The Experience of Power Relationships for Young People in Care. Developing an Ethical, Shortitudinal and Cross-National Approach to Researching Everyday Life

  • Helene Join-Lambert Université Paris Nanterre
  • Janet Boddy University of Sussex
  • Rachel Thomson University of Sussex
Keywords: mobile methods, shortitudinal approach, power in research, everyday life, out-of-home placement, child protection, France, United Kingdom


Across national contexts, research shows that young people who live in child protection facilities often have negative experiences of power relations. In this article we look for a suitable method which takes account of power relations while investigating young people's perspectives on their everyday lives. We first present the results of an international methodological literature review concerned with the study of everyday life of young people, including ethical discussions arising among researchers. Drawing on this, our own research devised a shortitudinal, qualitative and cross-national approach which was designed to empower young participants during the research process. Sixteen young people living in care in France and in England participated in this project. Here we discuss the ways in which this approach functioned to give participants control—over the use they made of the research tools, over the topics that were discussed, and over the spaces in which research data were generated. Some of the data show how young people's choices reflect the areas where they feel powerful. We argue that using this method enabled insights into the ways in which young people were able to create or protect agentic spaces within the constrained everyday lives of child protection.


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Author Biographies

Helene Join-Lambert, Université Paris Nanterre

Hélène JOIN-LAMBERT is maître de conference in education at the University Paris Nanterre (France). She holds a PhD in sociology and a habilitation in education. Her research focusses on family welfare and child protection systems, more specifically on tensions between perspectives of young people in care, their parents and their carers. Cross national perspective is a major aspect of her work.

Janet Boddy, University of Sussex

Janet BODDY is a professor of child, youth and family studies and was until recently the director of the Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth (CIRCY) at the University of Sussex. Her research is concerned with family lives and with services for children and families, in the UK and internationally.

Rachel Thomson, University of Sussex

Rachel THOMSON is professor of childhood and youth studies, her research interests include the study of the life course and transitions, as well as the interdisciplinary fields of gender and sexuality studies. She is a methodological innovator and is especially interested in capturing lived experience, social processes and the interplay of biographical and historical time.

How to Cite
Join-Lambert, H., Boddy, J., & Thomson, R. (2020). The Experience of Power Relationships for Young People in Care. Developing an Ethical, Shortitudinal and Cross-National Approach to Researching Everyday Life. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 21(1).