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Ethical Research Involving Children

An analytical tool to help researchers develop partnerships with children and adolescents.

Shier, H. (2019). An analytical tool to help researchers develop partnerships with children and adolescents. In I. Berson, M. Berson, & C. Gray (Eds.), Participatory methodologies to elevate children’s voice and agency (pp. 295-316). Charlotte NC: Information Age.

Chapter Abstract: All researchers whose research involves children and adolescents have decisions to make about how and when to engage with those involved in and/or affected by their research; who to engage with and who to leave out. This paper offers a tool that researchers can use to help them address these issues in a purposeful and ethical way. The paper discusses earlier work on child-rights-based approaches to research which influenced the approach taken here. However the main inspiration for the proposal was the author’s own research with children working on coffee plantations in Nicaragua; in particular the Transformative Research by Children and Adolescents methodology that was used, and the critical reflection on methodology prompted by this experience. The tool is presented as a matrix which can be used for planning and designing, as well as evaluating research. It seeks to foster coherent critical thinking around three related dimensions: At what stage in a research process should researchers seek to engage with children and adolescents? What type of engagement is appropriate, particularly in relation to the sharing of decision-making power? And finally who is included in the process and who is excluded? The matrix is used to carry out a reappraisal of a recent research project by the author, showing how this analysis can shed light on a number of issues that might not otherwise be given sufficient attention.

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