Being Seen and Heard? The Ethical Complexities of Working with Children and Young People at Home and at School

Ethics, Place and Environment 2 (2):141-155 (1999)
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In the late 1980s and early 1990s a number of key writers within sociology and anthropology criticised much of the existing research on children within the social sciences as ‘adultist’. This has subsequently provoked attempts by academics to define new ways of working with, not on or for, children that have been characterised by a desire to define more mutuality between adult and children in research relationships and to identify new ways that researchers can engage with young people. This paper aims to address some of the ethical complexities that this work has generated by focusing on five areas of ethical concern in relation to research with children in the environments of home and school: consent; access and structures of compliance; privacy and confidentiality; methodologies and issues of power; and dissemination and advocacy. While most of these issues are not necessarily unique to working with children, but underlie many research projects, they are refracted in particular ways in child-oriented research because of the unequal relationships of power between adults and children; the way that adults mediate access to children; the legal complexities of children's position as minors; and the particular nature of the environments—school and the parental home—in which researchers usually encounter young people.



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