A sweeping panorama of perspectives to capture child's-eye view of growth

Researching Children's Experience
December 2, 2005

At last, I thought, a comprehensive guide to studying child development. I have been looking for such a book for my students for a while now. However, Researching Children's Experience: Approaches and Methods however, was not what I had in mind. It is a good book, it is just not that relevant for anyone who wants to research infant development and developmental disorders or who wants to know about the underlying processes that govern development. The focus of this book is mainly on social developmental research methods. This is a growing area of research, and the methods discussed can be used across many of the social sciences. To be fair, this book does give a fairly comprehensive guide to using qualitative methods to study children's overt behaviour.

It is divided into three parts. The first section covers methodological and ethical issues in conducting research with children.

Although the second chapter looks at the history of developmental psychology and the role of the child, the rest of this section is more suited to sociological and anthropological methods of studying development than to psychological ones.

The second section examines different methods for testing children. The chapter by Judy Dunn examines how observational techniques can be employed to study children and families in naturalistic settings. This is a useful method to use when researching family relationships. However, as Dunn herself remarks, this method is best suited to children below the age of eight. The other two chapters in this section are really more to do with anthropological and sociological methods. For example, in chapter seven Ruth Edmond examines ethnographical research methods. Ethnography was originally used by anthropologists to study different cultures.

Nowadays, sociologists also use this method of research. But it is difficult to generalise from this method of research to the general population of children. This begs the question of how much ethnography really tells us about the processes that govern children's behaviour.

The final section of the book considers text and narrative as a means to understanding development. Susan Engel's chapter is quite informative. She not only explains how to carry out research on children's narrative but also briefly discusses the underlying processes involved in children's narrative. In chapter 12, Tom Danaher and Marc Briod look at how phenomenology can be used to study child development. This was particularly interesting for me as it was really the first discussion in the book of a method that can be adapted for studying cognitive development.

Overall, this book is more about sociological research methods than psychological methods. However, researchers interested in qualitative research with children may find it useful.

Janine Spencer is lecturer in developmental psychology, Brunel University.

Researching Children's Experience: Approaches and Methods. First edition

Editor - Sheila Greene and Diane Hogan
Publisher - Sage
Pages - 284
Price - £60.00 and £19.99
ISBN - 0 7619 7102 5 and 7103 3

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