Evolving capacities

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Evolving capacities is the concept in which education, child development and youth development programs led by adults takes into account the capacities of the child or youth to exercise rights on his or her own behalf. The concept of evolving capacities is employed internationally as a direct alternative to popular concepts of child and youth development.[1]


The concept of evolving capacities of the child first emerged in international law through the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article Five of the Convention says that:

Article twelve also addresses evolving capacities, stating that:

Evolving capacities recognizes that as children acquire enhanced competencies there is less need for protection and a greater possibility that they can take responsibility for decisions affecting their lives. The Convention allows for the recognition that children in different environments and cultures, and faced with diverse life experiences, will acquire competencies at different ages.

The Canadian International Development Agency reports that there are three primary points to consider regarding evolving capacities:

  1. Evolving capacities should be understood in the context of where children grow;
  2. Evolving capacities should grow out of respect for the competencies young people already have, and;
  3. Adults should protect young people from experiences and decisions they have not yet acquired the capacity to take responsibility for.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lansdown, G. (2005) Understanding the implications of human rights treaty: evolving capacities of the child. UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.
  2. ^ (n.d.) Evolving Capacities and Participation. Canadian International Development Agency.

External links[edit]