Researching distressing topics: emotional reflexivity and emotional labor in the secondary analysis of children and young people’s narratives of abuse

Sharon Jackson, Kathryn Backett-Milburn, Elinor Newall

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Abstract

Qualitative researchers who explore sensitive topics may expose themselves to emotional distress. Consequently, researchers are often faced with the challenge of maintaining emotional equilibrium during the research process. However, discussion on the management of difficult emotions has occupied a peripheral place within accounts of research practice. With rare exceptions, the focus of published accounts is concentrated on the analysis of emotional phenomena which emerge during the collection of primary research data. Hence, there is a comparative absence of a dialogue around the emotional dimensions of working with secondary data sources. This article highlights some of the complex ways in which emotions enter the research process during secondary analysis and the ways in which we engaged with and managed emotional states such as anger, sadness and horror. The concepts of emotional labour and emotional reflexivity are employed to consider the ways in we ‘worked with’ and ‘worked on’ emotion. In doing so, we draw on our collective experiences of working on two collaborative projects with ChildLine Scotland in which secondary analysis was conducted on children’s narratives of distress, worry, abuse and neglect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalSAGE Open
Volume3
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

Keywords

  • secondary analysis
  • emotions
  • emotional labor
  • qualitative research
  • child abuse

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