Chapter 6: Ethics

Activity 1

Think through ethical considerations in relation to some examples of hypothetical early childhood research.

Imagine that you are going to carry out a piece of qualitative research which aims to explore the views of six expectant first-time mothers on the quality of the antenatal services they are attending. The research will involve interviewing, with the aim that the data collected will help with evaluating and then improving the service on offer to first time mothers.

What would you need to think through in terms of ethics in order to undertake this research?

Now consider the following piece of research:

Imagine that you are embarking on a piece of research which aims to explore the experience of reception class children at lunchtimes – a time of the day when they are cared for by school meals’ supervisors as opposed to their teacher. The children are in their first term at school. In order to examine this issue you will be collecting observations; interviewing staff and parents for their perspectives and also be eliciting the children’s perspectives through asking them to draw what happens at lunchtimes and talk about their pictures and also by reading a story about meal times as a precursor to encouraging some group discussion (at story time) about the topic.

What would you need to think through in terms of ethics in order to undertake this research?

Activity 2

Watch the Zimbardo experiment video online: (accessed 07-3-2022)

Sum up the ethical issues in conducting this research and refer to the ten questionable practices by Robson outlined in Chapter 6.

Activity 3

Examine links to ethical guidelines from the chapter and the Data Protection Act 1988.

Ethical guidelines

Above sites accessed 07-03-2022

Data Protection Act 1998

Above sites accessed 07-03-2022

We also suggest you examine the multinational group: Ethical Research Involving Children (ERIC) whose website has more of an early childhood focus –

What stands out to you? How are the societies’ guidelines the same? How do they differ?

Activity 4

Sage research methods content

Christensen, P. and Prout, A. (2002) ‘Working with ethical symmetry in social research with children’, Childhood, 9(4): 477–97.

This journal article provides detail about the notion of ‘ethical symmetry’, which is discussed in Chapter 3.

Lahman, M. (2008) ‘Always othered: ethical research with children’, Journal of Early Childhood Research, 6(3): 281–300,

This is an excellent article that looks at the position of children in early childhood research.

Skånfors, L. (2009). ‘Ethics in child research: children’s agency and researchers’ “ethical radar”’, Childhoods Today, 3(1): 1–22, article which examines ethical issues in some depth. The term ‘ethical radar’ is one we find useful.

Boddy, J. (2014) ‘Research across cultures, within countries: hidden ethics tensions in research with children and families?’, Progress in Development Studies, 14(1): 91–103,