ESRA 2017 Programme

Tuesday 18th July      Wednesday 19th July      Thursday 20th July      Friday 21th July     

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Tuesday 18th July, 16:00 - 17:30 Room: F2 107

Doing Research on Children and Young People

Chair Professor Ingvill Constanze Mochmann (GESIS and CBS )
Coordinator 1Mrs Julie Ane Odegaard Borge (University of Bergen)

Session Details

Many researchers are engaged in research projects where children and/or young people are involved. They can, for example, be respondents in surveys, participate in focus groups and qualitative interviews or participate actively as lay researchers. Depending on the topic, age and context doing research on and with children and young people confronts the researcher with several questions.

- When is it necessary to include this population group to obtain relevant information on a topic?
- Why may different research methods be required than when analyzing adults?
- How can the combination of methods contribute more to understanding the research problem together than separately in particular when conducting research on young people?

While early studies of children- and youth culture have been limited by a methodological monism based on a positivistic approach, recent research mainly favor qualitative methods to grasp the meaning making aspects of young people. This session therefore takes a broad approach and invites papers addressing experiences from research projects on children/young people focusing on the practical, methodological and ethical issues of the project and lessons learned.

Paper Details

1. Children's voices on their well-being: A mixed-methods study
Dr Silvia Exenberger (Medical University Innsbruck)
Professor Barbara Juen (Leopold-Franzens University Innsbruck)

The Southern state Tamil Nadu was the worst hit part of the Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster in 2004. Mostly fishing families were affected. The present study was one work-package of a larger research project funded by the European Commission, and had the acronym ‘post-Tsunami’. The team used a mixed methods design (exploratory sequential design according to Creswell & Zhang, 2009) that facilitated understanding on children’s own views of their well-being four years post-disaster. The main purpose was to develop a quantitative culture-sensible instrument in order to measure children’s well-being in the long-term aftermath of the Tsunami based on the qualitative findings. In the first data collection phase (qualitative approach), focus group discussions were implemented with 112 Tsunami-affected children either living with their biological parents or in a family-based out-of-home care. The age of children was eight to 17 years. Data were analysed on the basis of the qualitative research methodology Grounded Theory. More or less the following domains and categories could be identified out of the qualitative data: cognitive domain (academic), social domain (appreciation, civic life, family, peers, social skills), psychological domain (coping, nature, tsunami-related symptoms), physical domain (health), and economic domain (materialism). The qualitative findings then guided the development of items for the quantitative survey instrument, which consisted of 64 items. In the second data collection phase (quantitative approach), this list of child well-being indicators became part of a larger questionnaire battery and 167 mothers rated the statements on well-being for their 344 children. A principal component analysis was conducted on the 64 items with orthogonal rotation (varimax). The following seven factors could be identified: absence of trauma-related symptoms, academic achievement, absence of trauma-related fears and intrusions, coping, community orientation, absence of fear of punishment, and family compliance. Taken together, all results indicated the importance of asking children themselves about what constitutes a good life from their point of view. The implications of this mixed methods approach to the development of measures for culture-sensible research are discussed.

2. Children’s skills and implications for interviews
Dr Susanne Vogl (University of Vienna)

Child respondents challenge social scientists because their verbal, interactive, and
cognitive skills are not just different from those of adults, but also vary among children. To
develop adequate methods for interviewing children, we need to learnmore about those skills
in interview settings and their dependence on age. Based on 112 semi-structured interviews
with children aged 5–11 years, we studied children’s verbal, cognitive, and interactive skills.
Fifty-six children were each interviewed twice, once face to face and once via telephone.
Through an innovative triangulation of qualitative and quantitative analyses, children’s skills
and related gains and limitations of each interview mode were examined. The applicability
of semi-structured interviews was evaluated with skills and respondent’s age in mind, and
recommendations for conducting interviews are made.

3. Measuring Social Hierarchies using Network Data
Miss Julia Leesch (Universty of Cologne)
Miss Andrea Meckel (Gesis Leibnitz-Institute for the Social Sciences)
Miss Julia Weymeirsch (University of Cologne)

There is almost no social relation that exist without hierarchical differences between the involved individuals (or groups). In many settings, there are more or less objective dimensions which can be used to define the social rank of a person, e.g. occupation, formal position within a organization or the income. While this might be convenient to target some aspects of social hierarchies for adults, such objective measures are only relevant for people who are in employment. For children and adolescents, who still visit school, they are completely insufficient. However, social hierarchies play a role for a very young age and might have long term consequences for a person. Thus, it is important to find appropriate measures specifically for the group of young people. Network data might be an excellent possibility in doing so. Hierarchies can be illustrated through valued information on ties between individuals in a network that give information on who is most liked or disliked or who is perceived as popular or unpopular. However, it is not yet clear how to best proceed to gain meaningful results that depict reality the best. Part of the problem hereby is that there does not seem to be an agreement in the literature upon which dimensions define social hierarchies in (school) networks. The presented work will discuss different methodological approaches to measure status in social networks, illustrate advantages and disadvantages and connect them to the different theoretical approaches to define social hierarchies in the literature.
To do so the “Friendship and Violence in Adolescence”-dataset (FVA) will be used. This is a longitudinal survey carried out once a year since 2013 at 39 schools in the Ruhr area in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany. In each school, all 7th graders (in the first wave) were surveyed and questioned about their relations to their fellow students within the grade (FVA 2014; FVA 2016). A range of different relationship types were thereby considered, such as friendships, mobbing relationships, who likes whom or who is perceived as popular. These allow for a comparison between different measures to understand hierarchies within schools.

4. Research on Young People: Cultural Aspects
Mrs Irina Gewinner (Leibniz University Hanover)

There exist a number small und large scale datasets targeting children and young people as respondents. Most of them address such topics as education, (un-)employment, health or ethical concerns, thus covering most important issues of modern societies through the lenses of younger generations. For instance, the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (Germany) regularly investigates questions associated with apprenticeships and business cycle using indicators reaching from enrolment rates and macroeconomic parameters to financial issues regarding VET. Similarly, NEPS studies educational life courses with a particular interest in social inequalities within and between the cohorts.
However, the informative value of standardised surveys remains limited, since a substantial number of indicators remain unpronounced. This peculiarity is often explained by the fact that methodological and methodical issues are far better developed than theorizing on social phenomena. As a result, survey questionnaires are able to be only slowly adapted to the changing social realities.
In this presentation, I exemplify my above mentioned statement through a study on career choices of young people at the age of secondary school completion. I suggest that the occupational sex segregation is closely linked with gender inequalities in any society, since its persistence is cultural. In this case, it is necessary to include young people of school (completion) age to study the origins of labour market segregation.

5. Constructing the story of political space among youth
Dr Julie Borge (University of Bergen)
Professor Ingvill Mochmann (CBS GESIS)

Political socialization research has engaged in the content and progression of political learning over the childhood years, however to a varying extent. The research field started out in the 1950s, experienced a decline from the 70s, before regaining scholarly interest the last two decades. An increasing concern related to a decreasing voter turnout in most established democracies, has encouraged a larger focus on young people`s involvement in democratic processes and their democratic participation. Scholars have argued that there is a crisis of political disengagement which might identify as a potential risk to the political systems.
Young peoples’ perceived political apathy and waning interest in politics around the world has led to this increased requirement to address the interest in politics among youth. Nonvoting or noninvolvement with political parties has been viewed as synonymous with political apathy. However, nonvoting may not be apathy, but a lack of confidence in particular political parties or cynicism. Whereas apathy might imply a lack of interest in the political system, cynicism can imply some level of interest even if the consequences of it are that the individual does not vote. Likewise, noninvolvement with political parties, for instance, might be understood solely as an indication of indifference, but may be an active and at times politically self- conscious mean for dealing with the social world.
In this paper we argue that it is necessary to probe deeper into the perceptions and definitions of political activity and politics, and to explore reasons and arguments for such perceptions and definitions. We explore some methodological challenges regarding the conclusions about the declining interest in politics among young citizens in Western societies.