Studying children's cultural knowledge and behaviors related to environment, health, and food: Methods for ethnoecological research with children

Abigail Sullivan, Alexandra Slade, Amber Wutich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Children's ethnoecological knowledge and behaviors related to the environment, health, and food can differ significantly from those of the adults around them. It can be difficult to design studies to capture these differences because standard ethnographic methods do not necessarily translate well to fieldwork with children. We review and evaluate the range of tools useful for eliciting children's (birth to age 12) cultural knowledge and behavior across the domains of health, food, and the environment, identifying the characteristics of different methods (e.g., what type of data they produce, their fit with types of research questions, ages with which they have been used, analytical tools, advantages, and disadvantages). Methods examined include systematic observation in situ (time scans or spot observations), focal follows, photo and video elicitation, artwork, photovoice, video diaries, scrapbooking, oral semi-structured interviews, focus groups, written surveys and diaries, object identification and sorting, attribution tasks, and narrative picture book tasks. We find several opportunities to strengthen ethnoecological research with children. These include regularly disclosing and discussing the challenges and details of using informed consent and conducting new research to understand the impacts of integrating technologies with other methods to collect ethnoecological data with children. Careful consideration of methods is important for rigorous research and this article serves as a tool for researchers working with or considering working with children, to expand the body of research engaging with and analyzing children's unique cultures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-293
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology
Volume38
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

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research methods
food
health
video
childbirth
methodology
health foods
focus groups
sorting
interviews
mouth
attribution
researchers
experimental design
narrative
interview
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Keywords

  • children
  • environment
  • food
  • health
  • methodology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Anthropology
  • Plant Science

Cite this

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