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TRiCC Position Statement on Children's Involvement and Participation in Research

With regard to participatory research with children and young people, there are a number of core principles that we support.  
First, research needs to be carried out with rather than on children, thus recognising children as active contributors to rather than objects of research. We believe that children and young people have the right to express their views and opinions on all matters that affect their lives such as education, health, welfare and social care.  We take the theoretical viewpoint that children and young people are ‘experts in their own lives’ and that we as researchers need to find ways to work with them to help co-discovery of their unique insights. Methods need to be tailored to individual children’s and young people’s strengths, their particular situations, contexts and cultures as well as the focus of the research. Thus, researchers need to work closely with the children and young people to find the most appropriate means that will help them to communicate their perspectives.

Second, research need to be theoretically positioned within a strengths-based perspective of children’s and young people’s agency and capabilities.  It means viewing children and young people as agentic, capable of social action and socially active. So, the best people to provide information on the child’s perspective are children themselves. It requires a sensitivity to children’s and young people’s stand- points and researchers need to use a range of creative participatory methods, tools and involvement strategies to maximise children’s and young people’s competencies and strengths.  We advise researchers to be critical and self-reflective on the processes which produce children’s and young people’s voices in research, the power imbalances and the ideological contexts that shape them and which influence representation.

Third, researchers need to recognise the power differential in the adult-child relationship and adopt a stance of co-researcher and co-learner in the co-construction of meanings and understanding. It requires the adult researcher to become a co-learner and the children and young people to become co-researchers; together each individual  plays an active role in knowledge construction. This active role ranges from the involvement of children and young people in some or all aspects of a research project. Typically, this ranges from the identification of the problem and involvement in the research design to a much more embedded and sustained involvement in the methods, analysis and interpretation of the data, dissemination and implementation of changes.