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Glossary

AJAX progress indicator
  • Term
    Definition
  • Adolescent
    An individual in the state of development between the onset of puberty and maturity; definitions vary according to culture and custom. The World Health Organisation’s definition is from age 10 years through age 19 years. Related Terms: Child Young people
  • Agency
    Children's agency refers to their capacity to act, to make choices and decisions, to influence events and to have an impact on their worlds.
  • Anonymity
    Anonymity refers to concealing research participants’ identities in all documents resulting from research. Related Terms: Confidentiality Privacy
  • Assent
    An informal agreement to participate in research. Assent is not universally recognised or agreed upon, with some advocating the use of consent in preference to assent. Related Terms: Dissent Informed Consent
  • Beneficence
    Beneficence refers to actions that improve well-being and a researcher’s obligation to strive for their research to improve the status, rights and/or well-being of children. Related Terms: Benefit Non-maleficence
  • Benefit
    Benefit is one of the three core principles of ERIC (along with justice and respect). Benefit includes the principle of non-maleficence, doing no harm, and the principle of beneficence. Related Terms: Beneficence Non-maleficence
  • Big Data
    The term ‘Big Data’ is used in a number of ways. It is typically distinguished from other data by volume, the speed with which it can be amassed (velocity) and the variety of data aggregated. In research involving children, ‘Big Data’ often refers to aggregated sets of different types of data derived from multiple sources including people, machines or sensors. These might include social media, GPS data, education or health records, radio frequencies and consumer data. These aggregated datasets typically require advanced data analytics methods to extract value from the combined data. ‘Big Data’ offers the promise of insights into some of the world’s most challenging social, health and geographical issues. However, Big Data also create unique ethical concerns at both individual and group levels. Related Terms: Data Quantitative research
  • Child
    ERIC adopts the definition of a child, consistent with Article 1 of the UNCRC, as “every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” Related Terms: Adolescent Young people
  • Child abuse
    Any action or lack of action by individuals or institutions that directly or indirectly harms children, makes them unsafe, or prevents healthy development. Different forms of child abuse include neglect, sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Related Terms: Neglect
  • Child-led research
    Research that children choose, design, carry out and disseminate themselves with adult support rather than adult management. Adult support may be related to practical or logistical issues, supporting the development of children’s research skills, providing technical assistance, reflecting together on ethical considerations, advising on safety, and facilitating ways to help ensure young researchers’ findings are engaged with by decision-makers. Related Terms: Co-research Peer research
  • Children's advisory groups
    Children’s advisory groups, also called young people’s advisory groups, committees or councils, are a form of participatory research. The groups typically comprise a group of interested children or young people, often with various backgrounds and abilities. Some advisory groups are project or topic-specific, often involving children or young people who have relevant experience or interests. Other groups support research across a wide range of topics. The role of different groups vary from being a consultative forum, advising researchers on different aspects of the research, such as methodological issues, to having a more collaborative role in shaping the research, such as setting research priorities, developing and designing research tools, recruiting or knowledge translation. Related Terms: Co-research Participatory research
  • Co-research
    Co-research is a form of participatory research. Many researchers use the term to indicate an aspiration or intention to involve children throughout all stages of the research process, from designing the research questions, data collection and analysis, through to dissemination. Therefore, in co-research, children are not just study participants or ‘subjects’ but are co-investigators involved in co-designing the study and co-producing the knowledge arising from it. A critical distinction is whether the ‘co-researcher’ has influence over key research decisions. Commonly, child co-researchers take on a ‘young researcher’ role, typically involving them in gathering data from other young people. When these ‘young researchers’ undertake interviews or lead focus groups with other children and young people, the term ‘peer research’ is also sometimes used. This term alludes to relations between the children as significant, while ‘co-researcher’ signals the need for close attention to power relations between the child-researcher and the adults they are collaborating with in co-producing knowledge. Related Terms: Peer research Participatory research Children's advisory groups Child-led research
  • Collective cultures
    Collective cultures are societies that are characterised by collectivism. They value communal harmony, group goals, and cohesion rather than any one person’s satisfaction, goals or achievements. They emphasise interdependence, rather than independence. Related Terms: Individualistic cultures
  • Confidentiality
    The researcher and all staff involved in the research are ethically obliged to treat information acquired during the research process carefully, in confidence, and to not allow this to be revealed to others. Researchers must securely store, protect and dispose of information/data that has been collected. They must also be prepared to breach confidentiality if a child or others are at risk.
  • Consent
    See Informed consent
  • Data
    Data comes in many different formats and is gathered for different purposes, and through different processes, using a wide range of methods. Essentially, research 'data’ refers to any information that has been collected, generated or created for the purpose of producing research findings. In research involving children, data may include, but is not limited to, interview transcripts and/ or notes, observational / field notes, survey responses, child or researcher-framed videos or photographs, drawings or other creative works, digital data linked to a social media site, test responses, results of a health or medical test (undertaken as a part of a study). All research data requires appropriate consent to be collected and used, and must be securely stored. Related Terms: Big Data
  • Debriefing
    Debriefing refers to the process of sharing information about the research with participants after the data has been collected. Generally, this involves seeking feedback from research participants and/or researchers about the research methods, content and process. In experimental research designs, debriefing refers more specifically to providing participants with information that was either withheld (such as the nature of experimental conditions) or misinformation that was provided (i.e., deception) as part of the experimental procedure. In such cases, debriefing aims to undo any harm that may have been caused by the deception/withholding of information.
  • Disability
    Disability is a complex umbrella term with many culturally constructed meanings. The United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, defines disability as “long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder [a person’s] full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”. When applied in the context of children with disability, this definition refers to those who have an impairment (e.g. visual, hearing, intellectual, psychosocial, physical) which in combination with personal and environmental barriers (e.g. inaccessible buildings, stigma and negative attitudes, lack of assistive devices) restricts their full participation (e.g. in school, social life). This definition draws heavily upon that proposed by: Kyegombe, N., Banks, L.M., Kelly, S. et al. (2019). How to conduct good quality research on violence against children with disabilities: Key ethical, measurement, and research principles. BMC Public Health 19, 1133. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7456-z I should be noted that there has been an ongoing debate regarding the language used to refer to people and children with disability, with some advocating an identity-first approach (i.e., disabled children) and others a person-first approach (i.e., children with disability or children with disabilities), which is often the preference of self-advocates. These complexities are explored in the ERIC Case Study by Fathimath Shiraani. Throughout the ERIC Resources we use the term ‘children with disability’, however this does not necessarily reflect the preferred wording of case study authors.
  • Discrimination
    The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
  • Dissemination
    The process of communicating research findings.
  • Dissent
    Refusal to participate in research. Dissent may occur at any point during the research process. It may manifest as not signing a consent form, it may be verbally stated, or indicated by indirect verbal and non-verbal behaviours, such as saying “I’m tired”, or looking away from, or moving away from the researcher. Children's dissent should be respected even if this overrides parental/carer consent.
  • Equity
    The quality of being fair and impartial.
  • ERIC
    ERIC is the acronym for Ethical Research Involving Children, which is the title of the international, collaborative project that produced the ERIC compendium and the ERIC website. It is not associated in any way with a library database that also has the ERIC acronym.
  • Ethical mindfulness
    Ethical mindfulness is the moment by moment attention to ethics and the ethical implications of all actions (or inactions). It is closely linked to reflexivity and ethics in practice. Related Terms: Reflexivity Ethics in practice
  • Ethics
    Ethics refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Ethics also involves the study and development of our own ethical standards via continual examination of our moral beliefs and conduct.
  • Ethics in practice
    ‘Ethics in practice’ is often referred to as situational ethics, in-situ ethics, situated ethics, micro-ethics, everyday ethics, ethically important moments or relational ethics. Where procedural ethics refers to the regulations, guidelines and approval processes engaged with prior to starting research, ethics in practice refers to the day-to-day dilemmas, ‘messy’ issues and ethically important ‘moments’ that arise throughout the research process, particularly but not exclusively, in qualitative research. These issues tend to emerge within the dynamics of research relationships and may be influenced by the context of the research setting. They may not have a clear right or wrong ‘textbook’ solution because they are often moral dilemmas that are specific to the situation and people involved. ‘Ethics in practice’ requires researchers to be reflexive and constantly mindful of the ethical dimensions of all interactions, decisions and possible implications. Related Terms: Procedural ethics Situated ethics Reflexivity Ethical mindfulness Qualitative research
  • Evaluation
    Research that seeks to assess whether a programme, intervention, policy, or service has met its objectives. The evaluation usually aims to identify ways in which the programme, intervention, policy, or service can be improved.
  • Focus group
    A research method used in field work whereby a group of people discuss the topic of interest. Related Terms: Qualitative research
  • Gate-keeper
    A person who has the authority to grant formal or informal permission or access to approach other individuals, such as children.
  • Gillick competence
    Gillick competence refers to a legal case in England (Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority, 1985) which determined whether doctors should be able to give contraceptive advice or treatment to under 16-year-olds without parental consent. The term has since been more widely used to help assess whether a child has the maturity to make their own decisions and to understand the implications of those decisions.
  • Harm
    Harm in research includes physical retribution or punishment from others for participating or not participating in research activities, as well as physical harm, emotional distress, anxiety or loss of self-esteem as direct consequences of the research study itself.
  • Individualistic cultures
    Individualistic cultures are societies that are characterised by individualism rather than collectivism. Their values are oriented around the self, personal satisfaction and achievement of personal goals, rather than communal harmony. They emphasise independence, rather than interdependence. Related Terms: Collective cultures
  • Informed consent
    Informed consent refers to the process of fully informing children and their parents/carers of the purpose of the research and what their involvement will be, prior to their decision to participate or not. It is an explicit agreement which requires participants to be informed about and have an understanding of the research. Informed consent must be given voluntarily and be renegotiable, so that children may withdraw at any stage of the research process (sometimes referred to as on-going or process consent / assent). Related Terms: Assent Dissent
  • Justice
    Justice is one of the three core principles of ERIC (along with benefit and respect). The principle of justice requires researchers to attend to the power differences inherent in the adult/child research relationship; to find a balance between who receives the benefits from the research and who bears its burdens, and it must underpin decisions about ‘which’ children will be included/excluded from research. Children should always be treated fairly and the benefits of research distributed equitably. Related Terms: Benefit Respect
  • Neglect
    Continued failure to provide for a child’s basic needs, including physical, medical, educational, social, psychological and emotional needs. Related Terms: Child abuse
  • Non-maleficence
    The principle of non-maleficence, or doing no harm, requires researchers to avoid harm or injury to children, both through acts of commission or omission. It reminds researchers that research that is likely to do harm to children is unethical and should not proceed. Research should be methodologically and ethically sound, rigorous, relevant and likely to have impact. Related Terms: Beneficence non-mmaleficence Harm
  • Parent
    A child’s biological or adoptive parent. The term ‘Parent’ is used throughout the Ethical Guidance sub-sections to refer to parents, carers, guardians and those in parent substitute roles.
  • Parental consent
    The process of gaining informed consent from parents of children who participate in research.
  • Participation rights
    Participation rights are embedded within the UNCRC. Articles linked to children's participation recognise their right to be involved in decisions and actions that affect them and to have their views taken into account at all levels of society. Related Terms: Protection rights Provision rights UNCRC
  • Participatory research
    Research carried out with and by participants themselves and involves the use of quantitative and/or qualitative methods, adapted to suit their skills and aptitudes, so as to investigate their own social worlds. Qualitative participatory research with children often uses visual or creative methods such as photography, video, drawing, clay modelling, collage etc., to help facilitate children's sharing of their experiences and perspectives.
  • Payment
    There are four main forms of payment in research. 1. Reimbursement payments – when children and/or parents are paid to cover the direct expenses related to participation. 2. Compensation payments – in which children and/or parents are recompensed for their time, work and effort, and for any inconvenience caused by participation. 3. Appreciation payments - bonuses or tokens given to children after their participation to thank them for their contribution (these are often not disclosed during recruitment to reduce coercion). 4. Incentive payments – which are designed to encourage the participation of children in research.
  • Peer research
    Peer research is a form of participatory research where children and young people are actively engaged with research processes in studies that involve other children and young people. The role of the peer researchers can vary, but usually involves assisting with recruitment and data collection by identifying, inviting and interviewing or surveying other children and young people who consent to participate. Recent literature has questioned some of the limits on the role of peer researchers, suggesting that collaboration with adult researchers across the entire research process is more appropriate. In this way, peer research moves closer to understandings of co-research. Related Terms: Co-research Participatory research Child-led research
  • Privacy
    Respecting the privacy of children participating in research involves consideration of: how much information the child wants to reveal, and with whom; privacy in the processes of information gathering/data collection and storage that allows the exchange of information to be confidential to those involved; and privacy of the research participants so that they are not identifiable in the publication and dissemination of findings. Related Terms: Anonymity Confidentiality
  • Procedural ethics
    Procedural ethics generally refers to formal ethics governance including approval processes and ethical research guidelines. Procedural ethics endeavours to uphold ethical principles of beneficence, respect and justice, and to keep children and researchers safe. An ethics review process is required prior to any research involving human participants, including children. This should focus attention on whether research is ethical not simply on procedures limited to ticking a box. Ethics review processes are usually assessed by ethics review boards or committees in institutions such as universities, medical institutions and other stakeholder institutions. While procedural ethics are important, the ERIC approach requires researchers to also engage with ethics in practice / situated ethics. Related Terms: Ethics in practice Situated ethics
  • Process consent
    Consent carries both legal and ethical implications for research involving children. Beyond initial parental/guardian consent, children and young people should also have the opportunity to provide informed consent /assent. The ERIC approach views such consent / assent as an ongoing process. This is sometimes referred to as process consent or ongoing consent. It recognises that consent is provisional and open to renegotiation throughout the research process. It might involve, for example, researchers creating openings for choice and disagreement around participation, remaining alert to signals from children and young people about their willingness to continue involvement, and reaffirming children’s assent at the end of the research activity, including in relation to the sharing of information. Researchers should remain reflexively attuned to children’s verbal signals indicating their wish to withdraw (dissent), as well as body language and non-verbal clues. Related Terms: Informed consent Consentt Assent Dissent Parental consent
  • Protection rights
    Protection rights are elucidated in the UNCRC and in research refer to researchers ensuring the safety and care of children. Related Terms: Participation rights Provision rights UNCRC
  • Provision rights
    Provision rights are elucidated in the UNCRC and in research refer to researchers ensuring that children are supported to be involved in research processes as appropriate. Related Terms: Participation rights Protection rights UNCRC
  • Qualitative research
    A method of inquiry that produces rich, in-depth non-numerical data. Common data collection methods include focus groups, triads, dyads, interviews, observation, and ethnographic participation/ observation.
  • Quantitative research
    A method of inquiry that produces data which can be counted or expressed numerically. Common data collection methods include surveys, clinical trials and experiments.
  • Re-traumatisation
    Concerns regarding re-traumatisation in research are related to the possibility of delayed onset or reactivated symptoms related to something traumatic experienced in the past and referred to in the study. Related Terms: Harm
  • Reflexivity
    The capacity of researchers to reflect critically about the impact of their research on participants and their communities, on researchers themselves, and on the body of knowledge under investigation. Related Terms: Ethical mindfulness Ethics in practice Situated ethics
  • Relational ethics
    Relational ethics situates ethics within the context of relationships and respectful engagement characterised by recognition, support and acceptance of the other and their experiences. Relational ethics is borne out of a feminist ethics of care and recognises that objective and rational moral reasoning cannot always advise on the ‘right’ way to proceed – what is ‘right’ emerges within the dynamics of research relationships and can depend on the time, place and people involved. Relational ethics moves away from attempting to solve the ethical ‘problem’ to asking the ethical ‘question’. Related Terms: Ethics in practice Situated ethics Reflexivity Qualitative research
  • Research
    ERIC conceptualises research as the collection of data or information within the framework of a methodical study in order to answer specific questions or test hypotheses. This is relevant across the range of research contexts and includes evaluation, monitoring and implementation activities. Related Terms: Researcher
  • Research participants
    The individuals who take part in a study, either directly or indirectly via a representative, and who have given their informed consent.
  • Research relationships
    The relationships between people who interact during the research process and are integral to good conduct.
  • Researcher
    ERIC has been developed to support all researchers, individuals and organisations who are involved in research that is undertaken with, or potentially impacts on, children. This includes all members of any research team, research organisations, other stakeholders and research ethics review committees.
  • Respect
    Respect is one of the three core principles of ERIC (along with benefit and justice). For our purposes with ERIC, respect means more than tolerance. It implies valuing children and the context of their lives, and recognition of their dignity. Obtaining informed consent for research involvement is an important means of demonstrating this respect for children’s dignity. 
 Respect in research tends to be a principle with which everyone agrees, but which is rarely explicitly articulated in relation to undertaking research involving children. With ERIC, it is assumed that to respect a child in research, one must know: 
 - who the child is; 
 - what cultural context they are living in; 
 - how culture shapes their experiences, capabilities and 
perspectives. Respect is closely linked with rights. For instance, the UNCRC anticipates three dimensions of respect: participation rights, protection rights and provision rights. Related Terms: Benefit Justice UNCRC
  • Safeguarding
    The action taken to ensure that children are protected from harm. Child safeguarding in research settings applies to situations in which researchers think that children may be at risk and in need of protection; and affording children protection from potentially abusive and incompetent researchers.
  • Sensitive topics
    The definition of a "sensitive" topic in social research is dependent on context, as well as social and cultural norms and values. Sensitive issues for children and young people might relate to sexuality, substance abuse, body image, child abuse/neglect, family violence, parental separation, death, mental health etc. The level of sensitivity around the topic may vary according to culture, age, gender or other factors. Furthermore, the context of the research – the location, methods, relationships, process – can also influence how children feel about being involved in research on different topics. Researchers need to assess and mitigate any threats or harms to the participants, and to themselves, when inquiring into potentially sensitive topics. Related Terms: Harm Re-traumatisation Safeguarding
  • Situated ethics
    Situated ethics is often used interchangeably with ethics in practice (see related terms below). Some researchers distinguish situated ethics by heightened attention to place and context, playing close attention, for example, to the way context can influence relational dynamics and, consequently, the data collection. Related Terms: Ethics in practice
  • Stakeholder
    A person or organisation involved or with an interest in a research activity and who is affected by the research outcomes.
  • Stigma
    A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. Related Terms: Harm
  • Subjects
    Can be used to describe the individuals who take part in a study. The term has historically been used to describe a human or animal sample in experimental research, whereas ‘participants’ has been used more frequently in survey research and qualitative studies. Related Terms: Research participants
  • UNCRC
    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 1989 is a human rights treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. Nations that have ratified this convention (196 in total) are bound to it by international law. Related Terms: Participation rights Protection rights Provision rights
  • Vulnerable children
    A child whose survival, well-being, or development is threatened. Vulnerable children include those who are orphaned, unaccompanied, and separated from family, as well as children with disabilities or who may have special needs.
  • Young people
    Youth is the transitional phase between childhood and adulthood. The term ‘youth’ is not defined in international law; however, working definitions from the United Nations use the term ‘youth’ for young people 15 years through to age 24 years. Young people are a heterogeneous group in constant evolution and the experience of ‘being young’ varies enormously across regions and within countries. Related Terms: Adolescent Child