Participatory health research with mothers living in poverty in the netherlands: Pathways and challenges to strengthen empowerment

Barbara C. Groot*, Tineke A. Abma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Empowerment of people in challenging circumstances is a central premise of participatory health research (PHR). Empowerment, a process of strengthening vis-à-vis one's social environment, has three components: personal, relational, and political. The current PHR study was conducted with mothers living in unfortunate situations in the Netherlands. In this article, we describe how PHR fostered personal empowerment to a certain degree by 1. setting an agenda for the project (ownership), and 2. listening to and acknowledging the articulation of the participants' own story and a collective story about their issues (epistemic justice). One result of the study is that achieving relational and political empowerment can be challenging. Relational tensions in the group distracted us. Conducting critical reflection on more structural causes of the unfortunate situations of the mothers is a process that needs time and calls for relational sensitivity and inclusion. The participatory researcher as facilitator focused on ethics and tried to collaborate with creative outsiders to change the disharmony in the group. Reaching relational and political empowerment is a long-term process in PHR, but not without stumbling blocks on the journey.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalForum Qualitative Sozialforschung
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020

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