Multi-Perspectivity in Qualitative Research: Children and their Parents
Institute of Sociology University of Vienna Vienna, Austria
Perception of reality, from a subjectivistic point of view, depends on the perspective: Different members of a specific system might have completely different views regarding ongoing developments, relationships and changes within a certain system. This is particularly the case for family systems: perceptions of women and men, children and their parents, brothers and sisters, may differ considerably among the same family. Nevertheless, empirical research in the field of family sociology seldom pays attention to this fact. Most often, only one member is included in scientific studies on family issues and processes.
In this presentation I will argue that the integration of multiple perspectives into empirical research on families and family transition processes has a useful potential and may provide valuable insights. Therefore, research approaches have to bear in mind the relevance of different family members? subjective experience and interpretation: They are crucial for our perception of the situation, for the perceived chances to act, and finally also for implemented action. Consequently, it is productive to interview several family members, to include more than one perspective into the research, and to consider systemic principles.
This contribution will focus on methodical and methodological reflections concerning multi-perspective interviews within families. Experiences from two Austrian studies based on such an approach serve as illustrations. The first study deals with the causes and consequences of divorce and takes into account the viewpoints of children, their mothers and their fathers. It is argued that family transition processes and post-divorce family construction can be different for every single family member, which has an enormous impact on the post-divorce reorganizational process. In addition, first results of a currently ongoing study, dealing with children?s and parents? perceptions of different family forms, are presented.