Accessing a hard to reach population: reflections on research with young carers in Ireland
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Kennan, D,Fives, A,Canavan, J (2012) 'Accessing a hard to reach population: reflections on research with young carers in Ireland'. Child & Family Social Work, 17 :275-283.
In keeping with developments in children's rights, research is increasingly including the views of children. Accessing a hard to reach population of children can, however, raise significant ethical and methodological challenges for researchers. Negotiating access through gatekeepers, securing parental consent and limits on confidentiality are central issues in the recruitment process of children. This paper is based on a qualitative study of young carers in the Irish population. It outlines the methodological approaches employed to access a representative sample of young carers and the measures taken to fulfil ethical obligations. In the recruitment phase of the study, researchers attempted to strike a balance between two sometimes competing requirements, the need to protect children from harm and to respect children's competence. This paper reflects on the success and limitations of the approaches adopted towards achieving this balance, exploring the use of gatekeepers as a method to identify and recruit a hidden population, and revisiting the measures taken to comply with the ethical requirements of parental consent and limits on confidentiality.