9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN20 Qualitative Methods

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Interviews Building II, B2.01

Interviewing on sensitive family issues - the challenges of the researcher´s role

When doing research on sensitive and private issues, the approach that family researchers often choose is interviewing family members qualitatively. This interview method is in these cases well suited for revealing meanings, values and thoughts of the informants.

In this presentation, data from three separate family studies is used as the basis for discussing challenges of the researcher?s role when interviewing on sensitive family issues. The three data sets consist of interviews on foster children about their family relations; on families about the support from the family work; and on adult sons about their problem drinking fathers. Although the focus groups of these three studies are different, the considerations entwined in the interview process are strikingly similar.

The considerations include, among others, the challenge posed by the location of the interviews, whether they should be carried out at the informant?s home environment or elsewhere. Home as a private sphere can affect the interview situation in one way or another, as it contains both possibilities and challenges for the researcher. For example, the researcher has to deliberate whether the location affects the informant?s willingness to disclose on a sensitive topic.

In this presentation we will discuss also the therapeutic aspect of the interviews.
When dealing with sensitive issues, there is a risk that the researcher might adopt the role of the therapist. In such a situation the researcher should carefully consider his or her role. The therapeutic aspect is also related to the researcher?s possibilities and restrictions in showing empathy. For instance, how to listen and how to remain in a neutral role are relevant questions for family researchers to consider. We will demonstrate these considerations by presenting extracts from our data.