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Ethical Research Involving Children

Ethical research involving children: Facilitating reflexive engagement.

Powell, M. A., Graham, A., & Truscott, J. (2016). Ethical research involving children: Facilitating reflexive engagement. Qualitative Research Journal, 16(2), pp.197-208.

Purpose: Qualitative researchers working with children are increasingly sharing accounts of their research journeys, including the inherent ethical tensions they navigate. Within such accounts, reflexivity is consistently signalled as an important feature of ethical practice. The purpose of this paper is to explore how reflexive engagement can be stimulated within ethical decision-making processes, with the aim of generating professional dialogue and improved practice in qualitative research involving children.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws on the authors’ work in the Ethical Research Involving Children (ERIC) project, an international initiative that synthesised literature, research evidence and the views and experiences of almost 400 researchers and other key stakeholders internationally, to consider the key philosophical and practical components that underpin reflexivity in the context of research involving children.

Findings: A conceptual approach linking ‘Three Rs’ – reflexivity, rights and relationship – was found to be a useful framework for enacting universal ethical principles while provoking the kind of critical engagement required for navigating the ethical tensions that characterise decision-making in research involving children.

Originality/value: This paper introduces a framework to help bridge the gap between espoused ethical principles and the real world dilemmas that emerge in research practice. In doing so, the paper invites a deeper engagement with the ways in which children are constructed in and through research, while offering a shared language for shifting professional dialogue and academic discourse from the aspirational to the operational of ethical reflexivity.

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