“They should ask me so that they can help me”: Patterns of young children’s expressed feelings and beliefs when interviewed about violence and difficult experiences

Hannabeth Franchino-Olsen*, Nataly Woollett, Christina Thurston, Pamela Maluleke, Nicola Christofides, Franziska Meinck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Children’s participation in research is a rights-based principle. However, young children are often excluded from research on sensitive topics, due to gatekeepers concerns that participation would cause distress/re-traumatization and conflict with the principle of providing adequate protection from harm. Objective: To provide evidence around young children’s feelings, including potential distress, and beliefs in mixed-method interviews about violence and difficult experiences. Participants and Setting: Data were collected from South African interviewer focus group discussions and young child (age 6–10) interviews, along with observations and fieldnotes from young child (age 6–17) interviews. Methods: We collected and analyzed qualitative data focused on children’s displayed and reported emotions and beliefs in violence-focused interviews. Results: Findings showed the quantitative interview was frequently a positive experience for young children, and children who became upset or emotional stated their feelings were due to violence they experienced. The interviewer seemed to represent a safe person to whom the child could disclose. The play- and arts-based methods of the interview were useful in building this safety and providing space for children to regulate difficult emotions. Conclusions: In a carefully managed interview environment using developmentally appropriate methods, young children are enthusiastic participants and do not appear to experience undue distress or trauma when asked about violence and other sensitive topics. Findings demonstrate that young children can be safely included in research about violence and issues that impact them and can exercise their right to participation when research methods, environments, and safeguards are appropriately adapted to their needs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106932
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date6 Jul 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jul 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • young children
  • violence
  • abuse
  • research participation
  • rights

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