Children as Participants of Research: Limits of Trust and Researcher’s Ethics

Audronė Juodaitytė


The article analyses the contemporary situation in the research on childhood and generalises the prevailing approaches to a child, childhood, as well as to research methodology. The methodological basis of the discussion—who should be the main subjects of research—children or adults—is revealed. The views of those researchers who maintain that children are the main participants of research are supported. Reference is made to the psycho-social and cultural characteristics of children, which dominate social-humanitarian research, which are relevant to a researcher when selecting qualitative or quantitative research methods. The limits of trust in children as subjects of research are indicated. The article discloses the features of the research ethics that are determined by a researcher’s approach to a child’s (children’s) status in the research. The core of the responsibility of the researcher as a representative of adults and their culture is explained. It is pointed out that a researcher in childhood research represents the type of relations with children that is characteristic of the society where the researcher lives. The article emphasises the mission of the childhood researcher—to reveal the unknown, unfamiliar and therefore sometimes underestimated socio-cultural aspects and problems of the children’s’ world to society.
The conclusion is made that a childhood researcher in his/her research always advocates the social-cultural meaningfulness of the childhood world against adults and society as a whole. Research that involves children should answer a question—whether a child (children) is a reliable informant, and whether they are sincere when providing information. Often observed lies or insincerity of children should be understood by a researcher as a child’s intention to protect themselves from trouble. Various forms of avoidant behaviour depend on the age of the children.
Childhood researchers must demonstrate trust in children even when the latter do not tell the truth. Besides, a researcher is recommended to avoid exerting pressure, manipulation and deception on children. A researcher should have certain character features: curiosity, being able to show an emphatic interest in a child’s life and to become an explorer striving to learn about and understand the child’s world.


research on childhood; childhood researcher; children-participants of research; trust limits; ethics of researcher

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"Social Work" ISSN online 2029-2775 / ISSN print 1648-4789