Considering an agency–vulnerability nexus in the lives of street children and youth

Ernestina Dankyi (Lead / Corresponding author), Lorraine van Blerk, Janine Hunter, Alison McFadden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper seeks to engage in a critical debate around the socio-cultural contexts and academic understandings of agency and vulnerability. It proposes an agency–vulnerability nexus as a useful conceptual tool to consider these linked concepts and how they have been related in the literature on children and youth and across social and cultural contexts. We use the term ‘nexus’ as we seek to explore ‘agency’ and ‘vulnerability’ not as antonymic binaries but as multi-dimensional connections created both by individuals and by the socio-cultural settings in which they inhabit. Drawing on secondary analysis of data from Growing up on the Streets, a longitudinal ethnographic research project where street children and youth were both participants and researchers, the paper examines the applicability of the agency–vulnerability nexus among young people living in street settings. It concludes that by acknowledging a plurality of conceptual perspectives around children and youth agency, the agency–vulnerability nexus can be used conceptually, to better understand street children and youth’s experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalThird World Thematics
Early online date2 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2022


  • agency
  • vulnerability
  • nexus
  • children
  • youth
  • street settings


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