Children as Co-Researchers: The Need for Protection

Children as Co-Researchers: The Need for Protection

Children as Co-Researchers: The Need for Protection

Children as Co-Researchers: The Need for Protection


Participatory approaches are becoming increasingly popular in research involving children. A growing trend is research by children where researchers engage or employ children as co-researchers or primary researchers.
Caroline Bradbury-Jones explores the ethical, methodological, practical and protection issues associated with this participatory approach and provides a range of practical solutions to these issues. Among the key issues that are discussed are those of assessing children's competence; ensuring sufficient preparation; the balancing of insider/outsider perspectives; the need for appropriate remuneration; overcoming power differentials between children and adults and the safeguarding of the children working as co-researchers.
The author's pragmatic approach and the solutions proposed to overcome the issues raised by such projects will assist researchers who engage with children as co-researchers to overcome the multiplicity of protection issues that are inherent within this participatory approach. As such it is a valuable resource for postgraduate students and academic staff from a range of disciplines, particularly health, social care and education who conduct research with children.


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) heralded a significant change as to how children are conceptualised within society. The children’s rights agenda has reached into a multiplicity of political, social and humanitarian arenas. The convention mandated for children’s place in the world as equal holders of rights to adults. In the world of research, this has brought about a corresponding duty among researchers to ensure that these rights are upheld. One such right is to have a voice that is heard and that is taken seriously. There are many mechanisms through which this can be achieved, but an increasingly popular vehicle for children’s voices is their active participation as co-researchers. This opening chapter provides a contextual discussion regarding a rights-based approach to research with children. In so doing, it places the focus of this book – children as co-researchers – within an historical and political context.

For a time we, along with a number of other sets of separated
twins and triplets, were followed by researchers participating in
a secret study of identical siblings (Schein and Bernstein, 2007,
p. viii)


The historical context of researching children has been described as one in which research was done to children in a manner that frequently violated their human rights (Kellett, 2009). There is probably no clearer example of such violation than in the case of Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein. Born in 1968, identical twins from New York, Elyse and Paula were put up for adoption by their mother. Dr Viola Bernard – the researcher on the study – persuaded the adoption agency to separate the twins and send them to different homes. Neither set of adoptive parents knew that their daughter was a twin, and Elyse and Paula were only to learn of their twin status as adults. Dr Bernard wrote in her notes from the twin study: ‘[The study] provides a natural laboratory situation for studying . . .

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