9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN04 Sociology of Children and Childhood

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Children's Everyday Lives In and Out of School Building II, C6.01

Hearing children's voices beyond the adult influence

A child centered or "citizen child" approach to research focuses on the child's perspective of their own experiences or potentially of broader issues including adult issues. Much has been written about child-based methodologies to work with children in a way that is ethical, age appropriate and effective in eliciting rich data. The challenge in hearing children's voices is to take into account/minimise the inevitable influence of adults as gatekeepers and interpreters of children's worlds.

This presentation reflects critically on a range of child and family-based studies conducted by the authors, including child obesity prevention intervention and research, sociocultural influences on child social inclusion, evaluation of a national school kitchen garden program, health economics valuation studies, and children's views of physical activity. The presentation will outline the team's critical reflection on the effectiveness of methods that take into account researcher, parent and teacher influences on child responses. Examples of adult influences on process include: teachers instructing children regarding what piece of creative work they should use to represent their views of a school-based intervention; parent interruptions during a child interview; children repeating adult descriptors of the value of an intervention ("it was good because it was hard work"); children providing views that contrast with those of adults such as dismissing adult views that TV watching replaces active play. The presentation adds to the evidence supporting the choice of methods that assume that children have the capacity to engage with adult concepts. In particular, the presentation shows how children engaged effectively in evaluation methods using economic concepts in relation to a school-based kitchen garden program involving an Australian celebrity chef: in which children lucidly propose what they would be prepared to trade in order keep the program within their school.

The capacity of research methods to capture multiple perspectives including children's perspective of their own issues, adults' perspective of children's issues, and/or children's perspective of adult issues is an important feature of child-based research but requires researchers to reflect critically on their methods and data analysis.