Knock, Knock! Who’s There? Gaining Access to Young Children as Researchers: A Critical Review

Jane Murray


Recently, research involving children has included enquiry on, about, with and by children. However, studies positioning children as co-researchers or researchers have tended to focus on children older than eight years. This paper critically reviews literature relating to aspects of an empirical study within the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) field that conceptualises and explores research behaviours presented by children aged 4-8 years with no formal research methods training in three ECEC settings and five domestic settings in England. The enquiry - a critical ethnographic case study series located within a constructivist grounded approach was conducted according to the British Educational Research Association’s ethical guidelines (2004). Participants included children (n=150), practitioners (n=15), parents (n=10) and professional educational researchers (n=16). A rubric of professional researchers’ perceived ‘researcher behaviours’ was developed early in the study then used to evaluate children’s everyday activities. Throughout, challenges of gaining ethically appropriate access to data with young children were a significant concern. Challenges included: establishing an appropriate research instrument, gaining access to an ECEC setting, gaining acceptance from ECEC setting staff, securing informed consent from primary carers and gathering data on children’s natural behaviours at home. This paper employs critical review of literature reflecting the multi-disciplinary nature of ECEC to discuss these challenges before making recommendations for future work.


Access, Agency, Early childhood research, Critical ethnography, Ethical considerations.

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