How far have we come in respecting young children in our research? A meta-analysis of reported early childhood research practice from 2009 to 2012

Fiona Mayne
Christine Howitt
University of Western Australia

This paper summarises the reporting of early childhood (EC) research practices through a meta-analysis of 10 scholarly international EC education journals. The analysis included 506 peer-reviewed primary research articles published between 2009 and 2012 (inclusive) involving young children between the ages of birth and eight years. These were reviewed for child status within research, researcher perspective of children involved in research and respectful research culture within EC research. This review provides a broad picture of how young children are currently being involved in research and whether an ideological shift towards more participatory approaches is filtering through to EC research practice. The results indicated that for child status, 96.6 per cent of articles positioned young children in traditional roles as non-participant objects of research (64.6 per cent) and semi-participant subjects (32.0 per cent). Only 3.4 per cent of studies positioned children in inclusive, participatory roles as social actors (3.0 per cent) and co-researchers (0.4 per cent). Similarly, for researcher perspective, 70.2 per cent of articles were identified as research conducted on children, with the remaining 29.8 per cent as research with or by children. In terms of research culture, 89.7 per cent of articles were non-respectful by focusing on what children could do for the research, rather than valuing the children themselves. These results highlight a gap between rights-based EC research literature and the way in which research is being reported with young children.
A new Rights-based Research Accountability Framework is presented to assist researchers in understanding how well their research upholds children’s rights principles and what areas need to be addressed to transition towards more inclusive approaches.

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 40 No 4 December 2015

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