Challenging barriers to participation : doing research with migrant children and young people

Sime, Daniela; Evans, Ruth and Holt, Louise and Skelton, Tracey, eds. (2017) Challenging barriers to participation : doing research with migrant children and young people. In: Methodological Approaches. Geographies of Children and Young People, 2 (1). Springer, Singapore, pp. 135-157. ISBN 9789812870193

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The methodological and ethical aspects of conducting research with children and young people have been a significant area of debate across disciplines over the last few decades, with two broad issues emerging in relation to children’s involvement in the research process: (i) children should be seen as competent agents, who have the right to participate in research at all stages; (ii) researchers must ensure that children’s participation is fair, inclusive and ethical, and uses appropriate techniques for children to be able to contribute. Drawing on recent studies with first generation migrant children for whom English is a second language and the more general literature on conducting research with children and young people, this chapter examines the ethical and methodological challenges one needs to consider when aiming to include migrant children in research, with a focus on Eastern European groups. The chapter explores questions such as: What are the main practical challenges in getting access to migrant children and securing informed consent? What are the advantages and disadvantages of existing methods and techniques in eliciting migrant children’s views? How important is ethnic and language matching between the researchers, interpreters and families, and how do spaces such as children’s homes or schools affect the research process? The chapter reflects upon the way in which the researchers’ structural position, in terms of age, ethnicity and class, can influence power relationships in the research process and affect issues of access, consent, data collection, analysis and dissemination. The chapter concludes with the observation that child-centred, qualitative research has clear advantages in giving migrant children a voice and inform current policy, practice and debates on global migration and social justice. However, researchers need to be mindful of migrant children’s position within their families and society overall and think of their participation as often hedged around by constraints and controls.