Issues In Qualitative Research
Research with children and young people is essential as it can improve the understanding of how they develop and live their lives, also it can add to academic debates and theories, and its outcomes can impact directly and indirectly on the lives of others in similar situations.“Data about children can only be understood by studying children”(Ross,1998:97) The best way to support the expansion of children’s studies for children is to enrol them fully in the research process.(Oakley, 1994: 26).
Over the years, there has been rapid rise in research with children and young people and the increased respect and demand for children’s views and outlook in the society alongside the concern about ethics in social science when implementing the research Kellett (2010).
Lansdown(1994) also supports this argument by stating that we do have a culture of listening to children . The chosen topic for this essay is issues that are to be considered when researching children and young people and vulnerable groups.
The Relevant issues when researching with children includes ethics, consent, the legal structure, power relations and methodology. It is essential to consider and address issues appropriately. Social science research involved the collection, exploration and reporting of information about people and societies. (Yates 1998,p. 3) . There are several number of issues to consider when conducting research in social science according to Alderson& Morrow(2007) like privacy and confidentiality, the right selection of participants, consent and the impact the research has on children.
Research with children usually tend to emphasis on ethics which moral issue that influence the methodology used governed by the code of practises ( France et al. , 2000) as well as the issues of informed consent and confidentiality (Sieber, 1982) Participants might be harmed as a result of their participation as many vulnerable groups tend to experience distress when talking about their painful experience that happened in their past. (Cooper,1999). The possible harms may include death stress, guilt, reduction in self-respect or self-esteem, unfair treatment, withheld benefits, and slight distress.. Cooper,1999). Relationships with others may be damaged through research (Drake ,2011). One of the main problem in research in social science is that children’s views and opinions are not given much importance and usually there is much large manipulation of the researcher in their research (Miles,2011).
This was argued by (Clark et al. 2005) he states that children should be seen as’ beings’ whose opinions and understanding are vital in to listen to and not as adults in the making. Childhood studies research emphasizes the need to recognise children as agents not objects to represent children’s voice and to have children properly involved in all stages of research”(Gregory et al 2005,p. 98). Informed consent is vital when it comes to research involved with children, as Informed consent is required to protect privacy. Informed consent documents too guarantee that their identities will be protected. Such assurances protect them from blackmail, personal attacks and awkwardness (Sieber 1992).
Children require the same level of freedom as adults to refuse participation. Sieber,1982). “Children who are incapable of giving assent should not be allowed to participate because their participation uses them for the benefit of the society at large while threatening their partially actualized and developing personhood. ”(Ross,1998:97). Although a child’s assent alone is not sufficient to carry out the research but parental permission is essential while researching children to ensure protection of the child from possible abuse that could happen during the research process. (Ross,1988). Nelson ,2006) also supports the argument by stating child’s assent can only be used in conjunction with the parental consent.
Lansdown (1994) supports the above discussion by stating that children are vulnerable because of their physical weakness and lack of knowledge and experience which allows them to depend upon the adults around them as well as their total lack of political and financial power and their lack of social rights. Factors contributing to the vulnerability of children include the motivations of parents and guardians who enter children into research ( Kirk 2007, Paulson 2006).
Another issue that could be faced by children in research according to (Fraser et al, 2004) and Kirk (2007) is the power imbalance between the researcher and the children , but this could be overcome through helping the child to become a part of the research team as well as to make the child to be aware of the reason for participation in the research and to give the child the sense of control by reviewing or repeating to the child how to withdraw if the child doesn’t feels comfortable in the study. (Fraser et al, 2004).
Time and flexibility are the key things that is required when researching children and to ensure that the participant have full understanding of the research ( Greene &Hogan 2005). There are laws supporting the rights of a child . (Landown,1994).. The law supports the child’s opportunity to be heard in any judicial or governmental procedures affecting the child. The law came into being in 1990 due to the high demand children’s voice to solve or understand the issues that affect them.
The law has provided a major move in appreciation of children as participants in the society. Landown,1994). BPS code of conduct ethical principles states that approval of children to take part in research should be obtained from parents/ guardians as children are considered along side with the adults with impairments’ but there is no mention given to obtain consent for children with impairments. (Minkes et al,1994 ). Another issue in social science research is the sensitive research that often researchers do not effectively address the possible emotional and psychological harm that may result from research that draws strong emotional reactions Lee & Renzetti,( 1993).
One of the main risks in any research is the effect of a violation of confidentiality. Depending on the sensitivity of the focused area in research, extra care should be taken to guarantee that participants could not be acknowledged. Maintaining the confidentiality is fundamental to ethical research, Kellett (2011)confirmation of research confidentiality can be given about the anonymity of the data, by removing the names of the participant and any identifying information, to meet the concerns of the child and responsible adult.
It is suggested that written information should always be provided for the child and responsible adult, and a contact information should be given if they wish to contact the researchers later on. Kellett(2011) Eliminating names and other obvious identifiers does not assure anonymity as sometimes the demographic information can identify participants if the sample size is small. Buchanan (2007) also supports this argument that anonymity cannot be certain as postings can be traced via online search engines.
Qualitative method of listening to the participant by exploring and examining their natural environment while conducting research can be one of the best ways to collect quality information especially from children( Willig ,2001). Punch (1994) States ethical failures in qualitative research scarcely occur. Behavior can be viewed directly through some kind of organized observation Focus groups tend to be increasingly successful with children, as children tend to be comfortable and familiar with the process of conversing matters in groups. (Morgan et al. , 2002).
Focus groups can be appreciated for their ability to address inherent power differences that can develop in other forms of research such as interviews or questionnaire . (Morgan &Gibbs 2002) . One of the main advantage of focus groups is that it enables and allows children to discuss and express their insights into certain topic and their , understandings and experiences. (Barbour& Kitzinger,2001)Classroom based focus groups helps to create an informal environment and not school work based which could encouraged their positive contributions to the research study.
Although the main disadvantage of focus groups for children according to (Barbour& Kitzinger,2001) is that some children take part in the research only for a temporary escape from the classroom . Taking part in focus groups can be an enjoyable experience for children as they explore issues of interest with others who might share common elements of personal knowledge and understanding (Kennedy, Kools, & Kruger, 2001)
Finally I can conclude is that research with children offers no easy paths but opinion of a child is important for our research of the society as children are a vital part in the construction of the society. The ethical principle that guides us with research with children demands that the research participant must be protected and that any research is necessary to improve our knowledge and understanding of children. This means that research-involving children cannot be ignored, just because we find it difficult to get them to respond in a manner set out by adults.