Ethical Symmetry in Participative Research with Children

Florian Eßer, Miriam Sitter


Participatory approaches are currently used in qualitative research accompanied by reflections on the specific challenges to research ethics that emerge from these approaches. In the special case of participatory research with children, special ethical difficulties emerge due to intergenerational care and power relations that potentially conflict with the intent to involve children as "privileged subjects of knowledge" (BERGOLD, 2013, p.1, our translation) throughout the research process. In reference to the interdisciplinary field of childhood studies we discuss in how far participative research requires an interdependent and relational concept of actors to conduct research with children in a cooperative manner. In this context, we argue for a principle of "ethical symmetry." Based on experiences from our ongoing research to the mundane work of belongingness that children accomplish, we discuss the practical implications that arise from the ethical principles outlined. We had to address ethical ambivalences when exploring the research question, establishing relations with the children, and while "performing" the research. These challenges are presented in the sense of a practical ethics. We describe possibilities and dilemmas arising in participatory research with children in the face of generational differences.


adults; children; research ethics; generational difference; participatory research; relational agency; caring relations


Copyright (c) 2018 Florian Eßer, Miriam Sitter

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