Dissertation Abstracts

Children's matters: Negotiating ill health in everyday interactions at home and school in Ghana

Author: Colette Santah, banaimalawula07@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of Amsterdam/ University of Milan, Netherlands
Supervisor: Christian Broer
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Children , Illness , adult-child relations , Ghana
Areas of Research: Health , Childhood


Notions of children as passive and incompetent beings in making health care decisions are increasingly replaced by the recognition of children’s ability to make these decisions depending on their age, at least in Western societies. This is part of a larger global trend towards patient emancipation in health care which prioritizes the patient as co-producer and active contributor to health care. This research focuses on a developing country, Ghana, to see if and how this global trend affects children in Ghana. On the one hand adult-child relationships in Ghana are largely considered strictly hierarchical or gerontocratic. Children are treated as passive receivers of cure or care, with a focus on tropical diseases among children below the age of five. On the other hand, the growth of the middle class, the extension of healthcare facilities and the influence of non-governmental organizations might allow for more agency among children. This study thus asks how children, in a context of an adult-centered, pluralistic and emergent health care system, negotiate their feelings of ill health with adults at home and in school. To answer this question a focused ethnography is conducted among Ghanaian children aged 7 to 12 with undiagnosed health complaints, with the assumption that Ghanaian children are competent social actors, who are capable of making sense of their illness experiences and to ask for help. In viewing them this way, can we even conceive of them as agents of medicalization in a medicalization space largely dominated by ‘powerful adults?

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