7. Ethical considerations

Whatever the process chosen to seek out children’s contribution, ethical standards must be addressed. In the case of research, ethical review by an independent committee would be a necessary step. While children might also contribute within less formalised mechanisms, those responsible for the process must still apply ethical principles. Using the three most common ethical frameworks, Alderson and Morrow (2011) suggest the following considerations:

  • Justice – are the aims and methods right and fair?
  • Are possible benefits and burdens of research shared fairly?
  • Do researchers treat children as they themselves would like to be treated?
  • Might the research be harmful or useless?
  • Do the researchers respect the children’s rights to:
    • What is so far known to be the best available treatment, care or resources?
    • Protection from harm, neglect or discrimination?
    • Self-determination, such as informed consent or refusal?
  • Non-interference and to research that is not too intrusive or restrictive?
  • How can the researchers reduce or prevent harm and increase the chance of benefit from their work?
  • How do they decide the best outcomes to aim for?
  • Whose interests do they put first, the child’s, the parents’, the interests of the research or society?
  • Might there be harm in not doing the research, or in not involving children and only listening to adults? (adapted from Box 1.7, p. 17-18)

As noted in the previous section, interviews, focus groups and observation can be used when doing research with children however, whichever method is used, they must be done sensitively. The abilities of each child must be taken into account and interview techniques must be adapted to them. Some elements to pay attention to when conducting these activities with children include; the length of time the child can keep attention, clear and understandable language, making sure that the child understands, easily understood explanations, the location of the research, and the ability to identify with the child and their experiences (Carter & Ford, 2013).

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