Researching sensitive topics with children and young people: ethical practice and blurry boundaries
methods in qualitative inquiry
Subject Categories::X290 Research and Study skills not elsewhere classified
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AbstractDespite representing a vast and global concern, the narratives of children who experience child sexual exploitation (CSE) and access associated services are marginalised within research. As an outcome, relatively little is known about how children cope with the impact and consequences of their experiences. This paper draws together methodological insights from researchers reflecting upon three distinct pieces of qualitative fieldwork conducted with children and young people considered ‘vulnerable’ to, and ‘at risk of’, CSE. In doing so, we seek to recognise the challenges encountered when conducting research with vulnerable populations and explore the ‘blurry boundaries’ that researchers tread in order to balance competing power dynamics. This paper will discuss potential safeguarding concerns that arise when conducting sensitive research and will share our experiences of supporting young people to take part in research around child sexual exploitation. We will reflect upon the research process to highlight some of the strategies adopted to enable young people to engage in data collection safely. We consider the dynamic ethical practices that take place in the moment of research encounters, alongside the framework of procedural ethics, to conclude that both are fundamental to enable meaningful participation in research.
CitationEllis K, Hickle K, Warrington C (2023) 'Researching sensitive topics with children and young people: ethical practice and blurry boundaries', International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 22.
PublisherSAGE Publications Inc.
SponsorsThis work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/F021860/1), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/T003685/1).
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