Justifying children and young peoples involvement in social research: Assessing Harm and Benefit:
At a time when children and young people’s involvement in research is increasingly the norm, this article reflects on the importance of a well-reasoned and transparent justification for their inclusion or exclusion. It explores the dilemma of a researcher’s ethical obligation to protect children and young people from harm and at the same time respect their autonomy as social actors and independent rights holders to participate in research of relevance to their lives. A researcher’s ethical obligation to conduct a rigorous but balanced assessment of harm and benefit is reiterated. The article takes the debate beyond a call for assessing harm and benefit to providing a strategy for conducting such an assessment at the point of research design. Reflecting on two research projects the authors were involved in, three critical considerations are identified. These are: the purpose and the theoretical context of the research; the preferences of the children and young people and their parents; and the available time and resources. The article draws on the research examples to illustrate the assessment process in practice.
Recorded on 3rd of October 2019
Author: Kennan, Danielle; Dolan, Pat
Publisher: Irish Journal of Sociology, 25(3), 297-314
Geographic Coverage: Ireland
Type of Resource: Academic
Vulnerable groups: Children, Young People
Developed with children and young people? No
Type of participation: N/A
Availability: Open Access
Keywords: Participation, Research Ethics, Risk/Benefit Analysis, Protection
To better understand the lives of children and young people, sociologists commonly involve them in research as a methodological approach. There has been an evolving trend from children and young people being subjects, as opposed to objects of research, to their active participation in the research process towards child and youth-led research. In the literature reflecting on children and young people’s involvement in research two opposing critiques emerge.
On the one hand, there is a concern that significant obstacles continue to stand in the way of their involvement. An over-emphasis on minimising risk and protecting children and young people from harm can unjustifiably inhibit their participation in research. A cautious approach can lead to their exclusion and the use of adult proxies; thereby omitting their first hand perspectives. Failure to be inclusive is silencing the voices of children most in need of being heard