This project extends the works of public administration scholars—primarily in the late 1980s and 1990s—who have sought to understand the focus and method of public administration research as a way to form broad understanding of the field’s knowledge, interest, and direction. Specifically, this project uses data collected through a systematic examination of generalist public administration journals to explore the place of children in the field’s thinking.
A. Survey of the Literature
– Although the words “children” and “child” show up often in most of the publications, their prevalence diminishes as the search field narrows (full text>abstract>title).
– In-abstract mentions are much lower than full-text mentions.
– In-title mentions are much fewer than that. PAR has 9 articles (over 75 years) with child/ren in the title, while the others have even less: JPART (5), A&S (3), ARPA (2), PAQ (2).
– In the 21 in-title mentions, the focus on children is indirect. These articles are focused on examinations of specific policies and programs that serve/address children, or use children as a target of study.
B. Public Administration Literature and Children
– Data suggest that children have largely been left out of public administration considerations. There are no articles that consider children, in the sense that they are focused on children, their experiences, needs, etc.
– In places where children are included or addressed, they are implicated rather than focused on. This can been seen in the high number of studies on public policies or programs, which merely target children.
C. Developing a theory
The final version of this paper will draw from the considerations of other social fields to outline the early steps toward developing a theory of children within administrative contexts.
This study underlines the frequent calls from public administration scholars to shift or rebalance the focus of scholarship.