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Ethical Research Involving Children

Researching the experience of refugee children: Key ethical considerations.

Powell, M. A., & Graham, A. (2015). Researching the experience of refugee children: Key ethical considerations. In M. Crock (Ed.), Creating new futures: Settling children and youth from refugee backgrounds. Sydney: Federation Press.

Chapter Introduction: Research involving children is critically important for understanding their lives and can contribute to strengthening laws, policies and practices that advance their human dignity, rights and well-being. This has particular resonance for children from refugee backgrounds, whose life experiences can be vastly different from most other Australian children and whose human dignity and rights may have been threatened in fundamental ways. Drawing on the perspectives and insights of children who have had refugee and resettlement experience is essential for understanding and improving social conditions for resettled children and families. However, such research is not straightforward. It involves decision-making about a range of complex issues and can be fraught with ethical challenges and dilemmas. A ‘paint by numbers’ approach, whereby preordained processes are followed in sequential order, cannot address the range of ethical issues arising, nor ensure that research is ethical in its entirety.
This chapter explores some key ethical considerations in research with refugee children. It posits an approach based on reflexivity, rights and relationships as foundational to good practice. The discussion is organised into four sections, turning first to why it is important to research the experience of children with refugee backgrounds following resettlement. Second, a brief overview of the issues potentially impacting on this group of children is provided, as these are critically important in understanding the kind of ethical considerations that may be relevant. Third, we examine the relatively limited existing literature on this subject, including understandings that can be drawn from research with other vulnerable children. Finally, we provide an overview of an international initiative that offers considerable potential in guiding ethical research with refugee children and families. (Introduction reproduced with permission by author).

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