Least-Adult Role in Research

Qualitative studies of children’s social worlds submit three different roles for researchers—(1) a detached observer role, (2) a marginal semi-participatory role, and (3) a complete involvement role. Following George Herbert Mead’s philosophy of action, Nancy Mandell developed and practiced the complete involvement role as the least-adult role in studying children. In her studies, she demonstrates how even an adult and a researcher can “be accepted by children as part of the ongoing activities in many of the ways that children accept another child.” However, she was forced to profoundly study the children’s social worlds by learning to minimize adult status and foregoing the common roles which adults and children customarily inhabit. Observing children in two day-care centers (1976–1978), she not only took her observations as ...

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