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D.Gill Prague 2007 “Seen but rarely heard” Conducting research with young children: Some ethical considerations Children’s Voices in England.

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Presentation on theme: "D.Gill Prague 2007 “Seen but rarely heard” Conducting research with young children: Some ethical considerations Children’s Voices in England."— Presentation transcript:

1 D.Gill Prague 2007 “Seen but rarely heard” Conducting research with young children: Some ethical considerations Children’s Voices in England

2 D.Gill Prague 2007 Presentation will present: Ethical considerations in interviewing children Consent protocols Cultural appropriateness Issues relating to Anonymity & confidentiality Intrusion Position of Researcher

3 D.Gill Prague 2007 Characteristics of children interviewed Birmingham is the largest LA in UK Over 70,000 under five year olds, 52% of whom are from ethnic minority communities. One third of city’s wards are amongst UK’s poorest 10% in which many ethnic minority communities live (Smith et al,2003) Birmingham is typical of many cities which sought cheap migrant labour during the 1950s and 1960s Interviews with Pakistani and Afghan Pathan Muslim children The Afghani Pathan communities in Britain are relatively recent migrants.

4 D.Gill Prague 2007 Ethical obligation our primary obligation is always to the people we study, not to our project or to a larger discipline. The lives and stories that we hear and study are given to us under a promise, that promise being that we protect those who have shared them with us. (Denzin, 1989:83)

5 D.Gill Prague 2007 Ethical issues in visual data Approaching ethical issues in visual research in the manner described in this presentation builds on the principles underpinning British Educational Research Association ethical guidelines suggesting that ‘all educational research should be conducted within an ethic of respect for persons, respect for knowledge, respect for democratic values, and respect for the quality of educational research’ (BERA, 2004).

6 D.Gill Prague 2007 Negotiating Initial Consent and Gatekeepers Process of consultation included: Local authority officers Staff Parents Extended family members Children Faith leaders outlined the broad aims and scope of the research, including criteria for the selection of children.

7 D.Gill Prague 2007 Risks of exploiting the relationship between the gatekeeper and the person they are introducing. For example, parents felt a certain obligation to agree to participate in the research to ‘get off to a good start’ with staff, fearing that refusing to take part could damage either their relationship with the staff or the services their child/ren receives. (especially immigrant parents) Essential therefore to create a safe environment to build in both formal and informal opportunities for participants to say NO.

8 D.Gill Prague 2007 Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989) clearly states children’s rights to express their views on all matters that affect them. Some researchers prefer to use the term ‘assent’ rather than ‘consent’, arguing that minors are unable to give legal consent. However, as Alderson and Morrow point out (2004:98- 99), in English law, ‘competent minors’ under 16 can give valid consent, with ‘competence’ defined as having sufficient understanding and intelligence to understand what is proposed.

9 D.Gill Prague 2007 ‘Provisional’ Consent The notion of ‘informed consent’ is problematic, as the precise and final decision to be taken by the research subject was unpredictable. A description used in this study was ‘provisional consent’. The participants’ agreement was understood to be provisional upon the interview being conducted within a negotiated, broadly outlined framework and continuing to develop within the participants’ expectations. ‘Provisional consent’ was ongoing and dependent on the relationships built upon culturally sensitivity, reciprocal trust and collaboration.

10 D.Gill Prague 2007 Negotiating Cultural appropriateness Once initial ‘provisional’ consent been established, ongoing consent cannot be assumed, but is negotiated in situated contexts on a minute-by-minute basis (Simons and Usher, 2000). I voiced a commitment to being sensitive and responsive to any cultural/religious protocols Dependent upon the parents’ more intimate knowledge of the children to identify their often subtle signs of discomfort at being interviewed and filmed. I disclosed to the parents my fear that my own research agenda might occasionally blind me to a child’s subtle responses of discomfort.

11 D.Gill Prague 2007 Anonymity As Price (1996:207) argues, it is better to ‘compromise the research rather than compromise the participants’ and this includes protecting anonymity.

12 D.Gill Prague 2007 Parents gave signed consent for visual images of their children to be reproduced at the outset of a research project, however participants’ life circumstances and attitudes to consent changed over time. As young children grow, physical changes in their appearance had an impact on the child’s involvement.

13 D.Gill Prague 2007 Talking to staff and parents informally during the study revealed that participant anxiety about being filmed and about visual images being reproduced was associated with a loss of control. All adult and child participants were therefore encouraged to choose their own location of interview.

14 D.Gill Prague 2007 Confidentiality Need to protect participant privacy, also respect participant rights to confidentiality and avoid intrusion into participants’ personal affairs. In the UK, formal guidance on issues of confidentiality is given in the Data Protection Act (1998), which clearly states that data about individuals must only be used for agreed, specified purposes, and that data should be relevant, adequate and not excessive to the purpose for which it was gathered.

15 D.Gill Prague 2007 Position of Researcher The larger national and global context evolved in discourses which impacted on the engagement of families, the immigration policy debate; London bombings; the wearing of the Veil, Niqaab, Hijaab etc. The trusting relationships built up during negotiation can decide the researchers positions as an Insider or Outsider

16 D.Gill Prague 2007 ‘Insider’ position being privy to details of private lives that should be respected and handled sensitively, for example: Talking against religion or culture Talking against staff, education practices etc. Gender issues

17 D.Gill Prague 2007 Methods for interviewing Video footage – short clips Persona Dolls – story telling Role Play – the use of play telephones

18 D.Gill Prague 2007 Conclusions from the interviews with children Interviewing children in the child’s home presented difficulties too. Parents tended to be present or within earshot; they often wanted to answer for children or prompt them. In the school, children felt less able to be critical.

19 D.Gill Prague 2007 The strength of relationships established at the beginning had a profound impact on the progress of participation. Negotiation for initial consent gave participants time to reflect upon the information given to them, to ask questions, express doubts and to iron out any differences in researcher and researched perceptions of potential harm.

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