‘An Audit on Self’—Positioning Ourselves for Researching with Young Families

  • Alice BrownEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Education Research Methods book series (PSERM)


The researcher and the researched are unavoidably situated in a complex mix of paradigms, and framed by discourse that shifts and morphs, depending on context and over time. This chapter illuminates considerations regarding our and others’ positionality. Later in the chapter, a number of valued axiological perspectives are profiled that researchers may wish to consider when engaging in family research. The intent is that these topics may provoke reflection, a raised sense of consciousness, and hopefully a sensitivity to one’s inescapable subjectivity as a social researcher in entering the privileged space of the family home or other environments where young children and families reside and are embedded. In doing so, it is anticipated that our and others’ endeavours will create more ‘humanised spaces’ for researching with members of young families.


  1. Alexander-Floyd, N. G. (2012). Disappearing acts: Reclaiming intersectionality in the social sciences in a post-black feminist era. Feminist Formations, 24(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, K. R., Lloyd, S. A., & Few, A. L. (2009). Reclaiming feminist theory, method, and praxis for family studies. In S. A. Lloyd, A. L. Few, & K. R. Allen (Eds.), Handbook of feminist family studies (pp. 3–17). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arabena, K., Panozzo, S., & Ritte, R. (2015). The first 1000 days researchers’ forum report. Retrieved from Onemda VicHealth Group, University of Melbourne, VIC:
  4. Baxter, J. (2015). The modern Australian family. Retrieved from Melbourne, VIC.
  5. Belsky, J. (2014). Social- contextual determinants of parenting. In R. F. Tremblay, M. Boivin, & R. D. Peters (Eds.), Encyclopedia on early childhood development [online] (3rd ed., pp. 1–7). Montreal, Quebec: Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development and Strategic Knowledge Cluster on Early Child Development.Google Scholar
  6. Berg, B. (2016). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  7. Berger, R. (2015). Now I see it, now I don’t: Researcher’s position and reflexivity in qualitative research. Qualitative Research, 15(2), 219–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berk, L. (2015). Infants and children: Prenatal through middle childhood (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  9. Bermúdez, J. M., Muruthi, B., & Jordan, L. (2016). Decolonizing research methods for family science: Creating space at the centre – Decolonizing research practices. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(2), 192–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bhabha, H. (1994). A commitment to theory. In H. Bhabha (Ed.), The location of culture (p. 29). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Bourke, B. (2014). Positionality: Reflecting on the research process. The Qualitative Report, 19, 1–9.Google Scholar
  12. Bowlby, J. (1990). A secure base parent-child attachment and healthy human development. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  13. Bowleg, L. (2012). The problem with the phrase women and minorities: Intersectionality—An important theoretical framework for public health. American Journal of Public Health, 102(7), 1267–1273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32(7), 513–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, volume 1, theoretical models of human development (6th ed., pp. 793–828). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  17. Brown, A. (2008). Towards a new frontier in understanding the contextual influences on paediatric inactivity. In R. Henderson & P. A. Danaher (Eds.), Troubling terrains: Tactics for traversing and transforming contemporary educational research (pp. 149–168). Teneriffe, QLD. Post Pressed.Google Scholar
  18. Brown, A. (2009). South Burnett early movement and stimulation project. Retrieved from Toowoomba, QLD.
  19. Brown, A. (2012). The new frontier: A social ecological exploration of factors impacting on parental support for the active play of young children within the micro-environment of the family home. PhD, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD.Google Scholar
  20. Brown, A., & Danaher, P. A. (2017). CHE Principles: Facilitating authentic and dialogical semi-structured interviews in educational research. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 1–15.
  21. Brown, A., & Reushle, S. (2010). People, pedagogy and the power of connection. Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development, 7(3), 37–48.Google Scholar
  22. Brownlee, K., Rawana, E., MacArthur, J., & Probizanski, M. (2010). The culture of strengths makes them valued and competent: Aboriginal children, child welfare, and a school strengths intervention. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 5(1), 96–103.Google Scholar
  23. Bryman, A. (2015). Social research methods. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Bushin, N. (2009). Researching family migration decision making: A children-in-families approach. Population, Space and Place, 15(5), 429–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Caiola, C., Docherty, S., Relf, M., & Barroso, J. (2014). Using an intersectional approach to study the impact of social determinants of health for African-American mothers living with HIV. ANS. Advances in Nursing Science, 37(4), 287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Callaway, H. (1992). Ethnography and experience: Gender implications in fieldwork and texts. In J. Okely & H. Callway (Eds.), Anthropology and autobiography (pp. 29–49). New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Campbell, K., Hesketh, K., Crawford, D., Salmon, J., Ball, K., & McCallum, Z. (2008). The infant feeding activity and nutrition trial (INFANT) an early intervention to prevent childhood obesity: Cluster-randomised controlled trial. BMC Public Health, 8(103), 1–9.Google Scholar
  28. Carolan, C. M., Forbat, L., & Smith, A. (2016). Developing the DESCARTE model: The design of case study research in health care. Qualitative Health Research, 26(5), 626–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2010). The foundations of lifelong health are build in early childhood. Retrieved from
  30. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Daly, K. J. (2007). Qualitative methods for family studies and human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  32. Darder, A. (2015). Decolonizing interpretive research: A critical bicultural methodology for social change. The International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 14(2), 63–77.Google Scholar
  33. Denzin, N., & Lincoln, N. (2017). The Sage handbook of qualitative research (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Denzin, N. K., Lincoln, Y. S., & Smith, L. T. (Eds.). (2008). Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Dockett, S., Perry, B., Kearney, E., Hamshire, A., Mason, J., & Schmied, V. (2009). Researching with families: Ethical issues and situations. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 10(4), 353–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. England, K. (1994). Getting personal: Reflexivity, positionality, and feminist research. The Professional Geographer, 46(1), 80–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fenton, A., MacDonald, A., & McFarland, L. (2016). A strengths approach to supporting early mathematics learning in family contexts. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 41(1), 45.Google Scholar
  38. Fenton, A., & McFarland-Piazza, L. (2014). Supporting early childhood preservice teachers in their work with children and families with complex needs: A strengths approach. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 35(1), 22–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Fenton, A., Walsh, K., Wong, S., & Cumming, T. (2015). Using strengths-based approaches in early years practice and research. International Journal of Early Childhood, 47(1), 27–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ferfolja, T., Díaz, C. J., & Ullman, J. (2015). Understanding sociological theory for educational practices. Port Melbourne, VIC: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Few-Demo, A. (2014). Intersectionality as the “new” critical approach in feminist family studies: Evolving racial/ethnic feminisms and critical race theories. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 6(2), 169–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Field, J. (2003). Social capital. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Fiese, B. (2013). Family context in early childhood. In O. Saracho & B. Spodek (Eds.), Handbook of research on the education of young children (3rd ed., pp. 369–384). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. Franklin, Y. (2014). Virtually unpacking your backpack: Educational philosophy and pedagogical praxis. Educational Studies, 50(1), 65–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Gardner, M., & Toope, D. (2011). A social justice perspective on strengths-based approaches: Exploring educators’ perspectives and practices. Canadian Journal of Education, 34(3), 86–102.Google Scholar
  46. González, N., Moll, L. C., & Amanti, C. (Eds.). (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Routledge.Google Scholar
  47. Greenstein, T. N., & Davis, S. N. (2012). Methods of family research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  48. Gubrium, J., Holstein, J., Marvasti, A., & McKinney, K. (2012). The Sage handbook of interview research: The complexity of craft. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Guenther, J., Osborne, S., Arnott, A., & McRae-Williams, E. (2017). Hearing the voice of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander training stakeholders using research methodologies and theoretical frames of reference. Race Ethnicity and Education, 20(2), 197–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Harding, S. (2006). Science and social inequality: Feminist and postcolonial issues. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  51. Hart, M. A. (2010). Indigenous worldviews, knowledge, and research: The development of an indigenous research paradigm. Journal of Indigenous Voices in Social Work, 1(1), 1–16.Google Scholar
  52. Hendricks, J., & Mirka Koro-Ljungberg, M. (2015). Inquiring through and with Deleuze: Disrupting theory and qualitative methods in family studies. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 7(3), 265–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Henne, K. (2013). From the academic to the UN and back again: The travelling politics of intersectionality. Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, 33. Retrieved from
  54. hooks, b. (1984). From margin to center. Boston: South End Press.Google Scholar
  55. Kaestle, C. (2016). Feminist perspectives advance four challenges to transform family studies. Sex Roles, 75(1), 71–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Kana’iaupuni, S. M. (2005). Ka’akālai Kū Kanaka: A call for strengths-based approaches from a Native Hawaiian perspective. Educational Researcher, 34, 32–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Kolar, V., & Soriano, G. (2000). Parenting in Australian families: A comparative study of Anglo, Torres Strait Islander, and Vietnamese communities. Retrieved from Melbourne, VIC.
  58. Lakoff, G. (2004). Don’t think of an elephant! Know your values and frame the debate: The essential guide for progressives. New York: Recorded Books.Google Scholar
  59. Lakoff, G. (2014). The all new don’t think of an elephant!: Know your values and frame the debate. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.Google Scholar
  60. Maykut, P., & Morehouse, R. (1994). Beginning qualitative researchers: A philosophical and practical guide. Washington, DC: Falmer.Google Scholar
  61. McCall, L. (2005). The complexity of intersectionality. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 30(3), 1771–1800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. McCarthy, J. R., Doolittle, M., & Schlater, S. D. (2012). Understanding family meanings: A reflective text. Bristol, UK: The Open University.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. McCashen, W. (2005). The strengths approach. Bendigo, VIC: St. Luke’s Innovative Resources.Google Scholar
  64. McGregor, D., Morelli, P., Matsuoka, J., & Minerbi, L. (2003). An ecological model of well-being. In The international handbook of social impact assessment: Conceptual and methodological advances (pp. 109–126). Northampton, MA: Elgar.Google Scholar
  65. McNeil, T. (2010). Family as a social determinant of health: Implications for governments and institutions to promote the health and well-being of families. Healthcare Quarterly, 14(Special Issue, Child Health Canada), 60–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Milner, H. R. (2007). Race, culture, and researcher positionality: Working through dangers seen, unseen, and unforeseen. Educational Researcher, 36(7), 388–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Moore T., McDonald, M., McHugh-Dillon, H., & West, S. et al. (2016). Community engagement: A key strategy for improving outcomes for Australian families. Retrieved from Melbourne, VIC.
  68. Moos, R. (1979). Social ecological perspectives on health. In G. Stone, F. Cohen, & N. Adler (Eds.), Health psychology: A handbook (pp. 523–547). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.Google Scholar
  69. Morton, S. M., Atatoa Carr, P. E., Grant, C. C., Berry, S. D., Mohal, J., & Pillai, A. (2015). Growing up in New Zealand: A longitudinal study of New Zealand children and their families. Vulnerability Report 2: Transitions in exposure to vulnerability in the first 1000 days of life. Retrieved from Auckland, New Zealand:
  70. Moss, P. (2015). Where am I? Position and perspective in researching early childhood education. In A. Farrell, S. Kagan, E. Tisdall, & M. Kay (Eds.), The Sage handbook of early childhood research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  71. Munford, R., & Sanders, J. (2003). Making a difference in families: Research that creates change. Sydney, NSW: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  72. Oers, V. (1997). From context to contextualizing. Learning and Instruction, 8(6), 473–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Paris, D. (2011). ‘A friend who understand fully’: Notes on humanizing research in a multiethnic youth community. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 24(2), 137–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Paris, D., & Winn, M. (Eds.). (2014). Humanizing research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  75. Rinaldi, C. (2006). In dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, researching, and learning. London: Routledge Falmer.Google Scholar
  76. Saleebey, D. (2012). The strengths perspective in social work practice (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  77. Sanders, J., & Munford, R. (2009). Working with families: Strength-based approaches. Wellington, New Zealand: Dunmore publishing.Google Scholar
  78. Seligman, M. E., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom intervention. Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), 393–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. St Louis, K., & Barton, A. (2002). Tales from the science education crypt: A critical reflection of positionality, subjectivity, and reflexivity in research. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(3), 249–264.Google Scholar
  80. Stokols, D. (1988). Transformational processes in people-environment relations. In J. E. McGrath (Ed.), The social psychology of time: New perspectives (pp. 233–252). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  81. Stokols, D. (2018). Social ecology in the digital age: Solving problems in a globalised world. San Diego, CA: Academic.Google Scholar
  82. Stokols, D., Grzywacz, J., McMahan, S., & Phillips, K. (2003). Increasing the health promotive capacity of human environments. American Journal of Health Promotion, 18(1), 4–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Stone, W. (2003). Bonding, bridging and linking with social capital. Stronger Families Learning Exchange Bulletin, 4(Spring/Summer), 13–16.Google Scholar
  84. Thayer-Bacon, B. (2000). Transforming critical thinking: Thinking constructively. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  85. Thurow, R. (2016). The first 1000 days – A crucial time for mothers and children. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  86. Tudge, J. (2008). The everyday lives of young children: Culture, class, and child rearing in diverse societies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Uttal, L. (2009). (Re)visioning family ties to communities and contexts. In S. A. Lloyd, A. L. Few, & K. R. Allen (Eds.), Handbook of feminist studies (pp. 134–146). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. van der Horst, F. C. (2011). John Bowlby from psychoanalysis to ethology: Unravelling the roots of attachment theory. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  90. Walter, M. (2013a). The nature of social science research. In M. Walter (Ed.), Social research methods (pp. 3–23). Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  91. Walter, M. (Ed.). (2013b). Social research methods (3rd ed.). Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Warr, D. (2004). Stories in the flesh and voices in the head: Reflections on the context and impact of research with disadvantaged populations. Qualitative Health Research, 14(4), 578–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Warren, A., & Warren, S. (1977). Ecological perspectives in behavior analysis. In R. Catalano’s (Ed.), Health, behavior, and the community: An ecological perspective. New York: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  94. Weick, A. (1992). Building a strength based perspective for social work. In D. Saleebey (Ed.), The strength based perspective in social work practice. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  95. Wong, S. M., & Cumming, T. (2008). Practice grounded in theory: The theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of SDN’s Child, Family and Children’s Services Programs. The second of eight reports investigating SDN’s Child, Family and Children’s Services Program. Retrieved from Sydney, NSW.
  96. Yelland, N. (Ed.). (2010). Contemporary perspectives on early childhood education. New York: McGraw Hill/Open University Press.Google Scholar
  97. Ziersch, A. (2005). Health implications of access to social capital: Findings from an Australian study. Social Science & Medicine, 61(10), 2119–2131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Zubrick, S., Smith, G., Nicholson, J., Sanson, A., Jackiewicz, T., & LSAC Research Consortium. (2012). Parenting and families in Australia. Retrieved from Canberra, ACT.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Business, Education, Law and ArtsUniversity of Southern QueenslandSpringfield CentralAustralia

Personalised recommendations