Young People, Citizenship, Health and Participatory Research: Connections and Disjunctures in Field-Based Research
AbstractThis paper draws on some contemporary debates about citizenship and participation in relation to young people, and illustrates the contested nature of both concepts. It is argued that the notion of active citizenship, which underpins the UK Labour government’s rhetoric and the secondary school curriculum in England, lends itself to a citizenship-based model of participation that differs from the understandings used in the health sector and in participatory research. Differences in the way participation is understood can create problems when research straddles these fields, as the parties involved may not hold the same values and expectations. This paper argues that it is essential to recognise such differences, and to negotiate aims and expectations at an early stage to reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings or communication problems. It also argues that, when working with young people, it is important to view them as competent, autonomous individuals and to respect their understandings and preferences; otherwise, ‘participative’ initiatives may further alienate or exclude the young people they want to reach. Furthermore, it is essential to appreciate the informal and alternative spaces, contexts and forms of participation and citizenship that young people carve out for themselves, and which are currently both under-recognised and undertheorised.
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