Children, time and methods

chris baxter child crowd

Over the last year CIRCY members have been part of a methodological innovation project exploring research methods that are both qualitative (working with meaning rather than numbers) and longitudinal (exploring processes over time). Research on childhood and youth has been one of the key fields in which qualitative longitudinal research (QLR) has thrived: including studies of child development as well as studies of the transition to adulthood such as the Inventing Adulthoods study.

Funded by the ESRC via the National Centre for Research Methods our project ‘New Frontiers in QLR’ staged five 2 day seminars/ workshops in collaboration with the Universities of Southampton, Cardiff, Manchester and London – culminating on an event at Sussex called the Child in Time where we explored QLR traditions in research (for example child development research), in film and television (for example the 7 Up series and the Michael Winterbotton film Everyday) and increasingly in social media where asynchronous communications and indelible traces create new kinds of temporalities. If you are interested in the Child in Time event you can watch the presentations online here.

We have been working hard to think through the lessons of our year of collaboration and debate. We now have two working papers on the NCRM website, one the report of the series  and the other a collection of writing by early career and PhD researchers who worked with us during the series. We are also hoping to develop an advanced training module on QLR so that we can share what we have learned with the wider research community. Last but not least, a special issue of the International Journal of Social Research Methods showcasing papers presented at (or inspired by) the series will be out in 2015.

QLR approaches are an important tool in our research at CIRCY and we are developing  and experimenting with them in three of our current projects: The ERC funded Connectors study; the NCRM funded Face 2 Face project and a planned study of the everyday lives of children and young people in care. By looking at lives in and through time we are able to see the world in new and revealing ways. In the Face to Face project we have been experimenting with methods such as ‘day-in-a-life’ micro ethnographies and  ‘favourite thing’ interviews as ways of capturing the different temporalities of lives over time. Working with media professionals Susi Arnott and Crispin Hughes we have created an interactive website that brings to life the value of using qualitative methods to research children’s lives in real time – check it out:

CIRCY is always interested to hear about other projects exploring children’s lives in time, so get in touch and tell us what you are doing.

Rachel Thomson

CIRCY Co-director

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