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Adultism as a critical analysis tool: an example applied to socio-judicial intervention with young people living in a context of domestic violence

Pamela Alvarez-Lizotte, Caroline Caron

Research Framework: In this article, we propose a theoretical and critical analysis of the social relationship of age, in light of a concept that has emerged from critical social perspectives in recent decades, namely adultism.

Objectives: We have two objectives: 1) to conceptualize adultism as a system of oppression that results in epistemic injustices and 2) to exemplify how adultism can manifest itself today, by applying the analysis to socio-judicial intervention with young people living in the context of domestic violence (DV).

Methodology: We deconstruct youth-adult social relationships as they are known in Quebec by conducting a theoretical and critical analysis based on the work of Collins (2000) and the emerging literature on adultism.

Results: Adultism is a system of oppression formed, developed and perpetuated by four interrelated domains of power: hegemonic, structural, disciplinary and interpersonal. In socio-judicial intervention, these domains of power constitute a major obstacle to the recognition of the epistemic agency of youth living in the context of DV. Adultism contributes to discrediting and marginalizing the voices of these youth; as a result, their views are not always sought, heard, or considered in decisions made about their custody and father-child contact.

Conclusion: Through the four domains of power, adultism contributes to young people’s experience of epistemic injustice and poses barriers to the recognition of their agency.

Contribution: The article highlights the potential for social transformation of a better recognition of adultism, particularly in the intervention with young people living in the context of DV, as well as the relevance of its use as a tool for critical analysis.