How can a researcher minimise causing harm when conducting interviews with particularly vulnerable children in longitudinal research?.

Buchanan, D. (2023). How can a researcher minimise causing harm when conducting interviews with particularly vulnerable children in longitudinal research?. Children & Society, Published Online Ahead of Print.

Abstract: Using original data, this article explores the ethical issues that arose during a school ‘life histories’ study of ‘lower-attaining’ of 23 primary school pupils in England, from age seven until they were aged 12 and attending secondary school. These children were viewed as being particularly vulnerable, not only due to their age but also due to being designated as ‘lower-attaining’ in English and maths by their teachers, alongside the fact they were participating in a longitudinal study. The research involved 230 interviews, class observations and filming. This article seeks to answer the question: ‘How can a researcher minimise causing harm whilst conducting interviews with particularly vulnerable children’? Formerly, the fear of causing harm to vulnerable children has at times led ethics review boards to be overly cautious about vulnerable children participating in empirical research. Yet conversely this caution has denied these children their participatory rights and their opportunity to contribute to expanding our knowledge about particularly vulnerable children. The article considers the ethical issues that arose before data collection especially in relation to dealing sensitively with the fact the children were designated as being ‘lower-attaining’. It also considers the ethical issues that arose during data collection in relation to safeguarding issues and distress occurring during an interview. The significance of this article is in its honest deconstruction of these ethical issues, including the research team’s responses to them. Several practical recommendations are made to aid researchers to help to minimise causing harm when conducting research among particularly vulnerable children. (Abstract published by arrangement with Wiley Subscription Services, Inc.).

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