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Engaging Children in Participatory Research in Sensitive Contexts

Case
By: Carol Mutch Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Abstract

Following the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquakes in New Zealand, I worked with five primary school communities on research to capture their earthquake stories. The aim was that we would co-design projects to create a permanent record of each school’s experience. The projects took place over several years and led to different outcomes from an illustrated book to a video documentary and a community memorial. I wanted children’s participation to be a key element, but in the nature of participatory research, I let each school choose for themselves how they wanted children to be involved. This case will use three of the school projects to illustrate the different ways in which children’s participation was framed by the adults responsible for them—from passive victims who needed protecting to active participants who could exercise agency over their decision making. The experience of working with these different schools led to creating a conceptual framework based on a continuum of engagement of children in research about themselves—from minimal to maximal involvement. The case will use the three school project examples to highlight principles for researching in a participatory manner and the methodological, ethical, and practical challenges of researching with children in sensitive contexts.

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Research with children