Malone, Karen A. and Hartung, Catherine, 2010, Challenges of participatory practice with children, in B. Percy-Smith & N. Thomas (eds.), A Handbook of Children and Young People's Participation: Perspectives from Theory and Practice, London and New York: Routledge, 24-38.
The culture of participation, and the role that theories have had in influencing thinking within the field of children’s participation, are important to consider if we are to move forward in our approach to their participation. Theories and models are often used interchangeably in the discourse and practice of children’s participation. Yet there are substantial differences that are often not distinguished in the literature. What we find is an overemphasis on ‘what we did’ stories and not much critique of ‘why we did it’ or ‘what were the implications’. Without a theoretical framework, models or ‘how to’ guides have flourished, and it is not always clear what has informed their construction. Shier (2001) cites research by Barn and Franklin (1996) in the UK which found that Hart’s ladder was regarded as the most influential model in framing thinking, alongside the theories of Paulo Freire. But they also commented that respondents said their work was based on ‘general principles such as empowerment and respect for young people, rather than specific models or theories’ (Shier 2001: 108).