Reflexive research with mothers and children victims of domestic violence

Gabriel, Lynne; James, Hazel; Cronin-Davis, Jane; Tizro, Zahra; Beetham, Tanya; Hullock, Ashley and Raynar, Alex (2017). Reflexive research with mothers and children victims of domestic violence. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 17(2) pp. 157–165.




This methodological paper outlines a participatory and reflexive research approach in the context of in-depth, small-scale and preliminary qualitative research conversations with a vulnerable population.

Developing a participatory and reflexive methodology
The project involved developing in-depth research conversations with three mothers and their children who had experienced domestic violence. Underpinned by poststructural feminism and relational ethics, a participatory approach to facilitate informal, nondefensive, participant-centred conversational spaces for the women and children was developed. Creating both the relational medium and the dialogical processes through which to engage with the women and children prompted multiple and complex challenges for the research team. Some members of the research team had prior experience of domestic violence, generating implications for ethical and reflexive research practice.

Implications for research practice
The study highlights the complexities and challenges of developing a participatory approach with vulnerable populations including the quandaries faced, the importance of critical reflexivity during in-depth qualitative inquiry and the value of utilising a project steering group to support research governance. All members of the research team were emotionally impacted by the research work and the relational engagement with participants. A collaborative, peer-supervisory approach to support the researchers, the research processes – and, ultimately, the participants – was essential. Two case vignettes are included to exemplify researcher experiences.

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