Ask us, don’t tell us: Investigating preadolescent and adolescent perspectives on wellbeing

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Conference Paper

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Interim status: Citation only.

Swan, J. & Sargeant, J. (2010). Ask us, don’t tell us: Investigating preadolescent and adolescent perspectives on wellbeing. Paper presented at the 12th biennial conference of the European Association for Research on Adolescence (EARA), Vilnius, Lithuania.

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Background: Involving pre-adolescent children in a conversation about their lives embraces children and adolescents as valued contributors to research, and also offers the wider research community valuable insight into pre-adolescent contemporary perspectives of their lived experiences. Wellbeing is a contentious construct and has eluded many researchers' attempts to define. This research is part of an ongoing project aiming to investigate what wellbeing means to pre-adolescent children. Method: A series of discussion groups were formed consisting of four students from each middle school grade (Grades 3 - 7). These groups discussed their understanding of wellbeing independently, before critiquing theirs and the other groups' conceptualisations in subsequent sessions. These preadolescents were chosen as a convenience sample to assess the appropriateness of utilising a student 'advisory group' in doing subsequent research with children their age. In collaboration with the advisory group, suggestions from additional sessions were then made into a survey questionnaire to gather preadolescent and adolescent responses on a larger scale. Results: While the content of exploring preadolescent and adolescent current, previous and perceived future lived experiences is ongoing, the use of working with children as research partners yielded very positive results from a methodological perspective. The advisory group contributed to each stage of the project including the formulation of measures, wording of questions and analysis of results. They provided valuable input into the research process to ensure that adult researchers gained a more authentic and accurate insight to the true lived experiences of childhood and adolescence, that may not have been acquired by processing the information through the adult lens. Conclusion: This research is part of an ongoing project that illustrates some considerations, benefits and challenges of working with children as research partners rather than research subjects to gain an authentic insight into the lived experiences of transitions from preadolescent to adolescent.

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