25 SES 05, Actively Seeking Children’s Views
Community representations of children’s perspectives often reflect a tokenism which may indicate an enduring disregard of children’s capacity to contend with complex social issues and matters that affect their lives (Robinson & Taylor, 2013). It remains that in most situations it is adults who continue to decide what is appropriate for children to be involved with, often ignoring the opportunity to invite children to contribute to conversations on matters that affect them. The infrequency with which children’s perspectives are sought on complex issues reflects a positioning where children may not be considered to have the capacity to contribute meaningfully to discussions about adult-driven child matters, particularly in education (Lundy, 2007; Robinson & Taylor, 2013). This concept of ‘adultism’ where children are viewed as “naturally ‘less’ than adults ... in a state of becoming (adults), rather than being seen as complete and identifiable persons” (Hendrick, 2008, p.42) can be used to explain why children may be positioned in this way in dominant western constructions of childhood.
Research and practice that specifically seeks and engages with children’s participation is in the minority when compared with the amount of research conducted about children with the intention of bettering or improving conditions for children or research conducted for children that fails to acknowledge or involve children at all. While it is acknowledged that there is a place in research for investigations about children and childhood that does not directly invite children’s participation, it is the author’s position that this type of research should be alongside or complementary to research that includes children’s perspectives. Children’s perspectives and participation through research and practice is characteristically only sought by adults who align with a sociological positioning of childhood (James, 2009; James & Prout, 1990, 1997; Mayall, 1999, 2002, 2013; Oswell, 2013; Smith, Cowie & Blades, 2011; Woodrow & Press, 2007; Wyness, 2000) or indeed by those who do not know that they align with a sociological positioning.
Qualitative research methods are often used in research with children (Barter & Renold, 2000; Kugelmass & Ross-Bernstein, 2000; Nelson & Quintana, 2005; Sime, 2008) because of the naturalistic settings in which many studies that involve children are situated. Qualitative research with children and young people has been found to be most effective when incorporating a range of alternative modes of communication but often do not go so far as including children in the data analysis processes. Using methods that give more control, demonstrate relevance, and appeal to the participants (children), ensuring their opinions and views are understood and accurately represented, are also effective (Barter & Renold, 2000; Nelson & Quintana, 2005; Sime, 2008). The methods chosen can serve to invite children to exhibit rather than inhibit their capacity. Inviting children to contribute to the data analysis processes provide additional layers of insight into understanding the data obtained. Furthermore, ensuring the methods used are suitable and appropriate for children maximises the potential for their opinions and views to be obtained in a way that exhibits their capacity.
James, A. (2007). Giving a voice to children’s voices: Practices and problems, pitfalls and potentials. American Anthropologist, 109(2), 261–272. doi: 10.1525/AA.2007.109.2.261 James, A. (2009). Agency. In J. Qvortrup, W. A. Corsaro and M-J. Honig (Eds.), The Palgrave handbook of childhood studies (pp. 34–45). UK: Palgrave Macmillan. James, A., & James, A. (2004). Constructing childhood: Theory, policy and social practice. London: Palgrave Macmillan. James, A., & James, A. (2012). Key concepts in childhood studies (2nd ed.). UK: Sage. James, A., Jenks, C., & Prout, A. (1998). Theorizing childhood. Cambridge, UK: Polity. James, A., & Prout, A. (1997). Constructing and reconstructing childhood (2nd ed.). UK: Routledge Jenks, C. (2005). Childhood (2nd ed.). UK: Routledge. Lundy, L. (2007). ‘Voice’ is not enough: Conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. British Educational Research Journal, 33(6), 927–942. doi: 10.1080/01411920701657033 Mayall, B. (2002).Towards a sociology for childhood. UK: Open University Press. Mayall, B. (2013). A history of the sociology of childhood. UK: IOE Press. Oswell, D. (2013). The agency of children. UK: Cambridge University Press. Qvortrup, J. (1994). Childhood matters: An introduction. In J. Qvortrup, M. Bardy, G. Sgritta, & H. Wintersberger (Eds.), Childhood matters: social theory, practice and politics, Aldershot:Avebury. Robinson, C., & Taylor, C. (2007). Theorizing student voice: Values and perspectives. Improving Schools, 10(5), 5–17. doi: 10.1177/1365480207073702 Robinson, C., & Taylor, C. (2013). Student voice as a contested practice: Power and participation in two student voice projects. Improving Schools, 16(1), 32–46. doi: 10.1177/1365480212469713 Sargeant, J., & Harcourt, D. (2012). Doing ethical research with children. UK: Open University Press. Wyness, M. (2000). Contesting childhood. London: Falmer. Wyness, M. (2003). Children’s space and interests: Constructing an agenda for student voice. Children’s Geographies, 1(2), 223–229. doi: 10.1080/147328032000096011 Wyness, M. (2012a). Childhood and Society (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan
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