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Ethical Research Involving Children

Children’s competence and wellbeing in sensitive research: When video-stimulated accounts lead to dispute.

Theobald, M., & Danby, S. J. (2019). Children’s competence and wellbeing in sensitive research: When video-stimulated accounts lead to dispute. In J. Lamerichs, S. J. Danby, A. Bateman, & S. Ekberg (Eds.), Children and Mental Health Talk: Perspectives on Social Competence (pp. 137-166). Cham: Springer International Publishing. ISBN: 978-3-030-28426-8.

Chapter Abstract: Children’s perspectives in research are increasingly being sought on matters that are of relevance to them. Child-led accounts of their everyday lives often involve a researcher and children participating in conversations. Sometimes, however, when sensitive issues are raised, these conversations can take unexpected turns, even with researchers experienced in working with children as researchers or teachers. This chapter investigates what happens when video-stimulated accounts lead to an unintended dispute. A small group of girls (four to six years old) in an inner-city playground in Queensland, Australia, watch a video-recording of themselves playing a pretend game of school. When the researcher asks the girls to tell her what was going on, some members of the group use this opportunity to make complaints about others in the group regarding how the game was played, resulting in a dispute. Fine-grained analyses using the approaches of ethnomethodology and conversation analysis reveal children’s competence in managing this unfolding ‘crisis’ of sorts. Analyses also reveal the dilemma faced by the researcher, who moved between membership categories of being a researcher with ethical processes to follow, and her previous work as a teacher, with pedagogical interest to promote positive relationships. Analyses reveal children’s competence in managing this crisis which causes a breakdown of their relationship. Their competence included resisting answering the researcher’s questions and using the forum to raise issues that mattered to their own social agendas. Findings highlight the delicate positions researchers may experience when investigating sensitive issues, namely, finding a balance between respecting children’s competence as research participants by continuing their line of questioning, or restoring the social order and wellbeing. (Abstract reproduced with permission © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2019).

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