Children's social representations of utopian societies

John T. Jost, André Fenton, E. Jost, Zora E.L. Fenton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How do children in the U.S. represent the ideal society? A scientific understanding of how children engage in utopian thinking—and how their ideas relate to cross-cultural standards developed by the United Nations—is potentially useful for the development of social movements aimed at progressive social change. In this article we report the results of group projects created by 56 fifth-grade students (27 boys, 29 girls) in New York City who were instructed to work together in small groups to represent their ideal society of the future. We found that themes of economic prosperity and cultural sensitivity, especially the need to promote social and economic equality and to prevent discrimination and prejudice, were central to children's conceptions of the good society. On several major issues, the utopian societies that were proposed dovetailed with the sustainability development goals identified by the United Nations, especially ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’, ‘Reduced Inequality’, and ‘Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions’. The children were acutely aware of the need for environmental protection and climate action but understandably lacked a clear sense of how to provide ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’ and ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’ in their ideal societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1194-1233
Number of pages40
JournalChildren and Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • children
  • environmental sustainability
  • equality
  • freedom
  • ideal society
  • social representations
  • utopian thinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Education
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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