To help the researcher understand why and how children react to adults who are doing ethnographic research, Fine and Sandstrom explore the methodological and ethical problems of qualitative research with minors. They correct numerous fallacies held by researchers that children think like adults and that they cannot hide their thoughts and feelings from adults, especially strangers. Recognizing that age is an important determinant of children's response, they discuss problems and present strategies for conducting research with three age groups of children: preschool children (4 to 6 year olds), preadolescents (10 to 12) and middle adolescents (14 to 16). This is the first major methodological statement on doing participant observation work with children.

Participant Observation with Preschoolers

It hardly makes sense to think about participant observation with infants. One can observe and interact with them, but can one really “participate” in a meaningful group life? It is not until the child is ready to attend preschool (from age 3 to age 6) that participant ...

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