At the Edge: Negotiating Boundaries in Research with Children and Young People


  • Helen Kay Commonwealth Youth Project
  • Viviene Cree University of Edinburgh
  • Kay Tisdall Children in Scotland
  • Jennifer Wallace Children in Scotland



children, young people, HIV, parental illness, reflexivity, subjectivities, research team


A research study of children and young people affected by parental HIV in Scotland provides the vehicle for a discussion of some of the complex issues at the heart of qualitative research. The research team sought to conduct a study which would be inclusive and empowering for those children and young people and their parents who took part. But in carrying out research on such a secret and stigmatised subject, we found ourselves caught in the middle of competing requirements of confidentiality and openness, protection and autonomy, sponsorship and independence. We conclude that our study, by nature of its subject and subjectivities, illuminates dilemmas which cannot be resolved simply by constructing better protocols. They are central to the research process, and their partial resolution demands continuous negotiation between the researchers and the participants, and also the other stakeholders. In these complex circumstances the process of individual reflexivity can be usefully enhanced by a team approach. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0302332


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Author Biographies

Helen Kay, Commonwealth Youth Project

Helen KAY is an experienced researcher who in recent years has worked with children and young people. She is currently working as Youth Statistics Coordinator for Commonwealth Youth Project: Caribbean Centre, based in Guyana.

Viviene Cree, University of Edinburgh

Dr Viviene CREE is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Associate Dean (Admissions) for the College of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She previously worked for 16 years as a social work practitioner and practice teacher, in both statutory and voluntary organisations.

Kay Tisdall, Children in Scotland

Dr Kay TISDALL is Director of Policy and Research at Children in Scotland, a Children's Rights organisation based in Edinburgh. She has been appointed jointly with the School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh where she is responsible for postgraduate course in Childhood Studies. Dr TISDALL has undertaken numerous collaborative research projects on such topics as children affected by disabilities and policy and planning in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.

Jennifer Wallace, Children in Scotland

Jennifer WALLACE is a Research Officer at Children in Scotland, a Children's Rights organisation based in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is currently working on a three year study, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, of the integrated services provided in Family Centres and New Community Schools in Scotland. She is currently completing her M.Phil. in Social Science Research, part-time at Glasgow University.




How to Cite

Kay, H., Cree, V., Tisdall, K., & Wallace, J. (2003). At the Edge: Negotiating Boundaries in Research with Children and Young People. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 4(2).