Issues in research with children and young people
Issues in research with children and young people

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Issues in research with children and young people

5 A contemporary research example

Over the years, non-western (‘majority’ world) cultures have been less well researched, which in itself indicates the historical dominance of the minority world. Latterly, this imbalance has begun to be addressed, and many large- and small-scale research projects have enriched understandings of childhood and youth in different societies and cultures around the world. One such project is the international study, Young Lives, which is described in Activity 5.

The Young Lives project: researching poverty

Activity 5

Allow approximately 1 hour 30 minutes

Go to the Young Lives web page [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] where you will find an overview of the Young Lives project. Click on ‘What we do’ at the top of the page. Here you will find details of the aims and objectives of this research project, plus further links: in particular, ‘Research methods’, ‘Children’s perspectives’ under ‘Publications’ (located in the left-hand margin) and ‘Our themes’ (located at the top of the page) provide details on different aspects of this research project. We suggest that you spend at least half an hour exploring this website before you focus on the questions in this activity. As you read, make notes on the following key areas:

  • What are the objectives of the Young Lives project?
  • How does the Young Lives project set about exploring poverty?
  • What might the value be of exploring children’s and young people’s lives within social and cultural contexts?
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Young Lives is an international study of childhood poverty that follows the changing lives of 12,000 children in four countries – Ethiopia, India (in the state of Andhra Pradesh), Peru and Vietnam. The project is directed by a team of researchers from the Department of International Development at the University of Oxford. It draws together academics from across a range of disciplines and institutions, including academics from the four countries in the study, supported by partners within UK universities, including The Open University. The project began in 2002 and follows the lives of two groups of children in each country over a 15-year period (i.e. 2,000 children in each country who were born in 2001–02, and 1,000 children in each country born in 1994–95) using a combination of quantitative and qualitative longitudinal research methods. These groups provide insights into every phase of childhood. Using a broad range of research instruments, including surveys, interviews and case-study observations, the younger children are being tracked from infancy to their mid-teens, and the older children from infancy into adulthood, by which time some will be parents themselves. Information is also being gathered about their parents, and the unique insights generated by this large-scale, longitudinal study will reveal a great deal about the cultural, economic and social complexities of poverty, how families on the margins move in and out of poverty, and the policies that can make a real difference to their lives.

The Young Lives project: We the ‘Future’

Public and professional interest in children’s lives can be limited to specific areas such as education, health or welfare and lead to a fragmented view of what it means to be a child or young person. An alternative approach is to aim to take a wider perspective and study the ‘whole’ lives of children and young people. Using the notes you have made in response to Activity 1, reflect on how the Young Lives project considers the ‘whole’ lives of children and young people. These themes are presented in the documentary film We the ‘Future’ (in Activity 6) which highlights some of the key research findings from the Young Lives India Round 3 survey data (2009).

Activity 6

Allow approximately 1 hour 30 minutes

Watch the documentary film We the ‘Future’.

Download this video clip.Video player: We the 'Future'
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Transcript: We the 'Future'


RENU SINGH: Out of 40 polled children in India, majority remain poor, despite economic growth in recent past.

RENU SINGH: Shocks, such as rapid increases in food prices, have directly impacted families and children.

RENU SINGH: Young Lives study shows that many older children are trying to balance school and work to support their families.

RENU SINGH: Social protection schemes introduced by the government in the last few years have had a positive effect on children.

RENU SINGH: As we go into the 12th plan, can we have child-centred planning? Which means that we’ve got to look at children and childhood, as from 0 to 18, and make sure that there are smooth transitions across schemes, not divide children across schemes. At the village level, at the decentralised governance level, we sit and make plans for bringing water sanitation, rural development, ICDS, NRHM, which means the ASHA worker, the ANM worker, all sit together, along with the [INAUDIBLE] Valley worker, and the community NPRI members, and make sure that the child is able to access the facilities that they rightly deserve.

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We the 'Future'
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Make notes on the themes which are central to the Young Lives project, and how they reflect research perspectives that consider the ‘whole’ lives of children and young people.

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As well as focusing on experiences of poverty over time, the Young Lives project aims to compare and contrast childhood and youth experiences in different cultures, and to capture children’s and young people’s own views and experiences within different family and community contexts. The documentary film draws on research using surveys, observations and interviews to capture the experiences of children, young people and their families about issues affecting their lives, such as the balance between work and schooling, poor nutrition, health issues, economic forces and food price rises, and the impact of various government schemes. In this way, the different elements of everyday life can be examined to create a rich, in-depth case study.

An important aspect of the Young Lives project is the commitment to children’s rights and the development of a research practice that gives children and young people the opportunity to comment and be consulted on issues which affect their lives.


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