ABSTRACT

Discussions surrounding the ethics of conducting research with children have often centred on the issue of informed consent and the problematics of whether children are competent to be able to choose freely and, more specifically if that consent is exercised in a situation of voluntary choice (Thome, 1993). Despite the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Children Act 1989 (which recognises the wishes, views and experiences of the child), children are still viewed as the property of their parental gate-keepers:

In the UK, consent is usually taken to mean consent form parents or those in ‘loco-parentis’, and in this respect children are to a large extent seen as their parents property, devoid of the right to say no to research.

(Morrow and Richards, 1996:94). In an article that specifically details the ethical dilemmas involved in social research with children Morrow and Richards (1996) show that neither the British Psychological Society (BPS), British Sociological Association (BSA) or the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) have detailed ethical guidelines on conducting research with children as research subjects. The BPS consider children alongside ‘adults with impairments’ and the ASA and BSA make no specific mention of children. The BSA Statement of Ethical Practice however, does stress that ‘special care’ (whatever that may entail) should be taken with research subjects who are vulnerable by factors of ‘age, social status and powerlessness’, of which children come under all three criteria (Morrow and Richards, 1996:93).