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Ethical Research Involving Children

Are methodologies for children keeping them in their place?

Thomson, F. (2007). Are methodologies for children keeping them in their place? Children’s Geographies, 5(3). pp. 207-218.

Abstract; Ethics: As participatory methodologies gain popularity and are increasingly adapted to carry out research with ‘children’, I return to the methodological question: is doing research with children different from doing research with adults? (Punch, 2000). As a participatory researcher, I raise concerns around methods designed for ‘children’ that stamp a ‘how-to-research’ label upon a diverse group of individuals prior to entering the research space. Rather than continue the well-worn debate around the incompetent/competent/powerless child versus the competent all-powerful adult, I attempt a different approach that aims to dissolve this dichotomy. I draw on hybrid theories of identities (Benhabib, 1992; Butler, 1990; Adams, 2006), that recognise identities as multiple and fluid, and present social identities as unhelpful guides in designing participatory methods, principally the mythical notion of the competent all-powerful adult (Lee, 2001). I present the case that pre-labelling participants contradicts the bottom-up approach of participatory methodologies, particularly when Participation is understood as spatial practice (Kesby, 1999; Cornwall, 2000), and participants are invited into a research space, where identities are performed (Thrift, 2000) and are, therefore, something we ‘do’ not ‘have’ (Butler, 1990). Copyright of Children’s Geographies is the property of Routledge and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)

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