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Ethical Research Involving Children

The ‘voices’ of children: De‐centring empowering research relations.

Holt, L. (2004). The ‘voices’ of children: De‐centring empowering research relations. Children’s Geographies, 2(1), pp. 13-27.

Abstract: This paper examines some problematic methodological and ethical issues associated with in-depth qualitative research with children. The discussion has wider resonance for qualitative studies of young people in ‘rural’ contexts. Particular ethical issues arise when researching with children, which are underpinned by children’s relative powerlessness in society. With this in mind, the paper considers substantive strategies to promote ’empowering research relations’, drawing upon an empirical study with children in primary school spaces. Re-theorisations of identities and power as fractured, dynamic and contextual, suggest that research is comprised of specific moments or ‘research performances’. It is argued that developing empowering research relations involves negotiating such performances in ways that contest, or transform, dominant societal relations between children and adults. In this paper, I consider some of the specific, embodied performances involved in my research, to expose some of the complexities of power relations and negotiations within space. Bringing to light particular moments emphasises that power relations between children and adults are not reducible to the powerless and the powerful. It is also demonstrated that research performances are influenced and constrained by expectations placed upon adult and child practices in society and institutional spaces, and by researchers’ own unconscious reproduction of dominant identities. (Abstract © Taylor & Francis, reprinted by special permission from Taylor & Francis Group, a division of Informa UK,
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