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Reflexivity, Methodology, and Researcher Identity

This collection explores leading values and concepts in global child-based research through the lens of reflexivity.

The book considers issues such as the identities and roles of researchers, as well as the burdens, boundaries and ethical frameworks which govern their activities. Using empirical examples from Israel, India, Thailand and England, expert contributors discuss a range of topics to include online safeguards, disabilities, gang membership, child protection and various sex-related issues.

This book guides childhood research towards a more reflexive debate that critically challenges conventions, highlighting plurality of voice and improving outcomes.

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This chapter centres on an incident that occurred when carrying out research with children, in which a child fell and bumped their head. The reflexive ripples of that event form the focus of this chapter. The aim of the study was to explore children’s perceptions of their school playground, a graveyard, a potentially ‘sensitive’ topic to navigate. The chapter reflexively considers the implications of utilising and remaining true to the feminist methodological ideals and ethics of care that underpinned this study. Such paradigms embrace care, closeness, emotional engagement, and connectedness with participants, and call for researchers to interrogate their own positions within the research encounter. In reflexively uncovering the many ‘selves’ we brought to this fieldwork, some of which were unexpected – academic, teacher, nurse, mother – the chapter scrutinises our actions during this encounter, here represented by comforting a child through touch. This response became the site of our anxieties, and the intensity of our emotional labour, as we wrestled dominant safeguarding discourses of ‘do not touch children’ with methodological values and personal biographies. Revealing such happenings is not easy but being reflexive compels us to question our actions, even those, or particularly those, we might prefer not to share.

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Reflexivity is an expansive notion and a methodological idea[l] that can be applied across many aspects of research, from ontological positions to epistemological and methodological questions, and further to global and political issues. This volume focuses on the insights that such reflexivity offers to research with children by bringing together researchers who incorporate and interrogate this concept as a central tenet of their work. Reflexivity is used, throughout the volume, to shine a light onto the decisions we make as researchers, our uncertainties and concerns within the research process, and the actions we take with our co-producers in research, children. Reflexivity grants us permission to share our research journeys and all their imperfections with an openness and honesty previously denied. The volume argues for a paradigm shift that moves away from simply ‘collecting’ the voices of children to the inclusion of reflexivity as a way to develop a more meaningful encounter with our contributors, a deeper exposition of self, position, power, and thinking, and a moral imperative to improve the lives of our participants. The volume and its contributors argue that the inclusion and wider involvement of reflexivity provides the next step in moving forward methodologies that research children and childhood.

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