Juvenism means prejudice or discrimination against the young. Also, the term refers to systemic conditions that promote stereotypes of the young. The term is used to describe a power structure that is based on age, just like we have identified power structures based on for example gender and ethnicity.

So why would we want to identify yet another way in which people are discriminated? Isn’t it bad enough as it is? Well, we try to identify social restraints with the goal to include more people into society. The more we know about power structures, the more we can counteract historical injustice and make the world a better place for everyone, not only for the privileged.

Juvenism (which is called childism in English, juvenism is my own word for it) is a complicated power structure. If we look at sexism and racism, it is in fact arbitrary who is superior and inferior in those power relations. I.e. there is no rational background to why men are superior to women; it is purely arbitrary. The fact that women get only 90 % of men’s salary does not reflect that women are not as good as men; it’s only reflects the power structure. And the power relation might just as well have gone the other way; it is arbitrary. When we identify power structures such as sexism and racism, our job is to counteract them and make them go away.

When it comes to juvenism, however, the relation between adults and children is not arbitrary. It is in fact needful. Adults need to have power over children and it would not serve children to counteract this structure. Instead, we must acknowledge the fact that it is possible to use and abuse the power that we have over children. And it is the abuse of this power we must expose and work against.

Personally, I think this way of looking at the world is very important. Children who are brought up in abuse are likely to become abusive themselves. If we want to make the world a better place, we need to treat children better, and they will treat the world better when they grow up.

If you want to read more, Elizabeth Young-Breuhl is one of the scholars who have investigated childism. You can also read my doctoral thesis (pdf).