Revisiting Mandell’s ‘least adult’ role and engaging with children’s voices in research
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Revisiting Mandell’s ‘least adult’ role and engaging with children’s voices in research

Duncan Randall Lecturer, School of Health and Population Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Aim This paper is intended to re-examine Mandell’s classic work on the ‘least adult’ role and to show that the principles that underpin Mandell’s work are useful if combined with a reflexive approach to working with children.

Background Researching with children (Christensen and James 2008) using participatory methods has become an accepted research methodology. However, research reports that claim to represent the views of children rarely detail how the research relationships between children and adults are managed.

Data sources Mandell’s work on the least-adult role in studying children and other contemporary texts on researching with children.

Review methods Re-examination of the principles of Mandell’s approach to conducting participatory research with children using other contemporary texts on researching with children and participatory research with children.

Discussion The work of other researchers with children would appear to endorse the principles that Mandell suggests as useful when engaging children in research: to minimise the social difference between adult and child, to value the child’s social world, and to join with children in activities such as play or arts-based participatory methods. The issue of trust seems to extend beyond the relationship between researcher and participant to include building trust with other adults in whom the child has confidence. In applying these principles and building trust, researchers need to be reflexive about their understanding of children and childhood.

Conclusion To evaluate research with children, research reports need to include discussions of how the researchers addressed Mandell’s principles and built trust. Data given by children are influenced by how social differences are minimised, the perceived value the researcher places on children’s social worlds and how children are engaged in the research process.

Implication for practice/research Further research is required to understand how various approaches to minimising social difference, valuing children’s social worlds, joining children in activities and building trust can influence children’s participation and the data they give.

Nurse Researcher. 19, 3, 39-43. doi: 10.7748/nr2012.

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

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