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Without a Safety Net: Participatory Techniques in Research with Young Migrants

Author(s): G. Fassetta

Researching children, and migrant children in particular, means having to strive to redress the imbalance of power that comes from the highly vulnerable position of the participants. The need to protect children from physical and psychological harm signifies that adults, in most societies, make the ultimate choice regarding children's participation in activities, while children's dependent position may mean that they do not feel free to refuse an adult's request for collaboration however strongly their freedom to choose is stressed. Researchers need to recognise the imperfections of a relationship that is necessarily unequal, rather than trusting specific techniques to solve these contradictions through their inherent power. Participatory techniques may help children's voices to come through more powerfully by leaving more space for individual styles of interaction and by opening more channels for expression; they cannot be relied on, however, to act as an infallible tool-kit to redress a power imbalance. The strengths and weaknesses of a multiple-technique approach (focus groups, child-led photography and individual interviews) used to collect data in Italy and Ghana are discussed in relation to the aims of the research, the age group of the participants, and the different geographical and social contexts.

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Author(s): G. Fassetta


Enquire, University of Nottingham


June 2010

Main theme(s):

Children Left Behind Migration with Families

Sub-theme(s): South - North

Tertiary theme(s): Reunification

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Keywords: Country - Ghana Country - Italy Participatory Methods


Journal article