NUMBER 1007 • 20 JULY • RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN
The following six principles guide my work with children personally and professionally and may help others interested in working with or researching the situation of children in need of protection in the Majority world.
In order to work with children, our beliefs and attitudes about children need examination. For example, are children merely empty vessels that need to be filled by an authority figure or do children have some innate truths that just need to be appropriately guided? Certainly, one’s beliefs about children and their role in society will impact the relationships he/she is able to have with children and the resulting research.
Relationships are important when working with children and conducting successful research with children. They need to be built upon integrity, respect and understanding that invites and evokes feedback and transformation.
Good communication skills and a great deal of humor are needed to successfully communicate with children. These skills need to promote openness, establish a sense of boundaries and create a non-judgmental approach.
4. Knowledge of Cultural Norms in Relation Child Development
To use our skills appropriately we need to have an understanding of the cultural context in which we are doing the research. We also need to have an understanding of the culturally appropriate developmental norms for children with in that cultural context.
Naturalistic, qualitative inquiry takes time. Within reason, the process should be the central component of the research, not the outcome. It is through this process that relationships are built and in which true reflective analysis can happen.
6. Social Responsibility
Research needs to tangibly impact the lives of children. Children in need of protection are the victims of many social injustices. A researcher comes from a place of privilege. If we do not positively impact the lives of children as part of our research process, our results merely reinforce the elitist structures that research can create and help maintain the systems that keep children vulnerable.
These principles are the foundation of my work with children they, inform my work as a parent, counselor, caregiver and researcher.
Traditional methods of inquiry with children are useful. They highlight some of the key issues faced by children in the Majority world. However, they are limited in their ability to impact the lives of children because they do not recognize children as agents of change. Once the research is finished, it is in the hands of the policy makers to design strategies to address the needs of children. The children who participated in the study are often no better off. This situation reinforces the top-down approach that has been in existence for years and needs to be challenged. As cited in Urban Children in Distress Global Predicaments and Innovative Strategies, “the challenges faced today require comprehensive approaches and popular participation (p. 3). The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child prioritizes children. Nevertheless, in the Majority world, children continue to suffer extreme consequences as a result of urbanization, poverty, AIDS, war and political and economic instabilities. To address the needs of these children, innovative research designs that demand the involvement of children need to be developed and implemented to provide “problem” based solutions. These approaches need to recognize that children are active members of society, and preserving and protecting their livelihood will not only have a positive impact on their future but that of future generations. Research is a privilege, and as researchers, we can use this privilege to conduct research with integrity that not only changes our lives but that of the children with whom we research.
McAdam-Crisp, J. (2004) Cross-Cultural Research with Children: A Relationship of Integrity. Relational Child & Youth Care Practice, Vol.17 No.3 pp.47-54