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Swapping stories, comparing plots: representing multiple perspectives in family interviews.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date1/06/2007
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Journal number2
Volume10
Number of pages14
Pages121-134
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Issues relating to the trustworthiness of research narratives are particularly relevant for those family researchers who attempt to interpret, legitimate and represent comparative accounts of family life collected from different family members within the same family unit. We discuss these issues with reference to research we have carried out with 57 family groups. In confronting the analysis that emerges from a process of comparison and combining differing perspectives we ask: whose story are we telling? This question raises deeper epistemological problems regarding the 'crisis of representation' in social research. We argue for a resolution of the crisis by the adoption of a post-positivist position in which we are clear that the emerging interpretation and representation of our disparate and complex data set is our story. Furthermore, we argue that we need to incorporate ourselves within our emerging narrative, bringing a 'strong objectivity' (Harding, 1993) to bear on our interpretation.

Bibliographic note

Since a political battle is currently being fought over the concept of the family, it is becoming increasingly important for research to provide access to positional perspectives on meanings of family from within families themselves. Previous family research is limited to seeking the views of one sub group, usually mothers. The study was original in its methodology since it employed long semi-structured interviews with different family members within family clusters (57). This paper, refereed by two experts, presents a methodological resolution of the dilemmas of interpretation and representation implicated in the analysis of differing family accounts. Consequently the conclusions of this paper are significant as they can provide future family researchers, and other social science researchers, with a methodological blueprint for developing a rigorous interpretation of a complex and large set of qualitative data. Warin, the lead author, wrote the paper based on a conference presentation written jointly with Solomon. RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Education