Revisiting informed assent: Intention vs reality
Date of this Version
Following on from previous research that the authors have undertaken around informed assent (Harcourt & Conroy, 2005), this paper will give further consideration the notion of informed agreement to participate in relation to researching with young children. In response to a perceived the lack of focus on the informing processes, the authors will examine the development of children's understandings of the research process and the position young children are currently holding in research. With the research intention to invite children to take lead agency, or at least shared agency in the research process, children offer researchers opportunities to make meaning of their actions, events, places and relationships. This paper aims to create a heightened awareness of the purpose and processes of seeking informed assent from young children when attempting to undertake collaborative research projects. This holds particular weight where the research project has the intention for children to hold the lead, or shared, agency with adult researchers. Acknowledging the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC, 1989) and the current thinking about child as an agentic being (Danby & Baker, 1998; Woodrow, 1999), the authors believe it is timely to create a context for professional discussion in relation to how genuine partnerships can be formed with children as research collaborators. It would appear that the process of seeking the child’s informed assent (as opposed to just their assent) to participate in the research project is critical. In concluding with a discussion about significant aspects to consider when seeking informed assent from a young child, the authors also reflect on perceived obstacles which may impede this process of collaboration. We challenge the research community to consider the possibilities and potentials of truly seeing young children as research participants, rather than generators of data.