Department of Government
New publication

Determining the Best Interests of the Individual Child

Senior Researcher Jenny Krutzinna proposes a new child-centric approach for determining the best interests of the child as an individual.

Child sitting on a couch looking down

Main content

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasises that best interests determinations should start with an assessment of ‘the specific circumstances that make the child unique’. Thus, any decision made, or action taken, must not rely on generalisations and assumptions about child-typical needs, and instead be a child-specific determination of best interests.

In this recently published article in The International Journal of Children’s Rights, Dr. Jenny Krutzinna explains the importance of understanding every child as a unique person with individual qualities and needs.

– I propose a novel method of evaluation that avoids presumptions and captures the child’s individuality, explains Kruzinna. This method consists of three steps and provides a child-centric perspective suitable to guide decision-making by public agents within a wide range of contexts, including healthcare and child protection.

Moving from ‘a child’ to ‘the child’

Children are not a homogenous group characterised merely by a phase of development or biological age. Although children’s rights are universal, what children need in order to thrive might vary. This makes it risky to rely only on a generalised understanding of children’s needs.

Some children’s well-being will be inadequately protected by this approach, because ‘the best interests of a child in a specific situation of vulnerability will not be the same as those of all the children in the same vulnerable situation’, as stated in General Comment No. 14 [2].

Many countries still fail to address this requirement in their best interests decision-making approaches and even several states that rank highly in terms of children’s rights, such as Germany and Norway, receive criticism from the CRC Committee, Krutzinna point out.

–  The objective is not to provide a comprehensive checklist of all possible risks to a child, but to promote an approach that avoids overlooking important aspects of the individual child for whom a decision is made, or an action is taken. The overarching aim is thus to protect the well-being of every child by treating each child as an individual moral being, with rights and interests, in line with the spirit and provisions of the CRC, explains Krutzinna.

The article is available open access by clicking the link below.


Krutzinna, J. (2022). Who is “The Child”? Best Interests and Individuality of Children in Discretionary Decision-Making, The International Journal of Children’s Rights30(1), 120-145. https://doi.org/10.1163/15718182-30010005