Drawing as a Facilitating Approach When Conducting Research Among Children

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Using drawings to bridge the communication barriers between adults and children, this article looks at examples of fieldwork with socioeconomically disadvantaged young families in Denmark with a parent who has multiple diagnoses. Studies suggest a link between a disadvantaged socioeconomic childhood and a predisposition to illness and disease in later life and that children of ill parents tend to be ill more often and be lonelier than their peers with healthy parents. These findings are underpinned by other studies showing how children’s social relations are vital to how they experience childhood and for their current and future health profile. Based on this knowledge, we wanted to study how children from families without a great deal of resources experience their family life but were faced with the dilemma of how to study this phenomenon. Reflection on these experiences shows that drawing is an effective method to facilitate conversations with children about difficult and taboo issues. The method’s strength lies in the way it materializes thoughts and feelings, in the way it generates a sense of “community” between the child and the researcher, which is often challenging in ethnographic research involving children. With their drawings, the children were able to express feelings, sentiments, and experiences that were difficult to articulate in words but not equally difficult to recall as a physical and mental experience or to draw on paper. The drawings illustrated a shared desire among the children who took part in the study for normality, routine, and stability in the family. Please note that we emphasize the importance of including other fieldwork data when interpreting drawings and that it is essential to have a solid contextual understanding of the field.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Methods
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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