Researchers, practitioners and policy makers are increasingly concerned with identifying children’s perspectives on matters that affect them. Yet studies have highlighted that power imbalances are pervasive in research with children, largely due to adult-centric consent, research design, and data interpretation (Khoja, 2016). Acknowledging these imbalances, recent studies assert that knowledge is co-constructed by adult researcher/s and child participant/s, and argue for the need for reflexivity (Tay-Lim & Lim, 2013). Underpinned by a child-centric methodology, graphic elicitation interviews aim to address power imbalances; however, few studies have examined the shifts in power dynamics that occur during interviews with children and consider the implications for the co-construction of knowledge. We address this gap by analysing graphic elicitation interviews with children aged four to 15 years. We find interviews contained continual shifts in power dynamics, with adult interviewers actively seeking to empower children while at times inadvertently reinforcing inequitable power relations. Concurrently, children sought to gain power and also sometimes appeared disempowered. Interviewers empowered children by encouraging responses to their visual diaries, commentary and interests, and reinforced power dynamics by interacting in an authoritarian manner and expressing approval or disproval of children’s behaviour. Children sought more power in the interviews by asking questions about the interviewer and why certain discussion topics mattered. However, children seemed disempowered when they considered that they had completed the visual diaries incorrectly. We argue that some of these interactions were important for building rapport, hence, power relations are neither entirely problematic nor beneficial to the co-construction of knowledge.
Khoja, N. (2016). Situating Children's Voices: Considering the Context When Conducting Research with Young Children. Children & Society, 30(4), 314-323. doi:10.1111/chso.12143
Tay-Lim, J., & Lim, S. (2013). Privileging Younger Children's Voices in Research: Use of Drawings and a Co-Construction Process. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 12(1), 65-83. doi:doi:10.1177/160940691301200135