Children and Young People in Migration: A Relational Approach

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Migration has long been an important area of study in geography and related disciplines. Yet, it has only relatively recently gained some analytical status in children and young people’s geographies. This essay first presents a brief overview of the literature on children and migration before concentrating on a specific subsection of this literature: independent child migration, a research field that has emerged based on studies in the Global South. Juxtaposing this with the very different concerns articulated in the youth geographies of migration (including research conducted in the Global North), which often deals with subjects of the same chronological age, raises some initial questions about the limitations of a categorizing approach to young people in migration. While acknowledging the policy success achieved on the basis of a categorizing research agenda, the essay proceeds by developing a relational approach toward young people as migrants. It does so by drawing on the literature based on research conducted in the Global South predominantly on young people involved in migration without their parents or caregivers and pays particular attention to the case of young Lao villagers involved in internal and cross-border migration. The relational perspective is firstly developed by treating the concept of age as an important relation of social differentiation and not merely as a marker of static age categories. Secondly, it is further developed by attending to the relational fabric of the networks facilitating young people’s migration and young people’s relational position within these and, thirdly, by situating young people’s migration within the field of the (transnational) household and the social fabric of intra-household relations. Fourthly, the ways in which young people’s involvement in migration relates to wider processes of social change and continuity are explored. This chapter concludes that while many of the policy questions related to independent child migration remain unresolved, the relevance of studying young people in migration is not limited to such policy questions – however urgent. This chapter suggests that realizing its conceptual and theoretical potential for the field of children and youth geographies as well as the larger discipline is better achieved through a relational approach. One approach toward deepening the conceptual and theoretical basis of work under the label of independent child migration that is suggested throughout this chapter is greater engagement with the literature on rural youth out-migration in both the Global North and the Global South.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMovement, Mobilities and Journeys
EditorsC. Ni Laoire, A. White, T. Skelton
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9789814585934
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

SeriesGeographies of Children and Young People

Bibliographical note

(this is the record for the online version. Print version will be published Dec. 2017)


Dive into the research topics of 'Children and Young People in Migration: A Relational Approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this