Dilemmas of control: methodological implications and reflections of foregrounding children’s perspectives on violence
Introduction Residential care for children and young people1 arouses much controversy. There have been several UK scandals involving the physical and sexual abuse of residents, leading to public inquiries and reports (Utting 1997, Waterhouse 2000). Although scandals have almost all concerned abuse by staff, research has indicated that children are likely to be at risk from other residents (Sinclair and Gibbs 1998, Farmer and Pollock 1998, Morris et a l 1994, Lunn 1990). Yet violence within children’s homes has long been an area of concern, if not of research (Berridge and Brodie 1998, Millham et a l 1981, Tutt 1976). Residential children’s homes exist primarily for adolescents whose behaviour is regarded as too challenging for foster care. Often, both victims of abuse and those exhibiting harmful behaviours are placed together (Pollock and Farmer 1998). Official guidance on the management and control of violent behaviour within residential settings (Department of Health 1997) has emphasised management and staff competence, rather than the context in which children interact. These measures have not resolved the problems (Barter 1997). For example, Sinclair and Gibbs (1998) found that 40 per cent of children had been bullied in their children’s home and a quarter of girls had experienced unwelcome sexual behaviour from other residents.