enquiries@rodlaird.co.uk »
Freephone 0800 612 0910
Freefax 0800 612 0920
Now taking bookings
Bookmark and Share

10 things to bear in mind when researching and consulting with teenagers (12 May 18)

Simply getting them to talk to you can make them feel pretty self-conscious and silly. So finding out what they think and why is a bit tricky – but by no means impossible

That is why I asked Barbie Clarke, one of the UK’s top teenage researchers to give you the main things to think about when gaining the views of teenagers.

Here they are:

How do you define a teenager?

The concept of the teenager is relatively new, and is said to have been invented in the mid- 50’s in the US.

We think of teenagers as being 13-19, but many consider the teen years start a bit earlier, when adolescence kicks in, around 11 or 12.

Moreover it is thought that the journey of adolescence is not fully complete until we reach our mid-20’s. This is because recent developments in neuro-science show the brain is not fully developed until this age.

So the characteristics of the teenage years can begin as early as 11, and not disappear until as late as 25. So rather than thinking of teenagers as belonging to a narrow age group, it is probably better to think of them as those children who are mostly, but not all at secondary school, seeking an identity of their own, and having a sometimes difficult journey to reach autonomy.

Are teenagers ‘difficult to reach’?

Many teenagers do not naturally volunteer to take part in any exercise that takes them out of their comfort zone. It may make them feel self-conscious and vulnerable.

To make them feel comfortable you must reassure and inform. They are surprisingly forthcoming when given the chance to express their opinions, especially when they are reassured that those opinions count, and that their responses will remain confidential, and will not identify them personally.

Encouraging them to take part in research is often best done through their peer group, and appropriate incentives like mobile phone credits, or even cash sometimes help..

What happens if you are faced with a group of teenagers who refuse to communicate?

The developmental stage of adolescence can mean teenagers are happier and more comfortable communicating with peers rather than adults.

As researchers there are ways around this. Making teenagers feel comfortable in participating in research or consultation can help to overcome any reluctance they may have to take part.

Ways to enable teenagers to communicate in their own language, with the use of projective techniques, can help them to articulate their thoughts and opinions in a way that is easier for them, and less threatening than simply talking which can make them feel self-conscious and stupid.

What research method should I use?

Sometimes qualitative research works best; and sometimes quantitative research is more appropriate, so you must consider your research objectives.

For example do you need to know how many teenagers adopt a certain lifestyle? Then a quantitative sample of several hundred teenagers is called for. Or do you want to know why this lifestyle is attractive to them? In this case a qualitative approach, using in-depth interviewing techniques with small groups would work well.

Do you need to consult large numbers of teenagers about new and complex services that affect them? This might call for an immersion session where you first provide information on, say, new services, then follow up with a debate and voting.

Be careful of researching teenagers at school or college

Like to read more or make a comment? Log in or register below

Why not join the discussion!

Or even better still offer your own advice and tell us about things that others can learn from.

We moderate comments lightly so bear with us and we'll get your thoughts listed as soon as we can.

You must be logged in to post comments.

Not registered yet? Simply fill in the box below.

Forgotten your password?

Like to have access to this and hundreds of other articles like it? Register now!

Just pop your details in the form below, and you'll have full access to our library as well as receiving the free articles you have requested.

Research and evaluation
Resident involvement
Community involvement
Patient involvement
Communications & marketing
Equality and diversity
Community safety
All of these
Your work email

Already subscribed? Want to manage your account? »

Log in


Register now to benefit from hundreds of free hints, tips, articles and interviews

Your email address:

Contact us»

Latest Twitter updates

Central and in house courses that might interest you:

How to design questionnaires children and young people understand and complete

How to research teenagers

How to set up and run focus groups with teenagers


Related articles:


10 things to bear in mind when researching and consulting with teenagers


Teenagers - How on earth do you research their views? Especially about highly emotive matters?


Three simple rules to follow when consulting teenagers

What do children really think – and how do you get them to tell you?