1 What does childhood and youth research mean?
This course begins by addressing what childhood and youth research actually means in Activity 1.
Spend a few minutes reflecting on what you think childhood and youth research means. You may have had previous research experience which you can draw on, although this is not necessary – the activity is designed simply to address your initial ideas. Make notes, using the following questions to guide your thinking.
- How would you define ‘childhood and youth research’?
- What types of issues do you think childhood and youth researchers might examine?
In general terms, childhood and youth research means investigating the lives of children and young people. Defining childhood and youth research is complex. The complexity reflects the different approaches that researchers use to carry out investigations into a broad range of issues pertinent to children, young people and their families, as well as to practitioners, policymakers, academics and others with a professional interest in children and young people.
The questions and areas which can be studied are endless and reflect particular research interests and academic disciplines. Researchers may ask questions such as ‘why are some children more sociable than others?’ or ‘how does the media portray young people?’ They may focus on discrete aspects of childhood and youth, such as how children learn within particular contexts. Or they may focus on distinct groups, such as children and young people cared for within health and/or social care services.
Much research has been carried out to examine the lives of children and young people, some of which has been influential on policy and practice. Childhood and youth research provides different ways of understanding children, young people and their families, as well as raising important questions about widely accepted assumptions in a range of fields (e.g. in health care, education and social work), such as:
- What sort of contribution can childhood and youth research make?
- What are its purposes?
- What role should children and young people play in research, and how might this be different to the role that adults play?
- What considerations need to be taken into account in designing research?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the various methods available?
- How does research with children and young people connect with policymaking and practice that are relevant to the lives of children and young people?