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The cherished conceits of research with children: Does seeking the agentic voice of the child through participatory methods deliver what it promises?

Clark, Jessica and Richards, Sarah (2017) 'The cherished conceits of research with children: Does seeking the agentic voice of the child through participatory methods deliver what it promises?' In: Castro, Ingrid E and Swauger, Melissa and Harger, Brent, (eds.) Researching Children and Youth: Methodological Issues, Strategies, and Innovations. Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, 22 . Emerald Publishing, 127 - 147. ISBN 978-1787140998

Clark and Richards 2017 The Cherished Conceits of Research with Children.pdf - Accepted Version

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The canonical narratives (Bruner, 2004) of contemporary research with children include participation, agency and voice. This inclusive language has saturated research literature throughout the development of the “new” social studies of childhood (James, Jenks, & Prout, 1998). Their presence was highlighted as illuminating greater understanding of the social realities of children’s lives but they mask and mute as much as they reveal. Heralded as the holy grail of emancipatory research with children, participatory methods have come to be recognized almost exclusively as the route for ethical practice and valid data. The absence of substantial, critical evaluation results in these concepts being little more than “cherished conceits” (Segal, 1999, p. 118). There has been a lack of thorough interrogation of what participation actually means and the data and social relations it produces. Participation implies collaboration and reciprocity but is counter-intuitively used to seek and promote the agentic child enshrined in neoliberalism. Children as social beings negotiate complex social relations (Richards, Clark, & Boggis, 2015) but this is often lost in research encounters which privilege the individual voice, informed by an under-interrogated definition of agency. Instead of following the neoliberal agenda we argue that recognizing the ways in which participatory methods, agency, and voice can and should promote reciprocal and relational social realities is vital to a better understanding of the worlds of children. We call not for their expulsion from research methods but for a re-evaluation of the assumptions that lie beneath and what is produced in their name.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: research with children, research ethics, methodology, research methods, interviewing, focus groups, participatory methods, voice
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2019 13:00
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2020 10:15

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