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Researching Children's Experiences of Parental Stalking: Narrative Research on Sensitive Topics With Children and Young People

By: & Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases in Sociology
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The study examines children’s experiences of parental stalking, in particular, cases where the father or stepfather stalks the mother after separation. The nature of the phenomenon posed a range of challenges to the research team which ultimately shaped the research process: we had to decide how to recruit children for the study, reach those chosen and elicit their experiences, produce knowledge from their perspective, and ensure their physical and mental wellbeing and security. The study details the reflections and solutions that accompanied this learning experience, with a focus on the narrative data collection methods that we used in studying this highly sensitive, morally, judicially, and socially multidimensional phenomenon. The cornerstone of the project proved to be our cooperation with experts on violence throughout the process. The study was qualitative narrative research with a phenomenological-hermeneutic orientation in which we approached children’s experiences through emotions, intuition, and knowledge. We put narrative methods into action through five principles: (a) creating a physically and emotionally safe space for children’s narration, (b) recognizing children as individuals, (c) eliciting children’s accounts in different social relations, (d) inviting diverse modes of narration, and (e) taking children’s family context into account. The study is an account of applying narrative research methods with children in broaching a sensitive topic and of being prepared to rethink the research process, which in the present case came to require an insightful combination of ethical decision making, multidimensional risk assessment, and seeking new professional partnerships.

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