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Author: Duncan Randall
Date: April 2012
Journal: Nurse Researcher
Issue: Volume 19, Number 3
Keywords: Methodology, child, participatory methods
Aim: This paper is intended to re-examine Mandell’s classic work on the ‘least adult’ role and to show that the principles that underpin Mandell’s work are useful if combined with a reflexive approach to working with children.
Background: Researching with children (Christensen and James 2008) using participatory methods has become an accepted research methodology. However, research reports that claim to represent the views of children rarely detail how the research relationships between children and adults are managed.
Data sources: Mandell’s work on the least-adult role in studying children and other contemporary texts on researching with children.
Review methods: Re-examination of the principles of Mandell’s approach to conducting participatory research with children using other contemporary texts on researching with children and participatory research with children.
Discussion: The work of other researchers with children would appear to endorse the principles that Mandell suggests as useful when engaging children in research: to minimise the social difference between adult and child, to value the child’s social world, and to join with children in activities such as play or arts-based participatory methods. The issue of trust seems to extend beyond the relationship between researcher and participant to include building trust with other adults in whom the child has confidence. In applying these principles and building trust, researchers need to be reflexive about their understanding of children and childhood.
Conclusion: To evaluate research with children, research reports need to include discussions of how the researchers addressed Mandell’s principles and built trust. Data given by children are influenced by how social differences are minimised, the perceived value the researcher places on children’s social worlds and how children are engaged in the research process.
Implication for practice/research: Further research is required to understand how various approaches to minimising social difference, valuing children’s social worlds, joining children in activities and building trust can influence children’s participation and the data they give.
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