Participatory research: Does it genuinely extend the sphere of children's and young people's participation?

Bernie Carter*, Imelda Coyne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


In this chapter, we raise questions about and critique whether, despite the solid progress that has been made, participatory research is actually firmly established. We also consider what questions we need to ask ourselves to ensure that the participatory work that we do is genuine, authentic and effectively serving children and young people. As with any research approach, some people commit fully to the ideas, philosophy and values, whilst other people are more tokenistic about the approach. Genuinely being a participatory researcher requires more than knowing what to do and how to act. Being a participatory researcher is a fundamental commitment to believing that children and young people can and will shape your research, construct and challenge your ideas and bring their own ideas and agendas to the table. Therefore, in this chapter we explore whether participatory research is just ‘froth and bubbles’ or a genuine extension of the sphere of children’s and young people’s participation. And, as part of this critique, we consider whether any of us can truly act in a participatory manner when we always have to act in a way that is constrained by what is expected of us by the societies we live in, the organisations we work for and the ethical frameworks that govern our work. Most of us work within rules that prioritise risk reduction and the protection of our participants, and this makes sense, but this welfarist approach can limit truly participatory practices. We talk of this tension between reasonable risk taking and protectionism as the ‘welfare monkey’ that sits on our shoulders. We conclude that participatory research needs to be more than an event bounded by the start and end of the study and it needs to be part of a wider shift in society that is about co-producing transformative and empowering change with and for children and young people; a change that reaches out beyond the participatory bubble of the study into wider society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeing Participatory
Subtitle of host publicationResearching with Children and Young People: Co-constructing Knowledge Using Creative Techniques
PublisherSpringer International Publishing Switzerland
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9783319712284
ISBN (Print)9783319712277
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2018


  • Participatory research
  • Authentic
  • Genuine
  • Children
  • Young People
  • Welfare
  • Transformative
  • Risk
  • Empowerment


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