Introduction to the Special Issue on involving children and young people in research
Tisdall, E. Kay M.
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Blaisdell, C., Harden, J. & Tisdall, E. K. M. (2014) Introduction to the Special Issue on involving children and young people in research. International Journal of Child, Youth, and Family Studies.
The status of children and young people in social research has been a key area of debate since the emergence of the “new” sociology of childhood in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sparked initially by work in sociology and anthropology, the sociology of childhood rapidly spread to become an interdisciplinary area of interest, now commonly referred to as “childhood studies”, to recognize its increasing multi-disciplinary spread (Punch & Tisdall, 2012). With the emergence of this paradigm, new ways of conceptualizing and theorizing childhood were linked to changes in how research with children and young people was conducted. Researchers considered how their own understandings of childhood, constructed by “culturally and historically specific beliefs and assumptions” (Harden, Scott, Backett-Milburn, & Jackson, 2000, 2.4), affected the way they engaged with children and young people in the research context. The concept of children’s agency was enthusiastically adopted by the nascent childhood studies community (James & Prout, 1997) and underpinned attempts to allow children and young people a “more direct voice and participation” (Prout & James, 1997, p. 8) in research about their lives. This agenda stood in contrast to historic – and cross-disciplinary – research practice, which relied on the perspectives of adult researchers, professionals, or parents (Woodgate, 2001). There were also strong links with a children’s rights perspective, a core element of which is children and young people’s “right to be heard” (United Nations [UN] Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2009).