Rights and Wrongs of Children's Work: New Perspectives from Research and Action explores the place of labor in the children's lives and child development. Almost all the world's children work at some time in their lives. Some kinds of work are extremely harmful; other kinds are relatively harmless; still others are beneficial, a positive element in growing up. It is questionable whether current child labor policies and interventions, even though pursued with the best intentions, are succeeding either in protecting children against harm or in promoting their access to education and other opportunities for successful futures. By incorporating recent theoretical advances in childhood studies and in child development, the authors argue for the need to re-think assumptions that underlie current policies on child labor. Rights and Wrongs uses interdisciplinary methods to understand children's work as a component of child development, which cannot be treated independently of children's varied lives. In the first few chapters, well-documented historical cases ranging from contemporary Morocco to 19th century Britain question common assumptions about children's work.
The authors examine concrete situations of work and schooling, suggesting that not all paid work outside the home is harmful to children, and that not all unpaid work-not even all work in the family or school-is harmless to children. Later chapters explore ideas of children's independency in the workforce as well as how working as a child can positively contribute to adolescent development. The authors, while remaining sensitive to the abusive nature of some children's work, maintain that a "workless" childhood free of all responsibilities is not a good preparation for adult life in any society.