Ethical considerations in social research with children and young people.
Malatest International. (2021). Ethical considerations in social research with children and young people. Wellington New Zealand.
Abstract: Including young people’s voices in social research informs our understanding of how to deliver services and develop policies to improve young people’s wellbeing. However, despite the importance of hearing from young people, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission notes that children remain relatively invisible – their views are not routinely sought, and their rights are often not explicitly or adequately considered in policy and decision-making. This highlights a real gap and demand for more research that meaningfully captures the voices of children and young people, and in doing so, better understands their needs.
Social researchers and evaluators working with children and young people (especially those aged under 16) have identified challenges in including them in social research. They describe:
• Conflicting legislation and a tension between inclusion and protection approaches
• Consent processes based on chronological age
• Inconsistent opinions about ethical considerations such as consent and assent
• Limited or no youth perspectives included in ethics reviews of research applications.
These challenges highlight some of the complexities of developing ethically robust social research with young people, whose unique contexts combined with a breadth of different types of research, mean the nature of ethical research must be considered for each project. There is no one size fits all approach that can be adopted. Applying the principles of ethical research to specific projects is better established for health research and the legislation is clearer than for social research.
In response to challenges identified by the sector, an initial workshop with experts in child and youth research and practice was convened by the Ministry of Social Development in early 2020. The aim of the workshop was to discuss how to apply the principles of ethically robust social research to research with young people. Additional interviews and a review of relevant literature was subsequently funded by Oranga Tamariki to inform their work with children and young people.
The aim of this paper is to summarise the views and perspectives from the workshops and interviews, to inform discussion about what researchers should consider when planning social research and evaluation with children and young people. It sits alongside the literature, ethical guidance for research with children and young people, and other current work examining the ethics of inclusion of young people in social research.
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