228 – Methods and ethics in qualitative research exploring young children’s voice: A systematic review

Presentation - ECV2022-228

Methods and ethics in qualitative research exploring young children’s voice: A systematic review

Yihan Sun, Monash University, Australia (yihan.sun@monash.edu)
Claire Blewitt, Monash University, Australia (claire.blewitt@monash.edu)
Susan Edwards, Australian Catholic University, Australia (Suzy.edwards@acu.edu.au)
Alexandra Fraser, Our Place – Colman Education Foundation, Australia (alexandra@ourplace.org.au)
Shannon Newman, Our Place – Colman Education Foundation, Australia (shannon@ourplace.org.au)
Julia Cornelius, Our Place – Colman Education Foundation, Australia (julia@ourplace.org.au)
Helen Skouteris, Monash University, Australia (helen.skouteris@monash.edu)

Background: Increasing attention on the rights of children and children’s active participation in society from a sociology of childhood perspective, and a greater understanding of child development and child-centred pedagogy in early childhood education and care, has cemented the notions of listening to children. Despite growing recognition of the importance of capturing children’s voice, the “how to” regarding methods and ethics of research with children remains unclear, especially when the research involves young children (3 to 6 years of age).

Aim: To examine the methods that have been used in qualitative research seeking to capture young children’s perspectives and how research with children is enacted in terms of ethical practices.

Method: This systematic literature review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) reporting guidelines. A comprehensive search of PsycINFO, MEDLINE Complete, and ERIC was conducted to identify relevant peer-reviewed literature. Hand searching of reference lists of included articles identified additional studies.

Results: Fifty-eight studies were captured in the review. Interviewing was the most common strategy to capture young children’s voice; this was often coupled with other child-friendly methods to prompt discussion (e.g., drawing, photographs, videos, emojis). Few studies described methods to capture the perspectives of children with additional needs and First Nations children, highlighting an important gap in research approaches. Further, studies that included drawing as part of the interview process relied on permanent tools (e.g., pencils, crayons, textas). Advancing non-permanent methods of meaning making with children appears ripe for methodological innovation.

Conclusions: Young children are increasingly ‘listened to’ in research. However, there appear to be discrepancies between the rights-based literature and how research is being reported with young children, suggesting a need to more deeply understand children’s agency in the context of cultural relationships with adults and assent-seeking as an ongoing process.

Implications for children and families: Young children have the right to be listened to, heard, and respected as agents and active constructors of their social worlds. Your effort to explore the diverse ways of listening to children’s voice supports them to be and become empowered citizens. 

Implications for practitioners: As a critical adult in young children’s lives, you support and empower children to express their beliefs and perspectives. This presentation encourages you to recognise and explore children’s voice, drawing on ethical practices that respect their rights, knowledge, and competence.

Key words: child voice, education, qualitative methods, review, ethics, early childhood

Note: This review has informed the approaches and ethics of a large qualitative study currently underway to capture the perspectives of young children (aged 3–6 years) from ten early learning centres across Victoria.

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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