, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 193-212
Date: 08 Nov 2012

Children as Advisers of Their Researchers: Assuming a Different Status for Children

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A broad range of possibilities exists between the approach adopted by traditional children’s research, where children are considered the objects of research, and that which awards them an exclusive central role in investigating issues of interest to them. The growing interest in carrying out research with children demonstrates important ethical and epistemological progress in assuming that children are social actors who have the right to be heard and have their opinion taken into account, also within the context of scientific research. However, this conceptual advance still exhibits many ambiguities in practice: which roles can or must children assume within children’s research? What place do they occupy in relation to adult researchers? In this study we have assumed that (a) children’s opinions and evaluations of issues that affect them must be considered components of reality and on an equal footing with those of adults if we are to carry out rigorous and holistic research into that reality; and that (b) children may assume the role of assessors to adult researchers as experts in their own lives. Upon reviewing questionnaires designed to collect information about children and their evaluations of their own lives, we have become aware of the great diversity of formats used, all accepted as “good” by scientific researchers. Using these premises as a basis, we have designed a study which, after prior training to guarantee that the children understood our aims and using focus group methodology, allowed us explore the value criteria children use to decide which aspects of the questionnaire format are more “suitable” for children of their age. The results obtained allow us to identify, on the basis of well-founded criteria, the best formats for each of the different age groups studied from among the many formats existing in international research and, despite being limited to a single socio-cultural context, increase the scientific body of knowledge in relation to research with children.

Ferran Casas is one of the scholars promoting the ISCWeB project, http://childrensworlds.org/about-the-study.php. The research experience presented here was a prior stage conducted in Spain before the agreement to adopt the questionnaires used in the international ISCWeB study.