involvement in decisions affecting them. This process of gradual development and emergence from dependency is known as the child’s evolving capacities.
1.5 Characteristics of childhood