Addressing Ethical Dilemmas in Research with Young Children and Families. Situated Ethics in Collaborative Research

Dorte Kousholt*, Pernille Juhl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In this article, we discuss the situated ethics of researching the everyday lives of children and families. Research conducted in close collaboration with research participants in everyday contexts presents the researcher with multiple ethical dilemmas involving doubts, uncertainties, and often also discomfort, conflicting emotions, and contradictory possibilities for action. However, the literature on ethics often focuses primarily on standardized procedures, such as for obtaining informed consent, preventing harm, and ensuring anonymity. Although such procedures provide an important foundation for reflections on ethics, they only address some of the ethical concerns in research. Furthermore, they often fall short in terms of guiding the researcher to make decisions when encountering ethical challenges in concrete situations at various stages of the research process: from entering to leaving research sites. We suggest formulating specific ethical commitments that are grounded in a given research project’s methodological approach and concrete conditions. Furthermore, we analyze the interconnections between ethical commitments, theoretical stances, and research ambitions, and how these interconnections may guide reflection and decisions on how to handle ethical dilemmas throughout the research process. We draw on examples from our research on the everyday lives of children and parents, using social practice theory and collaborative research as jumping-off points.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Arenas
VolumeLatest articles
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The empirical material used by first author was compiled as part of a research project entitled “Familiemønstre og Samlivsformer i en moderne velfærdsstat” (family patterns and forms of co-living in a modern welfare state) financed by the Danish Research Council.


  • Co-researcher
  • Collaborative research
  • Ethical commitments
  • Ethical dilemmas
  • Situated ethics
  • Young children and families

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