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Chapter 14 - Children’s Agency during the COVID-19 Pandemic in China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2023

Nick Hopwood
University of Technology, Sydney
Annalisa Sannino
Tampere University, Finland
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Children’s agency is the process through which children intentionally act and transform the current situation they live in and themselves. In this chapter, the life experiences of three Chinese children (six to twelve years old) during the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic from February to May in 2020 are used as empirical examples to illustrate the unfolding of children’s agency. Adopting cultural-historical activity theory as a theoretical framework, this study argued that despite the constraints on physical movement imposed by the pandemic, these children responded with strong manifestations of agency by relying on a wide range of mediational means. The results support Vygotsky’s dialectical claim, according to which social crises may trigger creative human development. The study contributes to the Vygotskian literature on agency, with the Chinese cases demonstrating that human agency, as a process of undertaken efforts, is aimed at finding equilibrium in times of uncertainty.

Agency and Transformation
Motives, Mediation, and Motion
, pp. 336 - 354
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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