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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. These three Catalan words translate as “satisfied”, “happy” and “pleased.” Among Catalan children, “content” or “pleased” is much more frequently used than the other two.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ferran Casas.

Additional information

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.

Appendix

Appendix

Options 1 to 14 were discussed with children. They are presented here in English in order to facilitate understanding for readers. However, children received them and discussed them in Catalan. Original emoticons are colourful, except Option 5. Options 15, 16 and 17 are “the best” alternative option for each age group according to the children’s opinions.

Option 1

  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with the following aspects of your life?

figure a

Option 2

  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with the following aspects of your life?

  Strongly disagree Moderately disagree Mildly disagree Mildly agree Moderately agree Strongly agree
achievements in your studies
things you have learned
your relationship with school peers
your relationship with teachers
the school you attend, in general
your life as a student

Option 3

  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with the following aspects of your life?

figure b

Option 4

  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with the following aspects of your life?

figure c

Option 5

  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with the following aspects of your life?

figure d

Option 6

  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with the following aspects of your life?

figure e

Option 7

  • At present, to what extent are you pleased with the following aspects of your life?

figure f

Option 8

  • At present, to what extent are you happy with the following aspects of your life?

figure g

Option 9

  • At present, to what extent are you happy with the following aspects of your life?

figure h

Option 10

  • At present, to what extent are you happy with the following aspects of your life?

figure i

Option 11

  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with achievements in your studies?

figure j
  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with things you have learned?

figure k
  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with your relationship with school peers?

figure l
  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with your relationship with teachers?

figure m
  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with the school you attend, in general?

figure n
  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied with your life as a student?

figure o

Option 12

  • At present, to what extent are you pleased with the following aspects of your life?

figure p

Option 13

  • At present, to what extent are you pleased with the following aspects of your life?

figure q

Option 14

  • At present, to what extent are you satisfied, or pleased or happy with the following aspects of your life? completely dissatisfied

figure r

Option 15. Advised format version for 8-year-olds

figure s

Option 16. Advised format version for 10-year-olds

figure t

Option 17. Advised format version for 12-year-olds

To what extent are you satisfied with…

figure u

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Casas, F., González, M., Navarro, D. et al. Children as Advisers of Their Researchers: Assuming a Different Status for Children. Child Ind Res 6, 193–212 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-012-9168-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-012-9168-0

Keywords

  • Children
  • Child research
  • Participation
  • Questionnaires design
  • Research with children
  • Research advisers