'It's that Linda again': Ethical, practical and political issues involved in longitudinal research with young men

Ethics, Place and Environment 4 (2):87 – 100 (2001)
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Abstract

In the last few years, geographers have begun to develop a research interest in children's and young people's attitudes to and relationship with place and locality. While a range of different types of work has been undertaken, most studies are united by their concern for the ethical and practical issues that are raised when children and young people are the subjects of research. In a thought-provoking paper in this journal, Valentine suggested that five main areas of ethical concern might be distinguished: consent; access and structures of compliance; privacy and confidentiality; methodologies and issues of power; and dissemination and advocacy. As she noted, many of these issues are not unique to research with children but are refracted in particular ways because of the particular legal position of children and the inequalities of power between children and adult research workers. In my own work with working class young men aged 15-17, who were no longer children but not yet adults, I found similarities to but also differences from the concerns identified by Valentine, especially as the research I undertook involved repeat interviews. Issues of access, power and dissemination took a different form. In Valentine's paper, the significance of the class, gender, ethnic, age and other social characteristics of both the interviewer(s) and the interviewees and the impact on their interaction were not considered, whereas I found that they were a significant part of the relationships that took place during the course of the research. I also discuss questions of access and of the location of interviewing, ethical issues that arise in representing the views of young people and in returning the research material to them and the problems of trying to undertake critical social research.

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