Hordyk, S. R. (2017). “This feels like school!” Revisiting assent and motivation in research with child participants. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Published on-line ahead of print.


Ethical research practice with children necessitates that the researcher engage children as voluntary and informed participants, seeking their assent alongside parental consent. In practice however, the physical and relational contexts in which research occurs and a researcher’s choice concerning data collection strategies may lead to children’s fluctuating levels of interest and engagement. Enthusiastic assent may give way to reluctant cooperation when children find themselves subject to a process that evolved in a manner that they did not expect. These shifts in interest levels and desires are to be expected and can often be addressed by the researcher. Drawing on examples from a recent qualitative study where data collection with children took place in multiple relational and physical contexts, I illustrate how becoming attentive to children’s intrinsic motivations allowed me to maintain children’s participation in the research process. Motivated by relationship in family contexts, by discovery in peer contexts, and by embodied expression in physical environments, children maintained active levels of engagement. These findings suggest that diverse physical and relational contexts are essential in gathering rich, textured, descriptive data with children.

Abstract reproduced with permission © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

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