An Exploration of Factors Influencing Research with Children and Young


AnExploration of Factors Influencing Research with Children and YoungPeople

AnExploration of Factors Influencing Research with Children and YoungPeople

Thereliability of a research is determined by different factors,including the type of method used. A focus group is among the mostreliable methods that can be used to conduct a research on youngpeople and children. Focus group refers to a data collection approachthat involves an interview that is semi-structured and moderated bythe leader of the group (Onwuegbuzie, 2009, p. 2). A focus group canbe used to conduct a research on children as well as young peoplesince it facilitates the formation of informal groups that allowresearchers to elicit opinions of young participants (Vicsek, 2007,p. 27). However, a researcher using a focus group should be able toidentify the unique social and cultural factors that affect childrenand their participation in a given research. The paper will discussthe appropriateness of a focus group method in conducting research onyoung people and children and evaluate different social-culturalfactors that affect children.

Advantagesof using the focus group method

Manyresearchers believe that focus group is the most suitable approach tolearn opinions and ideas held by a homogeneous group of adults, butthese researchers can still enjoy the same benefits when using thesame method to research on children as well as the young people. Inaddition, a focus group method helps researchers overcome limitationsthat are presented by the perception of the adult-child interaction,which is prevalent during a one-to-one interview (Smithson, 2000, p.104). Moreover, a focus group does not end when a child or a youngperson fails to give a response, which reduces pressure on childrenwho may not be willing to answer questions that they did notunderstand or were beyond their realm of experience (Heary, 2002, p.48). Additionally, a focus group method assumes that all participantsare experts, which help researchers to discover the young people’sas well as children’s view of their world and use the findings todevelop useful programs.

Limitationsof using the focus group method

Althoughresearchers might enjoy numerous benefits when using focus group toconduct a research on young people and children, there are threelimitations that they are likely to face. First, children are morelikely to give similar responses to those given by their colleaguesinstead of giving their honest views, which limits the capacity ofthe researcher to test hypothesis. Secondly, many participants(including young people and children) in a focus group tend toconfide information when personal or sensitive matters are beingdiscussed (Barbour, 2008, p. 91). This is because people feel lessanonymous when there are interrogated on personal matters in a focusgroup than when interviewed on their own. Researchers have reportedin the past that it is quite challenging to determine the suitablelocation as well as timing for all participants in a focus group anddevelop a representative sample, especially when participants areyoung people and children (Litosseliti, 2003, p. 21).


Severalethical concerns are raised when a focus group method is used toconduct research on young people and children. For example, eachresearcher is expected to get a written consent of each participant,but in this case, the research if forced by circumstances to obtainthe consent from parents or guardians (Hofmeyer, 2007, p. 3). Inaddition, a researcher should seek for the assent of theparticipating young people and children, even when their age does notallow them to give a legally acceptable consent. This means that theresearcher should explain the aim of the study and the role ofparticipants in a language that is developmentally appropriate.Moreover, the researcher should explain the significance ofmaintaining the confidentiality when giving an introduction to groupsgiven that information is disclosed to all participants and not justthe researcher (Ferguson, 2004, p. 6). Other ethical considerationsinclude the need to ensure that participants are not offended bycomments made by others and protection of participants from distressand stress that might arise from intense discussions.

Impactof social cultural factors on young people and children

Thereare many social and cultural factors that might affect young peopleand children, but three of them are critical and should be consideredwhen conducting a research. First, a poor background can affect theself esteem of a young person or a child, which can limit theirability to interact socially and open up in focus groups. Secondly,children who are brought up by anti-social parents or guardians withoffending behaviors and communication challenges may develop similarbehaviors and cause trouble with other study participants (Nicholas,2009, p. 107). For example, a kid with offending behavior may makeother children feel uncomfortable being in the same focus group.Third, customs and ethnic beliefs held by different families fromwhich the young people and children come from may determine theirwillingness and the ability to interact with other people and makesincere contributions, since they influence how they interact andinterpret with each other (Powell, 2012, p. 12).


Allresearchers face different challenges, those dealing with youngpeople and children are likely to encounter additional problems dueto the age and behavior of participants. A researcher who chooses touse a focus group method may enjoy several benefits, including theability to learn opinions of a diverse group, ease of overcominglimitations of the child-adult relationship, and get reliablefindings for the development of useful programs. However, aresearcher should be prepared to face some challenges, such as thehigh tendency of children to give responses given by others,difficulty of discussing sensitive information, and the determinationof timing and location for study. Moreover, a researcher shouldobserve some ethical concerns, such as the need to get a writtenconsent from parents and protecting participants from strainingdiscussions. Social-cultural factors may also influence theeffectiveness the focus group method since young people and childrencome from different cultural and social backgrounds.

Listof references

Barbour,R., 2008. Doingfocus groups.Thousand Oaks: Sage Publication.

Ferguson,M., Yonge, O. and Myrick, F., 2004. Student’s involvement infaculty research: Ethical and methodological issues. InternationalJournal of Quantitative Methods,3 (4), p. 1-14.

Heary,M. and Hennessy, E., 2002. The use of focus group interviews inpediatric health care research. Journalof Pediatric Psychology,27 (1), p. 47-57.

Hofmeyer,T. and Catherine, M., 2007. Moral geography of focus withparticipants who have preexisting relationships in the workplace.InternationalJournal of Qualitative Methods,6 (2), p. 1-8.

Litosseliti,L., 2003. Usingfocus groups research.London: A &amp C Black.

Nicholas,B., Lach, L., King, G., Scott, M., Boydell, K., Sawatzky, J.,Schippel, E., Young, L., 2009. Contrasting internet and face-to-facefocus groups for children with chronic health conditions: Outcomesand participants experiences. InternationalJournal of Qualitative Methods,9 (1), p. 105-121.

Onwuegbuzie,A., Dicknson, B., Leech, L. and Zoran, G., 2009. A qualitativeframework for collecting and analyzing data in focus group research.InternationalJournal of Qualitative Methods,8 (3), p. 1-21.

Powell,M., Fitzgerald, R., Taylor, N., and Graham, A., 2012. Internationalliterature review: Ethical issues in undertaking research withchildren and young people.East Lismore: South Cross University.

Smithson,J., 2000. Using and analyzing focus groups: Limitations andpossibilities. InternationalJournal of Research Methodology,3 (2), p. 103-119.

Vicsek,L., 2007. A scheme for analyzing the results of focus group.InternationalJournal of Qualitative Methods,6 (4), p. 20-34.