Researching Families and Relationships: Reflections on Process (Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life)

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Researching Families and Relationships: Reflections on Process (Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life)

Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life Titles include: Graham Allan, Graham Crow and Sheila Hawker STEPF

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Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life Titles include: Graham Allan, Graham Crow and Sheila Hawker STEPFAMILIES Harriet Becher FAMILY PRACTICES IN SOUTH ASIAN MUSLIM FAMILIES Parenting in a Multi-Faith Britain Elisa Rose Birch, Anh T. Le and Paul W. Miller HOUSEHOLD DIVISIONS OF LABOUR Teamwork, Gender and Time Jacqui Gabb RESEARCHING INTIMACY IN FAMILIES Peter Jackson (editor) CHANGING FAMILIES, CHANGING FOOD Riitta Jallinoja and Eric Widmer (editors) FAMILIES AND KINSHIP IN CONTEMPORARY EUROPE Rules and Practices of Relatedness Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis (editors) RESEARCHING FAMILIES AND RELATIONSHIPS Reflections on Process David Morgan RETHINKING FAMILY PRACTICES Eriikka Oinonen FAMILIES IN CONVERGING EUROPE A Comparison of Forms, Structures and Ideals Róisín Ryan-Flood LESBIAN MOTHERHOOD Gender, Families and Sexual Citizenship Tam Sanger TRANS PEOPLE’S PARTNERSHIPS Towards an Ethics of Intimacy Elizabeth B. Silva TECHNOLOGY, CULTURE, FAMILY Influences on Home Life

St. Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life Series Standing Order ISBN 978–0–230–51748–6 (hardback) 978–0–230–24924–0 (paperback) (outside North America only) You can receive future titles in this series as they are published by placing a standing order. Please contact your bookseller or, in case of difficulty, write to us at the address below with your name and address, the title of the series and one of the ISBNs quoted above. Customer Services Department, Macmillan Distribution Ltd, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS, England

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Researching Families and Relationships Reflections on Process Edited By Lynn Jamieson University of Edinburgh, UK

Roona Simpson University of Edinburgh, UK

Ruth Lewis London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Selection and editorial matter © Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis 2011 Individual chapters © their respective authors 2011 Foreword © Sarah Cunningham-Burley 2011 All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, Saffron House, 6–10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The authors have asserted their rights to be identified as the authors of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published 2011 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN Palgrave Macmillan in the UK is an imprint of Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered in England, company number 785998, of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan in the US is a division of St Martin’s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave® and Macmillan® are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries ISBN 978-0-230-25244-8


This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources. Logging, pulping and manufacturing processes are expected to conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. 10 20

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Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Antony Rowe, Chippenham and Eastbourne

Contents List of Figure and Table




Series Editors Preface




Contributors’ Biographies


Chapter 1 Introduction Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis Why a book on researching families and relationships? Issues and debates How to navigate this book Chapter 2 Framing Relationships and Families David H. J. Morgan Researching men’s same-sex relationships in a socially-excluding context: The case of Nigeria Dan Allman Researching social attitudes towards families and relationships Fran Wasoff When a family is not a ‘family’: The value of confusion in cross-cultural research Ingela Naumann Losing (my) autonomy under the ethical committee’s gaze Sarah Wilson Where is the care? Conceptualising and researching families’ responsibilities and work in a survey Linda McKie and Andrew Smith Chapter 3 Engaging with Families and Relationships Kay Tisdall Unfamiliar places and other people’s spaces: Reflections on the practical challenges of researching families in their homes Alice MacLean v

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Researching children and families in schools Jenny Spratt Hanging about and hanging in there: Dilemmas in managing research relationships with young people Kate Philip Dad said ‘she won’t talk’ … but he does: Messy realities of negotiating access to children through parental gatekeepers Louise Hill See no evil, hear no evil: Do children in distress take second place? Sarah Nelson Chapter 4 In the Field: Research Relationships Angus Bancroft Only nodding and smiling: Reflections on feelings of complicity in interviewing Andrew Bell ‘I don’t know where to put myself’: The boundaries of researcher roles and responsibilities Gill Highet Performing secrecy: Maintaining the hidden identity of research informants in public Jennifer Speirs Keeping it in the family: Conducting research interviews with your own family members Julie Seymour Is there a place for physical engagement in the adult researcher-child participant research relationship? Sue Milne Chapter 5 Time and Place: In and Beyond ‘the Field’ Stuart C. Aitken Second best? Raising the status of telephone interviewing in research Emma Davidson ‘I can’t share that with you yet’: The line between protecting premature research findings and being a cooperative colleague Gina Nowak Making it through the night – the experience and impact of doing research on night-time care Heather Wilkinson

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The uncomfortable context: Reflections on time and space when researching young people’s experiences of parental substance misuse Kathrin Houmøller and Sarah Bernays Feeling at home: Researching children’s experiences of residential care Susan Elsley Chapter 6 Interpreting and Representing Families and Relationships Lynn Jamieson ‘The things children say’: Understanding children as narrators of their lives Allison James The emotional impacts of working with sensitive secondary data Sharon Jackson, Kathryn Backett-Milburn and Elinor Newall Hearing men changed my mind but it is still a feminist issue! Sue Kelly Using mixed methods to research families and relationships Vanessa May Making sense of family resemblance: The politics of visual perception Katherine Davies Chapter 7 What Happens Next? Getting Research into Policy and Practice Sarah Morton and Sandra Nutley Sharing slippery knowledge – handling the unintended impact of knowledge exchange Heather Wilkinson The process of editing from academic to ‘real world’ language Jennifer Flueckiger Dissemination – ‘sounds painful!’: Experiences in a dedicated Knowledge Exchange role on a Government survey Lesley Kelly Construing or misconstruing families in research and media Valeria Skafida Communicating Edinburgh City Council’s Annual Neighbourhood Survey David Porteous






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Chapter 8 Conclusion Pains and pleasures Reflections on process The future of families and relationships research

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List of Figure and Table Figure 7.1 The many active players in policy networks 153 Table 7.1 Additional knowledge exchange activities and formats 164



The research process is fundamentally about relationships, whether negotiated directly, for example, through face-to-face interaction or indirectly, for example, through mailed questionnaires. All of us engaged in empirical work know and experience this and, over the past few decades, writings have been produced that reveal and unpick the sometimes uncomfortable realities of doing research. And certainly, each new generation of researchers must feel free to do this too, adding to the ‘how to’ methods texts with thoughtful exposes of what it is really like to be out there, studying other people’s lives and reporting on it. Honesty and integrity demand such reflection, for how otherwise can we judge our knowledge claims and move our understandings and theory-making forward? However, it is certainly a challenging task to produce a book of reflections on the research process without simply replicating what has gone before, albeit with different authors and different research studies. This collection rises to this challenge in a number of ways. Firstly, the book brings together personal, reflexive pieces from over 40 scholars doing research on intimate, personal and family relationships. This is indicative of an inclusive approach to scholarship and debate. Many contributors are early career researchers and all are helping to move social scientific research on families and relationships forward methodologically and conceptually. Key areas that stand out are the attentions to space, place and time, emotions and the senses, multiple perspectives and the manner of framings. The latter may be influenced by the macro and micro contexts within which research takes place, such as the role of gatekeepers or other stakeholders, but also a researcher’s own theoretical or personal standpoints and experiences. Such an array of contributions provides extensive reach; many issues can be addressed, reflecting the experiences of individual researchers and also how these link to wider concerns about how we can understand families and relationships. This might lead to lack of coherence but the contributions are not put together in a haphazard way. Secondly, the book takes seriously all aspects of the research process and this gives it a structure that helps to bring out key themes from the contributions. These are elegantly brought together in insightful introductory pieces to each chapter. These do more than introduce the subx

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sequent researcher narratives; they draw from them to advance our thinking in the field of families and relationships research. So, as a reader, one is able to draw insight both from the raw immediacy of the researcher accounts – accounts that at times bring you right there into the field with the researcher, making you too stop and think and reflect – and from the carefully crafted ‘think pieces’ which precede them. The necessity of taking a linear approach to the research trajectory is done with a light touch, and the book moves from initial framings, relationships with research participants and other relevant actors, research spaces and places, analysis and interpretation and, unusually, dissemination and communication. As the editors themselves note in their introduction, the contributions could have been presented in different ways, but cross referencing and a neatly constructed introduction and conclusion, brings out important cross-cutting themes. Thirdly, the book is about relationships, but not just research relationships. The substantive focus is entirely on families and relationships and the contributions reflect this in all its complexity and diversity – from understanding children’s experiences of family and friendships through to older people’s care settings and so much more. Relationships are then both a topic and resource; the intimate and personal relationships that are the subject matter of the studies reflected upon here are only revealed and understood through the relationships that are embedded in the research process itself. Of course, this means that other families and relationships scholars will have particular interest in the contributions as there is something distinct about doing research on families and relationships. However, the particular insights that can be generated by the intertwining of subject matter, research subjects, researcher subjectivity and research relationships and the reflexivity this demands, means that the book will have wider resonance in the social science research community. Fourthly, the book brings together accounts from researchers engaged in very different projects, using different methods. This juxtaposition of diverse methods, from, for example, the use of survey questions through to analysis of narrative summaries of telephone helpline calls, and much face-to-face research too, serves to underline the importance of research relationships no matter how seemingly distant these are. The contributors, in different ways, had unique access to the worlds of others, described by some as a privilege and a position taken lightly by none. This sense of responsibility is, at times, palpable, as researchers strive to do the right thing when faced with particularly difficult situations. It is also ubiquitous as they contend with the wider contexts within which

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their research is conducted and received and the challenges of making sense of the messy world of families and relationships. There are many reflexive moments in the contributions that reveal starkly our research and intellectual dilemmas. Be ready to be challenged about the research process, the social worlds you inhabit, including personal and academic life, and about how we can come to know the social worlds of others, especially their families and relationships. This book demonstrates clearly that, as researchers, we are not isolated in ivory towers, but politically engaged social actors with the keenly felt responsibilities that engaging with the lives of others demands. The editors said they wanted the book to bring together ‘the things that researchers regularly talk to each other about but which are often conspicuously absent from the usual methods texts’. This book is testament to the high quality of those conversations and the willingness of those researchers, some in precarious employment situations, to develop these into text for others to learn from. As one of the founding co-directors of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR), I am delighted to introduce the reader to this insightful volume and proud of my colleagues, new and established, who collectively came together to formalise the informal and make sense of their experiences reflexively. I hope we can look forward to a second volume, perhaps one that focuses even more on the hidden world of analysis, the increasingly important world of research impact as well as the new intellectual and methodological challenges that the terrain of families and relationships and social change bring. Sarah Cunningham-Burley Centre for Research on Families and Relationships The University of Edinburgh

Series Editors Preface The remit of the Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life series is to publish major texts, monographs and edited collections focusing broadly on the sociological exploration of intimate relationships and family organisation. As editors we think such a series is timely. Expectations, commitments and practices have changed significantly in intimate relationship and family life in recent decades. This is very apparent in patterns of family formation and dissolution, demonstrated by trends in cohabitation, marriage and divorce. Changes in household living patterns over the last 20 years have also been marked, with more people living alone, adult children living longer in the parental home, and more ‘non-family’ households being formed. Furthermore, there have been important shifts in the ways people construct intimate relationships. There are few comfortable certainties about the best ways of being a family man or woman, with once conventional gender roles no longer being widely accepted. The normative connection between sexual relationships and marriage or marriage-like relationships is also less powerful than it once was. Not only is greater sexual experimentation accepted, but it is now accepted at an earlier age. Moreover heterosexuality is no longer the only mode of sexual relationship given legitimacy. In Britain as elsewhere, gay male and lesbian partnerships are now socially and legally endorsed to a degree hardly imaginable in the mid-twentieth century. Increases in lone-parent families, the rapid growth of different types of stepfamily, the de-stigmatization of births outside marriage, and the rise in couples ‘living-apart-together’ (LATs) all provide further examples of the ways that ‘being a couple’, ‘being a parent’ and ‘being a family’ have diversified in recent years. The fact that change in family life and intimate relationships has been so pervasive has resulted in renewed research interest from sociologists and other scholars. Increasing amounts of public funding have been directed to family research in recent years, in terms of both individual projects and the creation of family research centres of different hues. This research activity has been accompanied by the publication of some very important and influential books exploring different aspects of shifting family experience, in Britain and elsewhere. The Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life series hopes to add to this list of influential research-based texts, thereby contributing to existing xiii

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knowledge and informing current debates. Our main audience consists of academics and advanced students, though we intend that the books in the series will be accessible to a more general readership who wish to understand better the changing nature of contemporary family life and personal relationships. We see the remit of the series as wide. The concept of ‘family and intimate life’ will be interpreted in a broad fashion. While the focus of the series will clearly be sociological, we take family and intimacy as being inclusive rather than exclusive. The series will cover a range of topics concerned with family practices and experiences, including, for example, partnership; marriage; parenting; domestic arrangements; kinship; demographic change; intergenerational ties; life course transitions; step-families; gay and lesbian relationships; lone-parent households; and also non-familial intimate relationships such as friendships. We also wish to foster comparative research, as well as research on understudied populations. The series will include different forms of book. Most will be theoretical or empirical monographs on particular substantive topics, though some may also have a strong methodological focus. In addition, we see edited collections as also falling within the series’ remit, as well as translations of significant publications in other languages. Finally we intend that the series has an international appeal, in terms of both topics covered and authorship. Our goal is for the series to provide a forum for family sociologists conducting research in various societies, and not solely in Britain. Graham Allan, Lynn Jamieson and David Morgan

Acknowledgements The idea for this book took shape over the course of several conversations, and we would like to thank Caroline King and Eric Chen for their crucial contributions in the early stages. We are also grateful to Nina Hallowell for her advice on the practicalities of coordinating a book with so many contributors.


Contributors’ Biographies Stuart Aitken is Professor and Chair of Geography at San Diego State University, and Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Young People and Space (ISYS). His research interests include film, critical social theory, qualitative methods, children, families and communities. Stuart’s recent books include Young People. Border Spaces and Revolutionary Imaginations (2011), Qualitative Geographies (2010), The Awkward Spaces of Fathering (2009), Global Childhoods (2008), Philosophies, People, Places and Practices (2004), and Geographies of Young People: The Morally Contested Spaces of Identity (2001). He is North American editor of Children’s Geographies. Dan Allman is Senior Scientist at the HIV Social, Behavioural and Epidemiological Studies Unit, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. His thesis in Sociology from the University of Edinburgh considers the concept of social inclusion within illicit drug use policy. His work often focuses on drivers of well-being, particularly for those considered marginal or vulnerable. Currently he is working in collaboration with the Centre for Health and Development at the University of Port Harcourt on a project to build nurse capacity to conduct research, and a second project to understand youth violence in Rivers State, Nigeria. Kathryn Backett-Milburn is Professor of the Sociology of Families and Health at the Centre for Population Health Sciences and Associate Director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR), University of Edinburgh. She is a qualitative research specialist. Kathryn is currently involved in research into children, families and work life balance using qualitative longitudinal research methods; social class and the adolescent diet; climate change and public health; and young adults, partnering and parenting in Scotland. Angus Bancroft is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh. His main research interests are: the boundary between the normal and the pathological, processes of marginalisation, the construction of public problems, the hidden ways in which social worlds are constituted, and the development of methods to research hidden or hard to reach populations. He has conxvi

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ducted research on illicit drugs, alcohol, smoking, intoxication, family drug problems, and Gypsy-Travellers. Andrew Bell is a PhD student at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh, where he is working on a thesis entitled ‘Staying Together: an exploration of longer term married relationships’. He previously worked as a research assistant in the voluntary sector. Sarah Bernays is a Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London. Her research areas include substance use, HIV/AIDS and the role hope may play in influencing risk. She is particularly interested in conducting qualitative research with young people, and how to best include them in participatory research and dissemination. She is currently working on a longitudinal qualitative study with young people living with HIV in the UK, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Emma Davidson is a doctoral student at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh. Supported by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, her PhD research is an ethnographic study of how antisocial behaviour is defined and understood by young people growing up in poor places. Her main research interests are in children’s geographies, youth justice and children’s rights. Katherine Davies is Research Associate in Realities (part of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods), based in the Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life at The University of Manchester. She is currently working on a project exploring the significance of friendship and other critical associations in personal lives and is completing a PhD investigating sibling relationships and the construction of the self in secondary education. Susan Elsley runs her own independent consultancy in children’s rights, policy and research and is also a part-time Senior Research Fellow at CRFR at the University of Edinburgh. Susan’s interests centre on children’s rights and participation, looked after children and young people and advocacy and well-being. Much of her work focuses on the interface between policy, research and practice and builds on her experience across these areas. She has worked extensively in the voluntary sector and has undertaken a wide range of cross-sectoral projects.

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Jennifer Flueckiger is Communications and Knowledge Exchange Coordinator at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh. Jennifer graduated from Mount Holyoke College in the United States and has an MSc in Public Policy from the University of Edinburgh. Before joining CRFR, she held policy and communication posts at a number of national voluntary organisations in the UK and Australia. She has done research on the impact of the implementation of the minimum wage in Scotland and been involved in campaigns on issues ranging from welfare reform to bank branch closures. Gill Highet has worked on many qualitative studies spanning several substantive areas, in particular, family and relationships research, tobacco control research and most recently, healthcare services research. Her current post has explored the role of primary care in providing follow-up care for lung cancer patients. In her forthcoming post with Lothian NHS and Edinburgh University she is joining a palliative care research team which will identify patients before discharge from hospital and assess and plan their supportive and palliative care needs. Gill has experience in a wide range of qualitative methods and is particularly interested in methodological innovation in qualitative research. Louise Hill is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Learning in Child Protection, University of Edinburgh and NSPCC. Louise’s doctoral research explored children and young people’s experiences and support needs when affected by parental alcohol problems. This study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as a CASE award with Barnardo’s childcare organisation. Louise has a keen interest in developing participatory research approaches with children and young people and a strong commitment to connecting research, policy and practice. Kathrin Houmøller is a PhD Fellow at the Section for Anthropology and Ethnography at Aarhus University. She has previously carried out research in East Africa on reproductive health and from 2008–2010 she worked at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on a research project exploring children and young people’s experiences of parental substance misuse. She is currently carrying out ethnographic research on family life and HIV and AIDS in a South African township. Sharon Jackson is Lecturer and Principal Researcher in Childhood within the School of Education, Community Education and Social Work at the University of Dundee. Her main interests are in childhood, youth and early adulthood with a particular focus on health and well-being, chil-

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dren’s lives within their families and children’s friendship groups. She has theoretical interests in understanding children’s agency. Allison James is Professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield and Professor 2 at the Norwegian Centre for Childhood Research. She is also co-director of the Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth at Sheffield. One of the pioneers of the new sociology and anthropology of childhood in the 1980s–90s, she is author/editor of several books on children and childhood including Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood (1990), Theorising Childhood (1998) and Constructing Childhood: Theory, Policy and Social Practice (2004). Recent research projects have focused on children’s views of hospital space and children as family participants in relation to food practices. She is currently working on a new book exploring socialisation from a child’s perspective. Lynn Jamieson is Professor of Sociology of Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, UK. Her publications include Intimacy: Personal Relationships in Modern Societies and Families and the State: Changing Relationships (co-edited with Sarah Cunningham-Burley, 2003). Lesley Kelly is the Dissemination Officer for the Growing Up in Scotland study (GUS), the longitudinal research study following the lives of thousands of children across Scotland from birth through to the teenage years. She is based within the Knowledge Exchange team at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) at the University of Edinburgh. Her role is to make sure that findings from the study reach a wide range of audiences, including study participants, and to promote GUS as a resource for academics and others. Sue Kelly is a freelance training and research consultant. Sue’s overall research interests lie in the relationship between private lives and public policy and the significance of context to the negotiation of and truth about personal relationships. During and since receiving her PhD in 2007, Sue has been involved in various teaching and research activities within academic and non-academic settings. Her PhD involved a critical study of the cohabitation rule in UK social security law. Her findings had important family as well as social security implications. Sue is currently conducting a qualitative study of the use of Wellness Recovery Action Planning with carers.

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Alice MacLean is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, currently on secondment at the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit conducting a review of research evidence of changing gender differences in health across childhood and adolescence. Alice’s research interests include children and teenager’s everyday experiences, particularly in the context of health, illness and issues raised by working parenthood. Vanessa May is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Manchester and a member of the Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life. Her research interests include lone motherhood, post-divorce parenting, intergenerational relationships, the self, belonging, narrative analysis, biographical methods and mixed methods. She has published in a variety of journals including Sociology, Sociological Review, and International Journal of Social Research Methodology, and is currently working on a book entitled Connecting Self and Society: Belonging in a Changing World, to be published by Palgrave. Linda McKie is Professor of Sociology, Glasgow Caledonian University and Associate Director, Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh. In 2004 she was elected to the Academy of Social Sciences. In addition to teaching courses on families, social theory, work, and research methods she co-ordinates a research programme on organisations, work and care. Linda has strong links with a range of charities and is a trustee for Evaluation Support Scotland and the Institute of Rural Health. In 2009 she qualified as a Certified Member of the Institute of Fundraising. Sue Milne has 30 years’ experience of working with children, young people and their families in a range of educational, health and community settings. Her PhD explored children’s experiences and conceptualisations of child-adult relations within, and beyond, their families. Other research projects with children and young people include consultation on local authority services, an examination of pupil councils in schools across Scotland and currently children’s views of their adult volunteer befrienders and young people’s experiences of attending a personal development programme. Sue has also held a Beltane Public Engagement Fellowship. Her primary interests are child–adult relations, child/adult worlds and children’s rights, participation and play.

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David Morgan taught Sociology at Manchester University for over 35 years and has also been a Visiting Professor at the Norwegian Technological University, Trondheim and Keele University. Publications include Family Connections (1996) and Acquaintances: The Space between Intimates and Strangers (2009). He has just completed Family Practices Revisited to be published by Palgrave. He is also a former President of the British Sociological Association. Sarah Morton is Co-Director (Communication and Knowledge Exchange) of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh. Sarah’s role is to lead CRFR’s Knowledge Exchange team which facilitates ways in which research on families and relationships can be widely used. She is currently combining her co-directorship with an ESRC-funded PhD looking at the process of assessing the impact of research on policy and practice. Her background is in voluntary and cross-sector networking and development roles. She is interested in all aspects of research use and knowledge to action, particularly social research, issues in the co-production of research, assessing impact and approaches to research use which address complexity. Ingela Naumann is Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh. She works on welfare state reform from a comparative and gender perspective. She has published on international childcare and education policy, gender and religious cleavages in welfare state politics. Her article ‘Childcare and Feminism in West Germany and Sweden in the 1960s and 1970s’ (2005) received the Young Researcher Prize of the Journal of European Social Policy. Elinor Newall was a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh and worked on a collaborative research project with ChildLine into children and young people’s accounts of their sexual health. She is currently taking a career break to raise her young family. Sarah Nelson has published and presented widely on issues of childhood sexual abuse including neighbourhood mapping for child protection, mental and physical health issues for male and female survivors, organised abuse, and the voices of young women survivors. Currently a Research Associate at CRFR, she is also a lead professional adviser to the Scottish Government on their national strategy for adult survivors of sexual abuse.

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Gina Nowak works for YouthLink Scotland as the National Coordinator for ‘No Knives, Better Lives’ (NKBL), the Scottish Government’s anti-knife crime youth engagement initiative. Gina’s role involves working with the voluntary sector, police, statutory education and community learning and development providers to turn community safety and justice policy into practice. She oversees the development of the NKBL education initiative. At present, Gina’s policy and research interests relate to youth work; youth justice; methods of engagement for early intervention and/or prevention; the role of social marketing in anti-violence campaigns and impact evaluation. Sandra Nutley is Professor of Public Management at the University of Edinburgh Business School. She is also Director of the Research Unit for Research Utilisation ( Prior to joining academia, Sandra worked in local government and she has since been seconded to several public sector organisations. Sandra’s work on research use and evidenceinformed policy and practice is captured in two books: Using Evidence (Nutley et al 2007) and What Works (Davies et al 2000). She has also published numerous academic and practitioner articles on this topic. Kate Philip is currently Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Education at the University of Aberdeen. She was previously senior research fellow with the Rowan Group which was based in the School of Education. As a member of the Rowan Group she has undertaken a range of studies funded by external grants. Her research interests include young people’s health and well-being, youth mentoring and mental health. David Porteous is a social and market researcher with more than ten years’ experience in qualitative and quantitative techniques. David has been commissioning and managing research projects for the City of Edinburgh Council for the last six years. His first novel, Singular, was published in 2011. Julie Seymour is Senior Lecturer in Social Research in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Hull. She has written about the allocation of, and negotiations around, the divisions of resources in the family in relation to domestic labour, disability and informal caring, space, emotional labour and time. Recent publications include contributions to Geographies of Children, Youth and Families (2011) and Listening to the Children (2011). She has co-edited (with Esther Dermott) Displaying Families: A New Concept for the Sociology of Family Life (2011) and is currently writing a book on Family Practices and Spatiality.

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Valeria Skafida’s research focuses on the development of dietary quality and eating habits of babies, infants and toddlers within the context of family life. For her doctoral work, she used primarily longitudinal survey data to look at how nutritional trajectories develop over time, and to look at socially stratified nutritional inequalities and at differences in parental use of health and nutritional advice. While using quantitative analysis methods, she draws on her anthropological training to reflect critically on the meaning of her findings and on her role in guiding the research enquiry. Andrew Smith is Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Employment Relations at Bradford University School of Management and an Associate Researcher at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. He was previously employed as a Research Assistant on the ESRC-funded ‘Organisation Carescapes’ project. Research interests include working and caring, privatisation and new working methods. Recent publications include: ‘Researching “Care” in and around the Workplace’ (with Linda McKie), in Sociological Research Online (2009), together with articles in New Technology, Work and Employment and Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management. Jennifer Speirs is an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships based at the University of Edinburgh. Her doctoral thesis explored within a social anthropology framework the meanings of kinship and the significance of genetics to men who had donated semen anonymously 20 to 40 years previously. Her research project emerged from her longstanding experience as a professional social worker with particular knowledge and expertise in origins issues, especially in the areas of adoption, fostering, infertility counselling, health-related social work and the life-long issues for adults brought up apart from their birth families. Jenny Spratt is a Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Aberdeen, and an associate researcher at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. She has published widely on the role of schools in the support and promotion of children’s health. She is also a member of the Inclusive Practice Project at the University of Aberdeen, which has developed an innovative approach to educational inclusion. Her research interests are informed by an understanding of the relationships between families and schools.

xxiv Contributors’ Biographies

Kay Tisdall is Professor of Childhood Policy at the University of Edinburgh. She is Programme Director of the MSc in Childhood Studies and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationship. Recent publications include ‘Research with Children and Young People’ (with J. Davis and M. Gallagher) and journal articles in the International Journal of Children’s Rights and Social Policy & Society. She has an ongoing interest in direct research methods with children and young people, as seen by her current research interests (e.g. pupil councils in Scotland) and advanced methods training courses (http:// Sarah Wilson is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Stirling where she lectures on the Sociology of Childhood. She has worked on several research projects around parental substance misuse and is currently starting an ESRC-funded project entitled Young People Creating Belonging: Spaces, Sounds and Sights. Fran Wasoff is Emeritus Professor and Visiting Professorial Fellow, School of Social and Political Science, and Associate Director, CRFR, Edinburgh University. Her research interests are in the areas of family research, family and social policy, socio-legal studies, with particular experience of the socio-legal aspects of Scottish social policy, family policy, gender issues in social policy, including domestic abuse, and civil and family law in Scotland. She has extensive experience of policyfocused research using survey data. Heather Wilkinson is based at the University of Edinburgh where she is Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange for the School of Health in Social Science and Co-director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. Her research interests focus on the inclusion and care of people with dementia and for people with learning disabilities and dementia. Heather has a number of funded research projects including one as part of the ESRC Local Authority and Knowledge Exchange Programme; funding from Joseph Rowntree Foundation to develop materials for front line staff working with people with a learning disability and dementia; and a number of knowledge exchange developments focusing on her work around night-time care in care homes. Heather is also part of the team commissioned by the Dept of Health to evaluate the implementation of the English Dementia Strategy.

1 Introduction Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis

This book is concerned with the real life experiences of conducting empirical research about families and relationships. Drawing together personal reflections from over 40 researchers working across the social sciences, the emphasis is on the actualities of doing research on intimate and personal relationships, and the experiences of being a researcher working in this field. This focus distinguishes the book from the more ‘how-to’ approach and practical guidance of some methodology texts. As such, this extensive collection of reflexive contributions aims to advance the developing body of work reflecting on particular issues that arise when researching personal lives. The idea for this book emerged in part following discussions amongst ourselves and colleagues about the absence from research methods texts of the sometimes messy realities of carrying out social science research. Pioneering work by Colin Bell and colleagues (Bell and Newby 1977; Bell and Roberts 1984) are an early exception, but we have degrees of distance from this work as well as kinship with it. Reflecting back in an interview,1 Bell (2004) described these collections as a genre of


Published posthumously. One of the specific omissions from the literature that Bell commented on in his interview clearly persists: a forum for discussion of work that didn’t happen. His collection contained one such account, Stan Cohen and Laurie Taylor’s tale of how Home Office conditions on access to prisons led to their returning a research grant. Again reflecting wider differences in the sociopolitical climate in which research is conducted, one of the accounts in this volume discusses access denied by an ethics committee (Wilson). Bell also commented on the ‘masculinist’ flavour of the first (all male) collection. The over representation of women researchers in research on families and relationships is discussed in this collection. 1

2 Introduction

‘owning up’, one that he concluded ‘has not thrived’. He recalled horror from colleagues at the time, as if betrayal was involved in revealing the actualities of knowledge production. Hopefully such horror would now be suppressed, given that reflexivity among researchers is widely exhorted as good practice. In any case, a genre of ‘owning up’ does not capture what this book is about. Indeed, the description downplayed the diversity in Bell’s collections; the second (Bell and Roberts 1984) seems closer to our focus on reflexivity. The ‘reflexive turn’ in the social sciences has highlighted the importance of reflecting on the process and production of knowledge, as well as drawing attention to the need to consider political, emotional and ethical issues emerging as part of the research process. Research which brings issues of personal life into public arenas opens up specific ethical concerns. However, as Mauthner et al (2002) have argued, the complexities of researching private lives may give rise to issues that are not easily solved by rules and guidelines. Indeed, there often appears to be significant gaps between the principles of good research practice and the practical realities of conducting research (Cree et al 2002; Riessman 2005). This is not to say that researchers behave unethically behind closed doors, but rather that their responses to the unanticipated challenges that arise during the research process are often based on understandings of the specificities and context of the research. Nevertheless, while many of us discuss our experiences and anxieties informally with colleagues, our written accounts of doing research are often ‘cleaned up’ in the process of translation into publications. Where, if anywhere, is such ‘researcher knowledge’ written up? Blackman (2007) argues that hesitancy to write about emotional issues in research may stem from the fear of losing legitimacy or being discredited. These concerns may be most keenly felt at earlier stages in one’s career, when a reputation as a rigorous researcher is yet to be established. However, explicit acknowledgment of and reflection on the ‘realities’ of research, especially where controversial or uncertain, are fundamental to the development of ethical research. We were familiar with a book edited by Nina Hallowell and colleagues (2005) (‘Reflections on Research: The Realities of Doing Research in the Social Sciences’), and enjoyed its ‘how it went’, rather than ‘how to do it’ approach, with over 40 stories detailing ‘warts and all’ experiences of doing research, mostly in the field of healthcare. These unusually candid accounts resonated with the dilemmas we discussed with each other over coffee, but which often seemed to be absent from research reports, books and journal articles. We knew through word of

Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis 3

mouth that the book’s original format and accessible style was not only popular amongst students and those undertaking research for the first time, but also more established researchers. As researchers at different stages of our own careers, working in the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR), we felt that there was a need for a book with a focus on the particular issues related to doing research in this area. While there are numerous texts concerning families and personal relationships, these have generally focused on theoretical development and research findings. Few texts about families and relationships focus on the research process (Gabb’s (2008) being a recent rare example), while research methods books do not have a specific focus on families and relationships research. We wanted to produce a book that both those new to research and those with more experience would find useful. To this end we invited contributions from social scientists at various stages of their career, engaged in research on families and relationships, and using differing methods, and asked them to reflect on their own research experiences at various stages of the research process. In addition, we also invited practitioners engaged in knowledge exchange activities to contribute accounts highlighting some of the issues related to communicating the findings of families and relationships research beyond the academy. In this introductory chapter we detail why we feel a focus on researching families and relationships is important, and situate this book within broader theoretical, methodological and ethical debates concerning research on personal lives. We then outline the structure of the book and the rationale for its organisation.

Why a book on researching families and relationships? There are important differences between research on families and relationships and social research more generally. Researchers inevitably experience common issues across different research areas; yet, as several scholars of family research have noted (e.g. Daly 1992; Gabb 2008; Greenstein 2006), doing research on families and relationships is distinctive from other aspects of social enquiry. Firstly, defining family is problematic, and what we mean by this term has shifted over time. As David Morgan outlines in the following chapter, these shifts are not only a reflection of actual changes in personal life (e.g. later marriage and parenting, cohabitation preceding or instead of marriage, high levels of divorce), but also how we conceptualise these demographic trends. As Silva and Smart observe, a major

4 Introduction

change in the concept of family is that ‘it has come to signify the subjective meanings of intimate connections rather than formal, objective blood or marriage ties’ (1999: 7). Drawing on Jamieson (1998), Gabb (2008) outlines the evolution of sociological approaches in family research inquiry, with shifts from a Parsonian functionalism focused on the nuclear family, to a wider conception embracing intimate or personal relationships. These broadening understandings of family have initiated shifts in the research imagination, both in terms of who we include in our studies (e.g. children, extended family, non-kin), and also how we go about collecting and interpreting data. A conceptual focus on family practices (Morgan 1996) has moved research designs and methods towards those that aim to capture a sense of how intimate relationships are negotiated and contested through everyday actions. One of a set of challenges that are not unique to studying families and relationships lies in identifying who or what is the ‘unit of analysis’: is it individual(s), intimate dyads (e.g. parent-child, couples, siblings), family-households or various other possible forms of multi-local kin groups or ‘families’? The issues for research that the hierarchical relationships, loyalties and sense of belonging that conventional familyhouseholds encompass are considered below; however, who speaks for the unit of analysis, ‘the family’, shapes what we know about that family. It has long been recognised in Euro-American research that women often become the spokesperson for their families, but if theirs are the only voices included, this results in particular gendered and generational understandings of families’ lives. Childhood studies has highlighted the differing perspectives on family life that children can provide, and there has been a shift towards gathering multiple perspectives, which acknowledges that multiple realities co-exist within families and relationships (see also Chapters 3 and 6). In addition to who’s perspectives are included in research, how multiple perspectives are gathered impacts on the content and quality of data produced; for example, interviews with couples or among wider family groupings can produce ‘family stories’ that gloss over individual differences and obscure tensions (Mansfield and Collard 1988). Furthermore, individuals occupy multiple relational roles (e.g. child, parent, spouse, sexual partner, friend) which may complicate data construction processes, particularly in qualitative studies. A further area of distinctiveness is that studying families and intimate relationships generally involves trying to gain insight into experiences, thoughts and feelings which many people consider private. Accessing the sphere of the personal can be challenging in the face of efforts to preserve family secrets and maintain loyalties. There will always be

Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis 5

issues that are deliberately avoided and feelings which people choose not to disclose. However, other aspects of families’ lives may be hidden simply because of their apparent mundaneness to those involved (Daly 1992). Indeed, shared traditions and practices may be so takenfor-granted that they are unremarkable to participants themselves, and difficult to access via conventional self-report methods, such as interviews and questionnaires. Whereas other areas of social research (e.g. occupational studies, education etc) might utilise observational methods to try to understand taken-for-granted practices and meanings, the highly protected boundaries of family life means such approaches are rarely attempted. Recent methodological innovations and trends towards mixed methods in family research (e.g. Gabb 2008) have been designed to facilitate investigation of the tacit everydayness of families’ lives. An additional demand relates to efforts to maintain privacy between family members themselves. Good ethical practice is typically about transparent procedures, but this may be difficult in relation to certain topics. For example, although informed consent generally involves honesty about the aims and purposes of a study, family members often have to give explanations to each other about what they are doing and not all research topics make for comfortable accounts. Consequently, researchers may have to be less open when investigating some aspects of families and relationships. A further aspect of the distinctiveness of this field of research is our personal familiarity with the topic of enquiry. As Daly reflects (1992: 9), ‘how do our own personal experiences of family and relationships shape the research that we do and the choices that we make?’ We all have experience of families and relationships, and come to research with certain preconceptions and biases about good/appropriate family behaviours which may intrude into analysis. Our theoretical tools, the way we define families and relationships and the practices of love and care, may carry more emotional baggage because we are writing about something that is emotionally charged in our everyday lives. When the subject matter is families and relationships, therefore, the requirement for selfreflexivity may be heightened.

Issues and debates An understanding of knowledge as always socially situated, an insight re-emphasised by feminist and postmodern theorising (see Haraway 1991; Harding 1993; Longino 1991), draws attention to the need to reflect on the process and production of that knowledge. It also highlights the need

6 Introduction

to consider the relationship between our research practices and the political, ethical and emotional dimensions of the research process. Extensive theoretical and philosophical debates in recent decades about reflexivity, epistemology and the construction of knowledge have contributed to greater understanding of knowledge construction processes; nevertheless, as Mauthner and Doucet (2003) argue, the implications of these discussions for empirical research practice remains under-developed. In this section we consider specific themes that are particularly significant for research on families and relationships and that are addressed in subsequent chapters, namely the importance of reflexivity and the role of power relations and ethics. We also consider the relationship between the knowledge we produce and the conditions of its production. Discussion of some of these issues is now standard, whereas others relate more to contemporary developments. The pertinence of these issues also varies by scale of engagement, whether we as researchers are considering relations with our respondents, colleagues, our employer institutions or funding organisations, or the wider audiences for our research. The importance of reflexivity, the critical examination of research processes that includes both reflection and analytic thinking, has been central to critiques of traditional positivist approaches in which the researcher is understood as a neutral observer. Rather, the requirement to be reflexive derives from recognition that the assumptions and actions of the researcher influence the research at every stage of the process. Feminist analyses in particular have drawn attention to the role of the self in the research process, arguing that ‘objective’, depersonalised research denies the subjective character of social inquiry, and ignores the insights that reflexivity as a methodological tool can bring to the research process (Fonow and Cook 1991; Stanley 1992). Mauthner and Doucet (2003) suggest however that, while the importance of being reflexive is acknowledged in social science research, the difficulties, practicalities and methods of doing it are rarely addressed. We hope this book goes some way towards redressing this shortfall. There are nevertheless various constraints potentially limiting the possibilities of reflexivity. Reflexivity involves making transparent the location of the researcher throughout the research process (Denzin and Lincoln 2005). Yet there are difficulties of first person accounts in social science writing: as Riessman argues, ‘making the backstage visible challenges the rules of much scholarly writing’, and these may be dismissed by some as ‘confessional tales’ or ‘navel gazing’ (2005: 486). Such transparency may be particularly problematic for researchers at earlier stages of their careers, given the ‘authoritative voice’ of much academic pro-

Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis 7

duction. Mauthner and Doucet (2003), deliberating on whether reflexivity can be encouraged and enhanced through building it in to research methods and processes, highlight the influence of interpersonal and institutional contexts of research. Thus, one’s location and status within academia may influence how easy or otherwise it is to acknowledge and articulate confusions and tensions. The aims and time lines of the organisations that fund research projects can run counter to intense methodological and epistemological musings on reflexivity (May 1998, cited in Mauthner and Doucet 2003: 416). Furthermore, there may be limits to how far we can know and understand what shapes our research at the time of conducting it, given that influences may only become apparent once we have left the research behind. As such, Mauthner and Doucet conclude it may be more useful to think in terms of ‘degrees of reflexivity’, with some influences easier to identify, and others requiring time, distance and detachment from the research (2003: 425). We come back to the implications of the current social organisation of academic research for the research process, and for researchers, below. There is an extensive literature on power relations in social research. Earlier feminist critiques of positivist assumptions of value free research drew on understandings of research as political to point out the sexist bias of supposedly gender–neutral research. They also extended this analysis to espouse the rejection of exploitative hierarchies between the researcher and researched. The recognition of power differentials in relation to characteristics such as age/generation, class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality, and the possible implications of our intrusion into people’s lives, lead to extensive debates about the possibilities of minimising power differences, and the potential for collaborative and empowering research relationships between women (see Finch 1984; Mies 1983; Oakley 1981). Shifts in understandings about the nature of power in the research relationship have led to a questioning of the desirability of commitments to establish rapport and create apparently more equal relationships, which may serve more to disguise enduring power differentials (Acker et al 1996; Campbell 2003). For a reflexive researcher, dilemmas around issues of power are not confined to data generating encounters with research participants but are a matter for consideration throughout the research process. Researchers often face difficult dilemmas about who to represent and how, what to omit and what to include (Ryan-Flood and Gill 2009). Our responsibilities extend from those who participate in our research to wider constituencies; as we discuss elsewhere, such issues are particularly pertinent in research on families and relationships.

8 Introduction

More recently, scholars have reconsidered the productive aspects of researching across difference, advocating a reflexive approach to the impact similarities and differences may have on the research encounter, including the tensions of being an ‘outsider’ (Heath et al 2009; Phoenix 1994; Puwar 1997). Much of this work acknowledges that ‘difference’ is complex since identities are theorised as multiple, sometimes fluid, and intersecting, hence complicating when differences between researcher and researched do and do not translate into a hierarchy of researcher over researched. Grenz (2005) provides a powerful example when considering the social positioning of the researcher and researched in relation to interviewing male clients of female sex workers. Instead of simply giving men an opportunity to talk about commercial sex, the interview provided space to discursively reproduce sexual identity, through the actual content of their stories as well as through the interaction. The expected power of the researcher was thus diminished by the symbolic power of men to express sexual need – an aspect of the relationship between participants and herself that had echoes of that between sex workers and their clients. Concern for research participants has long been central in the literature on social research ethics (e.g. Bulmer 1982; Homan 1991). This concern is also evident in regulatory frameworks addressing requirements for informed consent, avoidance of harm, confidentiality and anonymity. As outlined above, this is a particularly pertinent issue for research on the ‘private sphere’ of family lives, where we often ask questions about family ‘troubles’ or experiences that give insight into families’ everyday realities. In research with young people, researchers may have legal responsibilities, for example if they have reason to believe a young person is in danger from others there is an obligation to pass this information on to a ‘responsible adult’ with the authority to take protective action. As Heath et al (2009) note, this is a highly sensitive area, and the onus is on the research teams to be aware of the likelihood of such instances arising and to have procedures in place to deal with such instances (2009: 35). The motivations for and impact of the contemporaneous proliferation of research governance however is highly contested. A study by Crow et al (2006) of researchers’ experiences of gaining informed consent identifies an optimistic and pessimistic understanding amongst researchers. In the former, consent is seen as integral to gaining good quality data and contributing to better research than that undertaken in the less closely monitored and regulated past, because it helps to prepare researchers and participants for the data collection process and establishes a more equal relationship between them. A more pessimistic understanding identifies

Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis 9

the ‘unintended consequences’ of informed consent, including making recruitment of certain groups more difficult, and the likelihood that certain research, for example into illicit or illegal activities, would not be done. Additionally, informed consent is typically operationalised as the consent of individuals, which stands in tension with people’s interconnectedness with others (2006: 93). This interconnectedness with others is often the object of research on families and relationships. Several commentators question the rule-based approach, or ‘technospeak’ (Riessman 2005) of institutional review boards and ethics committees, seeing formalistic principles as a means of avoiding ethical dilemmas in the research process, rather than guidance on how to deal with them. Instead, it is argued that decision-making about ethical practice should be grounded within an understanding of the specific context in which research is being conducted (see Mauthner et al 2002; Plummer 2001; Riessman 2005). While principles guide our perceptions of how to conduct ethical research, it is ultimately specific contexts and circumstances that inform our decisions (Mauthner et al 2002: 6). Hallowell et al (2005) similarly emphasise the importance of situated ethics: Research raises ethical dilemmas at every turn; dilemmas that may not, or cannot, be predicted in advance, and are not necessarily amenable to a priori categorisation as issues concerning consent and confidentiality … the complex moral dilemmas that arise in practice, and that often require instant resolution, bear little resemblance to the abstract (re)formulation of ethical issues so beloved by research ethics committees … what makes research ‘ethical’ is not independent scrutiny by an ethics committee, following a set of abstract principles, or the researcher having ‘good’ intentions, it is what we actually do in the field that counts (2005: 7). We concur with Crow et al (2006) that researchers’ reflections need to be fed into the developing field of research governance. Accounts from researchers documenting ethical decision-making in specific circumstances enhance efforts to address the utility of various approaches. One such example is Riessman’s (2005) account of research on infertility conducted in South India. She problematises western normative discourse ethics, the abstract rules that ‘did not help me when I got into ethical trouble’. Rather, she calls for an ‘ethics-in-context’, grounded in the exigencies of settings, and that provides room for particularities that unfold during fieldwork. Her account of interviewing infertile women in a clinic setting depicts the complexity of ethical decision-making in

10 Introduction

this context. Riessman’s concern at the evident lack of privacy afforded the women by practitioners raises the issue of ‘ethical relativism’ – what place do abstract principles of medical ethics have in a clinic burdened with too many patients and too few resources? At the same time, she is aware that it was highly unlikely that she as a social researcher could have conducted interviews and observed patients with the same freedom in an infertility clinic in the USA. She thus benefited from the absence of formal procedures, ‘even as I railed against physicians who failed to respect patient privacy. The ethical ground cracked under my feet as I struggled with ambiguity’ (2005: 483). Similar to Riessman’s account of confronting ethical dilemmas and seeking to resolve them in a dialogic manner, this book contains several ‘tales from the field’ of researchers’ struggles to ‘do the right thing’ in particular circumstances. The focus on harm or risk to participants in research governance is not matched by an equivalent focus on harm to researchers. Discussion in the literature of the risks of research on sensitive topics (e.g. Lee 1993; Milling Kinard 1996) has been expanded to include discussion of the risks of conducting social research more generally, albeit much focuses on the qualitative research encounter (Bloor et al 2007; Dickson-Swift et al 2007; Lee-Treweek and Linkogle 2000; Sampson et al 2008). There is recognition of the need for provision to minimise physical harm to researchers (though Jamieson (2000) suggests practical and financial constraints make it difficult for researchers to ask for equipment such as mobile phones, and less likely that funding bodies and research managers will be told of problems experienced in the field). There is also increasing attention to the potential harm to emotional wellbeing, particularly to those engaged in reflexive work, and calls for wider acknowledgement and better arrangements for dealing with it to be put into place (Bloor et al 2007; Sampson et al 2008). Alongside this, there is discussion of the importance of emotions in research. Whereas previously researchers were largely expected to remain emotionally detached, following the notion that research should remain ‘untainted’ by feelings, emotions are increasingly being considered a resource on which the researcher might draw, as well as doing ‘moral work’ in guiding ethical practice: rather than impediments to knowledge, emotions are thus seen as another source of knowledge (Bondi 2005; Bourne 1998; Goode 2006; Kleinman and Copp 1993) (see also Chapter 4). Grenz (2009) illustrates emotions arising in the research encounter, here with the male clients of female sex-workers, generating deeper reflections about the topic under investigation. She relates the dilemma of feeling one is ‘an accomplice’, sanctioning practices/comments with which one

Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis 11

is uncomfortable. Comparing her experiences with that of a male researcher who also interviewed male clients, she notes both were involved in the discursive reproduction of gendered identity, albeit in different ways, being placed as a particular and sexed/gendered listener even if s/he ‘would rather stay innocent’. Yet for others such dilemmas remain unresolved. Reflecting on research on British Serbian identity, Pryke (2004) describes his silence in interviews in the face of justification and denial of atrocity as leaving him with a sense of disgust and collusion that led him to consider abandoning the research. This reaction of silence reflected a view that engaging with the interviewee would be both pointless and risk jeopardising the research. Yet this experience leads Pryke to ask whether it is ever permissible and, if so, under what circumstances and in what fashion, for an interviewer to disagree with a respondent. Despite the proliferation of debate over methodological approaches and issues in research, and politicised debates about the responsibility of the academic vis-à-vis structures of power, Pryke suggests such questions are rarely discussed. Although there are notable exceptions, for example Back’s (1996) account of challenging racism, there is little discussion in academic texts addressing political and ethical dilemmas about intervention. There are an increasing range of methodological approaches and techniques emerging to capture the complexities of families and relationships. Recent concerns expressed by Savage and Burrows (2007) about the limitations of the sample survey and in-depth interview fail in our view to recognise the burgeoning methodological repertoire and innovatory techniques available to researchers (see also Crompton 2008).2 There is no one method or methodological approach which can be singled out as characterising the field of twenty first century family studies so far (Gabb 2008: 18). While, as Gabb observes, the in-depth interview may have been the ‘linchpin’ of relationships research for some 20 years, more recent methodological developments include the increasing use of longitudinal research (both quantitative and qualitative), mixed methods,

2 These are evident in numerous journals on methods, as well as various programmes supporting the development of research methods, for example the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods ‘Realities’ node hosted by the Morgan Centre at Manchester University ( realities/aboutus/index.html) or the ‘MethodSpace’ forum for researchers hosted by Sage (http: // Such initiatives can also be seen as testament to the recognition of the importance of learning from the practice and experience of the research community.

12 Introduction

visual and sonic methods, mediated research methods (such as online questionnaires, social networking sites and blogs), and interdisciplinary and multi-institutional approaches. The use of a wider range of methods and approaches is presented as extending the reach of research to access data that might have been difficult to gather otherwise, with mixed methods advocated as a means of intensifying depth, multiplying angles and validating emerging interpretation through multiple sources. Varying methods may also provide flexibility through providing for the different capacities and characteristics of research participants. McLeod and Thomson (2009), addressing the historicity of methods, describe a waxing and waning of particular methods over time, giving rise to new forms of representation and understanding. Different methods give rise to particular issues. Thus qualitative longitudinal approaches raise questions of, amongst other things, ‘analytic closure’, concerns about the double burden of analysing cross-sectionally and longitudinally, and issues around anonymisation and complex data management requirements (McLeod and Thomson 2009). There are risks in new orthodoxies in methods. Mauthner and Doucet (2008) for example sound a warning note about the increasing popularity of large-scale collaborative projects conducted across institutions and involving large teams with different roles and responsibilities. A subsequent division of academic labour risks downgrading fieldwork to a mechanical ‘collection of data’, a technical activity that can be done by anyone, rather than an intellectual process in which meaning and knowledge are shaped and created by subjective researchers (2008: 979). A sense that funders will give priority to projects adopting particular methodological approaches may also influence methodological approaches unduly. A misappropriation of method is illustrated in studies where repeat interviews conducted over a time span of a few months claim longitudinal research designs. While some argue the benefits of mixed-methods approaches in terms of combining data to produce a ‘holistic picture’ (e.g. Gabb 2008), others emphasise difficulties inherent in a requisite ‘methodological bilingualism’ (Tashakkori and Teddlie 2003), or question its added value. The emergence of new techniques or methods give rise to new concerns, notwithstanding the enduring nature of others: Crow and Pope (2008) identify ‘striking continuities’ in issues pertaining to the research relationship, illustrated by Weber’s observation in 1908 of the need for researcher tenacity in the face of suspicion and mistrust on the part of people they are seeking to study. Thus digital technological developments that enable new possibilities in social research also raise particular

Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis 13

methodological challenges, including ethical considerations (Gibson 2010; Murthy 2008; Snee 2010).3 The archiving and sharing of digital data via online databases has raised concerns about the increasingly complex ethical dilemmas for researchers arising from their multiple, sometimes conflicting, responsibilities and obligations towards research respondents, co-researchers, the institutions that support research, science, and the general public (Mauthner and Parry 2010). Savage and Burrows (2007) express anxieties that the routine gathering and dissemination of social data, including commercial transaction data (such as that generated via supermarket loyalty cards, or Amazon’s personalised book recommendations based on purchasing data) undercuts the role of sociologists in generating data. This parallel world of ‘commercial sociology’, in organisations with better access to information technology and with less ethical constraints, means that academics occupy an increasingly marginal position in the huge research infrastructure that forms an integral feature of ‘knowing capitalism’. They suggest one response may be via interest in the politics of method, sociologists renewing their interests in methodological innovation and reporting critically on new digitalisations. As noted above, some respondents claim this work has already begun. In an impassioned plea that academics make ‘public issues out of private troubles’, Burawoy (2005) foregrounds the need to consider the wider political purposes of research, and to consider the questions of ‘knowledge for whom? Knowledge for what?’. Burawoy emphasises the moral and political value of engagement with diverse publics. He also draws attention to the multiple challenges associated with doing so, reflecting on the barriers arising from a contemporary academic climate characterised by the pursuit of academic credentials, and the normalising pressure of careers. Several commentators draw attention to the impact of wider structural changes on both the research process and the researcher undertaking it (Alasuutari et al 2008; Allen Collinson 2004; Bryson and Barnes 2000; Gill 2009). Burawoy refers to the ‘army of contingent workers’ who, facing time constraints and pressures to publish, have less time for ‘public sociology’. At the same time he is critical of sociological work oriented by government policy agendas, presuming sacrifice

3 The need for specific ethical guidelines for e-research is illustrated by recommendations from the Association of Internet Researchers (Ess and the AoIR Ethics Working Group 2002), and calls for a Manifesto for Ethics in e-Research by the Directorate for Digital Social Research, Oxford University (http://eresearch-ethics. org/).

14 Introduction

of independence and critical edge; he defines the sociological tradition as on the side of civil society, not governments or markets. However, as contributions in this book on conducting policy relevant work suggest, this presumed conflict of interest between government and civil society is not necessarily so clear-cut in the topic area of families and relationships. Buroway’s comments originated in the USA but there are related critical interpretations of a climate of increased accountability to funders and ‘user’ interests in Europe. Some commentators situate requirements that social research demonstrates ‘impacts’ and addresses the concerns of the social partners, as part of the growing pervasiveness of neoliberal principles (Alasuuturi et al 2008: 4) rather than in encouragement of the kind of public sociology Burawoy advocates. As researchers of families and relationships, the ‘impact’ we seek in policy and practice sometimes hopes to realign the interests of governments and civil societies in ways that better enable caring supportive relationships. The increasingly competitive academic environment includes the widespread use of fixed-term contract research staff (Allen Collinson 2004; Bryson and Barnes 2000; Spalter-Roth and Erskine 2004); in the United Kingdom for example, three-quarters of research-only staff are on fixed-term contracts (UCU n.d.). Goode (2006) draws attention to the ‘Taylorisation’ of research work for researcher identity, arguing there is a paradox in the way that contract research staff accrue a wealth of experience of how research is organised and conducted in different contexts, a repertoire of skills, and a vast volume of various kinds of ‘data’, whilst remaining vulnerable and marginalised figures within the academy with few opportunities for professional development and advancement. The issues related to establishing collaborative research practices across research teams are being addressed by some (see Thomson and Edwards 2010); however, it is not clear from the accounts that follow whether a self-reflexive research focus on families and relationships always translates into a self-reflexive awareness of relative advantage and disadvantage across research teams or the will to mitigate their worst effects. As well as implications for those conducting the research, the changing research climate raises questions of how shifts in funding impacts on the types of projects getting funded and the types of research that can be conducted. As Mauthner and Doucet (2008) observe in relation to the increasing use of large-scale interdisciplinary and multi-institutional research teams, the institutional, financial, political and cultural contexts of research may work against collective and reflexive research practices.

Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis 15

The accounts in this book focus on specific instances of research practices: nevertheless, this highlights the importance of also considering the wider contexts in which we do research. These institutional, financial, political and cultural contexts of research have implications for the data and methodologies we use, our styles of working and organisation of research, and hence the knowledge we produce.

How to navigate this book Researching Families and Relationships considers various stages of the research process, from study design and data collection through to analysis and communication of findings. Each chapter combines a ‘think-piece’ reflecting on these different stages, with five short firstperson accounts illustrating the types of practical and ethical dilemmas researchers reflexively face when conducting empirical studies of intimate life. While the think-pieces offer meta-commentaries on the same aspects of the research process, the accounts are intentionally brief in order to give the reader a sense of the breadth of issues which researchers might grapple with over the life of a project. Readers will notice some stylistic variation across the accounts, and those which resonate most strongly will vary for each individual. We were keen not to be too ‘heavy-handed’ editorially as we felt that imposing a uniform style risked masking the sense of personal critical reflections. By offering a snapshot into a range of different studies and approaches, this innovative format is intended to both reassure readers of the ubiquity of these dilemmas, and to encourage critical reflection on their own research practices. While the chapters are structured to broadly reflect various stages of the research process, we do not intend to imply that the research process is either clear-cut or linear; indeed, the material in this book could have been structured in various alternative ways. Several accounts could have appeared in more than one chapter, and there are ‘crosscutting’ themes which recur across the book, sometimes from different perspectives, which we discuss further in the conclusion. When inviting the accounts, the brief that we gave was intentionally broad in order to encourage reflections on the issues that researchers felt were most pertinent to share. Consequently, the accounts in this volume represent diversity in terms of the aspects of the research process they discuss, the focus, methods and settings of the studies that they draw on as illustration, and the contributors’ disciplinary backgrounds and levels of experience in social science research. However,

16 Introduction

there are inevitably some aspects that this book only touches on, and others that are not covered at all. While the studies discussed in this volume investigate a range of intimate relationships – including parents and children, partnerships, children’s relationships with non-familial adults, young people’s peer relationships, non-familial caring relationships with older people and relationships with colleagues – nevertheless, the notion of family and intimate relationships is wider than the examples we have. Furthermore, despite the majority of research-only academic staff in the UK being employed on fixed-term contracts, noone chose to write about the process of applying for funding or the difficulties in timing projects so they are neither simultaneous nor too far apart. In addition, as many of the contributors to this book work in family research centres in UK universities, most of the studies they draw on when discussing their experiences are based in Britain. In Chapter 2 David Morgan reflects on how we frame ‘families’ and ‘relationships’, and the implications of these conceptualisations for our research. As families and relationships researchers, we use a variety of methods to gain understanding about the personal lives of our participants. However, as first-hand accounts in this chapter illustrate, the process of designing a project requires us to frame our research, and to some extent conceptualise our participants’ experiences, from the outset. Researchers often have to contend with competing versions of who or what ‘counts’ when defining families and personal relationships. The chapter also illustrates researchers’ experiences of working with varying definitions of families and personal relationships across cultural contexts, and the implications of these differing conceptualisations for how we plan and conduct our research. In Chapter 3 Kay Tisdall considers researchers’ engagement with participants, arguing that childhood studies has been at the vanguard of debates and developments in ethical research practice. She outlines ethical issues relating to the various access routes, settings and methods used in families and relationships research, and highlights the limitations of contractual conceptions of research relationships. The accounts here demonstrate the range of players involved in negotiating fieldwork, and how initiating, sustaining and leaving research relationships requires care and attention. As such, engagement is viewed as an ongoing and fundamental research process which includes, but is not only concerned with, access, recruitment and consent. The focus on research relationships is extended in the fourth chapter, with a discussion by Angus Bancroft considering the process of researchers’ relationships with participants, and their particular complexities when

Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis 17

studying the substantive sphere of the intimate. The accounts in this chapter highlight the potential emotional impact for researchers when asking people to share intimate details of their lives, focusing on situations or revelations where the boundaries of ‘the researcher role’ have been challenged in some way. Chapter 5 opens with a think-piece by Stuart Aitken which uses concepts of place, throwntogetherness and immediacy to consider issues relating to fieldwork conducted in particular localities and times, and the ways in which these influence the research interaction and the ‘data’ we produce. Aitken also foregrounds the wider political responsibilities that we have to our participants, and the tensions that may arise from this. As the accounts in this chapter illustrate, particular contexts give rise to specific issues for research addressing families and relationships that require inventive and flexible research methodologies. In Chapter 6, Lynn Jamieson considers the process of analysing, interpreting and presenting data. Jamieson notes that researchers of families and relationships have been at the forefront of aspects of methodology and methodological literature reflecting on the challenges of complex research designs, multiple data types and reflexive analysis techniques. She suggests that the contribution of researchers to the development of social theory are both under recognised and understated. The accounts reflect a range of issues, including those arising from the need for researchers to be attuned to the opportunities and constraints offered by different methods and types of data; the potential for the emotional as well as the intellectual responses of researchers to become embedded in the representations produced; and ongoing debates about ethical presentation of the lives of others and appropriate use of the researcher’s voice. The dissemination and effective communication of research findings are receiving increasing attention, with the impact of research increasingly important to its evaluation. In the penultimate chapter Sarah Morton and Sandra Nutley explore the importance of knowledge exchange, enhancing the usability of research for policy maker, practitioner and other nonacademic audiences, and outline some of the challenges in increasing research use. The accounts discuss models of relationship building, such as collaborative research with voluntary organisations, drawing in potential research users over the life of a research project, and developing longerterm relationships with policy makers and government analysts to enable better use of research knowledge. They highlight the importance of contextual analysis and targeted approaches to increase the usability of research.

18 Introduction

In the final chapter, we draw together common themes and lessons learned from these experiential accounts of researching families and relationships, relating these to the methodological and theoretical literature outlined above. We conclude by making a case for the continued significance of high-quality social science research on families and relationships, particularly in relation to its wider implications for practice and policy.

2 Framing Relationships and Families David H. J. Morgan

Introduction: On frames and framing The idea of framing can convey everything from an act of placing clear boundaries around something such as a picture to something much more fluid, a frame of mind or a frame of reference where the provisional and temporary nature of the undertaking is indicated at the outset. The general drift of intellectual and social currents would seem to suggest that, for most of the contributors to this volume and for most of the readers, the more open and fluid understanding would be preferred. Many of the bounded entities which once constituted sociological practice, such as societies themselves, classes, communities or families, have, at the very least, become open to severe questioning such that their very existence might seem open to doubt. It is unlikely, for example, that we would find a textbook proudly proclaiming sociology to be ‘The Science of Society’. Both terms would be seen as the source of considerable unease. Nevertheless, some clear framing practices not only still take place but might be seen to be desirable. If we are to be able to gain some understanding of how a country such as Britain has changed over time or how it compares, in terms of some key indicators, with other nations, some clear, reliable and repeatable definitions are required. Indeed, the small print of such comparisons will provide considerable details of how these definitions have been established and of the efforts made to ensure comparability over time or between nations. The point is perhaps not so much one of preferring one version of framing to another but in focusing on the process of framing itself. The questions to be asked are now ‘who is doing the framing?’, ‘what are the objectives of this framing?’ and ‘what and for whom are the consequences?’ Further, to ask these questions is not to defer getting 19

20 Framing Relationships and Families

to grips with the real issues under investigation – whether we are talking about inequality, criminality or family change – but in asking these questions we are getting closer to these issues and their importance. The accounts presented in this section, in their different ways, highlight the intimate relationships between the processes of framing and the family practices and relationships under investigation. Framing families To begin with let us consider, briefly, two different texts. The first is a recent ‘Family’ section from the Saturday Guardian for 8th May 2010. This particular section (along with Work, Travel, Money and others) has been appearing on a regular basis on Saturdays for some years now. This particular issue deals with the impending departure of children from the parental home, the experience of being a child of a ‘glamorous alpha couple’ with a marriage that was ‘strong, happy and equal’, whether 74 is the perfect age and why men find it difficult to talk. The overall tone of the articles in this and other editions of the section is auto/biographical, emphasising experiences which, whether ordinary or extra-ordinary, can be shared with the presumed readers. In one sense, and quite effortlessly, family is equated with everyday life. The second text (in which I have a chapter) is The Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Families (Scott et al 2004). This is a familiar ‘state of the art’ edited collection which includes some items that might have been found in any comparable volume published since the Second World War such as demographic trends, parenting, formation and dissolution of couples and work and families. But there are also some topics that have only become familiar or expected in more recent years: lesbian and gay families, feminism and assisted reproduction. The items selected reflect changes in family practices, political and social pressures (feminism, the gay and lesbian movement) and theoretical changes (social capital, globalisation). The editors of this volume, like the editors of the Guardian section, see all the included items as in some way ‘hanging together’, as having some affinity with each other. Allowing for differences in treatment and level of generality, almost any item included in one of these publications could easily appear in the other. In both cases we have a framing of family which is not, in itself, treated as problematic. Both publications, and many others published relatively recently, highlight a variety of trends in the framing of

David H. J. Morgan 21

family. The first is, as the editors of the Blackwell volume acknowledge, a shift from ‘The family’ to families, a pluralisation: Our title acknowledges the plurality of family forms and, by implication, the dynamic processes of family formation and dissolution across time (Scott et al 2004: xvii). Second, there is a shift from relatively fixed understandings of families as being constituted by particular relationships within particular locations to something much more fluid and open-ended. This is in terms of the relationships included (gay and lesbian relationships, for example) and the topics treated (public policy, citizenship, inequalities) thereby recognising the way in which the boundaries of family overlap with other areas of social life. It should be noted that this fluidity is partly a matter of real changes (cohabitation, divorce and separation, single parent and single person households and so on) and partly a matter of changes of perception. In some senses the fluidity was always present for the simple reason that family relationships were never simply or uniquely confined within households but extended out and across households in a relatively weakly bounded fashion. In some countries at least, there was always an element of choice as to who might, in this wider sense, ‘count’ as family just as, in terms of everyday experience, family relationships might overlap with friendships and neighbourhoods. A third linked trend is from seeing ‘family’ as a noun to seeing it as an adjective, qualifying and limiting a range of other activities. Examples here may be ‘family law’ or ‘family therapy’. Other usages such as ‘family life’ or ‘family practices’ (Morgan 1996, 2011) emphasise a more active or dynamic understanding of family. In some senses, indeed, ‘family’ may be seen as a verb, something that people do. What should be clear in the discussion so far is that not only are there different, fluid, ways of understanding ‘family’ but that different sets of people themselves have different ways of framing family relationships. These may be grouped under three broad headings: researchers, administrators and other practitioners, and family members themselves. For the middle group, framing and defining family relationships are necessary for framing public policy and for developing specialised bodies of knowledge and professional interventions. For the last set of people, issues of definition are rarely matters for explicit debate but more a matter of everyday and unspoken understandings that emerge

22 Framing Relationships and Families

in the course of everyday family living. Everyday practices about the allocation of informal care, about celebrating family events or about distributing property, routinely define who counts as ‘family’ for particular purposes. The researchers themselves have their own ways of understanding and framing family relationships for the purposes of sociological enquiry or theorising. These ways reflect differing theoretical traditions, different methodological orientations as well as the particular research problems under investigation. But, increasingly, the researchers are also interested in treating the definitions and understandings of other practitioners or professionals, as well as of individuals routinely going about their family lives, as topics of investigation in their own right. Everyday family talk, for example, may be a topic of interest as might the assumptions and framings of family relationships presented in political manifestos. What, for example, is conveyed by the use of a term such as ‘hard-working families’? All these practices on the part of family members, practitioners of various kinds and social investigators provide examples of ‘boundary work’ (McKie and Cunningham-Burley 2005). These are processdefining differences between ‘family’ and ‘non-family’ not only in terms of identified positions (parents, grandparents, siblings etc) or individuals (Auntie Reenie or Uncle Ben) but in terms of more qualitative distinctions. Thus there may be understandings, explicit or tacit, that families represent a particular quality of living or a particular way (not always to be welcomed) of relating to other people. These may be expressed as particular kinds of obligations or particular kinds of feelings which are held to be distinct from other sets of relationships. Researchers themselves engage in boundary work while also treating the boundary work of others, administrators or family members, as topics for analysis. It is also to be hoped that these researchers, reflexively, also consider their own boundary work. Another way of thinking about these engagements of researchers in the social world is in terms of the interplays between discourses and practices. On the one hand there are all sorts of ways of talking about, representing and evaluating family in political speeches, television programmes, advertisements and everyday speech. On the other hand there are all kinds of practices, activities and ways of relating to other people in a whole range of family contexts. These may be in homes or on holiday but might also occur in discussions between parents and schoolteachers or between employees and employers over, for example, questions of

David H. J. Morgan 23

parental leave. Up to a point, practices and discourses are interdependent. In describing or accounting for practices individuals are necessarily creating or drawing upon discourse. The decision to move oneself (together with one’s partner and children) to a new location may be seen as a form of family practice but the accounting for such a move (it is better for the children) will be drawing upon widely understood and influential discourses about family relationships and parental obligations (Jordan et al 1994).

Framing relationships Framing relationships presents some of the same issues as those involved in the discussion of framing families. Here too we have distinctions between the understandings of researchers, of various administrators and practitioners and of people within relationships themselves. We also find the complex interplay between discourse and practices although here it would seem that the lines here are not as clear as might be the case with families. Relationships raise similar issues of boundary work. In general terms it might seem that the term ‘relationships’ denotes a larger set of which family relationships constitute a smaller sub-set. However, matters are not quite as simple as this. For one thing we can use the term relationships to refer to all forms of human contact, real and imagined, from the most fleeting to the most intimate (not to mention contacts with other species, places or inanimate objects). In the present context, however, this wider set is limited to what might be called intimate relationships (Jamieson 1998) or personal relationships (Smart 2007). However intimate relationships themselves present issues of boundary definitions (Jamieson 2005). If we define intimacy as involving some degree of confiding and closeness, then not all family relationships can be defined as intimate. Some kin relationships which are recognised on ritual occasions, but little more, might be of this kind. Family relationships overlap with, rather than are contained within, the wider set of intimate relations. Further, some people engaged in close friendships or sexual relationships outside marriage might see these ties as being qualitatively different from what might be generally understood as family relationships. Much current discourse around relationships would seem to suggest that the term implies much more than simply drawing a line linking two or more people as in a kinship diagram or a family tree. Within this framework relationships, or perhaps Relationships, come to be

24 Framing Relationships and Families

defined as a core element of interpersonal life in the late modern world. They have a special character (informed by, say, psychoanalytical theory) and require work on the part of those involved in relationships. They may sometimes be defined as an emotional heart in a world which is otherwise dominated by market rationality and impersonal controls. We see this in the frequently repeated understanding of marriage as something that has over a long, if ill-defined, period, shifted from institution to relationship (Lewis et al 1992: 12–17). While there are several strands to this argument, the main idea moves marriage from something which is dominated by external considerations of politics or economics to something which is a matter of choice by the participants and where the relationship is valued for its own sake. Somewhat similar arguments might be advanced in relation to parents where the shifted may be described as a shift from the more institutional idea of parenthood (emphasising rights, status and duties) to the more active and relational notion of parenting. There are several inadequacies with this formulation with its very broad-brushed depiction of historical and cultural change. One possible objection might be to argue that the marriage (and other) relationships has itself become institutionalised as a consequence of the development of strong professional discourses about relationships (Clark and Morgan 1992). Thus individuals are encouraged to ‘work’ at their relationships and to monitor their progress. Whether these discourses have an effect on the practices of relationship is not always clear but they are certainly widespread. Relationships, their boundaries and their legitimacies, are thus subject to some measure of external definition and framing. At the same time, as we have seen, certain kinds of intimate relationships, friendship and non-heterosexual relationships may be defined as distinct from and, sometimes, in opposition to, family relationships (Roseneil 2005; Weeks et al 2001). Alternatively, friends and sexual partners may define their relationships as being more like ‘real’ family relationships than their actual family connections. What this means is that the boundaries around and the framing of the meanings of intimate or personal relationships is something carried out by the participants themselves and not simply by external agencies or researchers. From the point of view of any one individual, however, the boundaries between family and other personal or intimate relationships may be either distinct or blurred. But, in any event, they may all appear in a mapping of relationships which any one individual deems to be of importance. When asked to place such relationships within a set of

David H. J. Morgan 25

concentric circles, individuals may provide various mixes of family, other intimates and possibly acquaintances (Pahl and Spencer 2004, 2010). Such sets of relationships, familial or non-familial, may be defined as ‘personal communities’ or ‘configurations’ (Widmer and Jallinoja 2008).

Framing relationships and the research process I have argued that the process of framing families and relationships is a complex matter. There are various reasons which have been suggested for this complexity. These include the inherent complexity and ambiguity of the actual subject matter, close relationships, and the fact that a variety of cultural, economic and political processes have given rise to, and continue to give rise to, this complexity. In the course of this investigation I have attempted to identify three loose sets of social actors who are involved in the process of framing families and relationships: the researchers, various ‘external’ practitioners and agencies, and the research subjects themselves. It should have become clear that framing relationships is a process that takes place at different stages in the course of the research. It is a process, and one which is not simply a matter of providing a definition of families or relationships at the outset and proceeding on this basis. Clearly the researchers do not start with a blank screen; they come to the research with their own intellectual and personal biographies providing some sense of the field and its boundaries. But, in all the accounts presented here, these initial orientations are subject to some measure of modification as a result of the researchers’ engagements with the field. All the accounts presented here provide insights into the biographies of the researchers and hence clues into how the relationships under investigation might have been framed initially. Dan Allman [p. 31] refers to his preference for forms of ‘near anthropological fieldwork’ into the ‘abject, marginal, deviant [and] excluded’. In terms of the present project he is part of a multi-national, multi-institutional project concerned with ‘the health and human rights of sexual minorities in Nigeria’. Ingela Naumann’s account [p. 36] also provides some evidence, although less dramatic, of cultural difference playing a part in the framing of the research subject matter. She was engaged in a comparative research project exploring the development of childcare services in West Germany and Sweden. She had, prior to the research project, spent time in both countries and grew up with a Swedish mother. She

26 Framing Relationships and Families

was aware of differences between the two countries in terms of the centrality of the male breadwinner model in the former and of the dual-earner household in the latter. Nevertheless, her biographical understanding of her field had not prepared her for some important differences. Sarah Wilson’s experiences were quite different [p. 40]. Her personal and intellectual biography suggests a much greater degree of closeness between researcher and researched even prior to the beginning of the project. In seeking to conduct a pilot project which included her own child and friends and their parents she was, in a sense, already in the field. Her preference was clearly for a form of ‘anthropology at home’, one influenced by the ‘auto/biographical turn’ in social enquiry (Chamberlayne et al 2000). With the remaining two researchers we have projects which were relatively close to home but without the direct involvement indicated in Wilson’s account. Linda McKie and Andrew Smith’s study [p. 43] emerged out of a wider network of researchers, concerned with the elaboration of the idea of ‘carescapes’ or, originally, ‘caringscapes’ (CRFR 2004). Hence their prior discussions involved some explicit discussion of the framing of families and relationships, seeking to construct a framework that was much wider than indicated by existing discussions of family or intimate relations. Fran Wasoff, similarly, came to her research [p. 34] with an awareness of the complexity of family relationships, especially those which are shaped or reshaped following separation and divorce. The key insight here is that these transitions have an impact that is wider than the immediate set of adults and children involved but extend out into the wider kinship network. In the course of conducting their various research projects, the researchers presented here encountered a variety of other agencies who had, possibly, different ways of framing the relationships under investigation. In Allman’s study, we can sense, indirectly, various officials, leaders and institutions that maintained the definition of same-sex sexual activities as illegal and immoral. Of more direct relevance however, were the community partners who mediated between the members of the research team and the men who were to be the actual participants in the project. These mediations required the elaboration or understanding of different ways of framing questions of Nigerian men’s sexualities. In the other research projects, the others involved in the framing of relationships were readily identifiable and presented some clear

David H. J. Morgan 27

modifications to the researchers’ perspectives. These included members of an ethics committee (Wilson) and the team involved in framing the Government-funded Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (Wasoff). In the two other accounts, the research subjects also represented other agencies who were found to have different ways of framing relationships. For McKie and Smith, these were the managers and directors who they interviewed in an exploratory set of interviews. In Naumann’s account, the search for these others, relatively straightforward in the case of Sweden, more complicated in the case of Germany, proved to be an integral part of the project. When the agencies involved in childcare were identified, again different ways of framing the problem were revealed. Thus we have identified the different perspectives involved in the framing of relationships: these are the perspectives of the researchers and those of various agencies who have some kind of direct or indirect stake in the projects. But what of the researched themselves? In some cases (McKie and Smith) these were close to if not identical with the various agencies encountered in the course of the research. In one case they were close to the perspectives of the researcher (Wilson). In the remaining two cases, they were more or less distinct from both the agencies and the researchers although in the case of Allman’s account, considerable mediation was required in order to gain understanding of the way in which the Nigerian men themselves framed their relationships. In all these accounts we see research as a process involving a variety of interested parties and a process which shows, in all cases, an enrichment of understanding as a consequence of these various encounters. This was true even in the case elaborated by Wilson which might simply be seen as an example of rejection by an ethics committee. However the grounds for this rejection highlighted different ways of framing childhood and family relationships around themes of risk, harm and vulnerability. In two of the projects we can see how the various encounters in the research process led to some degree of modification or extension of the original plans. Wasoff was able to include two questions about the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren following divorce or separation on the part of the parents in the Scottish Social Attitude Survey of 2004. However the overall policy orientation and the tightness of the ‘question budget’ meant that the researchers were unable to explore some of the more conflictual issues that were known to arise on these occasions. Fortunately, the researchers were able to persuade

28 Framing Relationships and Families

the Government to commission a further small-scale study based on focus groups to explore these complexities. McKie and Smith’s interviews with managers and directors revealed that the language of care, the core of their overall orientation, did not have a great deal of resonance in the working context. It is not that caring practices (as defined by the researchers) did not take place, but that the overall discourse did not refer directly to care. Hence, the researchers began to frame their explorations in terms of Equality and diversity, health and well-being and responsibilities and rights, terms more familiar to those within the working contexts under investigation. As with other researchers they became aware of multiple perspectives but saw this as an opportunity to explore further rather than as simply a difficulty or an obstacle. Difficulties encountered in the field also provided an awareness of different perspectives in Naumann’s exploration of childcare policies in two countries. Here, she discovered the different perspectives highlighted cultural differences which impacted upon the very definition of the family. In the Swedish case, the family was defined in terms of parents and children; in the West German case, the family was defined in terms of marriage, which was expected to lead to parenthood. She found these differences surprising, all the more so given her assumed familiarity with the countries under investigation. Nevertheless, very practical difficulties in accessing data in the German case prompted some insightful reflections which doubtlessly enriched the study as a whole. In Allman’s study we have a sense of a continuous set of exchanges and dialogues between members of a multi-agency research team and the community partners who acted as mediators between the researchers and the research participants. The fact that this took place in a context where the practices under investigation were formally illegal led to careful modifications of the research framework to explore overlapping issues of sexuality, health and family in the lives of Nigerian men. In his words: To move the research forward required the researchers to accept one another’s differing world beliefs and normative frameworks … While not all the authors of these accounts would describe their experiences in quite these terms, this statement highlights the need to recognise the existence of different frames of meaning and to learn from these differences.

David H. J. Morgan 29

Conclusion: Framing, feelings and reflexivity One special, almost unique, feature of the study of family and relationships is the close and necessary overlap in terms of understanding and experiences between researcher and researched. In this way, the research described here differs from research into, say, forms of criminality or particular occupational groups. Researchers are already involved in their subject matter. This involvement manifests itself in two ways. In the first place, the researcher has past and present relationships and the understandings derived from these relationships enter into the process of framing the topics under investigation. Second, the researcher enters into various forms of relationships with those encountered in the field, fellow researchers and gatekeepers as well as the subjects of the research themselves. These relationships can be placed on a continuum somewhere between involvement and detachment or intimacy and distance (Morgan 2009: 125–126). The wider ethical and practical issues associated with this necessary overlap between researcher and researched are discussed elsewhere in this volume. Here I am considering the process of framing relationships and the consequences that the outcome of these processes may have for the researcher and the wider society. Researchers are increasingly aware of the consequences of the way in which they use key words within the sociological dictionary, especially those words which, like ‘family’, have currency within the wider society. This awareness is something which must be constantly worked at and kept alive through the exchanges in the wider scholarly (and beyond) community. For example, in developing the idea of ‘family practices’ (Morgan 1996) I was attempting to break away from the theoretical and political difficulties associated with talking about the family. However, by continuing to use the word ‘family’ (even within this different frame of reference) I might continue to be privileging these relationships as opposed to non-heterosexual relationships or patterns of friendship (Roseneil 2005). Framing, as we have seen, is a form of boundary work, creating shifting patterns of closeness and distance. Social researchers have developed different ways of handling the dilemmas that arise out of the overlaps in language and experience between themselves, other practitioners and agencies and the subjects of the research but these are dilemmas that arise anew with the beginning of each fresh piece of investigation. I have argued that the business of framing relationships is not a once and for all decision made at the outset but, more frequently, a process

30 Framing Relationships and Families

arising out of the interactions between researchers and others encountered in the field. These accounts show how these encounters bring about some rethinking or deeper reflection about the relationships under investigation. What is apparent in these accounts, to varying degrees, is that emotions are involved in these encounters in the field and the framing and reframing of relationships. Two of the accounts clearly dealt with issues that had an emotional content but where these emotions had to compete for attention in contexts which appeared to be dominated by forms of rationality. In Wasoff’s account the rationalities associated with Family Law and social surveys came up against the emotions that were clearly present when the complexities and conflicts within the wider family constellation were taken into account. These led to the development of a new, more qualitative project. In McKie and Smith’s account we have an approach which has emotions at the heart of the conceptualisation of carescapes (‘emotions and practices of care and anxiety’). However this framework came up against the rationalities of everyday working practices where those involved are more in tune with the language of rights, responsibilities and equalities. In these two accounts, emotions clearly affect the framing of the topics although we are not able to access, directly, the emotions of the researchers. The emotions come much more directly to the fore in the remaining three accounts. Naumann makes the point explicitly. She describes herself as ‘puzzled and irritated’, ‘perplexed and confused’ by what she encounters when trying to get information about childcare policies in Germany. She concludes that discomfort and embarrassment were not to be put to one side but were to be seen as valuable guides in the reflexive process. Similarly, Wilson is open about her irritation at having her project turned down by an Ethics Committee as well as about, in contrast, her close relationships with the children and adults that might have been her research subjects. Again, reflexivity involves confronting and learning from these emotions. Finally, Allman refers to a ‘number of sensitivities’ encountered in the field and which needed to be taken into account if the research were to proceed any further. He highlights the ‘range of emotions and reactions’ that emerged as the research progressed and, again, takes full account of these conducting the enquiry and in framing the research. Framing families and relationships in social enquiry is, therefore, a continuous process involving what the researcher brings to the project and what emerges from encounters within the field. Fram-

David H. J. Morgan 31

ing relationships involves hard, continuous thought and discussion at all stages of the research and not simply at the outset. Further, framing is not simply an intellectual activity but involves emotions, the emotions of others as well as of the researchers. Reflexivity involves, among other things, listening to the frustrations, the irritations and the joys encountered as we attempt to frame and reframe families and relationships.

Researching men’s same-sex relationships in a socially-excluding context: The case of Nigeria Dan Allman As a researcher, I have rarely worked with conventional relationship structures, drawn instead by preference or circumstance to a form of near anthropological fieldwork among those often dubbed as dangerous classes (Morris 1994) – the abject, marginal, deviant – the excluded – who I see simply as those outside the status quo. There is much to learn from working with those on the margins. Studying the social periphery often allows insight into the broader social structures that label some social actors as dangerous. One study I was involved with explored male sexuality in several large cities in Nigeria, bringing together researchers from Canada, the USA and Nigeria with local community groups and stakeholders working to promote the health and human rights of sexual minorities in Nigeria. Initiatives that involve researchers from more than one institution are often among the most rewarding, but may be among the most challenging too. Research institutions in different parts of the world may operate within different normative structures that can both constrain as well as facilitate research. The availability of the physical tools of research, resources, materials, and infrastructures that researchers from the global north may take for granted, such as reliable internet access, an uninterrupted electrical supply and timely modes of transportation, may be less predictable in the global south. However, other constraints can include differential conceptualisations of the relationships we are studying. This was certainly the case with the Nigerian project. It was a complex undertaking, working towards meeting with men who had sex with other men, the focus of our research. In time the research would

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become the first sexual health study of men in Nigeria (Adebajo et al 2009), but our initial visit was an exploratory mission to understand how to represent the breadth and form of men’s families and relationships in a context where some could be deemed illegal by the state. Same-sex sexual activity is both criminalised and socially stigmatised in Nigeria. For our study, this illicit element created a research context in stark opposition to the experiences some on the team were accustomed to from scholarly activities in the global north, where diverse sexual activities, including same-sex sexual activities between consenting adults, are more likely to be legal and, to varying degrees, accepted. Through the course of this study, the multi-national, multi-institutional research team had to develop degrees of cross-cultural understanding and open mindedness in order to undertake equitable, postcolonial collaborative work. Doing so required the team to confront a number of sensitivities that could influence understandings and acceptances of certain aspects of human sexuality. For several reasons related to the study of sexuality within this Sub Saharan context, the research team needed to contend with a variety of reactions to the research on the part of the broader community. For example, in some instances the research was understood as a general study of men’s sexual risk. In other instances, the research was seen more specifically as an exploration to better understand and represent specific forms of men’s families and relationships (Allman et al 2007). Our framing of the aims of the research and the interpretation of these aims could vary depending on who the audience was, norms present about how sexuality might be viewed culturally and the research team’s perceptions of potential reactions to a study addressing the full diversity of male sexualities. Community partners can be key to conducting research in unfamiliar contexts, and our partners in the study of men’s relationships in Nigeria were vital. They ensured the research team could interpret and make sense of some of the findings arising from the formative work, much of which involved the interaction and counsel of community members. Through community-based partners, the research team came to understand what research questions to ask, and how such questions about participants’ families, relationships, general and sexual health would be best framed and presented. Community partners were key also in facilitating access to social groupings and potential research participants that would otherwise

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be challenging for outsider researchers to locate and access. On occasion, the influences of the legal context necessitated that the research veer beyond the unobtrusive towards the covert. This was not because the research itself was breaking the law. Rather, careful, almost covert research activity was at times required in order that we could meet with different stakeholders to understand how to reflect their social, affective and intimate lives within a variety of relationships and kinship groupings, and to do so without endangering safety, anonymity or the confidential nature of our work. Across the course of the research, the team met individuals and groups of men in public venues, open-air social gatherings, private homes and community functions. When planning for or travelling to these meetings, we could experience a range of emotions and reactions – forms of apprehension and excitement associated with the unknown, alongside the fatigue and stress possible when conducting research in resourcelimited settings. Yet, our belief in the importance and necessity of the work, and the empathy frequently inherent in conducting social research open to understanding the intimate needs and desires of others, was usually sufficient to ground our research encounters, and our interpretations of these experiences. As the research progressed, we endeavoured to collect the most relevant and pertinent information possible while at the same time striving to meet the criteria for good ethical practice as set by the communities and research institutions involved. At times there could be challenges in terms of realising the desired cultural sensitivity in a context where the experiences and realities being researched could be deemed illegal by the state, and socially excluded by society at large. To move the research forward required the researchers to accept one another’s differing world beliefs and normative frameworks, and to apply this acceptance to the recruitment of participants, the provision and acquisition of informed consent, and to the creation of safe and trusting spaces able to empower participants to share their experiences, with us, and with each other. In hindsight, the shared goal of improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities was the anchor around which we could understand and agree. For our research team, compassion, agreed upon goals, and empathy for sexual minorities struggling for freedoms to be intimate with consenting adults of their choice were among the most important, and memorable elements of this research experience.

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Researching social attitudes towards families and relationships Fran Wasoff With recent substantial changes in family life, there have also been important shifts in attitudes towards these changes to families and relationships. Policy makers seek robust evidence on which to base policy responses, and one such source of evidence is social attitudes surveys. One issue that arises in producing policy-relevant survey research on families and relationships is how relationships are framed. This is illustrated by a project drawing on policy-driven research to which I contributed – a module of the Scottish Government-funded 2004 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey on attitudes and knowledge about family change and family law (Wasoff and Martin 2005; Wasoff 2009). This annual survey of a representative sample of the Scottish population is supplemented by one-off modules on specially commissioned topics. The project aimed to provide evidence for the reform of family law that culminated in the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006. Family law is both an area of private civil law and of family policy that defines the norms and obligations of marriage, divorce and parent child relationships. Contemporary familial changes include the growth in non-marital cohabitation, step-families, the creation of the legal status of civil partnership, and the major role grandparents play in the care of children. The boundaries of family law have thus gradually extended to define rights and obligations for a wider net of intimate partners and former intimate partners, whether they are spouses, civil partners or cohabitants, towards each other and their children, and also of step-parents and grandparents towards children. While the relationship between family law norms and public attitudes about changing family life can be complex, policy makers are loathe to move in directions that are contrary to public opinion, hence establishing a need for evidence of social attitudes of the general population. With separation and divorce commonplace, an illuminating example is children’s relationships with wider kin during family transition. The list of kin who may act as de-facto parents has increased, and wider kin are pressing their claims for extending their rights of contact with children when an adult partnership breaks down. To what extent, if any, should family law recognise these relationships and what legally enforceable rights and obligations should grandparents and step-parents have in relation to a child? In order to produce evidence of public opinion on these points in Scotland, we decided it was

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preferable to ground our attitudes and knowledge questions in fairly specific scenarios, rather than asking questions of a more general nature. In order for a survey question to work in the context of a larger multi-purpose survey, its wording must be simple and clearly understood by a general population, and capable of producing forced choice answers, such as the Likert scales commonly found in social attitude surveys (strongly agree/agree/neutral/disagree/strongly disagree). Thus questions can be somewhat lacking in subtlety, while due to cost constraints are limited in number. As such question drafting is a constrained exercise, lacking scope for supplementary questions to capture the nuance, complexity or contingencies of family relationships or to clarify or elaborate. Amongst a number of questions that showed widespread appreciation of the contributions of grandparents to their grandchildren, we asked two questions specifically about grandparents’ rights and responsibilities: Question 1: I would now like you to imagine an eight-year old child whose parents are no longer able to care for them, but whose grandparents could. Would you expect the grandparents to provide a home for this child? The great majority (85%) of respondents thought that grandparents should be responsible for providing a young child with a home if they could and the parents could not. The question however is generically framed; our ‘question budget’ and the need to keep a tight focus on policy meant we were not able to delve further into whether respondents’ views differed depending upon the child’s previous relationship with its grandparents, for children of different ages, the child’s preferences, the willingness of grandparents to offer care, or its quality. Question 2: I would now like you to think about a child who no longer lives with their father. Do you think the law should or should not give the grandparents on the father’s side the same rights as a father to stay in contact with the child? The great majority (92%) of respondents supported giving paternal grandparents the same rights of contact with a child as a father. This high level of agreement did not vary by their age, sex, marital status or social class. We could not explore further the complexities and contingencies around this issue, such as where parents and grandparents

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disagree about what is in a child’s best interest as far as contact is concerned, whether the resident parent and grandparents are on good terms and supportive of each other, or whether a history of domestic abuse changed their views. We also could not explore what respondents understood by the term ‘stay in contact’, and whether this mapped onto the legal meaning of the term ‘contact’ or was broader, embracing the idea that grandparents and grandchildren should be able to continue positive relationships. Because other research alerted us to the risks to children of conflict between their adult kin, especially during family transitions, the Government commissioned a further small piece of qualitative research based on focus groups that explored some of the issues where there is conflict and/or a lack of support between parents and grandparents. From this, it became clear that public opinion was well aware of the complexity of family life, and that it discriminated between the value of grandparents supporting grandchildren and their parents at a difficult time through separation and divorce, and more conflict-ridden scenarios which they did not wish policy to encourage. Thus, the follow up research pointed in the opposite direction to the survey answers, and was more in tune with other research evidence. While social attitude surveys can, and do, provide useful policy relevant evidence, it is also important to understand when using such evidence how it was produced and its limitations. This experience underlined for me not only the value of such evidence but also the value of mixed methods in research, where the power of survey data can be enhanced when necessary by a more qualitative follow up that help us better understand the complexity, nuance and contingency of families and relationships.

When a family is not a ‘family’: The value of confusion in cross-cultural research Ingela Naumann In every society there exist cultural assumptions and norms about what a family should look like and these family ideals tend to be promoted via public policy and law. Feminist scholarship particularly has highlighted how the gender division of labour in the family is governed by national welfare state arrangements. Embarking on my first comparative research project on the development of childcare services in West

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Germany and Sweden between 1945 and 1975, I was aware of these issues. I had read that social policies in Germany reflected cultural understandings about the desirability of the male breadwinner-housewife family, while in Sweden they were based on the dual-earner family model. These descriptions also fit with my personal experiences, having spent time in both countries. In view of the different family values I was expecting childcare policy to look different in these two countries. What I did not expect was how deep cultural differences can run in two countries that in many respects are quite similar – after all, both Sweden and Germany are affluent West European democracies with well-developed welfare systems – nor how much my research perspective would be directed by my own notions of what a ‘family’ is. During the course of this project I learned what it means to reflect on my own cultural frames and to accept my emotional reactions during the research process as playing an important part in developing cultural reflexivity. I started my fieldwork in Sweden, where I encountered few difficulties. Information on childcare policy and provision was plentiful and readily available. After a few weeks I had gathered a vast amount of academic literature, historical policy-documents and statistical data. I had also conducted a series of interviews with policy experts in ministries and state agencies. Public childcare was a central element of Swedish family policy and combined the aims of enhancing gender equality by enabling mothers to work and of supporting early child development. The universal childcare system was invariably presented as an achievement of the Swedish welfare state. My first fieldtrip to Germany was less successful. I had difficulties finding relevant academic literature, policy-documents or statistical information. Using the same search terms for bibliographical and archival databases as I had done in Sweden, such as ‘family policy’, ‘childcare’, ‘daycare’, yielded few results. Gradually I learned to look for ‘family support services’ for ‘families with children’, and amongst a list of support measures I might find ‘day institutions for children’. The policy sources rarely spelled out what kind of support these ‘institutions’ offered to families; their role for women’s gainful employment was hardly mentioned. I was puzzled and irritated by this, to my mind, convoluted and bureaucratic yet strangely vague way of talking about childcare: why did policy documents state the obvious, that families had children, but remain unclear about the policy goals behind childcare services? Why did family policy text books barely mention childcare services? To find out more I wrote to the Family Unit of the German

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Ministry for Family, the Elderly, Women, and Youth to ask for an interview. Yet, the Family Unit replied that they did not deal with childcare – I had to contact the Youth Aid Unit instead. I was perplexed and confused: maybe I had not explained properly that I was not doing research on children at risk, but on childcare policies in general? But I was also baffled that I could miss such an important point as which department was responsible for childcare policy. I soon came to realise that my own research perspective and implicit assumptions kept me from registering the ways in which childcare was framed and organised in West Germany. Following a feminist research tradition, I focused on the role of childcare policy for supporting women’s employment. I thus concentrated on issues that were central in the Swedish but not the German policy context. In addition, while expecting cultural differences regarding the gender division of labour in the family, I had nonetheless assumed that there existed a shared definition of ‘family’, that it always involved children. Such a definition fit the Swedish case, where family policy was directed at units of children with one or two parents. A more careful reading of my West German sources revealed, however, that here family was understood to be constituted by marriage. In this conception a married couple would, sooner or later, have children. In practice this was of course not always the case, hence the additional specification of ‘families with children’ when necessary. These definitions and frames around family and childcare were not explicit, either in the Swedish or the German policy context. But the cultural assumptions underlying childcare policy in Sweden seemed natural to me – perhaps unsurprisingly so, considering that I grew up with a Swedish mother. In the case of West Germany, it was not until I learned more about the broader political and social forces shaping the policy environment that I was able to read the cultural scripts around childcare. Under the historical influence of the Christian Democratic parties and the Churches the West German family ideal had been oriented on the Christian family image. In this understanding, family policy aimed to facilitate married women to stay at home; childcare services came into play only if family policy failed and were thus mainly a welfare provision for children in need. I also came to understand how the different linguistic styles in Sweden and West Germany with respect to the issue of reconciling family and work reflected different political power constellations. In Sweden, childcare policy was a feminist and Social Democratic success story. The Swedish political elite and society at large were volubly proud of their childcare system

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which supported the employment of mothers. In West Germany, proponents of a similar childcare system had largely been unsuccessful, but had learned to work towards the incremental expansion of childcare services by using a language that would not stir resistance from the dominant groups in society. While the early fieldwork experiences for this comparative study caused me feelings of discomfort (not understanding what was going on) and embarrassment (not seeing what was going on), they were very important for the project. My research became much richer and more interesting as I broadened the focus from gender equality issues to include the role of religion in childcare service development. These experiences also taught me a valuable lesson: not only that it is important to reflect on my own cultural assumptions when embarking on cross-cultural research, but how it actually works to be ‘reflective’, and that emotions have a place in the process of ‘cultural reflexivity’. Literature emphasising the importance for researchers to reflect on their perspectives and frames abounds. But what does it mean to be ‘reflexive’? A central problem of reflecting on one’s own cultural bearings is that deeply held beliefs tend to appear so ‘natural’ to us that we often do not even know we hold them. In fact it is usually only when our cultural understandings are challenged by different cultural frames that we realise exactly what we take for granted. In cross-cultural research this usually happens during, not before, the research process. Also, my experience suggests cultural reflexivity is not a purely intellectual endeavour but is also emotional. Being confronted with ‘ways of doing’ and ‘ways of saying’ that are unfamiliar to me when conducting research in foreign cultural settings triggers emotions: curiosity, astonishment and puzzlement, perhaps discomfort and frustration. These emotions are the expression of an important internal process taking place: the destabilisation of my own cultural frames and beliefs. Now I am open to new interpretations of what seemed matter-of-fact before, now I can develop greater cultural understanding. Rather than ignoring the emotions that certain incidents in cross-cultural research stir in me, I can use them as indicators for possible cross-cultural variations of meaning; they give me clues as to where to search deeper for explanations, and when to pause and reconsider my standpoint. Crosscultural research thus involves a process of cultural understanding that is both based on intellectual and emotional learning. Such a perspective on research implies greater personal engagement than the unemotive style of most academic literature, and a more fun and enriching experience than researchers tend to let on.

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Losing (my) autonomy under the ethical committee’s gaze Sarah Wilson This is the story of a very small ethnographic pilot study of children’s and parents’ experiences of transition to school and what happened to it and me when it was turned down by an ethics committee (a decision upheld on appeal). The pilot participants for the proposed research were to be my own child and friends who were about to start school, and their parents. All of the participants had known each other for several years through the children’s former nursery, and all the parents were enthusiastic about the proposed research and methods. The proposed project was not aimed primarily at publication but rather at identifying conceptual issues for incorporation into a larger application involving unknown participants. According to the Ethics Committee, however, the children could not provide informed consent; further, since research among ‘close associates’ raised too many difficult issues, neither could the adults consent to interview by a friend. As such, the participants were perceived by the Committee as primarily, if not exclusively, incompetent and vulnerable. In contrast, influenced by the sociology of childhood and personal knowledge, my research planning started from a concern to promote and protect the prospective participants’ different levels of autonomy. The ethical considerations I raised in the application included the following details. First, I had known all the children for at least two years. I might be described as a surrogate ‘auntie’ for most of them, or at least as a highly recognised presence at the nursery gate. The proposed methods were primarily ethnographic. I wanted to draw on ‘naturally occurring data’ as the children started school and their parents engaged in frequent discussions as to how to cope over the phone, at playdates, birthday parties, the playpark etc. My hope was that adopting such an approach would provide rich ethnographic data, while the children would be involved in a minimum of unfamiliar activities. Further, while the research would involve a few focused activities, I was primarily concerned to observe, noting the degree to which the children did or did not speak about school. Parents were to be asked for their consent to their own and their children’s participation; the children would also be asked for their consent or ‘assent’ and close attention paid to their body language for evidence that questions were unwelcome. Given the potential for the research process

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to shift our relationships in unexpected and unwelcome ways, I was also concerned that the parents had time to consider and discuss the implications of research participation. To this effect, I gave them a mock ‘information sheet’, providing information about confidentiality and privacy as well as my legal duties as a researcher, several weeks in advance of the proposed start date. What then did I learn from the committee’s construction of the children’s competence, of these close researcher-participant relationships and its suggestion that, in contrast, ethical approval might be given for a project involving participants not known to me and mediated through a school? How does this decision construct children? The committee made no mention of children’s autonomy, constructing the children involved as entirely vulnerable, incompetent and in need of its protection. Their alternative research proposal suggests an understanding that children would be more able to say ‘no’ to an interview with, or observation by, a stranger (likely introduced through an institution such as their school) than to an adult they know. Such a construction does not fit with my experience of children’s expert use of strategies of deflecting or ignoring parents’ questions when they do not wish to answer. Similar strategies would be considered rude if employed in relation to other adults, including teachers, however. This comparison has heightened my appreciation of the great difficulty of ensuring respect for children’s right not to participate in institutional settings such as schools. Practically, I have also concluded that childhood researchers should not assume that the new sociology of childhood or notions of children’s rights have been appreciated by our colleagues and should check that at least one committee member has experience of research with children. How does this decision construct friendship and parent-child relationships? In addition, no explicit consideration was paid in the decision to my and my friends’ autonomy as adults. Our closeness was constructed as tainted by concerns around reciprocity in relationships. My friends’ ability to say ‘no’ was seen as insuperably compromised and in need of the committee’s protection. Offended by this, they were also offended by the suggestion that they could not assess whether or not their children should be asked to take part in the study. All of the parents were in favour of their children taking part in research related to their own concerns, with a trusted friend, in their own houses (or hers) and with

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themselves present. In effect, the committee’s decision constructs the children as in need of its protection from their own parents. In discussions with the committee chairperson, these issues were approached in terms of power relations and ‘harm’, though the nature of that harm in a project focusing on what parents and children were inevitably talking about anyway, was not defined. Instead, it was emphasised that parents are the most powerful people in children’s lives and that a committee cannot assume benign intent on their part. As such, it seems that the construction of parent-child (or potentially friendship) relationships in ethics committee discussion can only take account of the possibilities in such relationships for harm. Love and trust in these relationships, and the desire to maintain these qualities, cannot be assumed or proven and therefore cannot be considered. Further, the risk of harm trumps any need to identify what that harm might be. A parent (even with enhanced disclosure) is therefore constructed as presenting more risk to a child than a stranger with a CRB check operating through a school or other institution with no incentive to invest in that relationship beyond the duration of the research. Ephemeral, bureaucratised, mediated trust is the only acceptable form. In addition to a feeling of unease at what may be insuperable bureaucratic barriers to a more holistic consideration of relationships, I have also started to wonder why research projects ask for parental consent to children’s participation. Is this only a sop to ‘outdated’ notions of parental authority which clears the way for those (professionals) who ‘really know’ children and can protect their interests? How does this decision construct me as a researcher, and what does it say about the ‘proper’ shape of research? The committee decision would seem to endorse research in the form of ‘one-off’ interviews, between researcher and participants with little or a professionalised relationship, preferably mediated by a further institution which can bring a further, professional level of scrutiny to bear. As such, this decision would seem to challenge ethnographic, auto/biographical, service user and other types of research which rely on reflexivity to mediate close relationships of differing types and duration between researchers and participants. It may be that an inevitable ‘yuk factor’ accompanies the idea of researching one’s own child, something which has troubled me. This experience has convinced me that ethical scrutiny should try to move beyond such reactions, however. I also hope that committee members have reflected on what their approaches to research might exclude

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from view, as well as considering whether focusing exclusively on the ‘protection’ of research participants might have the effect of undermining their autonomy.

Where is the care? Conceptualising and researching families’ responsibilities and work in a survey Linda McKie and Andrew Smith This account explores challenges encountered in developing a survey to identify and map policies and services relevant to families’ caring responsibilities. The processes associated with traversing the boundaries between family and work life may be termed family-work balance or family-friendly policies, yet often there is no sense of balance or a friendly feel to the practices associated with negotiating working and caring. Many family members who are also workers are reaching compromises to meet families’ responsibilities, while line managers, employers, trade unions and professional associations are also grappling with the tensions and opportunities of caring and working. The research team received funding to examine this topic using the concept of carescapes. Here we discuss how we took this concept and transferred the ideas in this into a questionnaire. So what are carescapes? First, care is a multi-faceted term that can combine feelings of concern and anxiety for others alongside the provision of practical labour and tasks that attend to a person’s needs. Our aim was to take care beyond the traditional associations with child, elder or sick care, and explore the ways in which emotions and practices of concern and anxiety – care – are evident inside the workplace, as well as in families. For example, we may support a colleague striving for promotion through positive words and a review of their application, or show concern and empathy to a colleague who has a terminally ill relative by offering emotional and practical support. In certain cases, care may involve the control of others, through for example reporting behaviours that may be bullying and using organisational policies to address this. These varied activities involve a range of people and groups, such as co-workers, managers, human resource departments, trade unions and professional associations. Furthermore, legislation dictates minimum levels of policy provision, much resulting from European Union and UK governmental directives and initiatives. Thus, ‘care’ is evident in the workplace, but it is not typically termed or

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recognised as such. The term ‘scapes’ draws attention to the notion of a ‘landscape’: whilst landscapes may seem static, they change with the weather, over the seasons, and in response to natural or manmade disasters. Combining ‘care’ with ‘scapes’ to form carescapes offers new analytical possibilities in exploring the dynamic nature of caring responsibilities in the context of the workplace. The aim of our survey was to map the care policies and services of 100 employing organisations across the private, public and third sectors, prior to interviewing a range of employees from ten organisations to understand the cultures and experiences of care in and around the workplace and families. We decided we would distribute the survey to people responsible for human resource policies and data, reasoning these workers might best comprehend our multi-faceted take on care and how we wished to explore the issues. Given the questionnaires were to be completed by senior staff with responsibilities for human resource issues, we were very conscious of the need to make our ideas and language accessible, both to maximise responses and to generate useful information. In order to inform the questionnaire design, we firstly conducted exploratory interviews with managers and directors. These illustrated that while the term ‘care’ is not part of the everyday language of the workplace, it is evident in policies, services, practices and relationships. Terms such as work-life balance, family-friendly policies and well-being are used to refer to workplace care issues, but are typically gendered and associated with young mothers with childcare responsibilities. Care thus has an opaque presence: it is evident in the workplace, but is not normally termed or recognised as such. This presented us with a dilemma – how could we begin to operationalise the concept of organisation carescapes when the term ‘care’ is not readily used in the workplace? How could we get the complex and yet omnipresent nature of care into a survey? What would this look like on paper? Armed with these questions, a flipchart and coloured pens, we then brought together our collective academic and occupational backgrounds and experiences to consider how care and families’ responsibilities might come into view in the workplace. A trans-disciplinary team of four academics, we drew upon our backgrounds in sociology, geography and business studies to debate issues, words, meanings and questions. We also reflected on our personal and organisational roles, such as mothers, family members, workers, managers, trustees and trade union representative. This mixture of academic and personal experiences generated a number of new questions and issues: how do perceptions of families’ caring responsibilities change as organisations develop over time? What

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policies, when and why? What were the driving forces for policies? What economic and moral concerns were evident – worker retention, commitment, motivation, or general well-being of self and family members? Who was involved in the drafting, implementation and review of policies? Are they monitored, updated, thrown out as legislation and workers’ needs change? These issues were discussed and debated over several faceto-face team meetings and regular conference calls. The number of policies, services and activities associated in one way or another with families’ caring responsibilities surprised us. We struck upon the idea of unpacking and grouping these under three headings. Equality and diversity included policies and services such as parental and adoption leave, equality legislation, and advice on care for dependents. Health and well-being included health and safety legislation, grievance procedures, time-off to care for dependents, and staff counselling. Under Responsibilities and rights we included policies such as holiday entitlement, training and development, trade union membership, redundancy, employer pension schemes and retirement. We piloted questions that mapped the number, development of and access to these policies with five private, public and third sector organisations. Many adjustments followed this piloting, including the focus of the questions, the clarity and flow of the survey, and the use of language to encourage organisations to participate. As the term care is rarely used in the context of the workplace, we titled the survey ‘The Policies and Practices of Work-related Well-being’. We now knew how carescapes might look on paper, in a series of questions. This questionnaire was subsequently circulated and resulted in completed questionnaires from 70 private, 21 public and 12 third sector organisations. The project has now been completed and, in writing the final report, it was clear how subsequent stages of the research gained from the time and effort we took to bring the exploratory ideas that underpin carescapes into a survey format in order to conduct empirical research into ‘care’ at work. The exploratory interviews were key to the process of recognising the breadth of the framework offered by carescapes and how this could be interpreted and underpin a survey. These interviews meant taking our ideas out of the world of the academic into that of people with multiple identities, for example as Human Resources director, employee, fellow worker, potential carer and family member. These discussions helped us think through the concept of organisation carescapes and assisted in the design and development of the questionnaire.

3 Engaging with Families and Relationships Kay Tisdall

This chapter addresses issues arising from engaging with participants in families and relationships research, with five accounts that illustrate engagement as an ongoing and fundamental research process. When undertaking fieldwork with people, researchers face the typically complicated negotiations of initiating, sustaining and leaving research relationships. There are practical issues – from going through various formal and informal ‘gatekeepers’ to access actual participants, to organising how and where to undertake fieldwork, to feeding back when participants have moved on with their lives. There are relationship issues – from engaging with busy gatekeepers when research is not their priority, to balancing roles within fieldwork, to ending (if indeed there is an end) the research interactions positively for both researcher and participants. And there are ethical issues, which frame these practical and relationship issues but also add others: for example, how to fulfil external expectations around informed consent and protection of ‘vulnerable’ participants, and internalised principles of respectful research. The accounts in this chapter focus on research conducted with children and young people;4 however the concerns raised highlight practical and ethical issues pertinent to research on families and relationships more broadly. Ethical regulation of social science research has grown

4 Following the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child is defined as a person under 18. It is recognised that many ‘young people’, below this age, do not want to be labelled as children.


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exponentially in the Minority World.5 Now almost any research project must gain approval from at least one ethics committee – but sometimes multiple ones, depending on research access strategies. Codes of Practice and ethical guidelines have proliferated, providing everincreasing detail on what researchers must do to protect potential research participants. The current vogue for direct research with children has brought to the fore numerous ethical issues. Researchers within childhood studies have paid extensive attention to this: as a consequence, childhood studies has the potential to make contributions to research ethics more generally. Leading proponents of this flourishing interdisciplinary area (e.g. Prout and James 1990; James et al 1998) have argued powerfully that children should be seen as social actors, with their own agency – active in the construction and determination of their own social lives, the lives of those around them, and the societies in which they live. This literature strongly critiques past research for treating children as passive subjects rather than active agents – as ‘human becomings’ rather than ‘human beings’ (Qvortrup 1994) – and unhelpfully focusing on a ‘normal’ childhood based on set child development stages. According to this critique, past research frequently had serious ethical and methodological flaws. By not recognising children had rights themselves, consent for research participation was through parents rather than children. No concern was given to children who might want to participate but whose parents refused on children’s behalf. Children might be participating in research without knowing what it entailed, what it was for and what would happen to the information collected. Methodologically, past studies might have asked adults to describe children’s experiences without considering that children (including very young children) may be well able to express their own views. Rather than presuming that a child is incompetent, the critique challenges researchers to consider how competent they and their methodologies are at gathering the desired information. Childhood studies thus radically challenged research practice and ethics (e.g. Alderson 1995; Alderson and Morrow 2004). For example,


The terminology of Majority World (for the ‘Third World’) and Minority World (for the ‘First World’) is used to acknowledge that the ‘majority’ of population, poverty, land mass and lifestyles are in the former, and thus to shift the balance of world views that frequently privilege ‘western’ and ‘northern’ populations and issues (Punch 2003).

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childhood studies has strongly argued against a front-ended, technocratic approach to ethics. Instead, it asks for a questioning, reflexive, and ongoing concern with ethical practice throughout all research stages. It has particular reflections on how to engage those who communicate through non-verbal means, who may not understand what research is, or who may have personal characteristics or structural impositions that make them more ‘vulnerable’ in a research context. Such reflections can be useful for research with other participants. These reflections also provide a strong testing ground for ethical practice generally; if practice positively addresses such issues, it is likely to be more inclusive and ethical for everyone. This chapter considers three testing questions of engaging with families and relationships, illuminated by the five research accounts: • Do certain access routes have particular ethical issues? • Do certain settings have particular ethical issues? • Do certain methods have particular ethical issues? The chapter concludes by critically examining current ethical regulation, for its implicit assumptions and consequential limitations.

A focus on access In the minority world, researchers are rarely allowed directly to contact children under the age of legal majority to ask if the children want to be involved in research. Instead, researchers may well seek to gain their research sample or population through some sort of organisational access – from official records held by the state or institutional support from those engaged directly or indirectly with children and/or their families. Such access can in itself require several layers of negotiation and approval, mirroring management and governance structures: for example, accessing families through Scottish schools would commonly involve gaining initial support from the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (not required but influential), followed by official approval from the education division within each local government authority, and then gaining support from the headteacher in each school. A further layer of negotiation is typically required for children under the age of legal majority – consent from one or both of their parents. For some ethics committees or organisations in the UK, such parental consent is an absolute requirement: without parental consent, the child will not be allowed to participate. In fact, this is a grey area in UK law,

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frequently misunderstood. Neither UK legislation nor reported case law requires parental consent to be given for social research – simply because this has never been addressed. The law (different for Scotland than elsewhere in the UK) does allow children who are considered to have sufficient capacity to consent to medical or dental treatment and/or to participate in civil processes (see Masson 2004). There are thus strong grounds for deciding that many children can legally consent to social research, in their own right. Nevertheless, whether or not it is legally required, practically many ethics committees insist on a signed consent form from a parent before a researcher can approach a child to participate. These layers are aptly described by Dingwall (1980) as a ‘hierarchy of consent’. If senior personnel agreed to participate, Dingwall doubts that their subordinates would feel able to withhold consent. Jenny Spratt’s contribution [p. 58] illuminates ethical and methodological tensions of such a hierarchy of consent, when discussing the practicalities of being a ‘guest in the school’, her presence being ‘conditional on the school’s good opinion of you’. As she describes, she wanted to present herself as independent of the school, while utilising the school’s resources to contact parents and children. This, however, may turn off certain teachers and families – ‘subordinates’ may be less compliant than Dingwall expects – and certainly excludes those who are already excluded from the organisation informally or formally. It can lead to further sample biases, as different selection methods can creep into gatekeeper’s access routes; as Spratt experienced, this can result from the most helpful of intentions from those supporting access, like omitting children that might misbehave. Such problems show the ‘flip side’ of Dingwall’s hierarchy of consent: a ‘hierarchy of refusal’ (Tisdall 2003). Each layer provides another point where refusal can prevent a child ultimately participating. Certain solutions have been offered, that focus on children’s agency (see Alderson and Morrow 2004; Thomas et al 1999; Tisdall et al 2009). Children, whether they would be considered to have legal capacity or not, should be able to consent on their own behalf. If going through schools or other organisations populated by children, the research can first be presented to the children, who then take information and consent forms home to their parents. ‘Opt out’ consent might be used for parents, which requires them actively to disagree that a child be involved, rather than ‘opt in’. Yet such a legalistic rights approach does not take account fully the tensions felt by Hill [p. 65] and Spratt. Louise Hill’s account describes a

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visit to Claire’s father to discuss Claire’s potential participation in the project. Hill found this visit extremely uncomfortable as the father discussed personal issues that informed Hill about Claire’s life. Yet Hill was not including Claire’s father in her study in his own right – he was a layer in the hierarchy of consent/refusal – nor had Claire already decided to participate. Hill writes of the ‘ambiguity of our relationship’, unsure whether she should leave the room or whether her listening was key to establishing trust with the father – but where did that leave Claire, who did not know Hill has been told such details about her family life? Such tensions have also been found by other family researchers, as demonstrated in accounts by Song (1998) on recruiting adult siblings through each other, Edwards and colleagues (1999) on recruiting fathers through female partners, and Lewis (2009) on family dynamics when recruiting parents and children to participate in a research project. Spratt ends her account by recognising the need to allocate considerable preparation time with school staff, so they understand the research purposes and so that ‘they trust us to work in our chosen manner within their school’. Relationship-building, and trust in particular, are mentioned by both Hill and Spratt as essential aspects of engaging participants, whether through institutions or parents. As elaborated elsewhere (see Bancroft, Chapter 4), this requires time, emotional as well as practical work, and may create ambiguity and awkwardness for the researcher.

A focus on settings This section considers the impact of research ‘spaces’ on research data and ethics. Human geographers have developed concepts of space, that recognise that space is not a static ‘thing’ but rather something produced and reproduced through everyday practices (e.g. Lefebvre 1991). Different social relations will create different social spaces, even in the same physical space. Foucault’s work contributes the idea of spatial practices creating people as individuals. This point, for example, is taken up by Jenks for children: People are controlled in relation to the different spaces they inhabit; discipline works through the division and subdivision of action into spatial units. Think of children having a particular seat at a dinner table or in the car, being sent to their room, playing outside, going to school, attending assemblies, working in classes or gymnasia and,

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of course, being seated at desks, in rows in groups or whatever (1996: 76). Such ideas provide useful bases to examine the social spaces of research (Nilsen and Rogers 2005). For example, there has been attention to the (typically negative) impacts of undertaking research through and within schools. Edwards and colleagues (1999) found their child participants, who had participated while in school, had varied perceptions of the research – from it being an educational activity, to being empowering, to being intrusive. The researchers reflect that the initial accessing through schools positioned the research as another form of schoolwork and subject to hierarchy and coercion. Here, fuelled by her desire to work ‘collaboratively and inclusively with rather than on children and families’, Spratt’s account suggests going beyond schools, to recruit children through youth clubs, family and community centres. However, non-school settings can have similar problems, when there are elements of coercion and surveillance, as Kate Philip’s account [p. 61] shows. In her settings of a befriending project, a housing project and an alternative education project, she still found it difficult to balance assisting the project, as a means to reciprocate staff’s research assistance, and keeping perceived distances in order to work well with the young people. Such difficulties became very apparent when conflicts arose between staff and young people, and both groups sought her support. Relationships were at stake, with no easy resolution, and a direct appeal made to the researcher to take an active rather than observing role. Alice MacLean [p. 56] writes of another common setting for research with children, and more broadly with families: the family home. The fieldwork methodology in this project was based on individual and private interviews; however, family homes were not always able to provide these ‘private’ spaces, for various reasons including social relations, spatial usage, and physical layout. She gives the example of the house’s main public room being a corridor to other parts, and where the family kept their computer. This account shows the social relations that create the ‘social space’ and how the ‘space’ is creating social relations. MacLean writes of compromising her ideal notions of research in order to fit around families’ needs and circumstances. At once, this example demonstrates practical issues for researchers, of particular settings, as well as ethical ones of maintaining confidentiality (see Bushin 2007, for similar experiences).

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While Maclean’s desire was for an individual and ‘private’ interview, what families offered was ‘the main public room’. Children’s research now frequently needs to tread a careful line due to child protection concerns: while privacy ticks the box for confidentiality and presumably greater openness, this is countered by a concern of too much privacy and the potential for (allegations of) child abuse (see Punch 2007 for discussion). It may well be that the most ‘private’ place in the house was a bedroom but no researcher in the UK would be advised to go alone to a child’s bedroom with the child, and any ethics committee would likely prohibit it. The main public room might have been a ‘private’ space if, temporarily, other family members had not occupied or travelled through it, or indeed had gone out of the family home altogether (for discussion of time-space binds, see Nilsen and Rodgers 2005). The social relations of research, in combination with the social relations of that family, made and remade that social space, creating a particular context for that research setting that was not inevitable but created and maintained.

A focus on methods How you choose to do your research – what methods you use – will inevitably raise particular ethical questions. In Maclean’s account, she highlights the need to ensure participants were willing to be interviewed again, imperative for the longitudinal design of Timescapes and similar projects. As Philip’s account highlights, ethnography typically requires the building and sustaining of relationships between researchers and a number of different people over time. She writes of the dilemmas caused when the researchers became the most continuous professional person in the young participants’ lives. A great deal of families and relationships research asks research participants to reveal thoughts and experiences about themselves and others. There is an aspect of intimate relationships (see Morgan, Chapter 2 and Bancroft, Chapter 4) in many researcher-participant relationships, yet most researchers leave their ethnographic setting. How does a researcher manage a ‘professional friendship’ (to use Philip’s phrase)? How does a researcher positively end such friendships, when friendships more commonly are open-ended and without a final end in mind? Sarah Nelson’s contribution [p. 67] starkly illustrates how a particular methodology – here a self-report questionnaire – raises particular ethical issues. Large-scale quantitative studies have been considered appropriate

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for researching particular behaviours, using self-report questionnaires to maximise responses and accurate information on sensitive issues. This has led to offering absolute confidentiality to respondents (e.g. see Testa and Coleman 2006). The difficulty then arises because the relationship between participant and researcher is only along a narrow band of confidential, and perhaps anonymous, information. Should a child’s response to the questionnaire raise issues about the child’s well-being, the researcher’s promise of confidentiality limits the ability to respond. Nelson’s account includes suggestions of ways to establish other types of relations, like including a tick box for respondents to request help. The anonymous self-report questionnaire can be seen as on the opposite end of the relationships continuum from an ethnographic approach: the first is a very limited relationship between participant and researcher, causing problems when issues are raised outwith its parameters; the second is a multi-faceted, more holistic relationship, which causes dilemmas because of its intimacy and intensity.

Concluding thoughts: Reflecting on ethics In a book about researching relationships, it is appropriate to consider how thinking about relationships challenges certain current ethical practices and assumptions. The intense surveillance of research plans by ethical regulation has sought to ensure that the research relationships are ethical. But there is a tendency towards a legalistic, formal approach and a contractual one at that. Take the example of informed consent. This is highlighted as vitally important across ethical guidelines, is something that is written about extensively within research ethics, and can dominate ethical thinking and discussions. Informed consent requires the researcher to provide the necessary information, in a way the potential participant can understand, so that the participant can make an informed decision about whether to participate or not. There will be specified information required (e.g. on what the research is for, on what will happen to the data, on anonymity), by ethical guidance and committees, considered essential for the participant to base her decision. A participant is not to be coerced into participating. If the participant were willing, she is then typically asked to consent formally: in the UK, at least, this is most frequently by signing a form. Sometimes verbal consent is the method used and this might be audio-recorded. While the

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ethics around research consent may have come from medical research (Alderson 1995), the construction has become a legalistic one. As outlined above, discussions around children’s consent to research are frequently around their own capacity or competency to consent, and parental responsibilities and rights (e.g. see Masson 2004; Alderson and Morrow 2004). These are concepts contained within UK legislation and, indeed, legal capacity is a necessity to enter into a contract. If someone were not considered capable (i.e. the child), then someone else must have responsibility/right to act as a legal representative (i.e. the parent). Only then would the contract be legal. In some instances legal capacity is a necessary but not sufficient condition. For example, the basic principles of Scottish contract law (see MacQueen and Thomson 2007) establish that there must be a ‘meeting of the minds’. Reported case law extensively debates whether parties on both sides have agreed to the essential terms: misunderstandings, misrepresentation, coercion or ‘undue influence’, would render the contract void (as if it never was) or at least voidable (it stops). Writing and signatures are strongly entwined with the legality of contracts; if there, then they are strongly persuasive that a contract has been made. Law is a strong framework in the UK and many other countries in the Minority World, and can be a resource for the less powerful. But it is a limiting discourse (see King 1997) and a contractual, legalistic relationship does not necessarily capture the realities of participant-researcher relationships nor the embeddedness of research participants in their own relationships. This is sharply evident in the accounts discussed below and the ethical, practical and methodological problems raised. The actual experiences of research show that research participants’ consent, for example, may be the bottom of a hierarchy of consent and refusal, a complexity of relationships which a researcher needs to negotiate and manage. While family members may agree to individual interviews, a researcher may in fact – like MacLean – have to adapt in practice to the realities of a family home and its functioning as a social space. The ethical concerns raised by Hill and Nelson are not addressed by the narrowness of a contractual approach. In Hill it is unclear who the parties would be to the contract – is the father acting as the child’s legal representative? Or is Claire’s consent to be privileged? – and the standing of confidentiality. The ‘essential term’ of confidentiality, for large-scale self-report questionnaire studies, causes

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Nelson concerns where this goes against children’s well-being and safety. Focusing on children as social actors has led to certain trends in childhood studies research. The barriers raised by gatekeepers, from professionals to parents, are frequently seen as unhelpful hurdles on the way to gaining the key consent – that of the potential child participants. Yet, if those in the child’s network of relationships were not prepared for the child’s participation, they might be less able to support the child should the research cause some distress. In most research, what a child says will comment on others in that child’s social worlds; respecting and recognising this can entail at least providing key people with information about what the research intends to do. Researchers do not always reflect on the barriers they put up to, say, media inquiries wanting to talk directly to research participants, for fears of harmful or unethical or even just unhelpful contact (see Tisdall 2005). Researchers can be gatekeepers too. The focus on children, and their consent, comes from a worthwhile agenda to respect children, to recognise their rights as social actors themselves. Childhood studies often aligns this with claims that children are agents, which neatly corresponds with assumptions within contract law about autonomy, individuality and legal capacity. Only recently has childhood studies been challenged for its assumptions of a static, individualistic agency which ignores the fluidity of identity and the changing influences of diverse relationships with people and things (see Prout 2005; Gallacher and Gallagher 2008; Tisdall 2011). The lens of relationships allows us to examine current ethical practice, to question its assumptions and explore any opportunities. If there were limits to the contractual approach, what are the alternatives? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such alternatives? If we recognise families as containing individual members in social relations with each other, how might that create a different approach to involving family members into research and how we carry it out? Yet how do we not lose a focus on those traditionally marginalised, such as children? If we think about involvement in research – whether as a researcher or a participant – as a relationship that is not solely a contractual one, this may well assist us in the very real difficulties we experience in entering, sustaining and leaving intense research involvements or difficulties in hearing confidential or sensitive stories.

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Unfamiliar places and other people’s spaces: Reflections on the practical challenges of researching families in their homes Alice MacLean In 2007 I began working as a research fellow on the ‘Work and Family Lives’ project, a qualitative longitudinal study of how families negotiate their work and family lives over time. This was my first experience of conducting research in participants’ homes and involved going to localities which I had never been to before. I found the combination of these unknowns daunting and have since learnt how much time and energy can be consumed by the most practical aspects of researching families in their homes. Getting there Before going ‘into the field’, the practicalities of getting there played on my mind. Many of the families we recruited lived in areas outwith easy reach of the university by public transport. It soon became clear that the quickest and safest way to access their homes would be by driving – a skill I had quite happily let fall by the wayside in the five years since I had passed my driving test. But once a few refresher driving lessons had addressed my fear of motorways, I then faced the challenge of overcoming my unfamiliarity with the research location in order to find my way to families’ houses. It was not only the prospect of getting hopelessly lost on rainy dark evenings – we began recruiting in October – that filled me with dread, but I hated the idea of being late for busy families who were choosing to give up their time to participate in our research. I wanted parents to see me as professional and reliable, and believed that turning up late and flustered would not give the desired impression. To reduce these worries, I spent a Sunday afternoon driving around the area in which we were concentrating our recruitment efforts. My sister sat in the passenger seat with the map and, despite some wrong turns and detours, this really helped me get to know the area. As more families volunteered to take part, I studied online inter-active maps to plan my routes and estimate how long journeys should take. While, over time, my knowledge of the research locations improved, worries about being late remained. Because of this, I always left more time than I needed for journeys, even if this meant arriving early and sitting in the car until it was time to knock on the door.

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Being there Over the course of the ‘Work and Family Lives’ project, I was ever conscious that being allowed into participants’ homes is a privilege, yet I did not always find being there, and conducting interviews in that context, an easy experience. Although researchers often discuss the ambiguity of their roles as visitors in participants’ homes, the more practical issues faced routinely in these circumstances are rarely included in published research. In my experience, however, it was sometimes the simplest practical requests, such as asking for a socket to plug my recorder in to, that could lead to awkward moments, like a pile of toys toppling or the contents of an overloaded cupboard spilling out, which left me feeling like a nuisance that these families could do without. Indeed, during interviews there were often so many practical issues playing on my mind that it was extremely difficult to take in and probe responses to questions like ‘Can you tell me what being a mum is like for you?’, while in my head any number of the following questions were also nagging at me: ‘Did I park the car okay? Does she want to go and see what the children are crying about? Did the cat stand on the stop button? What questions should I skip so that we finish in time for her leaving for work?’ These experiences taught me not to underestimate the impact of practical issues, which will take different forms in different contexts, on the specific nature of the data which are generated. Another challenge was learning to deal with the way that practicalities could dictate the research context. For example, despite explaining to families that I would like to interview them individually and in private, in some cases the layout of the home meant this was not possible. The Clark family, for instance, lived in a small house where the main public room acted as a corridor to other parts and was where they kept their computer. This meant that interviews with this family were punctuated by people walking through the room and during the whole of Maggie’s last interview her adult son sat at the computer. Although I felt distracted by this and knew it was affecting the way I was probing, never mind my concerns about how it was affecting her responses, I did not feel it was my place to suggest that her son leave the room. Going back The Clark family example shows how as a visitor in participants’ homes I was very aware of there being limits to the demands I could make. I often had little choice but to fit around the families’ practical circumstances and needs, even if this meant compromising my

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ideal notions of how the research should be conducted. This sense of having to fit in was heightened by the qualitative longitudinal design of the project and the fact that its continuation depended heavily on successful visits to families’ homes, in order to be allowed back. Although having to make compromises was sometimes frustrating, I believe that demonstrating an understanding of the structures and constraints which affect families, be they parents’ work schedules or children’s needs and wants, was extremely important in this project. Indeed, I feel that showing appreciation for participation through a willingness to work flexibly and to fit the research around the many demands in the parents’ and children’s lives, was key in building strong research relationships. Plus, among the advantages of the longitudinal design, going back to families meant that on repeat visits I at least had more idea of where I was going and what waited for me there.

Researching children and families in schools Jenny Spratt For researchers who wish to work with children and their families, the school would seem to be the obvious site for making contact, and has been used as such by many researchers, myself and my colleagues included. In terms of convenience the school offers a great deal. It holds records of nearly all children in the area, providing an excellent database from which to sample. For large-scale surveys, a co-operative school can achieve a very high return on questionnaires delivered to children during lessons. It can facilitate contact with families and, if the head teacher is willing, can provide a location to conduct interviews or focus groups. Particularly if the research is focusing on some aspect of school or schooling, there seems to be every reason to approach children and families through this route. However, in practice, the school may not offer the near-universal access to local children that might be expected. Indeed, drawing your sample from a school may act as a barrier to reaching some groups of young people. By definition, any school-based research omits those children and young people who are not in school, including those who are excluded, educated elsewhere (for example some children with disabilities or behavioural difficulties), and children who are absent on the days research is taking place. Within the school, those who are educated in the ‘learning support base’ may be overlooked.

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By choosing to draw your sample from a school you may therefore inadvertently further exclude those groups who are already marginalised. My experience conducting research in schools also highlights various ethical and methodological pitfalls potentially involved in working in schools. First, as a researcher you are a guest in the school. You will only gain access to the school if you gain the head teacher’s approval for what you are planning to do. Your continued presence in school is conditional on the school’s good opinion of you, which will have some impact on the way you choose to behave and in particular how your project is developed. However, if your interest is in the children and the families within the school community, it is very important that you present yourself to them as independent of the school. There is thus a paradox in selling yourself to parents and children as independent when using the machinery of the school to make contact, for example letters of introduction to parents which are taken home by the children alongside other communications from the school. By inviting parents to meet you in school they are likely to infer that you are in some way connected with the school, and might reasonably expect you to hold similar views and values as the school. Associating yourself with a school is thus not necessarily the best way to ensure that you engage with a broad range of families. For those parents whose experience of dealing with the school is negative, an invitation to come into school to meet a researcher is unlikely to hold much appeal. I have found that parents’ focus groups held in schools tend to be over populated with members of the school board or the PTA i.e. parents who already engage well with the school and hold similar perspectives to the staff. Frequently these conversations turn to a process of ‘othering’ those parents who never attend meetings at school, construing them as ‘uninterested’. Equally, those children and young people who are disenchanted with schooling are unlikely to respond positively to an invitation to take part in a research project that approaches them through the school. Yet, to a researcher, the views of those who are marginalised in school are of great importance. Conducting a research project in school is further complicated by the involvement of the school staff. Inevitably, as a researcher you will be put in contact with a ‘liaison’ person (another gatekeeper) who takes responsibility for communicating with you, and supporting the practical organisation such as identifying suitable dates and times, organising rooms and acting as a conduit in passing communications

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to participants. I have found such people in schools to be in some ways invaluable, and usually very keen to be helpful, within their understanding of what ‘helpful’ might mean. Unfortunately, school staff have little understanding of research processes and some of the ‘help’ that is offered can serve to undermine rather than enhance data acquisition. Schools are usually very keen that you achieve the group size that you intended, and that these children and/or parents are ready and available on the day(s) that you are visiting. There is possibly a pragmatic interest in making sure you get your work done and get out of their hair! We have found that where response rates have been low, or where schools have simply forgotten to distribute our invitations in advance, staff have diverted from our sampling procedure and resorted to hand selecting and/or coercion (and not always told us). More than once we have discovered during an interview that the head teacher spent the day before our visit phoning the parents (s)he knew were likely to attend, or had made last minute approaches to pupils who were likely to return the consent form in a timely manner. Furthermore, it has been known for schools to simply select pupils who, in their view, would be most useful to us, omitting the children who may, they feel, misbehave. Such actions are taken out of good intentions, but can have a subversive effect in terms of whose voices are heard. For example, in one study we asked a school to help us set up a focus group to gauge parental responses to a health-related issue. The school chose not to distribute the 120 letters of invitation we had printed, but instead invited five members of the school board to meet us (on the assumption that the other parents would not respond anyway). One of the five school board members was a GP who dominated the conversation with professional views, to which all other members of the groups willingly concurred. At the end of the meeting we were none the wiser in respect of the lay person’s parental view on the subject. These misunderstandings between the researcher and school are, in part, linked to different conceptions of rights. As a researcher I would view all those who fall within the categories of the sampling frame to have an equal right to participate in the research, or to choose not to do so. However, schools are more accustomed to controlling the actions of children (and to some extent parents), and therefore see little problem with barring some from taking part whilst encouraging others to do so. Whereas the researcher would choose to put extra effort into trying to engage with the reluctant

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participant, the school might follow the path of least resistance and recruit those who were known to be compliant. In conclusion, I would suggest that as researchers we need to think carefully about how we conduct ourselves in schools so we are working collaboratively and inclusively with rather than on children and families. We should construct our relationships with schools judiciously, in ways that safeguard our own methodological and ethical principles. In particular we should allocate a good deal of time in any project in preparing the ground by working constructively with the school staff so that they understand the purposes of what we are trying to achieve, and so that they trust us to work in our chosen manner within their school. As an alternative or possible supplement to school-based research, opportunities offered by settings outside of schools such as youth clubs, family centres and community centres should also be considered.

Hanging about and hanging in there: Dilemmas in managing research relationships with young people Kate Philip This account focuses on the ethics of forming inevitably transitory research relationships with vulnerable participants. How can we genuinely involve participants without creating dependency, reinforcing ‘otherness’ or setting people up? How do we balance tensions between participants ‘trying to please’ and helping them to ‘find a voice’? These questions are important not only for researchers but also for policy makers and practitioners designing support services for young people that follow them through the often challenging situations in which they find themselves. This account draws on a two year study of youth mentoring carried out by researchers in the Rowan Group and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The study took place in a policy context in which vulnerable young people had become the focus of a range of government initiatives. The introduction of youth mentoring was widespread but evidence of success was at best mixed, a dearth of independent analysis was evident and the concept held a range of different meanings. We set out to examine how vulnerable young people who were involved in mentoring processes understood and interpreted these relationships. The study was conducted in three locales: a befriending project, a housing

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project with support staff and an alternative education project. All participants had experienced relationship problems with families and peers, some were involved with the criminal justice system, some had experienced homelessness and most had difficulties with mainstream schooling. Our research design was based on the assumption that these young people were active participants capable of assessing the role of supportive relationships in their lives. We used a mix of qualitative methods including observation, in-depth interviews and group discussions with games and quizzes designed by the team to encourage participation. Finding out how young people interpreted supportive relationships in their lives was an important element of the research. In order to answer this, we set out to build rapport with participants and to create a climate in which they felt confident discussing their relationships. It was evident from an early stage that many participants had experienced a series of professionals and other adults moving in and out of their lives in ways over which they had little control. This raised ethical questions about how research processes and practices may inadvertently reinforce negative experiences of relationships. From the outset we were aware of the tensions between allowing young people to ‘tell their story’ in a context where some at least appeared unused to having their opinions about relationships taken seriously. We wanted to avoid interrogative approaches but did seek to tap into the private thinking of participants and go beyond stock responses that might reflect their perceptions of what the research sought. For these reasons an ethnographic approach was appropriate. Establishing rapport and sustaining this over the duration of the study was central to the process of embedding the research in the dayto-day activities of the projects. The population we were researching was in constant transition, moving between different placements, entering, leaving and sometimes returning to the projects, and moving through education, employment and training settings. Some experienced parenthood in the course of the study and all went through further changes in relationships. While this produced rich data, it also presented problems about keeping up with participants over time. We adopted a variety of strategies to overcome this such as providing stocks of postcards and stamps, exchanging mobile telephone numbers and providing updates on progress of the study. We also recognised that some young people might wish to participate in one

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phase but not to continue, and attempted to work within this limitation. These challenges raised ethical issues around sustaining a research relationship in contexts where other relationships had ended or became more or less significant over the life of the study. For some young participants, we became the people who followed them through this period in their lives, by default becoming a ‘consistent presence’. How best could we become familiar figures without ‘overstaying our welcome’, getting in the way of everyday activities, or developing ‘professional friendships’? This dilemma became very real in a context of high staff turnover, not just in the projects but also with related professionals such as social workers, not to mention social networks. It became clear that participants felt that they were frequently subject to interrogation by professionals about areas of their lives often regarded as private. Many complained that they had to repeatedly recount their story as different professionals entered their lives, only to leave again. Some talked about not being informed that their social worker had moved on, with their first knowledge of this being when a new worker took on their case. As researchers, we too ‘parachuted’ in and out of their lives asking ‘nosy questions’. Our strategy was to be as honest as possible about the timescale and scope of the relationship, and to be reflexive in our approach by inviting questions about the study. Paying participants as informants also recognised the time and thought they gave to the project, making the relationship more collaborative. Participants often discussed their involvement in terms of an altruistic desire that their experience might help other young people to be better prepared for dealing with the difficulties that they had encountered. In this respect, we were keen to see the development of joint ownership of the study. Questions remained however in relation to the relative power and influence of other partners such as staff members. Our relationships with staff were problematic at times, and our ‘awkward questions’ often reflected differing assumptions about the capacity of young people to reflect on and analyse their relationships. As researchers we were guests in these projects but who were the hosts – the young people or staff? At a pragmatic level, staff played a major role in facilitating the study: they enabled continued access, helped to track down ‘missing’ young people, provided space and time for meeting up, included us in meetings and gatherings. We could reciprocate by offering ‘an extra pair of hands’, transporting young

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people on occasion, contributing food or working with groups on a one-off basis. However, sustaining a researcher role and resisting compromising this through becoming too immersed in the practices and routines of the projects required attention. In some cases when conflicts between staff and young people developed, it was clear that hanging about and getting to know young people in a context where they were under surveillance brought particular ethical dilemmas. For example, prior to the main fieldwork, the housing project experienced a major problem with a group of tenants which resulted in the house being ‘trashed’ and charges being brought, resulting in eviction and jail terms. Some staff acted as witnesses, and the incident threatened the continuation of the project, leaving staff feeling threatened and anxious not only about relationships within the house but with neighbours on the estate and funding bodies. Some months later, two young women raised several issues with the researcher about their rights as residents, and at the weekly house meeting, organised around a communal meal and which the researcher often sat in on, proposed setting up a tenants’ group. Prior to this meeting, some staff expressed critical comments about the idea, feeling this could be ‘troublemaking’ and seeking support from the researcher. To a researcher, this was rich data, demonstrating the tensions between staff and young people, and illustrating how staff had to balance their roles in managing the project with encouraging the young people to develop their own confidence and skills through support and mentoring. The initiative taken by the young women was a clear sign of their developing confidence and skills, which could be attributed to the mentoring support from staff. Nevertheless, staff were more comfortable when young people were compliant and clearly resented these attempts to amend house rules and norms, interpreting these as threatening and challenging to their authority. For the researcher, the dilemma arose in wanting to recognise the growing confidence of the young women without compromising relationships with staff who would play a key role in ensuring continued access. This account raises a number of questions about how relationships within a research context are developed, managed and sustained. It is clear that the sometimes contradictory roles of staff have implications for research in this field. Issues of power and control which often remain hidden in research papers may hold valuable insights into how young people themselves interpret and interact with services designed to support them with building relationships.

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Dad said ‘she won’t talk’ … but he does: Messy realities of negotiating access to children through parental gatekeepers Louise Hill Understanding children and young people’s own experiences of living in a family where a parent or carer has an alcohol problem was a central aim of my doctoral research study. The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as a collaborative award with Barnardo’s childcare organisation. From the start, I was keen to involve children and young people who had experience of parental alcohol problems to develop a participatory research design. One of the practitioners at a Barnardo’s family alcohol service, Barbara, had kindly offered to introduce me to the parents of four potential participants and had already spent time with them discussing their thoughts, and in some cases anxieties, about the research. Understandably, talking to a stranger about alcohol, which is often a ‘family secret’, was anticipated to be potentially difficult for parents and children. Twelve-year-old Claire had previously been part of a small activitybased group at the Barnardo’s service, and so I arranged to meet her dad, Martin, to talk about inviting Claire to join a new ‘Good Ideas’ research group. Barbara told me that Martin was ‘not too friendly on the phone’ but he had agreed to meet me. Barbara anticipated that this would be a difficult discussion. She had known Claire for a few years and thought that she would like to be part of the group, and emphasised that I really needed Dad’s genuine approval of the research (rather than simply signing a consent form) for Claire to be given an opportunity to choose to participate. From my perspective, negotiating Claire’s informed consent was of primary importance, but I needed Martin to be positive or at least ambivalent towards the research for Claire then to be able to participate in the group. The house was on a residential street in a small Scottish town. Barbara rang the doorbell and there was no answer. Barbara knocked. Martin opened the door and invited us in. Martin and Claire were living with his sister. Barbara introduced me, and he smiled and said hello. Barbara apologised for being a few minutes late and Martin replied, ‘no problem, it means you’ll be here shorter’. We were invited into the lounge to be seated. Without introductions, he announced, ‘She said straight away “I’m not talking”. She’s not doing it. She’s made up her mind.’ His demeanour was quite matter of fact, almost challenging. Barbara asked if I could explain the research and he

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agreed. As I talked, he told me he had already read the information leaflet I had sent. At this stage, it seemed unlikely that Martin would be encouraging to Claire about the study. I expected that we would be asked to leave the house but to my surprise, he then started talking. Martin talked at length about his current family situation and his evident distress at Claire’s mum’s alcohol problem. He shared his frustration at a lack of support for men affected by women’s alcohol use. He talked about his wife’s use of treatment services and his anger at an alcohol counsellor for trivialising the impact of ‘binge drinking’. He asked me for my opinion, ‘do you think that was right?’ I felt uncomfortable in responding, yet I tried to empathise with his situation. The story then became highly personal; he shared that there had been domestic abuse. Martin talked about his current financial situation and the impact on his and Claire’s lives. He discussed his worries about Claire and asks whether or not she should be able to go to a local disco. The narrative flowed and flowed. I remained sitting, nodding, smiling and offering small comments. Yet I felt a growing sense of unease about the level of knowledge I now had about this family (of course, from only one perspective), without even knowing if Claire would like to participate in the study. Realising the lateness of the hour and given the next arranged visit to another parent, I began to thank Martin for his time and gave him the information pack for Claire. In returning to the topic of the study, Martin questioned the value of a university education and suggested that, as I am ‘only a young lassie’, I should go and talk to people to understand the world. This gave me the opportunity to explain that this is what I wanted to do as a qualitative researcher. As he showed us to the door, he said ‘I’ll think about it’, which certainly seemed a lot more positive than our welcome! In the car as we drove away, Barbara said ‘I’ve not given up yet! That was difficult – it took an hour just to get him considering it’. The following week, it appeared that our meeting was successful as Claire responded saying that she would like to be part of the ‘Good Ideas’ research group and subsequently attended. Martin had talked in great personal detail for almost an hour and I certainly experienced it as one of my most intense and emotionally exhausting fieldwork experiences. I think this was partly due to the ambiguity in our relationship. I didn’t need to interview Martin; I simply wanted him to share information about the research with his daughter. The rich personal narrative shared by Martin partly informed my understanding of Claire’s life. Yet, as I listened I felt ethically perplexed: did

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Martin need to share all of these details to feel able to trust me? Did he simply need to talk, and if so, was it appropriate to talk to me? Should I have left the room for him to talk to Barbara alone? How would Claire feel if she knew all of these details about her family life were shared? This fieldwork account reflects the unequal power relations and subsequent ethical quandaries experienced in accessing children via parents. Developing trust and rapport with gatekeepers (such as parents) may be central to accessing children; however, we should recognise that during this process, researchers can easily be privy to considerable unsolicited knowledge prior to a participant’s consent. Attempting to understand children’s experiences of their family lives is undoubtedly affected by knowledge about their lives acquired through the access process. The challenge is in ensuring that children’s own accounts are not undermined by those of others.

See no evil, hear no evil: Do children in distress take second place? Sarah Nelson In social research with children, can promises of confidentiality be squared with child protection? Does collecting important data about young people en masse have to mean overlooking individuals’ acute needs, or should attention to those needs become ethical requirements for all research studies with children? These worrying questions were raised by two prestigious projects in Scotland – supported by Government and major funders. The studies explored youth crime, anti-social behaviour, substance use, teenage pregnancy and truancy through questionnaires to thousands of schoolchildren aged 11 to 18. The laudable aims of these projects were to understand more about pathways into such behaviour and links with family background, and to help prevent it in future. However funders, education departments, child protection officials and head teachers let researchers launch large-scale surveys without safeguards for young people at risk or in distress. Confidentiality was key for both projects, with no-one but the researchers looking at the responses, in order that young people could reveal honestly their involvement in crimes, drug dealing etc. The projects sought important factual data about aggregate patterns of

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behaviour among today’s teenagers, not their individual needs. The ethical problem arose because such surveys incidentally built detailed profiles of a very troubled minority. Thus no questionnaire responses, however worrying, triggered intervention with children, although some indicated crimes and illegal activity committed against children. Some ticked boxes that they had no friends; felt hopeless about the future; made themselves sick after eating; cut, stabbed or burned themselves; took an overdose or tried to end their lives. Some said a sibling or adult they knew hurt them with a weapon; that, as young children, they were heavy drug users; or that (asked after age 16) their first experience of sexual intercourse was as young as eight. In one survey, pupils were asked if their parents tried to hurt each other or the children at home. In a single neighbourhood, 100 pupils answered yes to one or other of these questions. Such replies are disturbing and suggestive, and distressing if they met no response, especially since troubled children will often write (e.g. to agony aunts) in the confused hope that despite ‘confidentiality’, someone will do something. A second key point is that ethical negotiations between researchers and child protection officials produced unsatisfactory outcomes for both sides. Many local authorities insist information about child abuse must always be reported, and the children identified. So, to preserve confidentiality and the accuracy of self-reported offending, the research team agreed that surveys would not ask direct questions about physical or sexual abuse, nor about sexual activity (until respondents were 16 and free from compulsory reporting). One major problem is that since abuse, neglect and maltreatment are significant contributors to youth offending, the research is likely to have missed vital data. Another is that omitting direct questions does not prevent disturbing information emerging. Nor does it mean participants are not suffering ill-treatment: merely that it remains undetected. Any experienced child protection worker could have detected responses where speedy offers of help were merited. Child protection officials’ strict reporting policy did not protect children but sidestepped this, leaving disturbing information collected about certain children in limbo and beyond the access of these officials. Any research project which makes such an agreement will also be sidestepping child protection. Of course there are dilemmas. We need accurate aggregate information about young people’s behaviour. If guarantees of confidentiality are removed and the children identifiable, most children will fail to answer honestly surveys about their illegal or anti-social behaviour. Most

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children being abused will also remain too fearful or ashamed to reveal abuse openly, and simply ‘clam up’. Is there a compromise, a middle way? Child protection specialists suggest that, at minimum, information sheets with contact details of helpful agencies should always be provided in sensitive research with children. Schools issuing questionnaires could tell pupils a named person would be available to talk to afterwards, at a neutral venue if desired. Professor Norma Baldwin has included support leaflets in community languages in her research projects, and argues that proactive supports need to be built in at the design stage, ensuring the minority who may be disturbed or distressed can be assured of protection, for her a point of principle about researchers taking full responsibility for their research and its consequences. What else could be done? Questionnaires might finish with a tickbox: ‘Would you like to talk to someone if you’re worried or sad about something happening in your life?’ Researchers could inform children that a project member would be in touch privately to link them discreetly with professional help, if they had serious worries that a young person seemed in danger. In longitudinal studies, a skilled person could maintain longer-term contact with children at risk. It is not enough to offer children a voice by consulting them through research. They have a right to be protected and, given the known correlation of offending with a history of child abuse, research steering groups need someone skilled in child protection who can look through response forms to identify young people at high risk, and a police officer to consider if serious crimes have been committed. Additionally, a children’s advocacy agency could also be part of the strategy group. How, in conclusion, have these failings been allowed to happen? Partly through nervousness and a sense of inadequacy about how to address abuse issues, leading to a ‘see no evil’ mentality; partly because when we emphasise the problems children cause, their welfare, and the problems adults cause children, take second place. ‘Youth problem’ topics are politically popular, creating an enthusiastic urge for more data. Anti-social behaviour, drug misuse, teenage pregnancy, truancy: research appears urgent, thus consent to question children may be given without considered thought. However, as a researcher specialising in child abuse topics, I have noticed that avoidance, or inadequate addressing, of child protection issues is not found only in research about youth offending. It can extend to projects on divorce, reconstituted families, childrearing, children living with parental substance misuse or mental illness, learning problems at

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school, and many situations where information about the roots of children’s problems may emerge during consultation with children or parents. No answer to these ‘confidentiality-versus-intervention dilemmas’ will be perfect. But the process of thinking through possibilities by research teams, education, social services and police would place ethical issues and child-centred policy at the heart of all research projects about children and young people. It would make researchers accept full responsibility for what they do, and schools and youth projects for what they permit. All funders too need to include an ethical demand for meaningful protective safeguards in social research with children.

4 In the Field: Research Relationships Angus Bancroft

Research involves constructing relationships. Much research methods writing elaborates on how this is and should be done necessarily, and instrumentally, to complete the research. Even more critical methods writing implicitly argues for research relationships that will produce better data, and more credible findings. The accounts that follow focus less on the research-related outcomes of the relationship and more on the process of the relationship itself – and also those unexpected and sometimes troubling bonds and partnerships that are formed in the research process. What is also sometimes pleasing and sometimes problematic in families and relationship research is the potential impact the topic has on the relationships of and between participants, and on their understanding and interpretation of their relationships. In this field, the researcher has a relationship not just with the participant, but also in a sense with their relationships. An insight of feminist and critical epistemologists was that the research relationship does not exist outside of relations of power, authority, status, gender, class, ethnicity and so on. In interactionist terms, social relations are enacted and recreated in the research relationship – which means we should not necessarily expect these power differentials to be overcome in it. Some of the same processes are at work in research relationships as personal relationships – negotiation, implied consensus, power, cathexis, hierarchy, concealment, emotions of affection and anger, and feelings of awkwardness, disappointment or success. It is too neat to resist the analogy between the rise of the pure relationship as emblematic of intimate life in Anglo-Saxon societies (Giddens 1992) and attempts in social research to reflect on research processes and make the research relationship an explicitly negotiated one, involving mutuality and equality, or at least, the exposure of previously hidden 71

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inequality. Just as the pure relationship has been shown to be contingent, limited and structured by social inequalities (Jamieson 1999) so in these accounts we can see that the research relationship is bound by a complex of structural factors and interactional processes, and how participants and researchers have to devote energy into sustaining the relationship, as well as the interaction. In this chapter, the account authors identify circumstances in which this ideal type research relationship becomes problematic, hindered, transformed, constrained or undesirable. The chapter explores the boundaries of the research relationship; the (limited) scope for action on behalf of participants; the emotional and bodily labour involved in constructing and maintaining it; the requirements and burdens of secrecy; the relationship with texts and the relationship as a text; and the working of power and ethics.

Relationship epistemologies and taxonomies A large part of the critique of positivist social science centred around the research relationship – or more specifically, the lack of any acknowledgement that it should be understood as a relationship – and the ways in which this interaction was variously artificial, silencing, one-sided, dominating, or non-existent as a relationship rather than an interaction (Oakley 1981), reflecting a detached, elitist and reductive model for doing social science which reduces the researcher to a cold instrument. The relationship is the moment in which research epistemologies and ideologies are enacted and achieved, but also when they are at their most fragile, most exposed and likely to be shown wanting. To accomplish ‘research’ the researcher assembles allies – institutions, gatekeepers, respondents, interviewees, surveys, electronic instruments, digital recordings, texts, software and the researchers’ own embodied skills. The relationship becomes unstable however as these supposed allies can have autonomy, emotions well up, bodies betray secrets, archives decay and theories confound, and as Gill Highet [p. 85] found, external events can dramatically intervene. From an Actor-Network Theory influenced perspective (Latour 2005), the audio recorder can become an influential object in the relationship infrastructure, if not quite a participant. ‘Tape on’ – this declares that the relationship is, if not formal, professional. The research interview commences, with its status and roles. ‘Tape off’ – this can signal a break as the interview becomes emotional or tiring, or it can be the end of the formal interview. Now it becomes more relaxed, two people sharing a cup of tea and a chat. In interviews I have conducted the interviewee

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might nevertheless ask for the tape to be switched back on as they return to a point they want to be sure is recorded, with a firm request, ‘You should record this …’ and maybe a gesture towards the device: their words have to be heard by the tape. That action confirms the researcher is hearing their words as a researcher – the tape is part of the infrastructure that confirms this is a research relationship and that values it as such, as one in which the participant is taken seriously. The researcher can be an intruder, spectator, tolerated spy and/or involved participant. Highet describes how we agonise over research terminology and the categorisation of data, but are not often confronted with the question of where we go in this taxonomy, and what our role is when external events make the power differential between us and participants suddenly very salient. Researchers have to be professional without being professionals. Indeed we sometimes are at pains to differentiate our role from that of other professionals – doctors, social workers, policy and others who may be in the field with us – especially when we have had or still have those roles as well. Differentiation is made harder because many of these professionals also use some of the techniques common to social research in their work – active listening, informed consent and negotiated roles. We are glad when participants do this work of differentiation for us (that’s called developing rapport) but unsure about the category we end up in. Categorisation creates a basis for action. Respondents construct worlds and place the researcher in them (or not). The research relationship reveals the agency of respondents in this. Sue Milne [p. 92] is invited by children to cross a boundary into the ‘child world’ – which means she is now implicitly expected by children to forget many adult/child boundaries, such as those on physical play and rough and tumble. Researchers often have to cross and re-cross these boundaries, sometimes to the confusion or disapproval of other participants. As other researchers have highlighted, we can sometimes feel we are living two lives; for example Okely (1983), changing in a parked car from her ‘research’ clothes to her smarter ‘academic’ garb when driving from the fieldsite to a conference, finds herself changing not just her clothes but her whole demeanour. One life may appear to be home to the lively, unexpected, dangerous and delightful, thus leaving it becomes more jarring. Another ideology is exposed in crossing from one to another, and we can start to feel how odd and artificial the academic world is. One question of taxonomy is when the research relationship can be said to be in existence. Discussions of it are often restricted to the examination of face-to-face or virtual encounters – qualitative research

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and ethnography. In face-to-face research, much more is asked of the researcher’s self at each stage of the relationship – revealing, positioning, disclosing, leaving and analysing. However research relationships do not only exist in qualitative worlds. The survey instruments we use also intervene in respondents’ lives – we ask them to pause, reflect and ponder. The survey instrument is the mode of indirect interaction and of mediated connection between the research participant and researcher. To illustrate, a project including an online survey of sexual attitudes in which respondents were asked to record their thoughts after completion, found several responses indicating that completing the survey had an effect on their own evaluations of their sexual relationships (McQueen 2010). Authoring and administering the questionnaire changes the future research relationship with these respondents. The instruments we create in the course of research have effects, if not agency. They have an effect on the research environment we create, and change and shape the perceptions of the participants. Electronically mediated relationships are increasingly an aspect of intimate life; researchers too are increasingly taking advantage of some of the popular tools used in mediation, such as employing social networking sites for recruitment and data collection, and literature is beginning to document the new ways in which the research relationship is being mediated (Hine 2005; Jones 1999; Madge and O’Connor 2003; Mann and Stewart 2000; Meho 2006).

From encounters to relationships in the field A relationship develops from an encounter. Initial encounters will shape the subsequent relationships and new encounters will change them or produce further relationships. As Jennifer Speirs [p. 87] finds, the first research encounters that form our ideas of what the relationship will be like are not always with the participants, or even gatekeepers, but with variously encouraging or sceptical supervisors, colleagues, acquaintances and others. A disbelieving retired doctor questions the likelihood of her finding any semen donors from the days in which donation was, necessarily, anonymous. Speirs finds that this does not restrict the possibility of doing the research, but does shape her place in it, the old secrets drawing her inside a circle of trust. Julie Seymour [p. 90] describes a research relationship that was embedded in family relationships. She wonders if it can be counted as a valid research relationship. Validity is usually thought of in terms of the data representing what the researcher claims it represents. In this case, the ques-

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tion is whether the participants are appropriate research informants. There are classic methods debates on the issue of power in the research relationship, and where we stand regarding the presumed interests of those we research (Becker 1967; Gouldner 1968; Hammersley 1995; Scheper-Hughes 1995). For all the expressed desire to treat participants as equals and open up to them we often treat with suspicion those relationships where the participants actually do have a pre-existing claim to be our equals, or peers, and to have insight into our lives. They, or we, are assumed to be ‘too close’, presumably meaning participants are likely to try and produce responses that they assume will be the ones we want, or that the researcher will be unable to maintain a research relationship apart from an intimate relationship. Most of all, writing about our own friends and family just looks too easy and falls under suspicion of being somehow blinkered and uncritical. It is somewhat contradictory to on the one hand say that researchers should become close to the people they study, and then object when they start out intimate. The role transition experienced by the native ethnographer is not trivial however. For Seymour the problem is partly an ethical one, where trust is already established and reassurances about confidentially and request for informed consent are quickly brushed aside. Intimates can sometimes perceive this as almost insulting, as if it suggests we think they do not trust us. It is also a methodological difficulty, as shared understanding means that both researcher and researched do not feel the need to commit information well known in an intimate context to tape. The threat becomes one of intimacy defeating transparency, but this opens up a new field of view. Seymour can see how in an unstructured interview setting participants are able to select the direction of the interview, as they do not come up with the ‘expected’ responses to questions as initially predicted by her. In her case, fears that participants known to the researcher will play follow-my-leader are not borne out. Going from the encounter to the relationship highlights the ways in which the process of introduction and negotiation shapes the research relationship. Andrew Bell’s introduction [p. 83] was mediated by a church, which placed him as a presumed sympathetic observer when one interviewee vented his spleen on the issue of homosexuality. This mediation goes beyond the gatekeeper role – the guardian of the research treasure whose decision determines whether the researcher will gain access or not. The act of introduction mediates how the researcher enters the relationship and what their position is assumed to be by participants, whether that is so or not.

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Developing relationships: Emotion and body work In the moment of being in the research relationship a sense of being professional or doing a good job is often felt as a presumed observing other, one which views Milne’s tumbling with schoolchildren with suspicion, that disapproves of Bell’s seeming complicity with his respondent’s views. It is the superego of the research relationship – representing the presumed judgements of colleagues, readers, institutional employers, the state and the more general risk averse and surveillance-happy governing consensus on intimate relationships. We pay a lot of attention to this policing superego and sometimes neglect the felt, id-like experience of the research relationship. This is an error as we think with and through our emotions (Damasio 1996), and emotions are part of the research process (Holland 2007). Milne’s instinctive response to having a ball kicked at her was one of fear, shared with the child she was sitting with. Highet’s account is shot through with attachment and loss, Bell’s with dissonance between his internal thoughts and his external presentation. We find pleasure in friendships and bonds forged with participants, and experience anger on their behalf, or with them (Blackman 2007). Coding and analysing interviews can involve long periods of boredom and alienation, broken with delight as a breakthrough is made and the bewildering mass of data appears to transform into a coherent picture. The research relationship also asks researchers to take part in emotion work (Hochschild 1979) and bodywork, sometimes including touch (Watts 2008). Researchers can feel that the demands to achieve rapport mean that they are being enjoined to present themselves as perky, interested, and open so that research participants will engage with them. Yet in the field it is common to find that the most interesting data and the most fruitful relationships can start when one is tired, indifferent, tipsy, on edge, distracted and otherwise not at the business of emotion work. Indeed, in some situations research relationships may be inhibited by attempts to engage, as Leppo (2010, personal communication) realised in her research in a Finnish institution for drug and alcohol addicts. At first she found herself given the cold shoulder by patients, despite her attempts at putting forward an approachable persona. After observing the setting for some time she realised that people who walk around smiling at everyone are assumed to be members of staff, their allies or otherwise external to inmate life. Inmates started to approach her when she just sat, smoked and looked rather bored, much as they did.

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There are dangers of empathy, much as rapport has been criticised as manipulative (Oakley 1981), along with the possibility that participants will reveal more than they would otherwise wish (Finch 1984). There is the old invocation ‘not to get too close’, which was more concerned with contamination of results and researcher bias than with risks to the relationship. A criticism which emerged as researchers obeyed the injunction to be sympathetic, disclosing and involved, is that this is another commercialisation of feeling, in which researchers intuit that they have to perform empathy to get the job done (Duncombe and Jessop 2002), raising concerns that a false, instrumental self is being performed precisely in those moments where the research relationship is meant to be at its least detached. Within the research relationship, in particular with highly politicised or sensitive research, there is some emotional transference – investing in our respondents as they appear to be good people in a bad world (Davidson and Layder 1994). Behind emotion work lies body work. Researchers find the body has its own presence: marked, unmarked, normative, gendered, white, black, high or low status, pregnant, hypermasculine, addicted, stigmatic, awkward, or identifiably in or out. Participants may seek to resolve the meaning of the researchers’ ambiguous body markers or responses, sometimes at the cost of erasing other possible identities. Milne directly experiences and involves herself in the physicality of child play. Through physical contact and play with children, she is acutely aware of the regulation and taboos around adult-child interaction. Milne decides to cross this boundary. She allows her adult body to become child-like by succumbing to an attempt to pull her over. Participants can allow for this situated researcher identity, such as the children Swain researched who could anticipate when he would switch into ‘teacher mode’ (Swain 2006). Bell examines the researcher’s body as communicative – the smile, the nod, allowing a participant to think what they want. Researchers bring with them tacit, embodied knowledge – though it may not feel like it. Emotions and bodywork are one way in which the research setting and relationship are structured by factors that may not be easily accessed, admitted to, or changed. The experience of disability is not only a performed construct but may restrict times and places for research. An obvious pregnancy may frame discussions of motherhood and relationships. The body is part of the interaction and imposes its own boundaries, whether of commonality, or pain and discomfort. Milne notes that being female allowed her more latitude to play with child participants, something a male researcher might have been wary of.

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Sexual attraction in research is rarely written about. Skipper and McCaghy interviewed striptease artists (Skipper and McCaghy 1972). In their first interview, in the women’s dressing room, the participant took complete charge of the interview, using her erotic skills to disarm them and finally choosing herself when to end the interview. They treated this as a failed interview, rather than being usable data in itself, as the seductive moves the women put out when being interviewed by two men was part of an assertion of a sexual agency in which they took personal enjoyment. The researchers decided to fix the problem by moving the interviews to a neutral public location where the participants were more constrained in being their erotic selves. The erotic behaviour participants engaged in was treated as a mere distraction from the real business of research and a threat to the research relationship – which presumably must exclude an erotic sensibility (Altork 1995). Sexuality can also manifest itself in an intimidating, harassing way for the researcher. Green et al describe how as women researchers they were exposed to a variety of harassing behaviour from male participants, partly as they broached topics that ‘nice girls’ were not meant to discuss (Green et al 1993). Their experience shows one way in which the topic of families and relationship research can specifically change the research relationship as the researcher is assumed by participants to be a ‘player’ in some way. The researcher can also find themselves involved in relationships between participants. In a dispute between two children, Milne refrains from adopting the adult role and enforcing good behaviour. Part of developing a relationship involves facing tests, or undergoing implicit testing. Milne is tested by children in the playground, who as part of evaluating her role ask themselves, will she really play? Will she tell? Milne edges in and out of the role of participant in children’s games. The methodology literature routinely acknowledges that the researcher’s presence has an impact on the situation, even when they are not adopting some form of participant role. However, what was not acknowledged in the classic accounts was the impact of presence in the situation on the researcher. This is, however, clearly addressed in the following accounts and as Andrew Bell makes clear issues of loyalty and betrayal can be very keenly felt in research on families and relationships where the relationship is the focus. The impact of ‘being there’ on the researcher is also particularly strong in researching sensitive and secret issues. In a recent example, Briggs (2009) found that, while video recording of crack users makes participants’ interactions

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with each other more edgy initially, ultimately the researcher can be rather more anxious than the participant about the process. Being ‘the researcher’ is a role taken on voluntarily, and the research works to establish it. In the field researchers can find they are being given rather more roles than expected. They may become an auntie, a babysitter, or an unsuspecting accomplice (Taylor 1993). Obligations can be created which continue outside the field. An ethnographer becomes the daughter of her village family (Carsten 1997). Gender shapes the role here: in general a metaphorical ‘son’, like an actual son, is subject to far less restrictions on his movement, associations and actions than a ‘daughter’. A corollary is that previously established roles can be suspended, creating potentially intoxicating moments. Participants also have their role, and as researchers we sometimes want them to stay in their intimate role as allotted by the research topic – mother, daughter, wife, sister – sometimes forgetting that an individual will occupy many roles in family and relationship life.

Telling and not telling Relationships have a storying element. Intimate couples, friends and families develop their stories, preserved with photographic albums, ‘our songs’, favourite foods, old scars and memorial spaces. In the research relationship we construct narratives and also encounter them. Participants who are in or have been through the care and welfare systems often have quite well developed narratives. These are practiced as part of the performance of desperation required by many social service agencies. Institutions structure stories and process accounts. Researchers enter the narrative of the issue they are studying, the public narratives of family, sexuality, social problems, addiction and so on, which is also structured institutionally. How stories are told textures the interaction. Researchers often note that participants calmly recount the most terrible events in a matterof-fact way. They are given, unasked, untold stories. ‘You’re the first person I’ve ever told about this’. This phrase is both delightful and terrifying to the researcher. They are being extended a supreme confidence, precisely because the research relationship is not like intimate relationships. The participant can unburden themselves to someone who is not supposed to express judgement and who will take the burden away. We are used to keeping secrets for respondents. People let slip various facts in the course of research that may be better hidden, when they

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reveal what for the strict purpose of the study and for our ethics protocols, is ‘too much’ – but for them, is ‘just enough’. Mauthner interviewed sisters and found information from one sister that could be harmful to their sibling relationship, feelings that were felt by one but not by the other (Mauthner 2000). The researcher is privy to experiences and feelings that the other parties in the relationship may not be. Do we in fact want to own participants’ secrets, about abuse, affairs, swindles, and misdemeanours? Bell is weighed down by holding in information about a participant’s affair, which means keeping the secret from another participant. The standard ethical injunction to do no harm appears to help here. Yet keeping silent is also a choice to refrain from a friendship obligation – revealing to a friend that she has been betrayed. Not speaking out – a position of formal neutrality – effectively sides with the interests of the betrayer. Multiple perspectives present an analytic challenge as well as an ethical one. There are multiple realities in any relationship or family, and speaking to different members can help get a fuller sense of these differences (Ribbens McCarthy et al 2003). In doing so multiple realities are generated. It is possible that a researcher’s prior assumptions about constructing a central ‘story’ or the validity of the postmodern assertion of the impossibility of reaching a ‘definitive’ view from multiple accounts impacts on the research relationship itself. Bell did not respond to the revelation of a respondent’s affair by thinking it to be one symbolic position among many, but as a potent fact that had to be kept secret. As well as keeping secrets for participants, we are keeping secrets from them. Bell finds that an interview involves conversational techniques without being a conversation – a masquerade. The researcher flourishes a mask, onto which it is easiest to let the interviewee project whatever they want. Research participants may also be playing with their own masks, as Bell discovered. Relationships have boundaries that can also require the researcher to put on or drop their mask. Boundaries can be threatened when researchers feel the mask of sympathetic neutrality has become a false one. Bell suspects that neutrality becomes complicity. Luff also describes the colluding ‘um’ in her research with women whose views on traditional morality she disagreed with – creating the lingering feeling that her research was half-covert (Luff 1999). Confrontation is not impossible, and in some circumstances does not necessarily destroy the research relationship. Challenging accounts can help to expand on the lay theorisation/symbolic systems that produce those accounts, as in Campbell’s interviews with male police officers (Campbell 2003).

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The active, memorial text Research relationships are written, and persist as texts. In the process of transcription and preparing for analysis the relationship is transformed into text. The researcher produces texts, interview transcripts, summaries, and fieldnotes. Months or even years after the fieldwork has been concluded, the text still has power. It evokes powerful emotions and memories (Dickson-Swift et al 2007). Qualitative researchers are asked to immerse themselves in the text during analysis which can involve bringing back hard experiences, particularly for ethnographers. The relationship between the researcher and the text can become fraught and difficult. Upsetting or moving events can be relived, but without the presence or power to do anything. These texts can be reread many years after they have been produced, and are not exclusive to the researcher or the research team. Malinowski’s fieldnotes have been reread as historical documents which form the touchpaper for modern anthropology (Sanjek 1990; Roldán 2002). His fieldnotes are now seen as much more revealing of Malinowski and his relationship with the natives than revealing that much of the participants themselves. Still productive, they become texts whose meaning eventually escapes the researcher’s control, yet in which the researcher remains ever present. Children must leave the family home and interview notes must eventually be deposited in the UK Essex Data Archive. Documentary research involves developing a relationship between researcher and text. Letters between intimates, diaries – such texts can have an explicitly political meaning or relevance for contemporary generations, as with research on the Australian Aboriginal Stolen Generations Archive. The research relationship with those long gone can become mediated by their descendants, in which case, who among the many descendants of those who suffered in the past can claim to speak for them now? Historical texts can demand responses, as Stanley (2002) puts it, for past injustices, sorrows and forgettings, requiring contemporary scholars to enact the work of remembrance and mourning. As Stanley recognises, only what survives and is recognised is mourned, only that can evoke sympathy down the years. The relationship is also one with the archive – its system, its guardians. Exploring an archive you find you develop a relationship with the archivist, sensing the rationale and quirks in their system. A long absent archivist can become another active partner in the relationship.

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Power and ethics The research relationship can be seductive, meaning that it has a logic and power of its own which can appear to exist outside the agency of both parties. Participants can be taken along by it into revealing rather more than either of us are comfortable with. Power in the research relationship has been highlighted, as something we should expose and wish to divest ourselves of (Lather 1988), but find respondents relying on us for, or that we feel obliged to use on their behalf, as with Highet’s research team’s attempts to mobilise their status to intervene on behalf of a refugee child, albeit with no effect. Yet when interviewing powerful people, the critique of researcher dominance can be turned upside down. For example Puwar (1997) found the difficulty of obtaining interviews with women MPs, and of keeping them talking for any length of time, meant having to engage in some classic positivist ‘tricks of the trade’ we are warned against: displaying status in order to get the MPs to agree to be interviewed, and interrupting their monologues to force the interview back to the themes she wanted to explore. Researchers reading this will be familiar with the ethical review process, which may come to be seen as a hurdle and not a help. In ethical reviews the research relationship is viewed through the lens of risk. Frequently those who sit on institutional ethics panels are researchers themselves. With tricky ethical problems the panel members attempt to adapt the protocol to what they know about researcher, what works, what is feasible, and what risks are manageable. For the sake of getting the research moving along, researchers can end up writing to the ethical protocol rather than exploring the ethical limitations of the study. Ethics can become a set of protocols that protect researchers and institutions as much as respondents. Ethical protocols can work for us, and for participants. Bell suggests that ethics can be a cloak, under which researchers can hide from difficult personal decisions, such as revealing secrets – but he finds it is also a cloak to protect respondents from information that may destroy them. When considering power in the research relationship we tend to look for formal manifestations of structured power, such as gender, class and status, or the interventions of disciplinary power, in monitoring, surveillance and discourse. These elements certainly do shape the relationship. What is also present is the sometimes hidden effect of the assemblage created by the researcher, the protocols, allies, mediators and others that are made into a coherent research account. It is around this assemblage that the research relationship is formed.

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Acknowledgements Thanks to Kim Masson for her help in writing this chapter, and to Anna Leppo.

Only nodding and smiling: Reflections on feelings of complicity in interviewing Andrew Bell The interview has taken an unpleasant turn: Mr P: Those homosexuals. I think it’s shocking that the government is letting them marry. They’re destroying society. Me: [nodding encouragingly] Uh-huh. Mr P: You’ll understand this, but it’s not something you can say in public … A discussion of homosexuality was not totally unexpected. I was interviewing married couples about married life and, at the time of the interview, civil partnerships were only a year old. It’s cropped up at the end of the interview, in the catch all ‘is there anything else you’d like to tell me’ part, so it’s not even off topic. What catches me off guard, what makes me feel uncomfortable, is the inclusion of me in Mr P’s argument. I am, as far as he is concerned, on his side. In truth, I couldn’t disagree more. Looking back, it’s perhaps not that much of a leap for him to make. My project is based on heterosexual marriage. His introduction to the project was mediated by a church. My funding organisation is a religious one. The wedding ring on my finger signals me as a fellow breeder. Then there are more subtle cues, ones that I didn’t realise I was giving off; the cues any interviewer gives off by default. I was nodding and smiling. I was making encouraging noises. I was, under the rules of any normal conversation, agreeing with him. Of course, an interview is not a normal conversation. Often the researcher is attempting not to give away their opinions, lest it leads to the interviewee attempting to give a ‘right’ answer. When I nod, smile and go ‘uh-huh’, I am not saying ‘I agree’. Instead I’m saying, ‘I am interested in what you are talking about, please carry on’. But this is a subtle difference compared with what these signals mean in everyday life. Maybe one so fine as to be meaningless to anyone but

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the interviewer. Does our attempted ‘neutrality’ – if such a thing is even possible – really leave our interviewees with a genuine sense that we are neutral? Or does it, as it did with Mr P, convince them that we agree with them? Another day, another interview. We’re approaching a discussion about extra-marital affairs; a tricky part of any interview. I gird my mental loins and pop the question: Me: Have you or your partner had any affairs? There is a pause, and my heart sinks. No-one ever pauses before answering ‘no’. Sure enough, the interviewee nods and, very quietly, answers ‘yes’. OK, no problem. I’ve been here before. Sensitive situations like this are why I have an interview schedule that took me months to write. Except … except … Me: Does your partner know about this affair? Interviewee: No. It would destroy them. We carry on with the interview. Then the horrible part happens. Because of the design of my study, I need to interview both partners. Because of a quirk of fate, I’m interviewing the other partner immediately afterwards. And I have to ask the same questions, only now I have a secret to keep. Me: Have or your partner had any affairs? Interviewee’s partner: No. Hating it, I nod and smile and ask my next question. We discuss trust in relationships, talk about the impact of affairs, love and fidelity. Throughout it all, I nod, smile and keep my secret. Afterwards, I feel somehow involved, complicit. I feel that I have participated in a coverup. It takes me days to shake the sensation of having done something wrong. Strangely, I feel worse about the situation in which the ‘correct’ and ethical course of action was clearer. Interview data are confidential. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had been told that one partner was planning on getting laid whilst I interviewed the other, I still couldn’t have told them. My complicity was mandated by ‘good’ research ethics. I was, so to speak, only following orders. This does nothing to help my feelings though. I have worked hard to create a rapport with my interviewees. I essentially ask them to trust me, to treat me like a friend or

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confidante. But rapport is a two way street. No matter how much I hold back about myself as an interviewer I find I end up liking them. In the period of time I speak to them, I feel like their friend. And friends do not keep secrets from each other. Of course, this kind of complicity is inevitable in situations where you are interacting with multiple people who are known to each other. It might not even be just interviewees: researching families and relationships, we may be meeting friends or family members around the interview itself. How do we deal with these situations, knowing what we now know about our interviewees? Parents and children, husbands and wives, friends and lovers. Take the blow to your conscience, keep your secret and carry on. The other situation, with Mr P’s impromptu rant about homosexuality, is less cut and dried. From a totally pragmatic viewpoint, it was the end of the interview. If I insulted him, or closed him off to further questions by arguing with him, then I wouldn’t have lost much data. Ethically, however, it’s hard to justify arguing the toss with interviewees on moral issues. The interviewer is usually perceived to have a higher status in the interview context. But it is the interview context which has failed here. My ‘keep talking’ signals have become confused with ‘you’re right’. Would there be a great harm in saying ‘personally, I don’t agree, but please carry on’? A normal conversation would almost seem to demand it. The interview is at an end anyway. Do we really believe that my objection would harm Mr P in some way? Or do we just nod and smile and ‘uh-huh’ because it protects our data gathering, while dressing it up in ethical arguments? I don’t know. But I do know it makes me feel dirty doing it.

‘I don’t know where to put myself’: The boundaries of researcher roles and responsibilities Gill Highet The rest of the class were quietly filling in their questionnaires, heads bowed in concentration. Samira raised her hand to ask for help. She was about 11, with long dark hair and large, anxious eyes. She had fled to the UK with her family to seek asylum some two years ago: ‘I don’t know where to put myself.’ As I gently guided her to place a tick in the box that felt right for her – Scottish? South Asian? Pakistani? – I began to appreciate the

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enormity of what we were asking her, and children like her, to do and at that moment, I realised that she was voicing my own confusion. As a social researcher, I sometimes feel that I don’t know where to put myself either – impartial observer, concerned onlooker, potential advocate? When I read in a Sunday newspaper about another young research participant, Anita, who, with her family, had become the subject of a deportation order, my confusion intensified. Five years on, these events have stayed with me, and the feelings behind Samira’s words still have resonance today. Theoretical debates about ‘neutrality’ and ‘objectivity’, ‘engagement’ and ‘social action’, do not prepare you for how it feels when you unwittingly become part of a political drama centred around a real young person. For me, issues relating to asylum seeking families strike at the very heart of human rights. I have listened to children talking about the events which drove their parents to take the drastic step of uprooting their immediate families, leaving behind relatives, friends and lives. Reading and hearing about families being plucked from their homes in ‘dawn raids’ and held in a detention centre whilst their cases were being processed only added to my growing sense of shame and anger at the injustice of how these families were being treated by our government. When we discovered that one of our young research participants was facing deportation, we felt that we had to do something – but what? As a research team, we no longer had a direct association with Anita. However, it felt appropriate to contact her school (one of our research sites) and discuss with the head-teacher what, if anything, we could do to help. He suggested that we write a letter of support which he would then pass on to the family’s lawyer. We felt it was in Anita’s interests for us to ‘play the game’, and so we highlighted her promising educational future and her already burgeoning contribution to civic society, as evidenced by her participation in our research project and in other activities. Of course, this raises the question of how we would have couched our support had the young person in question been less academically gifted, less eager to ‘fit in’ and do well. Our modest gesture represented only a small part of a much larger campaign of support. From a pragmatic perspective, it seemed to us to be a measured response, in keeping with our roles and responsibilities as universitybased researchers. You could say that in deciding upon this course of action, we chose the path of least resistance: we were able to tell ourselves that we were doing something, yet we were hardly raising our heads above the parapet. This is why, at an affective level, I am left with sense of guilt. Perhaps we didn’t do as much as we could have done to help. I also regret that I never found out what happened to Anita and her family.

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For me, this experience raises important questions about the boundaries of our role when external events intervene: in particular, where our responsibilities begin and end, and how we exercise our power. As social researchers, we take seriously our responsibilities towards our research participants and towards others who have a stake in the research. We also owe a duty of responsibility to our employers, and to ourselves. But what does this really mean in practice, and how should we respond if we find ourselves (as we often do) in situations where there are conflicting interests? We are in a position of power, whether we like it or not. We may seek to balance power relationships in our research encounters, especially those with young people and groups deemed to be ‘vulnerable’. We must be aware however that in making this decision and conducting our research practice accordingly, we are, paradoxically, exercising power. For me, the challenge is how to use our power wisely in a responsible and humane way. In this instance, we tried to exploit what power we had as a research team working within a prestigious university to add weight to the campaign for Anita’s family to be allowed to stay in Scotland. The point of telling this story is to remind us that this job we do – talking to people in order to understand more about their lives and the society we live in – is a privilege. But it is also a messy enterprise, fraught with dilemmas and difficult choices. We cannot rely on ethical frameworks and ‘best practice’ guidelines to mark the boundaries. We must be prepared to draw our own lines as we navigate our way through our work – no-one can do this for us. But to do that wisely, we must, as a matter of course, discuss and reflect with colleagues, and write about our relationships with our research participants. Far from highlighting inadequacies or lapses in judgement, these are a valuable resource for us and future researchers to draw on. They can help us to work out who we are and where we stand.

Performing secrecy: Maintaining the hidden identity of research informants in public Jennifer Speirs Many eyebrows were raised when I announced that for my doctoral research I intended to interview semen donors, specifically men who had donated when they were young medical students in the days when they were promised anonymity and the records of their donations were likely to be destroyed. ‘How will you find them?’ my prospective

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supervisor asked with concern but not wanting to put a damper on an evidently interesting project. The rhetorical question from an elderly lady, now retired from medical practice, highlighted the challenge: ‘Well my dear, they aren’t likely to have a sign hanging on their front gate, are they?’ As it turned out, that was not so: metaphorically speaking, many donors did have a sign up, in that their status as having donated in the past was often known, I was to discover, to their parents, wives, partners, children, friends, and especially to other doctors. Simultaneously their identity as former donors was hidden from donor offspring and their parents. For them, there was no visible sign, and that was deliberate. This dual status of donors as being both known and unknown provided a further challenge. I promised confidentiality, in line with normal research practice, but the area of my research was already characterised as secret. The practice of Donor Insemination (DI), was started by doctors in private clinics and in National Health Service hospitals as a way of helping married women to have children. Young men aged usually between 18 and 25 were recruited to donate their semen, often in return for money. Clinics used the sperm from the semen to inseminate women whose husbands were infertile or subfertile. In contrast to egg donation which involves the donor undergoing possibly risky and painful surgical procedures and drug regimes, semen donation is often viewed as a pleasurable, secret activity, devoid of the sacrifice and suffering often associated with altruism and which brings public approval to egg donors. Nevertheless, the semen donors who I met in my research were seldom provided with suitable premises in which to produce their donation, often having to masturbate furtively in public toilets or to travel quickly from home to the clinic with their sample before it cooled. DI was kept secret because in the early days it was considered adulterous, and the doctors and nurses who ran the clinics went to considerable lengths to ensure that donors and recipients never met. No mention of DI was supposed to be made in obstetric records. The donor offspring were illegitimate and couples were advised strongly that they should not tell them or anyone else about the donor insemination. If necessary, they were to lie or prevaricate, for example when asked about family medical history if the child was unwell. It was not surprising therefore that DI was characterised by secrecy, associated as it was with ambivalence about the morality of donation, the stigma of male infertility and the needs for the welfare of the donor offspring.

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As a researcher I promised confidentiality to the donors in order to avoid further stigma and to allow them to retain control over this part of their identity, but I had not anticipated the impact which the secrecy inherent in the field would have on me both personally and as a student researcher with a previous career in social work. I was drawn into a world of keeping secrets which were not secrets, which I found threatening to my personal values and to my identity as a researcher seeking knowledge. Here is one example of many from my fieldwork: I am at a preconference social event in a swanky art gallery deep in conversation with a doctor about infertility treatment policies. Our wine glasses are frequently topped up and I have to remind myself that whilst this may be a fun way of doing participant observation, it will not do to get drunk on the job. The doctor has recently agreed to be interviewed for my research project having confided that he had donated semen when he was a student. A woman known to us both, and who knows about my project, comes to greet us. The doctor turns to her with a beaming smile and tells her with evident pride, ‘Jennifer is going to interview me!’ I panic. The situation is potentially out of control. I keep a fixed smile on my face and feign nonchalance but I am unable to protect the doctor from a challenge as to whether or not he is to be interviewed because he donated semen as a student. His identity as a donor which I had previously guaranteed to keep hidden was about to be made overt. However the woman makes no comment, just smiles, and the conversation turns to another matter. Perhaps this doctor revealed his status of former semen donor accidentally, in the context of ‘in vino veritas’.6 Most likely his donor status was known to quite a number of people present. What I had been treating as an ‘inside secret’ which had been entrusted to me, was really a ‘free secret’ (Goffman 1971: 143). Such a secret was one which any member of the doctor’s social network could reveal without imperilling trust. Yet there is hard work in keeping secrets. I had to take care not to carry messages from one informant to another, nor to reveal that an informant’s story has already been conveyed to me by another colleague or friend. I had to act as though hearing a story for the first time. In carrying out fieldwork in my own society, I became complicit in the business of maintaining the longstanding secrecy paradigm of the

6 A saying from the Latin meaning that it is harder to be discreet under the influence of alcohol.

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donor insemination service in the UK. I had to collude in an area already marked out as secret in order to protect confidentiality and to engender trust. I was, and continue to be, complicit in actions to protect other actions of moral ambiguity, because the challenge has continued beyond writing the thesis and disseminating my findings. Thus, I was describing recently to a friend an interesting talk by a doctor on a radio programme: just in time I stopped myself from saying, ‘and guess what, I interviewed him for my research!’

Keeping it in the family: Conducting research interviews with your own family members Julie Seymour As a family researcher I am writing about a project which came literally close to home; one that involved interviewing members of my own family. I focus mostly on the process of interviewing them and the issues that emerged from this. I also talk briefly about using their interviews as research data and some of the disquiets this provoked for me. For, while I thought it was appropriate to interview my relatives and was convinced that they had something relevant to contribute to the project, I found that during the analysis phase I had a recurring reluctance to use their interview data. These concerns centred on whether they constituted ‘real’ research informants. The interviews with my relatives occurred during the fieldwork for a research project on families who lived in locations that were both homes and businesses used by the public; it concentrated on familyrun hotels, pubs and boarding houses. This work emerged from my own upbringing in such a location which had led me to problematise the oft-repeated discourses about the separation of home and workplace. The focus was on sociological questions such as the impact on actual and ideological family practices when the physical space of the home is shared by an ever-changing succession of customers. One of the geographical areas in which I chose to conduct my interviews was the seaside town in which I grew up. I felt that, both as a ‘local’ and an ‘insider’ in terms of the topic, sampling in this town would aid access and I was curious to revisit this familiar terrain as a researcher. It was during this period of fieldwork that I carried out interviews with my surviving parent – my father – and my brother. These relationships added another dimension to my ‘insider’ status,

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both as someone who had experienced a number of the events alongside the interviewees and who was a member of their family. The impact on the interview process was not however to make it straightforwardly easier; rather, it resulted in the raising of my awareness of the role of performance in interviewing. Initially, my multiple insider status seemed advantageous, since both my father and brother quickly agreed to my requests to interview them. Several reflexive methodological accounts discuss the recruitment procedure and how it can be more difficult and lengthy than a bland description of the sample would suggest. In contrast, my permission-seeking for a familial interview was met with an almost undue haste of agreement. Aware that I had to offer the same ethical protections and assurances to my relatives that I would to all other potential interviewees, I raised issues of confidentiality, anonymity and informed consent only to be interrupted by assurances that ‘We trust you’. It appeared that familiarity could lead to assumed good practice. This emerged again when I asked for further permission to write this methodological piece, and suggests that interviewees are not as attuned to the potential dangers of the research interview, or the research account, as are researchers. It is commonplace in the methodological literature to discuss the interview as a performance, mutually constructed between those involved. This performance became transparent during the interviews with family members as they and I had not previously interacted in ‘interview’ mode. On both sides there were amusements, some shortcuts of explanatory material and occasional embarrassments at the unusual roles. This served to highlight a potential problem of extreme insider research: that the dramaturgical role of interviewee and interviewer may prove difficult to perform when the actors are well known to each other. During the course of the interviews a number of topics arose which triggered for me memories of specific examples. I pondered whether targeted probings, in order to get these stories on record, constituted interviewer bias. Yet, often my directed questions did not result in the recounting of the family/business myth that I had expected. This reassured me as to the control the respondent has in the unstructured interview. These unexpected turns of the dialogue occasionally led me to hear about aspects of my family history of which I had been unaware. Once more, the performative nature of the interview emerged when I chose (in that space) to respond to this information as a researcher rather than as a daughter or sister. As the interview with my father concluded, my usual winding-down techniques were abruptly circumvented by the question ‘Is that it

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then?’ The courtesies offered to interviewers and interviewees as strangers could evidently be short-circuited with family members; a reminder that methodological and substantive topics frequently coalesce. Later, when I came to analyse the data, I was surprised at my own reluctance to include these two family interviews in my writing. Although content that the interviews had been conducted appropriately, my concerns were more with the status of the interviewees as ‘real’ research participants because of their relationship to me. Yet why, as a family researcher, should I deny members of my own family a voice? In addition, my brother gave one of the best lay expositions of Goffman’s front-stage/back-stage ideas that I have heard, and prompted some reflexive considerations on the links between autobiographical experiences and the resonance and appeal to researchers of specific theoretical frameworks. To conclude, interviewing my family members raised both methodological and substantive issues and showed where the two can frequently also merge. Conducting extreme insider research, while easing access issues, can lead to complex interactions in the actual conduct of interviews. The very intimacy of the relationship may mean some of the professional practices normally adopted become explicit: their overt ‘strangeness’ however should not result in the usual protections for interviewees being circumnavigated. The different legitimacy I initially accorded to my relatives’ interview transcripts has prompted a personal reconsideration of the auto/biographical turn within sociology. This has stressed the need for continued reflexive recognition of research interests, and research behaviours, as sited in our intellectual and experiential autobiographies.

Is there a place for physical engagement in the adult researcher-child participant research relationship? Sue Milne Negotiation is an important element in constructing research relationships between adult researchers and child participants. Through participant observation and active engagement in children’s play, elements of adult researcher power can be renegotiated and positive child-adult relationships built. Physicality is a key part of play, but to what extent should a researcher engage in this element of children’s games? Indeed, in the context of societal concerns about child abuse and paedophilia,

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and particularly cultural sensitivity surrounding physical contact between adults and children, how can researchers negotiate physical contact arising within ethnographic research with children? These are the questions I ask myself when reflecting upon my participation in the play of children aged 10–11 years as part of the familiarisation stage of a research project exploring children’s experiences and perceptions of child-adult relations. The research was conducted in a primary school. Children intuitively recognise that the nature of their social interactions with adults differ from those with other children, and that these contacts vary according to context. Within schools there are boundaries of behaviour according to physical location and the school timetable. At break times the playground is a ‘child world’ where running, shouting and pushing take place with little comment from adult supervisors. In my initial forays into the playground I seemed to be a lost soul, standing alone with no friends. I was rescued by girls from the classes I was working with, who asked if I wanted to walk round the playground with them. At my reply of okay they linked arms with me as they were doing with each other. This apparent natural act of friendship appeared to be extended to me as a fellow female, for I noticed that the female playground supervisors were also linked to other girls in a similar fashion. Interest in such physical closeness was also displayed by girls playing with my hair, a gentle act which I did not comment on, although it caught the attention of a male teacher, who asked one girl to stop. This incident took place whilst I was speaking to the teacher in a school corridor. His obvious discomfort suggested such a display of familiarity was unacceptable inside the school building where hierarchical boundaries define child-adult interactions. Physicality, through games of ‘chase’, is common with both boys and girls in the playground. It was usually the girls who asked me to play, and although I do not particularly enjoy running around I thought that it was important to participate in the children’s activities when invited to do so. I therefore added a caveat to my involvement stating that I was not very fast. I did try to catch the girls and it seemed that they allowed me to do so. A willingness to participate, even if you were not very good, appeared to be a form of implicit child-to-child relationship testing which was extended to me as an adult. Similar testing seemed to be present in an incident when some boys were challenging each other to kick a ball over benches where I and other children were sitting. As the ball was kicked at us one girl said that she was scared; I was too. As some of the boys were hesitant about

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kicking the ball with me sitting there, one commented it was okay, ‘she doesn’t tell’ – a fact he knew as the previous day he had kicked a ball which had struck me. Kicking balls over people whilst they sat on a bench was part of the game, presumably to reveal the skill of the kickers and the bravery of the sitters. The possibility of being hit was part of the challenge and therefore apparently not something in which to involve adults. My presence next to physical activities seemed to indicate willingness to be involved. In another example, I noticed a group of boys and girls messing around in the corner of the astro-turf, with the boys trying to pull the girls over, and all jumping on top of each other. As I wandered over two boys shouted ‘Teddy intruder’ and grabbed my ankles. In the spirit of the game I sank to the ground, but as the play got rougher I became uncertain as to whether, as an adult researcher, I should be rolling on the ground. Whilst seeking to reduce my own potential adult power over children, I had not fully appreciated children’s own peer power relations, or my responsibilities as an adult. On one occasion after playing a game of marbles with two boys, one physically threatened the other demanding some of his marbles. I intervened by asking the perpetrator what he was doing, but was ignored. By not raising my voice to question his action, I had chosen not to exercise adult authority. By not reporting the incident to another adult I had protected my identity as a different kind of adult within the school setting. Yet, I wondered whether I had negated a responsibility towards the less powerful child? Whilst children may have their own ‘rules’ in play they still live in an adult-structured world where there are explicit and implicit divisions between the categories of child and adult, together with expectations of adult responsibility. Trust can be broken by becoming an adult in authority, but also by not taking on a role that might be expected of you. This fieldwork experience led me to reflect on the extent and type of physical engagement with children that is possible or appropriate during research. Playing chase and having balls kicked at you as part of a game were acceptable forms of physical engagement between children, and therefore would seem to be ‘permissible’ for a researcher to undertake as a means of building research relationships. Gender clearly shaped my participation in children’s interactions. As a female, I was included in the physical intimacy girls expressed with each other, such as linking arms or playing with my hair. Such contact seemed to be acceptable in a playground, although possibly questionable within a

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school building. My willingness to respond to the ‘Teddy attack’ appeared to enable the boys to engage with me. Had I been a man however I feel that there would have been questions about me rolling on the ground in this situation, although not necessarily if it had been part of a football game. I also had to consider the extent to which being accepted as a participant in children’s play meant ‘foregoing’ adult responsibilities. While I felt comfortable about my level of physical engagement, I did not feel comfortable witnessing physical intimidation between children. Overall, such physical engagement did contribute to productive research relationships with children. Nevertheless, the extent to which such engagement may be open to all researchers is questionable: had I been a male researcher it is likely I would have needed to be much more wary of my actions and their interpretation by other adults.

5 Time and Place: In and Beyond ‘the Field’ Stuart C. Aitken

Being there, in the field, is often portrayed as an exercise of devotion and frustration and, if you are fortunate, care and catharsis. Perhaps devotion is claimed by an unerring penchant for connecting with real people in real places; perhaps frustration foments around a continual need to redress theoretical and conceptual frameworks that do not fit easily with what is encountered in the field; and maybe care and catharsis come from the emotional clarity that ‘being there’, connecting with people, is precisely our project if not our life’s work. Perhaps, further, a cathartic response to frustration enables abandonment of preconceived notions, unshackling ourselves from debilitating theoretical and methodological strictures. From a practical standpoint, fieldwork is often experienced as a painstaking, glacial creep to some academic or professional outcome: an assessment, a report, capacity building, a thesis, advocacy, or a publication. As we anticipate leaving the field, as we perceive the ending of this part of the research, two things likely occur: first, we come to know fieldwork as an act of service as well as an exercise of devotion, frustration, care and catharsis, and, second, the so-called field resolves itself as everywhere and at all times. What we do next – thinking, compiling, transcribing, reflecting, writing – is as much about fieldwork as being there, engaged and connected. To pry any of this complex assemblage apart is artificial and downright dishonest. What I want to do with this chapter is focus on fieldwork as a continuous, flowing practice that is neither about the field nor about work and, is all about the field, life and work! For those of us who focus our research on families, relationships and personal lives this becomes a daunting prospect and a beautiful opportunity. As parents, partners, children, colleagues and co-workers we are invested in the complexities of daily living to the extent that research, living and 96

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working are inextricably mixed. I have argued for a number of years that debates in family studies and elsewhere are misplaced when they focus on the mechanics and logistics of research design rather than on methodologies that reflect and refract the nuances of people’s shared lives and their complexly negotiated stories (Aitken 2001a: 74). Part of this is about not losing the nuances of complexity, and part is about paying attention to the power-laden and ethical consequences of probing other’s stories. With this chapter, I explore these contradictions and contestations through three contexts of everyday life within which we, as researchers of families, relationships and personal life, are inextricably imbedded. First, by looking at where we find ourselves in place, I argue that it is never appropriate to dismiss the power of connected contexts, of assemblages that come together for a moment in a particular place and then are gone to perhaps reappear but never in exactly the same form. Second, I suggest that our connectedness in place and to other people is about throwntogetherness, which is a sense of the happenstance that is as political and spiritual as it is methodological. Finally, I argue that our desperate plans, our so carefully proposed theoretical and methodological contrivances – and perhaps also some of our dedicated ethical considerations – are sometimes not worth a jot in the face of the moment, which boils down to the immediacy of an encounter (being there), connecting at a particular moment in a particular place. Immediacy demands our attention and action, and a humanity that cannot always be presaged by thoughtful ethical considerations let alone the prognostications and prevarications of Institutional Review Boards and Human Subject Panels. In what follows I look at each of these three principles – inplaceness, throwntogetherness, immediacy – in turn, illustrating them with vignettes from Susan Elsley’s work distinguishing houses from homes [p. 119], Kathrin Houmøller and Sarah Bernays’ struggles with intimacy [p. 117], Gina Nowak’s pull between advocacy and impartiality [p. 111], Heather Wilkinson’s battle between her ethnographic research schedule and her home life [p. 114], and Emma Davidson’s epiphany about telephone interviews [p. 109]. I begin with a discussion of being in a place that focuses on the spaces of fieldwork. I pull from a little cited work by Elwood and Martin (2000), and Herbert’s (2010) admonition that sensitivity to the spatial contexts of fieldwork is insufficient. I then turn to Massey’s (2005) ‘throwntogetherness’ and Bunge’s (1971) ‘immediacy’ to help place fieldwork in post-structural and activist frameworks.

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In place Being (in) the field is an active political process. Relations of power and authority affect the nature of interactions and exchanges in the field. Social interaction and place are often inextricably linked. Place can matter hugely to how assemblages of language, bodies, clothes, gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, emotions and movement come together to contrive a research context. Place shapes social action in the sense that, at its base, human behaviour is incomprehensible without some appreciation of the locale in which it transpires. What is considered socially appropriate typically varies from location to location: What occurs in the boardroom usually is different from what happens in the bedroom; children at school behave differently in the classroom and in the playground. In noting this, Herbert (2010: 70) points out that the capacity to define space, and hence who can inhabit it and what activities may occur within it, is an important source of social power. At its most extreme, violence and wall-building (concrete, judicial and metaphorical) ensues when different groups demand hegemony over the same place (Curti 2008) or when crossings between disparately controlled spaces are attempted by groups without recourse to status or citizenship (Aitken and Plows 2010). Elwood and Martin (2000) point out that in interview and ethnographic work the role of space in shaping social action is often taken for granted to the extent that its importance is neglected. They argue that fieldwork produces new ‘micro-geographies’ of spatial relations and meaning, where multiple scales of social relations intersect at the time and in the place of the research interview: Careful observation and analysis of the people, activities, and interactions that constitute these spaces, of the choices that different participants make about interview sites and participants’ varying positions, roles, and identities in different sites can illustrate the social geographies of a place (Elwood and Martin 2000: 649). To understand the constitutive role of places requires direct experience and ongoing interaction with people who live and work in those places. It also requires an understanding of our situatedness in the research and a concern for scale, including awareness of how larger processes impact on the micro-geographies of people’s daily lives. From the early 1990s onwards, feminist researchers paid particular attention to the ways in which power relations are spatially constituted at multi-

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ple scales (Nast 1994; Katz 2004). Nagar (1997), for example, considers distinctions in oral narratives in Tanzania that come from the scale of the home then from neighbourhood streets and community functions and, finally, from various larger-scale public institutions. She notes the ways that race, class, gender and caste expectations and hierarchies shape her interactions and relationships with participants. In a different rendering of scale, neo-liberal capital enterprise and a form of civic boosterism, that is activities designed to create and project Tijuana as a global city, show up in the daily lives of children working in supermarkets in one of my studies of child labour (Aitken et al 2006). Volunteering through the city’s social welfare programme as grocery baggers often result in tips that elevate a young person to the status of main bread-winner for the family. To understand the complexity of these young Mexicans’ daily rounds requires also an understanding of neo-liberal capitalism and its impact on the local community through the Tijuana welfare department that sponsors the baggers’ programme. The scale of the global shows up in the programme because it is tied to a civic boosterism intent, among other things, on representing Tijuana’s young people as happy, eager workers rather than gangmembers, prostitutes and beggars. Scale is a consideration in Gina Nowak’s research in yet a different way [p. 111]. When she started working with children’s volunteer organisations in Scotland, Nowak was intent on understanding the larger legislative issues that could be brought to bear by this public sector. Initially using ethnographic observation methods where she remained silent, Nowak was able to identify key actors and influential moments that might propel children’s issues to the forefront of legislative debate. She found herself expected to engage more and more as a participant and an advocate for children’s causes, specifically as they related to the volunteer organisations that helped fund her research. The context of scale – comprising the local research situation and national legislative issues – was blurred by Nowak’s changing role in the research. In time, her identity as a researcher was created anew by her actions as a representative. Research contexts are continually in flux as the contexts of scale intervene. This raises the question of how we, as researchers, represent others, and when it is appropriate to move away from separating the process of conducting research from sharing findings and engaging in a politics that increases the prospects of those who are researched becoming beneficiaries. In the research on child workers in Tijuana, for example, I was increasingly aware that the children rarely identified with the exploitation that

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I sought. My story intervenes here. At 15, I took a job working in the first supermarket built in Paisley, Scotland. In a push towards success, the management abused their young Scottish workers in horrific ways. Moves to unionise resulted in layoffs for the parties involved. My young co-workers and I left this work embittered; it was an anger that later propelled my interest in child labour. In Tijuana, I found very little of the kind of abuse I experienced in Paisley (Aitken 2008). Instead, the young Mexican workers took great pride in their responsibilities in the supermarkets, bringing a youthful energy to their actions and conversations (and sometimes their songs and play-acting), and they were happy to contribute so well to their families’ incomes. Like Nowak, I found myself increasingly taking on the role of an advocate trying to better their already reasonable working conditions. The microgeographies of the Tijuana study overshadowed the abusive geographies of another time and another place. Nowak’s dilemma early in her research was whether her access to people in power within the Scottish parliament compromised her position as an objective researcher intent on understanding larger legislative issues. In time, as she found herself increasingly in the position of advocate for children’s causes, she had to grapple with issues of positionality and where she might be placed to do most good. I’ll return to Nowak’s dilemmas later but for now it is sufficient to note that as researchers we are always open to the politics of being in place. Constructing micro-geographies involves creating a window on salient power structures that operate in particular places, among specific social actors, and at a variety of social scales. Schatzki (2002) calls these kind of windows ‘site ontologies’. Elwood and Martin (2000: 653) suggest that while micro-geographies can offer a rich source of data about social interactions and power structures, they also ‘situate participants with respect to other actors and to his or her own multiple identities and roles, affecting information that is communicated in the interview as well as power dynamics of the interview itself’. In addition, the constitutive role of places may exert metaphorical and symbolic influences that overpower day-to-day living for some groups. Research by feminist geographers, for example, showed that the physical environment of some suburbs, and particularly those developed in rapidly growing cities of the 1960s and 70s, contributed to the entrapment of women into roles that were largely domestic (Dyck 1996; England 1996). Children and elders suffered also from suburban places that were organised largely around a patriarchal worldview. This critical perspective was brought to bear on different kinds of places and spaces including homes (Wood

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and Beck 1994) and institutional spaces (Wolfe and Rivlin 1987; Walkerdine 1988). Some years ago I was working to understand the place-contexts of different groups of children in San Diego. I worked with ethnically different young people as well as children with cerebral palsy, and homeless children living in the largest family-oriented shelter in San Diego. We ran educational programmes that invited the young people to take us on photo-journeys to some of their favourite places in San Diego (Aitken and Wingate, 1993; Aitken 2001b). In the final part of the programme, the children created collages of their photojourney photographs combined with drawings and images cut from magazines to create a story about ‘the perfect neighbourhood for children’. All the children at the shelter were undergoing social and/or psychological counselling of some sort and we were instructed not to use terms like family, home (or homeless) or neighbourhood in our programme instructions. The collages the children created spoke to ‘the perfect place for kids’ as a less provocative designation of home. Susan Elsley’s work researching children’s experiences of residential care suggests that residences are not always homes, and that some stark contrasts between home places and living places requires sensitivity to semantic distinctions and the metaphorical power of home places [p. 119]. How much a child’s residential home (a big house with big chairs and a sofa and a garden) is an institution and how much it is a home varies with the contexts of the children and those whose job it is to care for them. In a poignant example, a young resident at the care facility asked Elsley if she meant their ‘real family’ when questioned about the adults who looked after them. The event of place varies across time and situation when birth parents or social workers come for a visit. Elsley describes how children meet with social workers in the same room where they play, and when they do so the rules of the room change. Children cannot invade this space when a meeting is in progress. The office where adults process paperwork rules that children only ‘pop in’ if they need something. Wood and Beck (1994) point out that even the most personalised, intimate spaces are connected to global circuits of power and capital, sometimes in ways that insidiously control the actions of young people. An innocuous home rule about closing a door on a cold winter evening, they note, for example, speaks to connections between a basement furnace and a global petroleum industry that maps itself onto the ways that adults coerce and manipulate their young charges. The shared

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domestic space of the residential home belies a complex web of institutional rules that speak to how British society protects children from wayward families, how it connects them to school and playthings, how it obstructs access and encourages certain types of play at certain times, and how it views kinship and professional relationships. Home rules project views of normalcy, supervision and protection in children’s lives. The relationship between place and emotion is addressed by a number of the contributions. Elsley notes that many adults at the home went well beyond the remit of care outlined by their professional responsibilities to express powerful feelings of affection and commitment to the children. As suggested by Mehta and Bondi (1999), it is the strength of a politics of affection that drives many post-structural perspectives through which we can understand complex subjectivities and the places that help constitute those subjectivities in terms of shifting and contradictory identity positions. For Mehta and Bondi, there are important emotional connections between people and places that are best addressed from perspectives that are not constrained by structured theories (Mehta and Bondi 1999: 69). In an emotionally charged series of exchanges with 13-year-old Emily, a participant in a study of how young people cope with parental drug use, Kathrin Houmøller and Sarah Bernays speak about how safe spaces are constituted so that stories can unfold [p. 117]. Safety is a huge concern at the forefront of all ethical issues. In an office in Emily’s school, for example, Houmøller and Bernays elaborate their research programme with practicality if not sanguinity in a space where research roles are clearly delineated. These boundaries fall apart some months later with a phone call from a distressed Emily, at home and ready to leave her parents. Houmøller tells us that she knew instantly that something was wrong. Research methods training rarely prepares us for these contexts. Awareness of the difference that place makes – a school office versus a panicked call from the immediacy of home – suggests an important and often misunderstood politics. Place makes a difference to the public and private lives of individuals, households, social groups, outcasts, communities, nomads, migrant children, government officials, chief executive officers, patients, wanderers, professionals. If talking to people is the most obvious form of empiricism for many of us, it belies a multitude of complex issues that are placed in the moment of the exchange. I’ll have more to say about affect and immediacy in a moment, but for now it is important to note how emotions show up in different places and at different times, and how places are imbued with power and sentiment.

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Throwntogetherness The previous section suggests that understanding the embeddedness of power relations in places helps us to see how differences play out in particular locales, but considering power alone is insufficient to understand the dynamics relations between people and places. Unravelling the politics of places requires scrutiny of material relations as ongoing and embodied. Massey (2005: 149–152) calls material and geographic connections throwntogetherness, which describes ‘the politics of the event of place’. ‘[P]laces pose in particular form the question of our living together’, she argues, and the problem with so-called spatial politics is that they are concerned with how the ‘irreducibility’ and ‘instability’ of space can be ordered and coded. Massey has devoted much of her writing career to exploring the quirky machinations of spatial politics in a material understanding of place. Places are events in the sense that they are the ‘… coming together of the previously unrelated, a constellation of processes rather than a thing’ (Massey 2005: 141). This throwntogetherness is in part, but never wholly, planned. It may be conjectured to some degree but it is never constant. And, paramount to understanding spatial politics, throwntogetherness always demands negotiation. If we write about the uniqueness of places (as geographers and anthropologists often do), we are reaching for the impossibility of de-politicalisation. As the previous section suggests, there are obvious and also subtle politics to places and these relations are sometimes difficult to see let alone untangle when studying emotional family and personal contexts. And when places are taken for granted their subtle politics are often missed or the places are dismissed as chaotic and unmappable spaces. The point of the last section was to highlight the importance of coming to terms with the place-based contexts of family and personal relations. But we are almost always in place in relation to other people and it is important to understand the throwntogetherness of those relations. Throwntogetherness is complicated, and political cooperation ‘requires first that people whose lives and actions affect one another in a web of institutions, interactions, and unintended consequences acknowledge that they are together in … a space of mutual effect’ (Young 1990: 110). Importantly, in terms of how Massey (2005) uses the term, throwntogetherness results in forms of ‘dislocation’ and ‘surprise’ that enable political openings. Heather Wilkinson embarked upon research on night-time care of older people in residential and nursing home settings, a project

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using action research [p. 114]. Wilkinson found little in the literature to help her with the context of night-time care, and even less to help her with the ways that her home-life, and particularly her responsibility for the care of her young son, was upset. Elaborate childcare plans were required prior to Wilkinson leaving to spend time at a residential care home. In the morning, she left her nightshift fieldwork to return home, prepare breakfast for her son and get him to nursery before heading to work. Wilkinson came to the field as an experienced researcher but she was also throwntogether with residential care staff who had their own complicated arrangements at home. None had ever occupied this space in precisely this way and they all came together with baggage, complex lifestyles and personal politics. A preconceived notion of care facilities might focus on the uniqueness of the place at night when compared to the activities of day, and conclude a quieter place unshackled from visitors, deliveries and other daytime activities. But debates around the quality of care in residential facilities must highlight larger-scale social, political and economic debates that impinge upon night-time care staff. Multifarious factors – Wilkinson’s twenty-four hour round of responsibilities, her training and experience, her expectations from the research literature, the larger social and political debates, the life contexts of night-care staff – sequence together to create throwntogetherness. A strategy of negotiation, balancing relations and not foreclosing upon the ways happenstance changes research enables Wilkinson to empathise with staff workers through a shared experience of care and tiredness. Sensitivity to a wide range of influences in place at the home enables Wilkinson to use action research to focus on a politics of change in which staff members played a large part. Political change hinges upon action when the event of place co-constructs observable data. Understanding places as changing events rather than static stages upon which behaviours occur fundamentally changes the way interviews and ethnographies are constructed, and it also opens up political possibilities. Negotiating the throwntogetherness of places as events is a Herculean task that demands an ethics and a responsibility so that the political is kept open. Coming to a place with set theories, ideologies and rules of engagement forecloses upon the political and, ultimately, detracts from our purpose and our humanness. For Wilkinson, remaining open and acknowledging the changing circumstances of what she brought to the night-time project made it one of her most exciting and productive field experiences.

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Immediacy When we are doing fieldwork we are in place and in the moment. Herman and Mattingly (1999) write persuasively about an ethics in fieldwork that requires us to look at our interactions with the people we study not just in terms of how they might be harmed by a research instrument or benefit from our writing, but also in terms of immediate relationships at the time of encounter and what these might mean. Nowak quickly understood the potency of immediacy while researching children’s voluntary organisations’ relations to parliamentary legislation. When Nowak found herself filling in for overstretched colleagues she was propelled into a position where she could advocate the positions of the organisations to members of the Scottish parliament. She proceeded with some trepidation as her identity as researcher blurred with that of representative. If she had asked Bill Bunge whether the balance was shifting too far and undermining her position as a researcher he would have exclaimed, ‘Never! That is our purpose.’ Ironically, Bunge began his career in the pursuit of objectivity and positivism. His fieldwork with children in Detroit and Toronto turned him into an advocate (1971, 1973; Bunge and Bordessa 1975). Focusing more and more upon spatial oppression, Bunge’s work positioned children as the ultimate victims (he called them canaries in a coalmine) of the political, social and economic forces that contrive the geography of the built environment. Starting with observations of children at play in inner city neighborhoods, his work employed a myriad of quantitative and qualitative, aggregate and individualistic approaches to the study of spatial structure and interaction without losing site of the central theme of children’s oppression. Bunge’s work was politicised by his Marxist leaning to be sure, but it was also an early example of a social scientist engaging with the day-to-day reproductive spheres of lived experience: I worked with a young black woman … She hated my concern about the three dimensionality of the species and our need to protect the world’s children. Her people’s children were starving … Another black woman … was teaching me similar lessons, filled with hatred towards me because I did not notice the children being murdered by automobiles in front of their homes or children starving in front of abundant food. ‘Immediacy’ was their cry, ‘To Hell with the World’! (Bunge 1971: 170). Bunge’s vitriol presages concerns for ‘situated knowledge’, ‘standpoint theory’, and ‘positionality’ that call into question the privileged

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position that academic fieldworkers hold over any site of inquiry. Bunge’s legacy is for a practical, field-based research that extols advocacy for those who are exploited, oppressed and disenfranchised. Immediacy comes to light with Emma Davidson’s epiphany over telephone interviews [p. 109]. Telephone surveys were in the 1980s deemed advantageous over ‘in-person surveys’ because they enabled ‘instituting control over the quality of the entire survey process’ (Lavrakas 1987: 7). Much has changed about how we evaluate quality, and telephone interviews are derided today as a crass and impersonal methodology. Davidson’s epiphany about the immediacy of the telephone counters these criticisms. I’ll get to her immediacy in a moment, but it is worth noting first that telephone use is becoming ubiquitous amongst young people in the global north, and the most popular form of social contact between adolescents is now via text-messaging and phone calls (Van den Bulck J. 2007). Social interactive technologies (SITs) are adopted by young people because they are convenient, relatively inexpensive, and provide privacy from adult oversight. Alison Bryant and her colleagues (2006) argue that SITs are creating new forms of social and spatial relations. They focus on how the technology enables emotional, psychological and other forms of support for young people. The results of this research point to a very complex dynamic between offline and SIT-based friendships, with interactions and co-evolutions that speak to different contexts of spatial and social relations. What I want to focus on, and what Davidson’s research elaborates hugely, is the immediacy of telephone interviewing. She admits that her research project on a homeless prevention initiative across Scotland moved towards telephone surveys because of budget issues. Cost-effectiveness was compromised by a population that was geographically dispersed. Service providers gave Davidson access to a slew of phone numbers and mobile phone use was pretty much universal amongst those who agreed to be part of the study. Anna was contacted as part of the project’s focus on young people. On first contact, Davidson was surprised by Anna’s insistence on calling back once she had removed herself from her parents’ house. Later, Davidson was treated to a call where Anna raised issues of a problematic homelife, an unsympathetic housing commission, and a dangerous youth hostel. Davidson’s willingness to provide a sympathetic ear at the other end of the telephone enabled the possibility of a rich interview context. The immediacy of the telephone provides an opportunity for respondents to pick their own time and place for interviews. And,

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importantly, writes Davidson, the physical distance between researcher and collaborator enables an intimacy and immediacy for sharing in an open and honest way. Immediacy is highlighted in a different way in Houmøller and Bernays’s research. They found that the methodological safety and security of the interview enabled Emily to think through and reflect upon past experiences. Certainly, a remembered context can exact an emotional toll, but that is different from the immediacy of the telephone call Houmøller had with Emily some time later, with Emily on the cusp of leaving her parents. Davidson is surprised at the potency of a late-night phone call from Anna who is now home after leaving and spending some anxious time at the dodgy hostel. She speaks to the ways the emotional turmoil of her parents’ home is trumped by a problematic meeting with a housing office and the ensuing chaotic young people, drugs and alcohol at the hostel. Bunge’s enthusiasm influenced a rich field-based tradition in the social sciences that focused on a humanistic, quasi-ethnographic documentation of children’s and teenagers’ interactions with their everyday spaces. It inspired a number of researchers to look more closely at the politics of spaces, and focus more closely on the ways that these spaces might open up politically to the advantage of women, children and elders. Bunge’s work is steeped in the structure of classical Marxism and evolutionary theory, which sometimes sits problematically with ethnographic and field-based research. As Childress (2000: 2) eloquently puts it, structured methods may help us learn a lot about children, but they don’t help us know them. For that, we need to be in the field in a different kind of way, a less structured way, a more serendipitous way, a less contrived way, a more playful and immediate way. Herman and Mattingly (1999: 211) suggest a further concern that we, as researchers, establish ‘relations of reciprocity between ourselves and the individuals and communities we study.’ For some of us, this reciprocity requires confronting and dealing with the contradictions between academic practice (observing and writing) and our responsibilities to the people who are part of our work and lives. It is inappropriate to simply exploit their lives for data from which we benefit and write stories that simplify and may risk misrepresenting them. Although Nowak is concerned about ‘going native’ I prefer to see her anxiety over becoming an advocate as ‘going human’, unshackling herself from the strictures of theory and methods

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so that she can present and respond to the immediacy of the context. By so doing, Nowak also opens herself to ‘surprise’, which has portentous political ramifications. This does not imply a research position free from boundaries, but, as she discovers, richer relationships may ensue from willingness to blur those borders a little. Sometimes boundaries are hugely appropriate, as I found in the Tijuana child worker study, when my representational power shifted. My desire to become active on behalf of the supermarket baggers flew in the face of cultural mores and suspicion over my status as a US professor working in Mexico. I backed away from advocating the involvement of organised-labour in the case of the child baggers. In time, I took a back-seat to my Mexican collaborators and the project moved forward with an initiative to get some kind of health benefits for the supermarket workers. At the time of writing this, a similar programme in Mexico City that got organised-labour involved resulted in the wholesale withdrawal of supermarket support, while in Tijuana the supermarkets have agreed to pay for children’s on-the-job emergency healthcare. Although I still believe that organised-labour needs to be part of protecting young workers, these negotiations are often protracted and painstaking while the needs for healthcare are immediate.

A concluding comment McDowell (2010: 157) notes that fieldwork is ‘often transformative for researchers but probably is much less exciting for those who are interviewed’. Perhaps one way of gaining some equanimity in this process is to think of it as less about work and less about the field. To consider the moment of connection and exchange as an assemblage is to move our encounter into the immediacy of the throwntogether; it is to be in place and connected in a real and human way. Reflections on these kind of micro-geographies start before interviews or ethnographies begin, and continue throughout the field experience and into analysis and writing. The field is everywhere and at all times. Considering the implications of being in place raises a series of basic questions that relate to why we do this kind of research. Space matters; it affects us and the participants in our lives and work in fundamental ways, and we affect space. An explicit consideration of the ways that power and positionality are constituted, and how they affect us and who participate in our work, is a crucial part of understanding socio-spatial relations. As part of this assemblage, fieldwork is always and everywhere.

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Second best? Raising the status of telephone interviewing in research Emma Davidson Having worked as a contract researcher for several years, the mantra of efficiency and effectiveness had become all too familiar. There have been many occasions where I have toiled over the methodology section of a grant proposal, trying my best to offer ‘value for money’ by adding an extra interview here and another focus group there. Often I felt constrained by project budgets, but it was precisely these circumstances that resulted in my successful use of telephone interviews, an approach that I would otherwise have discounted. In this particular project I was part of a small team of researchers charged with evaluating homelessness prevention initiatives across Scotland. The project had a tight budget; indeed one of the criteria for the project being ‘successful’ was the collection of ‘cost effective’ data. While it was relatively easy to access the views and experiences of practitioners and policy makers, our main dilemma was how best to capture the voices of those receiving the services we were evaluating. Not only were these individuals geographically dispersed, but many were likely to have distressing and complicated stories to tell. Our initial preference was to undertake face-to-face interviews since we felt they would offer the best route to understanding peoples’ experiences of homeless prevention services. But as I added up the cost of travel and the amount of time needed to access a decent sized sample, it quickly became clear that this would not be possible. So it was for reasons of practicality – not creativity – that we opted to conduct the interviews by telephone. As we started to plan the work, I remained sceptical. Telephone interviewing continues to face criticism in the world of academic research, with the most obvious limitation being the exclusion of households who do not own a telephone. While technological advances have expanded ownership, those from deprived households remain less likely to have a telephone. It could reasonably be expected that amongst households who had been homeless, rates would be even lower. But beyond this, I also felt we were taking a risk in relation to data quality. Telephone interviews are seen as an efficient survey method, but one that is normally confined to the structured and brisk style of questioning typical of household surveys or market research. Far less use has been made of telephone interviewing in smaller-scale

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qualitative studies and I was anxious over whether I would be able to elicit the sensitive and personal data we needed. It was with some trepidation that I began to schedule the interviews. With the support of a group of service providers, I gained access to a sample of their service users. We were advised that almost all of the people they worked with owned or had access to a telephone. Mobile use was particularly common and our gatekeepers did not foresee any problems with the proposed approach. Letters to individuals who had used (or were still using) homeless prevention services were issued, inviting them to participate in the project. As well as permanent addresses, we delivered letters to ‘care of’ and temporary accommodation and in some cases service providers were able to speak to service users directly about the project. Despite minor problems negotiating access, we achieved a good response rate and in line with advice, mobile phone ownership was found to be virtually universal across those agreeing to participate. The first interview set the scene for what was to be, overall, a series of illuminating interviews. Anna was 17 and had been using a homeless prevention project for young people. On my first call I explained the purpose of the research and the things I would like to ask her about. We agreed a time the following evening to chat again. When I called as planned she quickly asked if she could ring me back. Sitting alone in the office at 8pm, I waited … and eventually was rewarded. Anna explained that she wanted to get out of her parents’ house before starting our conversation. And so, at the bottom of the garden with a cigarette in her hand, she told me about her stormy relationship with her parents, the day she walked out and how after an unsympathetic meeting with a housing officer she found herself in a hostel surrounded by groups of chaotic young people, drugs and drink. She talked about her mixed feelings about deciding to return home, the support she received and her dreams about having a place of her own. The growth of technology and peoples’ familiarity with telephones undoubtedly helped this research. Owning a phone no longer seems to be restricted to more affluent households and, for young people especially, mobile phones appeared as a normal and everyday part of life. This method not only enabled me to access respondents, but by allowing them to control the research context, it gave rise to a very different form of interaction. Like Anna, the people I spoke to could choose the location of the interview (however unconventional), they could sit how they wanted, even wear what they liked. And most importantly

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the mobility offered by the telephone meant that they could create a space where partners, parents or flatmates could not overhear. Telephone interviews are not suited to every qualitative project and, as with any approach, there will be limitations to their use – for example, we did not manage to include very vulnerable groups in our study. However, the rich data that was collected has led me to re-evaluate my preconceptions about telephone interviews. Part of my initial apprehension related to my own insecurities about relinquishing control of the research context – I felt that being physically separated from my respondents would put me at a disadvantage; I would not be able to build a rapport with them or respond to their body language. But in the end it was precisely this distance which enabled the respondents to share their stories with me in such an open and honest way.

‘I can’t share that with you yet’: The line between protecting premature research findings and being a cooperative colleague Gina Nowak In 2003, I began a PhD looking at the extent to which children’s voluntary organisations influence the development of legislation in Scotland. My research was partly funded by one of these organisations on the basis that I would spend time based in their main office to learn, observe and assist in some areas of their policy and research work, and produce a summary report of my research findings. At the outset, it was relatively straightforward to define the terms of my doctoral research. It seemed clear that an ethnographic approach would yield interesting results and provide the flexibility required by the ever changing environment of this real time research. If I could follow the policy process as it was happening and be there to observe key interactions and activities, I would have a sound understanding of the context, be able to identify the key actors and potentially pinpoint the ‘influential’ moments and procedures. The ethnographic methodologies I intended to use (participant observation, informal and formal interviews and detailed personal diaries) were chosen because they were easily adaptable and would cause minimal disruption to the research subjects, while maximising the time I spent in their settings.

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I was at an enormous advantage in terms of gaining access to my research subjects and starting fieldwork, as colleagues (both within my sponsor organisation and across the sector) welcomed me into their professional networks and invited me to attend their meetings and various events. Generally, someone would introduce me: ‘this is Gina, she’s doing a PhD so is just here to observe things, is that ok with everyone?’ I would not contribute to the discussion during meetings, and would discretely take notes and create diagrams to record the interactions. As it became clear who some of the key actors were in my areas of interest, I arranged to privately interview them to explore their thoughts and views on the processes I was witnessing. My research participants were primarily Ministers, backbench MSP’s, senior civil servants and policy officers in the voluntary sector. Devolution was still relatively new and I found my research ‘subjects’ more than happy to participate and engage with me; moreover, they were genuinely interested in the research and its findings. At this point, I was still rather naïve about what difficulties this interest would cause me. As the months passed, I found myself becoming quite well known in the sector. There was less need to introduce me as an observer at meetings, and I was increasingly being allowed to access high level government meetings. On occasion, I found myself ‘covering’ for overstretched colleagues at meetings I would otherwise have been attending in an observational capacity. In these cases, I would say ‘I’m here today representing X (sponsoring voluntary organisation)’. My identity progressively became blurred between researcher and representative. I persuaded myself that this was acceptable because I never misled people and it was imperative for my research that I remain embedded in the processes I needed to observe. The role of participant observer is often a difficult one to manage. In retrospect, there was one particular point at which I should have realised that the balance was shifting too far and undermining my position as researcher. National voluntary organisations regularly attend political party conferences to lobby elected members and delegates. Observing the type of interactions which occur was crucial to my research. Over the course of a three day conference (of the then majority governing party), I was there to observe and also work for my sponsor organisation. I found myself ‘manning the stall’ alone for a large part of this time, standing in front of banners for X organisation, wearing a badge saying I was from X organisation, lobbying all those who came to speak to me about the main areas of concern for X organ-

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isation and finally being photographed with the Minister for the sector in front of the banners as a representative of X organisation. Once people suspect that you have ‘gone native’, is there any way back? How credible are research findings as ‘unbiased’ thereafter? The level of insider information I could access increased in some areas but probably decreased in others. Over time, expectations of colleagues with regard to the outcomes of the research, my role amongst them and how much information I should share with them, changed and expanded. I was under increasing pressure to share my findings prematurely, extend the remit of the research, consider additional elements and move the focus in tandem with real time changes in order that my sponsor organisation (and others) could better direct their limited and valuable resources. ‘What are you finding? Who is doing it best? Should we bother with this or do it differently? Did that work?’ were questions I was asked on a weekly basis. On the whole (admittedly not always), I did not share the insights I was gaining from the research while it was still underway because of concerns over breaching confidentiality and also the impact I might have on the process, the data I was still to collect and ultimately the outcomes. On more than one occasion, I was told that I should be willing to share confidential interview data because, ‘it would be helpful to the voluntary sector’ or ‘it would only be put to good use’. Having to decline emotive requests was distressing at times, created tension between some colleagues and led me to question what the ‘big picture’ really was. Upon reflection, the lines around my relationship with the sponsoring voluntary organisation were not drawn clearly enough at the outset. In terms of the methodology used, the ethnographic fieldwork should have been more time bound despite the rich data it was continuing to generate. I still believe that in order to witness the informal conversations and relationship building which is at the heart of the policy influencing process it was appropriate to become part of it, but I was wholly unprepared for what that would bring. I have no doubt that people came to think of me as part of the sponsoring voluntary organisation, and I have often been asked (semiseriously), ‘I suppose you must think that X does it best because you were there?’ Some people question how well researchers can ever evaluate the effectiveness of a process that they are part of. I think that any attempt to do so must come with some frank and upfront health warnings. Attempting to do this type of research doesn’t lack merit; but it does merit caution.

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Making it through the night – the experience and impact of doing research on night-time care Heather Wilkinson Leaving the care home in the early hours of a November morning I sat in my car in the dark and cried. I was cold, tired, hungry and very emotional. I had just spent part of a night shift interviewing and observing night staff and residents in a small urban care home, part of a qualitative study using action research to explore and improve night-time care practices in residential and nursing home settings.7 The project design had two phases: first, observing practice and conducting interviews with managers, staff, relatives and residents to gather a picture of night-time care practices; second, to work with staff teams to identify areas for change and a period implementing and evaluating these in practice. As an experienced qualitative researcher I was well used to data collection that required close relationships with participants. However, this project was proving to be physically, emotionally and intellectually draining. I focus here on tensions arising from the context of researching and building research relationships through the night. The popular saying ‘as different as day to night’ is so apt for the world of night working. A care home during the day can be active with visitors, deliveries, activities and busy staff. At night the patterns and atmosphere change; there are fewer staff, the home is much quieter. I would leave behind my busy world of dinner, bath and bedtime for my young son and the warmth of my house to travel to the night shift, not helped by this taking place over the cold, dark winter months. Each night shift required complicated planning to ensure childcare was covered. Many of the care home staff participating in the study also had complicated arrangements at home, often having chosen to work nights to allow them to care for children or sick


This project was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and was carried out by Heather Wilkinson and Diana Kerr, University of Edinburgh, and Colm Cunningham, University of Stirling. For further information see

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relatives, or attend college during the day. One of the hardest parts was leaving exhausted and driving home to get breakfast, take my son to nursery and then head into work – this ‘double shift’ has to be a danger of night working, alongside other associated health risks. These personal factors were experienced against a context of contentious political, social and economic debates around quality of care in care homes. These wider debates did affect life in the care homes: staff often felt isolated and under-supported and perhaps vulnerable to criticisms focusing on quality of care. All these aspects seemed to come together to make for a very tough context within which to concentrate on building relationships and gathering data that would give us a detailed picture of care through the night. Good research relationships are central to a qualitative approach where deep and rich data are essential. During this project these relationships were affected, both positively and negatively, by the nighttime context. I had to develop and balance research relationships with different groups and ‘levels’ of people, particularly in terms of their power position within the research. My relationship with care home managers was formed around access and consent – they were the first, central step in gaining access to the site and for the action research element. Then there were the night staff themselves: working closely with these staff, my research relationship with them tended to move quickly beyond initial reservation at me ‘watching’ them (in a manner of surveillance), to one that felt at times at risk of ‘collusion’ as we survived a tiring night shift together, something I return to below. The third set of relationships – with the residents of the care home – were very different, especially as I was meeting people in the evening and night so their vulnerabilities as older people in need of care were heightened further, even by the simple fact that they may be in their pyjamas or feeling sleepy. Balancing these relationships became a central part of the research ‘work’. As the study was using action research methods, these relationships were crucial to getting and sustaining access and engagement, as well as to getting good quality data. There were tensions! I observed well-meaning staff trying to provide good quality care but with little training or support. Despite much research and practice development literature around improving quality of care in care homes, most focuses implicitly on day-time care. There is little, if any, mention of night-time care. What became clear is that a night ‘environment’ created critical conditions for care that remain

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largely invisible (Kerr and Wilkinson 2010). Night staff were largely isolated, under-supervised and felt undervalued. Evidence and training around providing care at night (e.g. around continence, nutrition, pain, etc) are lacking. Night staff frequently received less training than the day staff, and when they did attend training it was often inappropriate as it was relevant for day not night care. Two central tensions experienced during the fieldwork centred first on the risk of collusion, and secondly in balancing the different needs and interests of staff and residents. The ‘risk of collusion’ sounds rather dramatic and I don’t mean that anything illegal occurred. However, spending long nights with staff resulted in a developing empathy, built on the shared experience of tiredness and working in a difficult context. This may challenge notions of the ‘objective observer’ and risk raising questions as to the rigour and robustness of the data. However, evidence of poor practice was gathered and discussed as part of the preparation for the action research phase. Further, the primary outcome of working a night shift was stronger research relationships: implementing changes during the action research phase was considerably assisted by having the sense of shared experience with the staff who would be initiating change. Building this goodwill and engagement with the night staff was thus an important part of the researcher-researched relationship. However, at times I was observing interactions and care practices that were not always best for the resident. Bearing witness to some of these was challenging emotionally. It was also challenging as a researcher – to intervene in some situations might ‘contaminate’ data but was it ethical not to intervene? For example, during the evening tea round one resident failed to drink their tea, placed slightly out of their sight range on a side table. After the cups had all been gathered, he then asked for a drink which the staff refused, saying to me and my co-researcher ‘he never drinks it’. The emotional and political tensions for us as researchers centred on whether and how far to intervene – was this just a ‘dataclip’ to be gathered, should we empathise with the staff member, or should we pursue a cup of tea for the resident? This demonstrates how ‘the researcher’ was positioned between wanting to understand the difficulties that the staff were trying to overcome, and support better care for residents. The man was given another cup of tea! Emotionally being part of this project required huge strength and endurance to gather data and to ‘keep going’, yet the positive outcomes that emerged from the project made it one of my most exciting and productive projects yet.

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The uncomfortable context: Reflections on time and space when researching young people’s experiences of parental substance misuse Kathrin Houmøller and Sarah Bernays Emily was 13 years old when I first met her. She was the second person I interviewed as part of a two year study on young people’s lived experiences of family life and ‘coping’ in the context of parental drug use which Sarah and I were conducting. Given the topic, I was especially conscious of the need for sensitivity and giving the space and time she needed to tell her story. To my relief Emily was calm, even when she told me about her parents’ heroin use, growing up with domestic violence and having a Mum and Dad who at times ‘just don’t care’. It wasn’t that Emily downplayed the gravity of her situation but her matter-of-fact account was somehow comforting as well as disturbing; Emily was able to talk about her situation, she was getting by. Although Emily’s story stayed with me for some days after, I was reassured by the setting of the interview. I had carried out the interview within her school, and with Emily in her uniform, with her pink school bag, she had looked like a normal school girl with an ordinary family life. The crayons on the table, the colourful posters decorating the walls and the regular ring of the school bell had all added to the sense of normality. Most importantly, Emily’s school therapist had been next door during the entire interview and I had walked away knowing that I wasn’t the only one who shared Emily’s story. Even if I couldn’t quite shake off particular words and descriptions of critical moments, I felt safe. Within our research team we have later returned to this and other similar interview situations when reflecting on the influence of context on accessing and understanding young people’s experiences. That day at the school Emily and I had shared and understood the research context; we were in the same physical space and with a clear delineation of roles (she was prepared to talk and I was expecting to listen), the interview felt controlled and legitimate. Yet, many months later Emily presented me with an opportunity to think very differently about context: how this influences what can be said and how we as researchers are able to understand. To capture change over time we carried out repeat interviews with some of the young people in our study. This meant that we were in direct contact with the young people in between the interviews, keeping in touch over the phone. One afternoon I called Emily to set

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up her fourth and final interview. I knew that she would be home from school and probably hanging out with her friends as she did most afternoons. However, when Emily answered the phone I instantly knew that something wasn’t right. Her tone of voice was different. I knew that the situation at home had deteriorated and that recent events had led to her being monitored by social services as a ‘child in need’. Concerned, I asked her how she was. ‘I can’t take it no more, I don’t even want to live here’, she said angrily. I had heard Emily say these words before during one of our interviews when I had asked her to describe her feelings, but this time, immersed in her experience, the words sounded different, more urgent. Emily went on to tell me how she had just had a fight with her mum and that she had locked herself in her room. She had found syringes in the house and while she suspected that her Dad was using again her Mum kept denying this. Exasperated, she said, ‘I just want to cry’. I listened intently to her voice and felt a growing panic inside. I was in my office and she was sat in her room, frustrated and alone. On the phone there was no resorting to the supportive silence that had felt comfortable in an interview when the right words were hard to find. I wanted to say something but was suddenly unsure of my role. Despite the physical distance between us, I felt drawn into something very intimate. Here I was, inadvertently part of an immediate account in which she was within the experience, as opposed to retrospectively recounting her experiences out of context in an interview. Emily and I stayed on the phone much longer than usual. I listened to her frustration and we talked about the things that were good in her life and the people that she cared about. She calmed down. I encouraged her to tell an adult within school who could offer her ongoing support. When we finally did hang up, I felt awful. I turned to my colleague on the project, Sarah, with whom I shared an office: had I said the right things? Had I said too much? Had I sounded supportive? What would she have done? Since then, we have returned to this particular phone conversation many times when discussing our data and how to best conduct this research: what Emily had shown us was a raw moment of hurt and vulnerability, which would likely have faded in its intensity by the time I met her again for our last interview and asked her to recall what had taken place that particular afternoon. Then we would both be back in the shared interview setting, with Emily’s account by definition separated from its original context. But did one context provide ‘truer’ access to the experience than the other? Undoubtedly the phone call

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had provided insight into the restrictions of a qualitative interview method, which relies on retrospective accounting of an experience distanced in time and space, but this reflective sense-making seemed to be just as much a part of the process of Emily’s coping. Despite the limitations of a qualitative interview to access the full experience of coping, the inclusion of repeat interviews has been crucial in understanding the fluidity of coping over time, even if not accessing in real time the critical moments in the process. The phone call with Emily also prompted us to reflect on our own role as researchers and to ask ourselves what it was about the messiness of Emily’s real life in real time that had made it feel so uncomfortable? Was it the awkward dilemma that researchers studying vulnerable people often face, struggling to strike a balance between recording their experiences by minimising our presence and helping improve their experiences by being supportive? The interview context allowed us, to some degree, to separate out our roles; to be a researcher during interview time (consciously trying to minimise our influence on the experience) and a potential short-term supporter at the end of the interview, saying something encouraging to the young person, endorsing their strength. Being part of Emily’s experience that afternoon I had felt uncomfortable as it illuminated our conflicting roles. But we had to also ask ourselves whether Emily, who had expected me to listen and not necessarily ‘act’ on her story, had not found comfort in sharing this moment? This raises the perennial dilemma of whether it is justifiable and ethical to be present in the ‘real time’ experience with a primary aim of observation rather than intervention.

Feeling at home: Researching children’s experiences of residential care Susan Elsley This is a children’s residential home. It is a big old house. In the garden there is a children’s climbing frame and some bikes. It is my first visit and I am greeted by the adults who work here. Most of the children are away at school. The sitting room has big chairs and sofas, a television, books and toys. I am joining a staff meeting to tell everyone about the research study which will evaluate this residential home for younger children. A couple of weeks later I am back in the same sitting room.

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This time I am talking to the children who live here. I am warmly welcomed by both children and adults. I treated this research setting as a home but one where practical differences impacted on my role as a researcher. In a children’s home, that is to say a residential environment where children are generally placed by the state, children live there but adults don’t, although some, of course, stay overnight. The adults pass through the home according to their purposes and work shifts. The relationship of adults to children therefore immediately identifies this space as another kind of home. It is one where commonly understood patterns of adult/child engagement in an intimate space are reworked. However, children who live in children’s homes may have experiences of domestic home settings which are different to many children. They might associate ‘home’ with difficult and distressing circumstances. The concept of a ‘family’ which includes adults and dependant children is strongly associated with a shared domestic space, a home. But how do relationships between adults and children which do not involve ties of kinship play out in a home? Adults who work in children’s homes have professional responsibilities for the children who live there. However, many of the adults in this home went beyond this remit and expressed powerful feelings of affection and commitment to the children. From the outset, how children’s relationships with adults were constructed in this environment affected how I undertook this research. It impacted on ethical considerations such as seeking children’s consent to take part in the study as well as my approach to undertaking the research. It influenced my thinking about how care is provided in a space that is simultaneously a home and work environment. My experience of carrying out this research made me consider what constitutes a ‘home’ and how the relationships between adults and children manifest themselves in a place that is both public and private. Although people do live in children’s homes, it is fundamentally different to a domestic home. In a children’s home, spaces have complex meanings, combining the personal and the institutional. Rooms have the same functions you might expect in a domestic home where children live; they are spaces in which to eat, meet, play and sleep. But they are also places which meet the needs of children’s welfare. In this residential home, children met social workers and family members in the room where they also played. The office was where adults did paperwork and children popped into to ask if they could do something. Each space had rules applying to its professional purposes, such as not interrupting a meeting or locking the bedrooms when they were

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unoccupied. The space in a children’s home is therefore more public than a domestic home. At the same time a children’s home has physical and emotional spaces which are intensely private because of the experiences of the children who live there. As a researcher, I was an ‘outsider’ professional who visited the home and was given a right of access during the time I was carrying out the research. At times, I found this sense of permission uncomfortable. There were so many people living and working in this space that there was no simple way of ensuring that everyone consented to each visit. Instead, I tried to work out if it was okay for me to be there on that particular day. I had to ensure that my presence was not disruptive and was, at the very least, tolerated by adults and children. After the initial visits, I decided that the research process had to slow down to fit the rhythm of the home. I quickly learned that a visit would not automatically result in some neatly recorded interviews. This was even more evident when talking to children about their views on where they lived. ‘Home’ could have a positive meaning for a child one day but could mean something quite different on another day, depending on what was happening in the child’s life at that point. A visit from a family member could upset a child. An event or crisis such as a child getting extremely distressed could make the home feel more like an institutional place where rules and procedures had to be overtly followed to deal with the situation. This change unsettled me as an intermittent visitor. It also unsettled children and staff. These situations meant that I could not use words associated with home and family lightly. I had to find ways of exploring children’s experiences which did not cause distress. At the same I had to unpick some difficult issues about how they felt about living in the children’s home, away from their own family. On one occasion a child questioned me when I asked about the adults who looked after them. Did I, the child asked, mean their ‘real family’? As the research came to its conclusion, I felt that I had gained much greater insight into how adults and children negotiated the differences between domestic and professional space in this particular children’s home. I had a more realistic perspective on what was possible in a research encounter in a busy environment with a multiplicity of purposes. By intentionally becoming a more relaxed and responsive researcher, I hope that I became more attuned to the special characteristics of a children’s home.

6 Interpreting and Representing Families and Relationships Lynn Jamieson

Interpreting the contested, complex and fluid Personal life is a domain in which everybody has some degree of expertise. Social change in how people build and sustain families and relationships is highly visible in popular culture as well as systematically documented by research. The causes of changes are always the subject of popular as well as academic debate. The extent to which the latter informs the former is not a straight forward function of the quality of research or its presentation but contingent on additional factors such as visibility and audience receptivity. The potential audiences for research are large but few pieces of academic work are obviously heard above the general noise. Everybody has some exposure to popular and political discussions about what is going wrong with or best for families and personal relationships, as well as their personal experience. Although the voice of research is often unheard, any knowledge claims potentially contribute to existing arenas of wide-ranging disputes among political actors, moral entrepreneurs and in popular discourse; contested issues include who or what should be recognised as family, and the appropriate roles of government, policy makers, and practitioners (Jamieson and Cunningham-Burley 2003; Finch 2003; Nutley et al 2007). Perhaps researchers of families and relationships should always consider themselves as having particular responsibilities, given that representations of families and relationships are everyday objects of political debate. Most social science perspectives, and certainly a sociological one, acknowledge that how people view, speak of and live their personal life is to some extent structured by circumstances beyond personal relationships themselves. One of the challenges of interpreting and 122

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representing families and relationships is how to recognise the traces of past histories, wider social structures and popular discourses in data. This challenge is not unique to this topic area but it may be more acute since many people view their personal life as, by definition, more of their own making than that of any other domain of lived experience. Yet, as with other aspects of life, personal life can only be made in ways that contemporaneous conditions permit. Or to use the placebased idiom of the social geographer Stuart Aitken, even a small-scale personal place, like a family home or a bedroom, cannot be fully bounded and separated off from all larger-scale forces. As Dorothy Smith (1987) put it, a what-you-see analysis of the everyday domestic and familial world is always problematic because much of what is visible in our world is socially organised prior to and beyond it. Researchers’ and theorists’ consequent efforts to represent the complexity and fluidity of personal life, referred to in David Morgan’s discussion of framing, in going beyond the here and now, are not always what people expect or want to hear. The topic area, families and personal relationships, is distinctively positioned among contested shifts in modes of theorising, constructing, analysing and presenting data within social science. Assumptions about families and relationships are often central stage in debates about how to understand persistence and change in human subjectivity and social life. For example, in theoretical traditions as diverse as symbolic interactionism and the object-relations school, parenting and other personal intimate relationships are widely regarded as particularly formative in the building and sustaining of ‘selves’ and subjectivity. Families and personal relationships are sometimes also positioned as the building blocks of communities, of social integration or social division and of civility or its absence. In contrast, in a range of traditions of writing about social change, for example work inspired by Karl Marx or Michel Foucault, personal relationships are not key drivers but economic or political forces, whether operating through diffuse and relatively invisible forms or more readily identified sources of power. More theoretically eclectic authors have, nevertheless, from time to time claimed that personal relationships are at the centre of driving social change; Anthony Giddens provides the best known recent example (Giddens 1990, 1991). Various developments in analysing and interpreting families and relationships have sought to more adequately represent and theorise the complexity and fluidity of everyday life. Jennifer Mason (2006a, 2006b) has argued that multi-dimensionality of personal and, indeed, all of social life needs ‘multi-nodal’ explanations, built along different

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axes and dimensions of social experiences. Something of a multi-modal approach can increasingly be recognised in research designs of both individual projects and programmes of empirical work on families and relationships. Indeed the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) intention in funding programmes and groups of research projects in the UK is informed by this approach. Examples with a focus on families and relationships include the studies conducted by the Families and Social Capital research group, led by Ros Edwards at London Southbank University, the cross-disciplinary programme, Timescapes, led by Bren Neale at University of Leeds, and the ‘Realities’ node of the National Centre for Research Methods led by Jennifer Mason in the Morgan Centre at the University of Manchester. While not following one theoretical or methodological path, or seeking to address the same questions, the researchers within these programmes share some common practices. Most aim for awareness of the wider contexts which frame the lives of research participants, and self-reflexive awareness of the impact of their own activities as researchers on constructing and interpreting data. They have generally employed methods that are intended to capture complexity and fluidity in order to contribute to the sophistication of theoretical understandings. Indeed, attempts at realigning research to capture, understand and represent fluidity and complexity have been particularly vigorous in the topic area of families and relationships. The drive towards better capturing the diversity, subtlety and complexity of social life also make interpreting and representing families and relationships ever more demanding. Multiple data collection methods, diversification of methods of collecting data, sampling of linkedparticipants, such as both parties to a couple or grandparents and their grandchildren, subsequently listening to multiple voices from single families, households and/or friendship groups, and multiple points of data gathering across time have all become recurrent features of the research scene. The complexification of theory, research design and data inevitably makes analysis more effortful if not more difficult. The conventional understanding of ‘triangulation’ suggests that a multiplicity of data sources reduces dangers of misinterpretation and misrepresentation. The triangulation metaphor assumes that each data source provides an approximation to the real picture and that an assemblage of information will put us much closer to the reality. However, understandings of the relationship between data and ‘reality’ are not yet, some would say never will be, fully settled. The exhortation that the researcher remains self-reflexive and makes his or her processes of

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analysis transparent reminds us that the best-fit-to-the-data story is not being told by the data itself, but by an author seeking to make a good account of his or herself, as well as of the data, and that he or she is doing so for a particular audience. The researchers in this section are mindful of a range of contradictions and dilemmas in interpreting and representing families and relationships; they illustrate some of the frustrations, personal costs and set-backs, as well as rewards, of striving for audience appropriate, socially worthwhile messages that are true to a rigorous self-reflexive scrutiny of data.

Listening to and ‘seeing’ more than one side of the story It has long been recognised that interviewing one person in a relationship may result in telling half of the story (Arksey 1996; Seymour et al 1995). Nevertheless, the individual interview has remained a dominant method of sociological research. However, over the last decade in the UK, research designs recruiting linked participants reflecting the relational nature of social life have become more common in qualitative research on families and relationships. The previous absence of children’s voices from research on family life has been significantly corrected over the last decade with the development of childhood studies (see Tisdall, Chapter 3), and research studies including mothers, fathers and children as research participants are increasingly common. As Allison James observes [p. 135], representations of child-rearing families are radically different if constructed from the accounts of only children or only adults. There is a growing literature discussing this mode of conducting research on linked lives (Brannen 2005; Edwards et al 1999; Lewis 2009; Perlesz and Lindsay 2003; Ribbens McCarthy et al 2003; Song 1998; Thomson 2008; Warin et al 2007). Emergent good practice in interpreting and presenting family life requires that researchers pay attention to the added richness of multiple voices and acknowledge the partiality of single stranded accounts. Sue Kelly [p. 141] was seeking to live up to this good practice when she interviewed women on benefits and the men they were living and not living with, under the shadow of welfare rules which would remove their benefits if they were deemed to be cohabiting as couples. Kelly’s account again demonstrates the value of listening to both sides of the couple story for the subsequent subtlety and depth of her feminist analysis. In addition to James and Kelly, one other contributor notes the importance of listening to multiple voices; Vanessa May [p. 143] considers the divergent views of court officials, mothers and fathers around what counts as good practice by the court in cases of contested child custody.

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Similarly, although the dominant method of data collection is a oneoff interview, it has long been recognised that a single snap shot provides a limited picture. In the UK, there are a number of high profile, long standing, large, longitudinal, quantitative surveys, some of which sample more than one individual per household and/or family. The British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) in particular has contributed a moving picture of how individuals’ family and household arrangements change over time. As the BHPS became incorporated into the larger sample of Understanding Society the opportunities for analysis of the families and household of smaller sub-groups within the population increased markedly (Buck 2008). The repertoire of quantitative longitudinal cohort studies with the potential of throwing light on families and relationships has grown in the UK; more recent examples include the Millennium Cohort Survey, the Growing Up in Scotland survey and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing as well as new linkage of census data over time. There are now also many examples of qualitative work with a longitudinal element, including some involving linked individuals and with an explicit focus on families and relationships. Rachel Thomson has been particularly active in building a methodological literature reflecting on longitudinal qualitative methods in the UK (Thomson et al 2003; Thomson and Holland 2003; Henderson et al 2006; Thomson 2007; Thomson 2008; McLeod and Thomson 2009). The ESRC policy of encouraging the archiving of publicly funded research has modified standard practice and much of this work has been or will be available to future scholars through data archives. In combination, the resources of quantitative and qualitative longitudinal studies create a richer possibility than ever before of breadth and depth of understanding of the intersection of history and the biography of personal life. The practice of combining a number of distinct methods of data collection may sometimes have been more valorised than executed but ‘multiple methods’ or ‘mixed methods’ are commonly used and often self-reflexively theorised by researchers of families and relationships (Brannen 2005, 2008; Gabb 2008, 2009; Mason 2006a, 2006b). This often includes drawing on a range of qualitative methods, generating visual as well as verbal and written materials, sometimes seeking to access emotions and embodied senses beyond the more readily articulated accounts. It is no coincidence that a number of leading researchers of family and personal life are also leading authors on qualitative research (Lewis and Ritchie 2003; Mason 2002). The interest in reflecting richness and complexity has fuelled the particular flourishing of narrative,

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autobiography, oral history and memory work. Using both quantitative and qualitative data has also become increasingly common. Indeed this particular claim of ‘mixed methods’ has become part of the general repertoire of good research practice, although challenges remain in how these types of data are combined (Brannen 2005; Bryman 2006; Mason 2006a, 2006b). The search for increasingly innovative methods and combinations of data collection seeks to access aspects of personal life not previously reached and to create ever richer assemblages approaching a ‘least false’ picture of life as lived (Ribbens McCarthy et al 2003). The complexity of analysis and dilemmas of presentation are inevitably multiplied by combining a range of types of data, in multiple collection points over time and focusing on linked lives rather than individual participants. The potential gains are also high: Rachel Thomson speaks of ‘capturing the interplay of psychodynamic, social and historical dimensions of processual phenomena, showing how hindsight, foresight and insight interact in the research process’ (Thomson, 2008: 16). It has become standard good practice for all researchers to be attuned to the opportunities and constraints offered by different types of data and the need to make these visible to the reader in representations presented. Sharon Jackson and colleagues [p. 138] discuss these issues with reference to secondary analysis of discursive texts recording the conversations between children and Childline volunteers. May puts forward the view that drawing on data gathered in multiple ways are liable to generate inconsistent or contradictory data since there is a sense in which data are constructed differently by the mode of their collection. I would add that it then becomes the job of the researcher to make sense of the ‘inconsistencies’ for the reader, by further discussion of the different affordances and constraints that ways of collecting data offer to research participants, and of the ways in which the particular circumstances of participants are likely to shape their response to them. One of the contributors also alerts us to the potential dangers of simply substituting one form of data elicitation resulting in an incomplete picture for another in the name of innovation. Katherine Davies [p. 146] reflects on using photographs to try and elicit data about physical resemblance; her efforts at interpretation lead her to conclude that, in some cases, photographs may be ‘an impoverished form of visual knowledge’. It may be possible for striking physical resemblances that are expressed in posture and gesture to elude the still image. Her contribution is both an endorsement of the value of multiple methods and a reminder of the great difficulty, if not, impossibility, of doing enough to access the full richness of the world as others see it.

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Self-reflexivity and knowledge claims When methodological commentary on multiple methods, linked-lives and longitudinal qualitative approaches offers advice about analysis, a common theme is the importance of reflecting on and acknowledging the role of the researcher in constructing, interpreting and presenting data. For example, although there are many different styles of doing narrative analysis, they all locate the researcher within the various levels of interpretation (Stanley and Temple 2008; Thomson and Holland 2005). Discussion within sociology of the gains and dilemmas of analysing multiple connected voices, similarly stresses the importance of an openly self-reflexive analysis (Mauthner and Doucet 1998; Ribbens McCarthy et al 2003; Perlesz and Lindsay 2003; Warin et al 2007). Jo Warin and co-authors (2007), for example, draw on Sandra Harding’s much reprinted article on ‘strong objectivity’ (1993, 2004), an exhortation to researchers to show how their claims are supported by evidence while explicating rather than denying the researcher’s role in interpretation. The nitty-gritty of how to do this reflexivity is not always discussed in accounts of analysis and presentation (Mauthner and Doucet 2003). Warin and co-authors demonstrate their own practice of exploring the mutual positioning that occurs in interaction between interviewer and interviewee as a key element underpinning their own construction of a single coherent story from the multiple voices of linked lives. As Mauthner and Doucet note (2003), the interpersonal and institutional contexts of research, and the ontological and epistemological assumptions embedded within data analysis methods remain somewhat under discussed. Reference to research on families and relationships often enters discussions about the nature of knowledge and how best to document and ‘know’. This is in part because feminists have taken a leading role in both the substantive topic area and debates around epistemology and ‘standpoint’, the experience-based knowledge of subordinate groups, and the possibilities and limits of ‘objectivity’. Dorothy Smith (1987), for example, begins her own sophisticated position with respect to these issues with a description of the disjuncture between her embodied practical and emotional experience as a single parent, and the more abstract forms in which experience can be socially expressed in acceptable ‘vocabularies of motive’, ‘values’ ‘norms’ and ‘beliefs’. The project of showing how the everyday world is structured by gendered power relationships has been taken into the study of families and relationships by feminist inspired scholars. Carol Smart’s recent work on personal life is one of a

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number of examples bridging between here and now, face-to-face, embodied and emotional aspects of personal life and the mediated relationship, abstract systems and prior histories that haunt the present (Smart 2007). Continued uncertainty about ‘subjectivity’ and ‘objectivity’ and knowledge claims surface in some of the following contributions. For example, while Davies describes data collection instruments that departed from the conventional semi-structured interview, and analysis that was unusual in its attention to visual, physical and sensory data, some of the concerns she raises are familiar. She worried that she was looming too large in the construction of the data, over influencing the perceptions of respondents and distorting their accounts. She also worried about whether as the researcher she has adequate training in ‘objective’ seeing of the physical resemblances she was discussing with research participants. The issue of whether physical resemblance was ‘objective’ rather than just ‘subjective’ was resolved by introducing third party adjudicators outside of the research participant-researcher relationship. A number of the contributions play down the researcher’s voice, in some cases actively disavowing a notion of researcher’s objectivity. For example, Vanessa May’s and Sue Kelly’s contributions both actively avoid taking a position analogous to the view that the researcher carries the responsibility of producing a ‘least worst’ account or ‘strong objectivity’. Yet, nevertheless, they are doing the work of making the divergent perspectives of their research participants intelligible by locating them in their wider social contexts and, in each case, the researcher’s own self-reflexive account enables the reader to reach a better informed conclusion.

Self-reflexivity and the embodied passionate researcher Greater attention to a self-reflexive analysis may have expanded the researcher’s list of responsibilities but it has also enabled an expanded and supportive discussion of the impact of research on the researcher. This has often over focused on the phase of data collection, and particularly the emotional impact of methods involving direct engagement with research participants, although as the contribution by Jackson and colleagues makes clear, the phase of analysis and presentation can also be deeply affecting, even when there has been no prior face-to-face interaction. The topic area of families and relationships is perhaps particularly likely to invoke the sense of ‘deeply felt interpersonal connectedness’ with the research participants that Jackson and colleagues speak of. In the introduction to a new collection of writing on the topic of emotions in research, Jeffery Weeks notes, ‘the emotions

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experienced by the researchers are not excessive or superfluous. They are an essential part of the living texture of the research process’ (Weeks 2009). There is no doubt that the research process can have a significant impact on the emotions of researchers, and that researchers should reflect on this and consider how their emotional responses modify their interpretation and presentation. Emotional impact is particularly obvious when the researcher is representing troubled and difficult personal lives or when periods of research are prolonged and research relationships border on friendships. Studies of families and relationships, like studies of health, often bring researchers face-to-face with human suffering (Grinyer 2005; Hallowell et al 2005; Weller and Caballero 2009). This in turn promotes leading edge self-reflexive accounts of ways in which embodiment and emotion play a part in all aspects of the process underpinning knowledge. Weeks continues his remarks by identifying empathy as a key emotion felt by researchers, noting that researchers ‘honour the feelings of those who have agreed to participate in the research itself. For, of course, the sympathy, empathy, and engagement of the researcher is in the end all about exploring and genuinely understanding the emotions of those we seek to research’ (2009: 6). However, as is further discussed in the next section, a gut level of sympathy and apparent empathy does not always advance understanding. Two contributors, Sue Kelly and Allison James, touch on the risk of empathetically projecting thoughts and feelings onto research participants that are ‘ours’ and not their own. The contribution of Jackson and colleagues suggests that the impact of reading distressing accounts can be as distressing as hearing them first hand. A sense of representing those in distress heightened the researchers’ sense of responsibility to ensure that the voices of research participants were heard by a wider public, particularly when there was some possibility of helping to trigger future forms of assistance or redress. They also acknowledge an emotional cost of knowing that doing justice to the data and telling the story will not in itself change the lives of these specific research participants. The phrase ‘pain by proxy’ is adopted by Jackson and colleagues. ‘Pain by proxy’ has much more commonly been discussed in the context of data gathering and particularly face-to-face interaction with research participants, but here it is experienced in working with written accounts of phone calls made to Childline in the process of conducting secondary analysis. The emotional responses were not simply occasional feelings of distress when analysing material which is distressing because it is the distressed voices of children telling of distressing events but ‘deeply felt interpersonal connectedness’. The researchers

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speak of visual and auditory sensations imagining or picturing the events and despairing feelings of impotence. They also talk of efforts to ensure that ‘the children’s voices’ were heard by policy makers and practitioners with the power to make a difference and describe how ‘pain by proxy’ even intruded into high profile presentations, when a researcher lost her emotional composure reading out an extract of a child’s voice.

Telling their story and mine Self-reflexivity has not eradicated the view held by some researchers that they are speaking for respondents and enabling their voices to be heard. The sense of speaking for people is often particularly acute for researchers working with disadvantaged groups and documenting situations amenable to policy or practice redress. Sometimes researchers valorise staying close enough to their research participants’ accounts to produce a representation of families and relationships which research participants themselves would recognise, while also bringing the added value of a researcher’s disciplinary perspective. It was suggested earlier that a sociological perspective enables more systematic attention than a lay person can normally give to how personal lives have been shaped by conditions beyond those of people’s own making. There is no inherent inconsistency between the researcher as an active interpreter and the responsibility of ‘being true to the data’, which in turn are typically the voices of ordinary people; ‘being true to the data’ demands transparency in how evidence has been used rather than denying the researcher’s role in interpretation. Most of the contributors offer insights into how they negotiate a path through the dilemmas of telling ‘their’ story and ‘my’ story. For example, James describes going beyond a literal reading and hearing of what children told her about being ordered and managed by adults, noting that she rejected her initial interpretation triggered by an empathetic reaction. Her account suggests, however, that her gut empathy was not initially tempered by her disciplinary craft; an anthropological or sociological perspective required more careful attention to the routine circumstances of children, their everyday location in institutionally and culturally supported position of subordination. This in turn reframed her understanding of how children themselves experienced the interactions they described. She notes that without understanding children’s location more sociologically, seeking to see families and relationships ‘through the eyes of the child’ risked an ‘adultist’ view.

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Kelly acknowledges that she began researching women’s and men’s experience of the ‘cohabitation rules’ expecting women to share her own horror of economic dependence on a man. Her preconceptions of what she was about to hear were grounded in mistaken empathy and projection from her own feminist position. They changed, or, as she put it, had to change in order to be able to listen. Although she stresses the importance of not letting the researcher’s voice dominate, her analysis was not simply telling their story. It also attended to the wider socioeconomic and cultural contexts of her research participants and the constraints they faced as poor lone parent mothers living on benefit and in relationship with low-waged male partners who were not reliable earners. She concludes that the negative consequences of the cohabitation rule on the building and sustaining of trusting caring relationships stemmed from the external imposition of breadwinner and dependent positions, rather than their emergence from internal negotiation. This conclusion is only reached as their story because of the added value that her own analysis brings. May comments that ‘all accounts are presented from a point of view and there is no “God’s eye view” account to be offered’, yet this perhaps underplays her own work as analyst and presenter. She counterposes her analysis of a six-month timescale as ‘efficient’ court working, based on scrutiny of court files, with her contextualisation of parents’ views of this as a long time. In her final example, she describes how different pictures emerge of an older person’s social relationships from four different types of measures. Although she uses this as a salutary tale reminding us how data are constructing reality rather than unproblematically reflecting a ‘single reality’, she also acknowledges that the differences may be apparent rather than real ‘contradictions’. The epistemology of many authors, including those subscribing to a ‘least worst’ analysis or ‘strong objectivity’, would both acknowledge the social construction of data and put forward a coherent account that makes best sense of the divergent data. For example, since normatively, and often in practice, the front line of informal care for an older person is their partner and their children, there is no necessary contradiction in leaving a friend out of reported sources of support, while placing her or him alongside family as ‘most important people’. Friends are important but not, in this case, as front line support. Similarly, there is no necessary contradiction in the fact that those who loom large in an interaction diary are not ‘most important people’ or vice versa. Often interaction in itself is valued, being-out and doing things in company, even when the company are not our ‘nearest and dearest’ and sometimes opportunities for spending time with ‘most important people’ are limited.

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In her contribution, Davies explicitly addresses divergence between what she sees in photographs and what her researcher participants see, and her dilemmas over how to interpret this. Her consideration of ‘subjective’ versus ‘objective’ knowledge keeps both possibilities open. She retains the voice of a researcher without counter posing participants’ knowledge as subjective and her’s as objective. She both acknowledges the co-construction of knowledge, the possibilities of mutually influencing what the other sees, but without rejecting the possibility of an ‘objective’ seeing. Rather, she suggests that the ‘seeing’ of her participants trumped her own because they were informed by information not present in the picture. The possibility of an ‘objective’ seeing is explored further by incorporation of third parties into the project to test whether there are resemblances that are evident to anyone. Jackson and colleagues do not explicitly address these dilemmas but unequivocally talk of ‘bringing the children/young people’s voices to policy makers’. This is consistent with their sense of responsibility because of the nature of the material, children’s distressed calls to a help line in order to talk of terrible situations. However, I would add that it appropriately and respectfully underplays their own role in their presentations.

Divisions of intellectual labour The contribution of Jackson and colleagues make it clear that working in a team helped provide support when dealing with the emotional costs of interpreting and representing the voices of children in distress. None of the other contributors explicitly refer to the conditions of their team work; some were solo researchers. Yet team work is a feature of many research contexts, and team-based divisions of labour are one strategy for reducing the increasing volumes of data generated by more complex research designs to manageable proportions for interpretation. However, sometimes divisions of labour are hierarchical without being collaborative. Compartmentalising the tasks of data collection and authorship in turn can undermine the possibilities of self-reflexivity about the whole research process (Mauthner and Doucet 2008). Within social science disciplines in the UK there are some gendered divisions of labour between and within particular topics. There are certainly more men at conferences labelled ‘theory’ than there are at conferences labelled ‘family’. Family and relationships research is dominated by women, reflected in the contributions to this book. The domains of ‘theory’ and ‘family’ as foci of intellectual labour in

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practice overlap; there is excellent theoretical writing by researchers of families and relationships, but construction of separation and hierarchy between ‘theory’ and ‘family’ also persists. Not all academic writing which invokes families and relationships in theoretical debate is underpinned by engagement with the available bodies of research in the topic area. Broad-sweep, high-level theoretical accounts are sometimes weak on evidence. This kind of account has more often been written by men, reflecting the gendered choice of specialism within social science. There are also large bodies of research on families and relationships that focus on immediate practical and policy concerns without taking up opportunities to inform wider theoretical debates. Much of this literature is written by women. There are, of course, women and men who defy this categorisation, again as reflected in contributions to this book. However, if academics declare their priorities by what they research, families and relationships still seem to be treated by many as to do with ‘women and children’. Or to put it another way, the disproportionate number of female voices among the researchers and theorists explicitly making families and relationships their domain of study suggest that ‘ruling relations’ (Smith 1987) continue to influence divisions of labour in knowledge work as well as family life. There is always the potential for productive dialogue, within and between disciplines, among researchers of families and relationships, between them and more abstract theorists, policy makers, practitioners and wider publics. Dialogue with more abstract theorists potentially moderates grand sweep theoretical claims with research evidence and enlivens the theoretical substance of data. The contributors address their engagement with some of these audiences but not typically their ambitions in terms of theoretical interventions. However, it is easy to see how, in each case, their work could be of relevance to a range of theoretical debates that are not the central focus of the work itself. The possibilities are many but, for example, the work of James could contribute to more general discussion of processes of reproducing subordination and the ‘weapons of the weak’, Jackson and colleagues to the nature of trust, Kelly to governmentality and intersections of class and gender, May to debates about knowledge claims, Davies to wider debate around subjectivity and morality.

Concluding remarks Interpreting and representing the contested, complex and fluid realities of families and relationships is a challenging and rewarding business.

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The pool of researchers meeting this challenge includes frequent contributors to the ‘methodology’ literature, leaders and leading commentators on methodological innovations, particularly in the diversifying domain of qualitative research. Examples include the growing body of sophisticated self-reflexive accounts of interpreting qualitative longitudinal data and presenting more than one side of a story through hearing and ‘seeing’ multiple linked lives. Researchers of families and relationships are also at the heart of wider debates about the nature of knowledge claims and constant cultivators of self-reflexive accounts, acknowledging that researchers are always embodied and often passionate, contributing to the growing body of writing on emotions in research. The impact of this vigorous body of research on wider theoretical debates within the academy is perhaps not as significant as its methodological contribution, and arguably does not always get the recognition it deserves. As the contributions sometimes suggest, some researchers are more modest than they need be in their own theoretical claims. Continued agonising among researchers over whether they are telling the story of research participants or their own reflects both vigilant rigour of good methodological practice and misplaced lack of confidence in acknowledging the theorising voice of the researcher. Processes within the academy creating gendered choices of specialty compound this, reducing the number among us who both directly engage with real data about the complex and fluid realities of families and relationships and who are also unabashed by and acknowledged as doing theory. Because everybody has families and relationships and interest in the topic is wide, it is highly appropriate that writing is accessible to a range of readers. This exacerbates a risk of theory being understated or unrecognised. It is sometimes difficult to spell out the added value brought by the researcher’s disciplinary craft without resort to more specialist language. On the other hand, a great deal of writing about families and relationships has thankfully resisted the adoption of unnecessary convoluted and pretentious language in the name of theory.

‘The things children say’: Understanding children as narrators of their lives Allison James The growth of childhood studies since the 1990s means that children’s views and voices are not absent from social research on the family – what

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the family is and what it does is thus no longer simply understood through the thoughts offered by adult informants. We now have insights into ‘the family’ seen through children’s eyes, derived largely from children’s narrative accounts and art work. Here I give some reflections on issues that have arisen for me and lessons gained whilst exploring children’s views and experiences of the family. Adopting a child’s eye view can make for uncomfortable experiences as a researcher. In one project, children’s experiences of relative powerlessness within the family was brought home to me when I began to look closely at the language that ten-year-old children used when talking about the kinds of decisions that they made about their lives. The children talked constantly in terms of ‘they’ (parents), and especially ‘she’ (mothers), ‘allowing’, ‘letting’ or, more often, ‘not letting’ them do certain things. I suddenly realised – or thought I did – what that must feel like: constantly being ordered around, told what to do and having little apparent control over the pattern of one’s daily life. However, this was an initial adultist response – I would not like this at all. Later, mulling it over, I realised how matter-of-factly the children spoke of these things – from their perspective, this was the way the world is and, for the most part, this lack of control over their daily lives did not appear to be controversial. It is how it is. From a child’s point of view, therefore, any negotiations within the family start from this imbalance of power, with any small victory the more pleasurable. Thus children gleefully detailed the tactics they used to persuade, cajole or trick their parents into relaxing the rules. Some were tried and tested practical strategies, such as sulking or being extra good; others roamed into the realms of fantasy – what they could do if only it were possible! But all were revealing about the relative position of children within family hierarchies. The need to adopt, very consciously, children’s standpoint, not only in relation to data collection but also during the process of analysis and interpretation was brought home to me when trying to analyse children’s biographies. Although all informants’ narratives are partial – subject to memory failings, deliberate obfuscation, unconscious representations and so on – children’s narratives are in some senses even more partial. Since children are often marginalised from many aspects of family life, and experience it from a position of powerlessness with respect to decisions that are taken or events that happen, the accounts they offer may have even more lacunae than those of adults. They can appear to offer a less coherent story, one that is sometimes hard to make sense of. However, it is precisely these holes and ragged stories

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that can be so revealing about the standpoint from which children are speaking to us when they tell us about family life. This is illustrated well in ten-year-old Lucy’s account of her life so far. Using a time-line she drew pictures of things that had happened to her up to about the age of six or seven, followed by other things that had occurred more recently. What was absent from her time-line however was any mark registering the time when her parents’ divorced. How was I to interpret that? Clearly Lucy knew that it had occurred as, in conversation with me, she readily described the effects it had had on her life – she had moved to a smaller house and to a neighbourhood where she had fewer friends. It was therefore not without consequences for her, something that could be absent-mindedly forgotten in detailing her biography. So why had she left it out? My answer was that, for her, experiencing this as a-child-of-divorcing-parents, there was not a legally defining ‘moment’ when the divorce happened. Rather, from her standpoint, her parents’ divorce and separation was experienced more as a process of change than an event in her life. It materialised slowly and literally – in the loss of a large garden to play in, in a new and unfamiliar neighbourhood to explore – and in the new kinds of relationships she forged with her parents and grandparents that, in her view, made her feel more grown up. Although other interpretations of this omission could be made – clearly a psycho-analytic interpretation might yield a rather different understanding – from a childhood studies perspective, one that tries to present the social world through the eyes of a child, this ‘absence’ can only be explained through using the words, imagery and signifiers that children themselves use. This commitment to seeing the world from a child’s standpoint encouraged me to present Lucy’s remembered experience of the rupture of family life in the descriptive, rather than emotional terms, that she herself used. Had our conversation taken place, say, just after she had moved away from her father Lucy may have expressed some sadness or talked more about the difficulties involved; it is also possible, however, that she may not have done so. I simply do not know. Instead, unprompted, what Lucy wanted to tell me was, first, about the material changes it had made to her life and second, the good outcome it had for her in terms of her sense of self and social relationships: it had made her feel much more grown up. If we want to understand children’s views on the family we have to pay attention as much to what children do not say, as to what they do. Our recent study of children as family participants also illustrates the insights that children’s narratives bring to understandings of the

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family.8 Here we matched interviews with parents with those of their children, a process that sometimes yielded confirmatory data about family decision-making – but not always! In one instance, Richard’s mum is keen to tell us just how much Richard agrees with the family attitudes to mobile phones – these are useful only for emergencies and not something children need. Richard, however, tells us in his interview just how much he’d like to have a phone and how he dreams and schemes of various ways in which he might persuade his father to buy him one. Talking to Richard’s mum alone would have left us with an essentially harmonious view of family life; from Richard we got quite another story. Family scripts are exceedingly powerful; what I have come to realise over the years of talking to children as well as their parents is just how important a corrective children can bring to those scripts. These may work well for adults in the family but for children, who are so very differently positioned, they may be experienced in rather different ways. Researching children in families has, therefore, taught me a great deal about the ebb and flow of family life. However, it is has also revealed to me not only the importance of listening to what children have to say but, most significantly, the importance of the ways in which they express their views.

The emotional impacts of working with sensitive secondary data Sharon Jackson, Kathryn Backett-Milburn and Elinor Newall Whilst ethnographic and qualitative accounts regularly contain reflexive narratives, relatively little consideration is given to the researcher’s emotional self. The impact on researchers of working with sensitive secondary data has received practically no attention. This account draws on two collaborative projects with ChildLine Scotland (CLS) exploring their unique caller data base. The first investigated children and young people’s concerns about the health and well-being of their parents and significant others, the second children and young people’s

8 This study was funded by The Leverhulme Trust and carried out jointly with Penny Curtis.

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sexual health and well-being concerns, including sexual abuse. Narrative summaries of notes taken by ChildLine counsellors were also analysed. The calls and the various levels of written records accessed can be seen as raw accounts unmediated by researcher interaction. Our team’s experiences of analysing and presenting data that comprised immediate accounts from children resonates with Moran-Ellis’s (1995) reflections on reading accounts of child sexual abuse and her observation that she felt ‘much pain by proxy’. We reflect on the various and sometimes unexpected ways in which working with such data impacted emotionally on all members of the research team and the particular challenges working with written or secondary accounts poses for researchers. In both studies a significant proportion of narratives contained children/young people’s accounts of their experiences of abuse. In the first, a small proportion concerned sexual abuse, most focused on neglect, emotional and physical abuse. This was somewhat unexpected as we thought the records would primarily be focused on concerns around parental health and well-being issues. Instead, callers’ concerns often concentrated on the impact on themselves of parental issues such as substance misuse, mental health, domestic violence, and other issues such as divorce and separation. In the second, all accounts of abuse were sexual in nature. Sharon and Elinor therefore spent much time in each project reading and analysing accounts of child abuse and neglect. While fieldwork may pose significant threats to researchers’ emotional well-being, the emotional repercussions of the analytical process have been neglected. Perhaps this is because the interactional and relational dynamics between researcher and researched, from which emotionality is considered to emerge, are less obvious or seen as absent from the secondary data analysis. We did not interact directly with the children/young people whose stories were represented in the data; nevertheless, the analytical process brought us into a profound and powerful emotive relationship with those who had confided their acutely felt distress and worries to ChildLine counsellors. We thus found that there can be a deeply felt interpersonal connectedness with data from secondary sources. The accounts of abuse in the database were harrowing. The narratives, often involving graphic, detailed descriptions in the child/ young person’s own words, evoked lives that were being shattered by incomprehensible acts of cruelty, violence and neglect. The emotional impact of analysing a huge volume of small extracts about a particular

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topic was cumulative. Elinor wrote that after reading hundreds of accounts of sexual abuse, each one representing an abused child, she felt horror, anger and a deep sadness, emotions that mere statistical accounting cannot convey. In addition, like Sharon, she regularly dreamt about the data she had been reading. Emotional support happened within our team, but often this was reactive. Sharon and Elinor also had access to counselling help at ChildLine, but, significantly, this was in the ChildLine offices, not when analysing our data back in the research office. After periods of coding extracts when they had not actually felt they were particularly emotionally engaged with the data, both researchers experienced a cumulative reaction at some subconscious level. They felt that, when doing analysis and coding, it was often necessary to numb themselves and not acknowledge the horror of what they were reading. However, every now and then feelings welled up and they experienced distress and despair, sometimes needing to leave their desk or stop work altogether to recover. Sharon observed that, while the accounts were textual, they also elicited visual and auditory sensations. When reading the accounts there was an alternation between imagining or picturing the events described in the narrative, and hearing the voices of children/young people. These visual sensations were akin to the ways in which we conjure up imagery when reading a book. In many ways therefore we were ‘imagining the text’. In reading the accounts we found ourselves ‘seeing’ the abuse happening. In analytical team meetings, we shared how distressing we all found the accounts. Feelings of ‘impotency’ characterised the analysis stage. As academics we were in receipt of this information yet we could not act, we could not do anything. As Sharon noted, working with this kind of data strips you of agency, positioning you as helpless. We also found it hard to make analytical decisions about what to leave out, concerned that we might misrepresent or exclude children’s experiences thus doing them a disservice. Elinor worried about letting the children callers down, feeling responsible for making them heard and trying to make things change for them. Both projects had dissemination phases bringing the children/young people’s voices to policy makers, practitioners, media and other stakeholders. We all experienced and exhibited emotional reactions during or after presentations in different settings, particularly when reading out children’s own words. Sharon found herself almost in tears when reading out extracts at the launch of findings in the formal setting of the Edinburgh City Chambers; she has never read an extract out loud again.

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Reflexive writing about emotions is unfamiliar territory as the conventions of academic writing tend to prescribe ‘objective’ accounts somewhat divorced from issues of the self. In so doing we are also publicly revealing something deeply personal, which may feel particularly challenging for younger researchers concerned to protect their professional credentials. Poignantly, it reminds us that the children/ young people who called ChildLine, themselves went through the process of disclosing the profoundly personal to others. It allows us to recognise to some extent the courage this took.

Hearing men changed my mind but it is still a feminist issue! Sue Kelly My research interest in the cohabitation rule in social security law was sparked by the knowledge that the rule forces mainly women into financial dependence on men. Underlying the rule is the assumption that cohabiting couples share their money with each other and any children in the family. Based originally on the idea that husbands would support their wives the rule is today supposed to be gender neutral: either the man or the woman can claim or be each other’s dependent. In practice, it is more likely to force the woman and her children to depend on the man. Lone parents are the benefit group most likely to commit cohabitation rule fraud. If found to be cohabiting, they risk losing benefit. Male partners tend to be invisible in this fraud calculation. I aimed to speak to female and male cohabitants about how they perceived their financial support obligations and to compare male and female perspectives. I was troubled by the very idea of researching other people’s lives. It seemed to give me too much power. As a new researcher I immersed myself in feminist methods literature. I talked a lot about recognition and respect and how my relationship with the people who agreed to be interviewed mattered enormously. My feminism, combined with my personal experience of financial dependence, led me to conceptualise the cohabitation rule as the disempowerment of women. I wanted to raise questions about the role of the bureaucratic state in reinforcing forms of oppression. It was quite clear that the oppressed I had in mind were female and the oppressors were male. But this seemed to place me in an antagonistic relationship

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with the men I was going to interview. I was on the side of women but I didn’t see men as the enemy. Before starting my field work, I reflected on men’s disempowerment within an insensitive social security system. In that sense I could be on their side; on the other side was the state. However, the point about the state was its apparent collusion in patriarchal relationships. Initially, I adopted a ‘false consciousness’ approach: men were trapped on the other side of discourses which defined women in terms of subjugated emotional lives. This was not recognition and respect but more like forgiveness. As I carried out interviews and reflected on their meaning, I began to see things differently. Women told stories about avoiding cohabitation or lying about cohabitation. They explained their actions in terms of maintaining control over money needed to pay bills and care for children. In some cases, their partner had a chaotic lifestyle or was in and out of jail so couldn’t be relied upon. However, although a small number of the women I spoke to were concerned to avoid dependency on any man, others did not mind being dependent on a man they could trust. Undependable men were the problem, not dependency per se. I almost stopped listening. I clung to my own relationship aspirations. If I’m honest, I didn’t think much of theirs. On the other side of hiding a partner, was a partner being hidden. Men told me about having to sneak in and out of the house, worried the neighbours would notice, worried the man in the car parked outside the house was actually a fraud investigator. One man spoke about moving in with a woman and not wanting to take over when he moved into her house. Another spoke of wanting to share care of his child in the family home even though he had separated from his child’s mother. That did not fit into the bureaucratic construction of a separated couple. Nor did it count as shared care because the father did not take his child out of the family home to care for him. Restricting a new partner’s overnight stays was one way a woman with a child might avoid losing her lone parent status and with it her independent income. Keeping bills in the woman’s name was essential in the concealment of a relationship but it also interfered with the development of shared responsibility for the household. I listened to one couple’s stories. If she told the authorities she was cohabiting, she and her daughter would be forced to depend on him. She wanted to maintain her independence, having fled an abusive relationship but she also wanted him to feel some commitment to building a home. He was sensitive to her feelings but sometimes felt he was paying too much. It occurred to me that someone who was always hidden could quite easily come to feel that he does not have a home. He was more like

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a lodger. One woman had mistakenly thought that because her new partner worked away and had never lived with her full-time that they would not be treated as cohabiting. When she realised her mistake she was happy to give up her benefit claim: it made them ‘more of a family’. I began to realise that I had to hear what was being said, including that women might trust a man enough to depend upon him. I had to find new ways of making sense of what women and men were saying rather than squeezing them into the boxes I already had waiting for them. The cohabitation rule helps to perpetuate rather than challenge gender inequality. However, hearing male voices and the voices of women other than my own led me to conclude there was no female story to compare with a male story. Instead I learned the importance of context in creating gendered experiences. Part of that context was the cohabitation rule. It was influencing the experiences of men and women and hence impacting on their relationships. Other contexts included living with low income and gendered expectations. Building relationships of trust and mutual support are difficult at the best of times. The cohabitation rule was making that more difficult because it effectively nominates breadwinners and dependents without thinking about how the dynamics of a relationship changes when obligations are imposed rather than arrived at. This is what I now understand the feminist issue to be. Making knowledge claims about or on behalf of others is a political act. I aimed to bring together voices in a way that neither drowned out diversity or privileged a single account, most notably my own. People’s own accounts of their relationships make sense but if strongly held beliefs are used to write over those accounts then that sense, or in other words that knowledge, is lost. To hear something new, I had to acknowledge and question my own reactions to what people were telling me. This research was exciting because it challenged rather than confirmed what I already thought. It did not undermine my feminism but provided new insights and a new way of understanding what I mean when I say that I am a feminist.

Using mixed methods to research families and relationships Vanessa May This account contains some reflections of my experiences in two research projects that have used a mixture of both qualitative and quantitative methods to examine family life and relationships. In this account I focus

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on the multi-dimensionality of social reality, and the impact that this has on the accounts that social scientists can produce. In 2002, I began work on a project on contact and residence disputes in court.9 The study contained two quantitative elements (an analysis of the key characteristics of a sample of court files and a survey questionnaire sent to parents involved in court cases in three county courts), and two qualitative elements (a narrative analysis of a sub-sample of court files and in-depth face-to-face interviews with 61 parents). The data we gathered through these different methods did not combine to produce a ‘neat’ or consistent picture of what ‘really’ goes on in these cases. Here I discuss two examples of ‘inconsistent’ data: first, the issue of whether or not the courts are working ‘fast enough’ and second, whether the court orders were in the best interests of children. Courts deal with a high number of cases, so the fact that the majority of cases were resolved within six months seemed to indicate that the courts were operating in a relatively efficient manner. Yet when speaking to the parents involved, even a week’s wait can seem excessive: many only go to court as a last resort when the situation has become so inflamed that they are unable to resolve matters on their own. In such cases, it is understandable that parents wish for a virtually immediate resolution so that they can go on with their lives. However, those cases that are the most complex (and therefore perhaps seem the most urgent) also take the longest to resolve in court, as a number of agencies become involved and numerous reports are compiled. Parents may thus find that they have to endure an unbearable wait for several months, which may lead to disappointment with the perceived sluggishness of the judicial system. This apparent contradiction is the result of our two methods ‘measuring’ two different objects – how long a court case takes ‘objectively’ speaking versus a party’s subjective assessment of this. It is therefore important to point out to practitioner and policy audiences that they cannot make conclusions as to people’s subjective experience of time (and the degree to which they are satisfied with this) on the basis of ‘objective’ measurements of time. On the basis of our findings from the court records, another issue that also appeared to work quite well was that children’s living and contact arrangements are rarely disrupted by the courts unless there

9 ‘Residence and contact disputes in court’ conducted with Carol Smart, Amanda Wade and Clare Furniss at the University of Leeds.

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exists serious and well-documented concerns for their well-being, indicating the courts do take children’s welfare seriously. This interpretation however did not correspond with what we heard from parents. Fathers were generally of the view that the amount of contact ordered by a judge was based on a template that did not consider the needs of individual children. Many mothers felt that the courts did not listen to their concerns over violence or neglect, ordering contact with the father regardless. Each party approaches a court case differently and has particular expectations of what should happen, and court disputes are multi-dimensional processes. Consequently, they are not reducible to one single interpretation. For example, when it comes to the efficiency and fairness of the courts, or to what has taken place in a court case, there can be no one ‘true’ account – all accounts are presented from a point of view and there is no ‘God’s eye view’ account to be offered. It is crucial for social scientists to bear in mind that social reality can often be ‘messy’ and that sometimes they have to allow conflicts to exist within their accounts, despite the pressure to produce straightforward explanations of what is going on in the world. My latest reminder of the role that methods play in the construction of knowledge comes from my involvement with an ongoing mixed methods study, part of Realities.10 Here we have found differences in the picture we get of people’s social relationships depending on the method we use. For example, one of our interviewees, a woman in her 70s, falls within the cluster ‘Good spouse and children, unsupportive friends (and family)’on the basis of her responses in the ELSA survey. In her first qualitative interview she does indeed talk a lot about her family members, and barely mentions any friends. However, her interaction diary that details a week in her life presents us with a different picture altogether. Although she is in contact with her adult children (mostly by phone), her days are mostly filled with seeing people she knows from church or other activities. Yet a further relationship map of the people who are most important to her revealed something slightly different again. Her family does figure strongly, as does her closest friend who had not appeared in her interaction diary. At the same time one


‘Realities’ is part of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods. The study, Inter/Generational Dynamics, is being conducted with Jennifer Mason, Stewart Muir, James Nazroo and Anna Zimdars. It uses the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) survey data as well as collecting a range of qualitative data with a sub-sample of ELSA respondents and other data sources.

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friend who had figured highly in her interaction diary, and whom the interviewee talked about as a friend, was not on the relationship map. The reason behind this apparent ‘contradiction’ in our data is, similarly to above, that not only are our methods measuring different ‘objects’, but also that our data are constructing reality rather than in an unproblematic fashion reflecting a single reality. The methods that social scientists use are in other words always implicated in the data, which is why no two methods can produce the same picture.

Making sense of family resemblance: The politics of visual perception Katherine Davies Although rarely featuring as more than an aside in studies of relatedness, family resemblances, whether they be in looks, mannerisms, temperament, health, humour, emotion, talent and so on, are a significant aspect of western kinship. The Living Resemblances study11 set out to explore how resemblances work in families – how they are perceived, claimed, yearned for or denied, the personal politics and moralities of the ‘doing’ of resemblance – and their relationship to western conceptualisations of kinship, inheritance and genetics. The project employed a number of methods to access different aspects of resemblances including a set of thirty ‘creative interview encounters’ aiming to explore the role of resemblance in everyday family life. The interview encounters were ‘creative’ in that, as well as employing more conventional qualitative interviewing methods, we also drew family trees, paid attention to interactions between family members and incorporated photograph elicitation techniques. Photograph elicitation was largely used to generate discussion about physical resemblances. Participants showed me photographs displayed on mantelpieces, in photo albums, shoe boxes and filed on computers, to showcase resemblances already discussed in the interview and at times eliciting discussions about


This study was conducted as part of the Real Life Methods Node of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (RES-576-25-5017). The project team comprised Jennifer Mason (Principle Investigator), Katherine Davies (Research Associate), Lynne Cameron, Josephine Green, Brendan Gough, Jon Prosser and Carol Smart.

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resemblances not previously mentioned. In order to explore the role of resemblances in everyday family life, we felt it important to pay attention to the physical and sensory, dimensions which are not always accessible by asking people to verbally report back on behaviour or emotions in a ‘standard’ talk-based interview. Perceiving these physical dimensions of resemblance in the interviews themselves, and interpreting and representing them in analysis, posed a number of difficulties. During the interviews I was surprised to find my perceptions of the resemblances I was shown in photographs constituted a significant aspect of the interaction. I felt a strong social pressure to comment on the resemblances during photo elicitation: it is what one does when being shown family photographs, and it felt rather rude to remain silent. I often felt under pressure to get it ‘right’ and correctly identify a resemblance. My reflections on these interactions were a valuable part of the team’s analysis, telling us something about the social conventions surrounding how resemblance is done and displayed; yet I often wondered how far my own perceptions of resemblance in the interviews could or should be interpreted as data and analysed as such. One reason for this ambivalence was that it was clear from my interview interactions that perception of resemblance is not neutral, but loaded with relationships and emotion. For example, during an interview with Pauline, she became very emotional as we were looking through photographs of her late husband. Earlier, Pauline had told me that there is a strong resemblance between her late husband and daughter. When we got to pictures of the daughter, although I thought perhaps she looked a little like her father, I was certainly not struck by an uncanny likeness. On one hand I felt that such perceptions were ‘data’ in that my failure to see the striking likeness between Pauline’s late husband and daughter that Pauline saw pointed to the subjective nature of perception when it comes to resemblance. Pauline’s perception was mediated by the emotion (it obviously provided her with comfort) and relationships (she has known the people in the pictures intimately and over many years) she attached to them. On the other hand, including my own perceptions of resemblance in the analysis somehow felt like overstepping my role as a social scientist. I had seen how perceptions of resemblance were tied up in the politics and emotions of family relationships: surely what the people actually looked like was irrelevant, and we should instead concentrate our efforts on analysing only the ways people talked about how they saw resemblance working in their lives.

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Furthermore, the photo elicitation seemed to expose the inadequacy of the photographic image for portraying a resemblance. During many interviews participants would search through their photographs, lamenting the lack of a single image that captured the resemblance they were trying to describe. This could be one of the reasons why Pauline saw a resemblance between her late husband and daughter that I did not – I only had one still image to look at whereas Pauline had years of knowledge of the living, breathing people in the pictures. I began to wonder whether it was irresponsible to attempt to incorporate my own perceptions of the resemblances I had been shown when they represented such an impoverished form of visual knowledge. Indeed we found that an over reliance on photographs in the interview encounters sometimes served to close down discussions of non-physical ways of resembling (Mason and Davies 2009) and we were wary of an analysis that focused on physical resemblances in photographs to the detriment of other realms. After all, physical and non-physical ways of resembling are not mutually exclusive – people can appear to look more alike if they are similar in other ways.12 We wanted to incorporate and deconstruct interpretations of both objective and subjective ‘measurements’ of resemblance and physical and non-physical ways of resembling in our analysis in a way that remained sensitive to the entwining of such categories in everyday life. Of course the subjective perceptions of participants were crucial, yet stopping here would have ignored the evidential nature of some resemblances. Sometimes a likeness is so striking that it is obviously there, regardless of the medium in which it is represented or what is known of the people’s relationship, and this matters, to the individuals involved and to understandings of relatedness. It was vital that we paid attention to all these elements in our interpretations of the data (visual, textual and observational). One of the ways we did this was through a linked experiment utilising psychological testing techniques. We were interested in pursuing the ideas raised by my experiences in the interviews about whether relatedness could be ‘perceived from the “outside”’


These ambivalences regarding the role of photographs in making sense of resemblances also came to the fore when thinking about when to display photographs in publications and how directly to link them to other forms of data. In each case we had to consider what the inclusion of a photograph could contribute to a discussion of the social, emotive and contingent elements of resemblance and what the ethical implications of doing so might be.

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(Mason and Davies 2010: 63); whether it is possible to recognise relatedness from looking at a photograph without knowing the person. Participants in the experiment were given photographs and were asked to identify people they thought to be related. We included some of the photographs I had been shown in the interview encounters, selecting photographs of people who were perceived to have a particularly striking resemblance and those who (although related) were not thought to look alike. We wanted to experiment in our analysis with these different modes of ‘measuring’ perception of resemblance; comparing the situated, contingent judgements made in ‘real life’ families with the more abstracted, objective judgements made by strangers in an experiment. In order to fully make sense of family resemblances we had to allow room in our analysis for so called ‘objective’ measurements of visual manifestations of resemblance, without neglecting more familiar symbolic interactionist inspired approaches of analysis which focus on narratives, subjectivities and contingencies. As well as being able to directly compare the perceptions of family members with those of a group of neutral observers (and thus lending some formality to my own more ad-hoc perceptions made in interviews), pursuing the concepts of subjectivity and objectivity of perception through the use of experimental methods aided our thinking about the complex and often contradictory ways in which resemblances are perceived and understood in different contexts and within a culture of competing knowledge claims and discourses.

7 What Happens Next? Getting Research into Policy and Practice Sarah Morton and Sandra Nutley

While academics seek to provide insights into the contemporary issues around families and relationships, we also need to think about the implications of these insights for those concerned with developing policies or working with families. This chapter explores how academic knowledge about families and relationships can influence the understandings and actions of policy makers and practitioners, and ultimately the support families receive by drawing on the growing national and international literature on these issues (e.g. Alexanderson et al 2009; Mullen 2005; Ouimet et al 2009; Widmer 2009). Much of this documents and debates national efforts to promote evidence-informed policies and practices within specific policy areas, such as education, healthcare and social work. Increasingly, there are also efforts to learn and draw broader lessons from these sector-specific national endeavours (Nutley et al 2007; Nutley et al 2010). As well as drawing out these general lessons, this discussion is grounded in an overview of the knowledgeto-action activities of one specific research centre, the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR), based at the University of Edinburgh with partners across other Scottish universities. Locating CRFR’s work within the context of the developing literature on research use, and showing how this literature has helped shape CRFR’s approaches to making research more relevant and influential enables less abstracted engagement with the issues. CRFR is an appropriate example of an academic-based unit for thinking through these issues because of its outward focus, which includes an agenda to engage with stakeholders in non-academic sectors to ensure the uptake of research. The mission of CRFR from its inception has been to make research accessible to a range of audiences and to work in partnership with policy makers and practitioners to ensure that research 150

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is relevant and useful to policy and practice communities in Scotland, the UK and beyond. There are two particular reasons for focusing on it in this chapter: peer review comments have emphasised its innovative and highly-engaged approach (its knowledge exchange activities have been described by the main funder of social science research in the UK, the ESRC, as ‘outstanding’); and our detailed knowledge of CRFR (Sarah Morton has been in a knowledge exchange role there since 2001 and has been key to developing many of the approaches and initiatives outlined in this piece, as well as more recently developing research on this topic). Several terms have been used over the years to describe how universities have sought to work with wider communities to ensure that academic research is useful to those communities. Knowledge transfer has been a common umbrella term for these activities, especially when the emphasis has been on commercialising science and technology research. In recent years there has been increasing dissatisfaction with the knowledge transfer label as it implies a one-way transfer of knowledge from the academy to external research users. In response to these criticisms, knowledge exchange has become the preferred term for describing the activities that seek to ensure that academic research has a wider impact, and it is the term that is used in this chapter. It implies that knowledge from different sources needs to come together in the process of research use, and activities to promote this need to enable two-way dialogue and knowledge sharing.

The context for research use in the UK At the time that CRFR was established in 2001 there was a great deal of interest in how research might be used to help tackle some of the persistent problems affecting contemporary families and society. The New Labour Government in Whitehall advocated the need for evidence-based, or at least evidence-informed, policy and practice, and argued that this approach should guide the activities of civil servants and public service professionals: This Government expects more of policy makers. More new ideas, more willingness to question inherited ways of doing things, better use of evidence and research in policy-making and better focus on policies that will deliver long term goals (The Cabinet Office 1999a). Closer to home, the new Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government were also keen to develop an evidence-informed understanding

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of social problems and social policy options. CRFR’s aim was to undertake research that would inform policy debates and choices in this potentially receptive climate, and to act as a conduit for ensuring that policy makers and practitioners were aware of relevant research in the topic area. In order to operate effectively in this context, CRFR needed to be mindful that both Whitehall and the Scottish Government had a broad view of the evidence needed to make well-informed decisions, and academic research was only part of the picture: Good quality policy making depends on high quality information, derived from a variety of sources – expert knowledge; existing domestic and international research; existing statistics; stakeholder consultation; evaluation of previous policies; new research, if appropriate; or secondary sources, including the internet. Evidence can also include analysis of the outcome of consultation, costings of policy options and the results of economic or statistical modelling (The Cabinet Office 1999b). In both policy and practice settings, research is thus one form of knowledge that needs to be considered alongside other – sometimes competing, sometimes mutually reinforcing – forms of knowledge. These other forms of knowledge include routine monitoring data and the experiential knowledge of practitioners. But if research is just one form of knowledge that needs to be integrated with other forms of knowledge, what does this tell us about the process of research use?

Conceptualising the research use process It is helpful to unpick what we mean by research use, as there is more than one way in which research can be said to be used. At the most basic level we might expect research to change someone’s awareness of an issue, for example they may become aware of a problem that they had not previously recognised. If they consider the research in more detail, it might lead to a change in their understanding or knowledge of that issue. It might even alter their behaviour or attitudes, which in some circumstances can lead to a policy or practice change. However, the process of research use does not necessarily follow a neat path that starts with awareness and ends with policy and practice change (Nutley et al 2007). Research use may start with awareness and end with changed understandings, often referred to as the conceptual

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use of research. This can happen because although people may be persuaded by research which suggests the need for practice change, the current context is not conducive to making such changes. At the other end of the spectrum research can result in policy and practice change, often termed the instrumental use of research. This is more likely when research findings fit well with current ways of doing things and when findings suggest that these modes of operation only require fine tuning. Of course, research use does not occur within a political or ideological vacuum, and research may also be used in symbolic ways to support decisions that have already been made on other grounds. Whether one is talking about conceptual, instrumental or symbolic uses of research, a key question is who is involved in this process. A common way of thinking about research use is to envisage two communities: on one side the academics, and on the other the policy making community. This ‘two-communities thesis’ has highlighted the differing timescales of these communities and their different languages and priorities (Caplan 1979). The two-communities idea is often accompanied by discussion of a lack of common understanding between these communities and the need to bring them closer together through networks and personnel exchange (for example through research-policy networks and staff placement schemes). While there are merits in the two-communities idea, research use strategies also need to recognise that there are multiple players and organisations involved in the research use process, as illustrated in Figure 7.1. In a country the size of Scotland, the two-communities

Universityand and University collegeresearchers researchers college

Research institutes and Research institutes and independent evaluators independent evaluators Think tanks and Think tanks and knowledge brokers knowledge brokers

Media Audit, inspection Audit, inspection and scrutiny and scrutiny regimes regimes Politicians

Civil servants

Service providers Figure 7.1

Government analysts analysts

Professional bodies Professional bodies Lobbyistsand and Lobbyists advocacygroups groups advocacy

Loc govt officers Service users

Political advisors

Wider community

The many active players in policy networks

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thesis also falls down because of the extensive networks (both formal and informal) that blur the academic-policy divide. Many policy makers and academics were undergraduates together, are members of the same informal networks and meet at functions and social events (Hepburn 2009). This ‘Scottish village’ effect means that there are many opportunities to build relationships across sectors. We mentioned briefly the way in which conceptualisations of the research use process have shifted over time from linear (knowledge transfer) models to more integrative (knowledge exchange) ideas. Best and colleagues document three generations of knowledge-to-action thinking over the last couple of decades (Best et al 2008; Best and Holmes 2010): – Linear models were dominant during the 1990s when the emphasis was on knowledge transfer – communicating research findings well to outside audiences and getting the products right for this job, through, for example, producing accessible briefings. – Relationship models came to the fore from 2000 onwards as knowledge exchange ideas became more prevalent. Under these models, there is still a need for accessible knowledge products but the assumption is that research uptake rest on a network of relationships between researchers and research users. Research needs to be integrated with other forms of knowledge within these networks and knowledge brokers can play an important role in bringing people together. – Systems models are seen by Best et al as the future. The argument is that for knowledge to be used it needs to be embedded not only in relationships but also interwoven with the priorities, cultures and contexts of organisations and systems. For this to happen, researchers need to work closely with policy makers and practitioners and become involved in cycles of inquiry and action. So research may be used in a variety of ways and this use may result from a range of processes. In bringing these issues together, Weiss (1979) suggests seven models of research use: 1. Knowledge-Driven Model: this resonates with traditional ideas about knowledge transfer and with a linear model – research is conducted, discovers new ideas and is applied in a particular policy and practice setting (e.g. the contraceptive pill).

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2. Problem-Solving Model: here the focus is on a policy problem, with existing or specially commissioned research being used to help solve the problem. It assumes a degree of consensus about the issue to be addressed (e.g. reducing the consumption of tobacco). 3. Interactive Model: the relationship between policy makers, researchers and practitioners is dynamic, iterative and rather messy as they search for a better understanding of issues. In doing so, they draw on evidence from a variety of sources (e.g. reducing illegal drug use). 4. Political Model: research can be used to shore up entrenched political positions, and in doing so, the research is sometimes taken out of context (e.g. research on divorce has sometimes been used selectively to argue that marriage is best for children). 5. Tactical Model: the fact that research is being done is used to avoid taking action, to delay action or deflect criticism. 6. Enlightenment Model: over a long period of time ideas and ways of thinking from research will cumulatively affect the way that policy problems and solutions are conceptualised. It is hard to cite the specific research that has influenced decisions because of the range of factors involved (e.g. the move from a medical to a social model of mental health in Scottish policy). 7. Research as part of the intellectual enterprise of society: policy concerns and academic interests are both embedded in the broader development of social concerns. What gets studied is partly defined by wider social concerns, and the research in turn shapes thinking by both policy makers and at a broader societal level (e.g. concerns about teenage pregnancy). The political uses and misuses of research often come to dominate discussion about the interaction between academics and policy makers, providing an illustration of the frustrations on both sides. It is clear that knowledge-driven or problem-solving examples of research use are far from the norm. Research can influence policy and practice thinking but only occasionally does it lead directly to the policy and practice changes that researchers might dream of. There are concerns about academics working too closely with policy makers as it is argued that part of the role of academics is to challenge current thinking and keep the system honest (Weiss 1979). If academics work closely with government, and are often funded by them, it can be argued that their independence is compromised, as it might undermine their ability to ‘speak truth to power’. Conversely, working closely on a shared agenda might develop the level of trust required to

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enable an open and frank discussion of issues. Indeed, others have argued that it is only through closer relationships and the development of trust that the evidence can be used to change policy (Leischow et al 2008: 79).

Improving and increasing the use of a programme of research These models of the process of research use can help us to understand how to improve the use of any particular body of research. This is illustrated by analysis of CRFR’s efforts in this regard over the last decade. While the production of accessible briefings and end of project events have been core elements of the Centre’s work, it has also sought to work interactively with policy makers and practitioners by undertaking collaborative research projects, opening research up to discussion, and developing research-policy-practice networks. Over time our ideas about how we engage with research users have expanded from disseminating findings at the end of a project to including a wider range of user engagement activities throughout the research process, as illustrated in Heather Wilkinson’s account [p. 163] of the knowledge exchange activities associated with her project on night-time care in care homes. Here, the way researchers worked closely with the care homes and their regulators was an integral part of the research process, and it enabled learning from the research to be taken on-board quickly by practitioners and managers. CRFR’s research has on occasion contributed directly to changes in policy and practice (instrumental use), for example commissioned research by the Scottish Government on family law fed directly into the debate about the Family Law Act. A range of inputs to the evidence base for changes to the law included informal advice to government analysts as well as formal commissioned research (a module of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey) – although the use of this was much more apparent at Committee stage than in the parliamentary debates, as discussed later. More frequently the impact of our research has been less tangible, though it is sometimes possible to trace the way it has influenced ways of thinking (conceptual use). Thus, a research collaboration with ChildLine Scotland contributed to the ways that children are viewed in the development of policy to reduce the consumption of alcohol in Scotland, though there have been other policy and voluntary sector drivers pushing in the same direction. Of course, the use of our research by policy makers is also likely to have included some cherry picking (symbolic research use).

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CRFR has sought to ground its knowledge exchange activities in what we know about the effectiveness of different practices. A review of the literature by Walter et al (2003) that explored what helps the uptake of research found the features of effective practices to be: • Translation: research must be translated and adapted to suit the audience, and be open to discussion. • Contextual analysis: targeting specific barriers to and enablers of change. • Individual enthusiasts can help carry the process of research impact. Personal contact and the ability to ‘sell’ new ideas are important. • Credibility: strong evidence and endorsement from opinion leaders or high level commitment. • Leadership: to provide motivation authority and organisational integration. • Support: financial, technical and emotional – dedicated co-ordinators have been core in some initiatives. • Integration: activities need to be integrated within organisational systems and activities. All key stakeholders need to be involved. The accounts in this chapter illustrate some of the issues that may arise in knowledge exchange activities. CRFR has had translation activities at its core, including a research briefing series and targeted materials for different audiences. Jennifer Flueckiger’s account [p. 167] discusses the challenges of editing research findings to make these accessible to a range of audiences. She reflects that translating academic research is rarely a straightforward process as it involves negotiating key messages and appropriate language. CRFR also organises events such as conferences and seminars, which contribute to translating research for different audiences whilst also opening up opportunities for engagement and discussion. David Porteous [p. 175] reflects on some of the challenges of opening up discussion, and of learning from audiences’ reactions in order to adapt presentations to suit what audiences want and we observe his learning curve as he tries different approaches to translation. The work of translation requires an engagement with user audiences in order to understand their ‘languages’ and concerns. Valeria Skafida [p. 172] discusses some of the challenges of translation when using the broad medium of the press. She grapples with the issues of deciding which messages to highlight for some elements of the audience, whilst trying not to offend or upset others. As this account shows, there are commonly multiple audiences for any translation activity and the need to address their different needs can be problematic, especially when they are very diverse or include research participants.

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Reaching policy and practice audiences with tailored and accessible research finding is not straightforward. Many policy makers and practitioners have limited time to read research summaries or attend presentations. Keeping up to date with research can be a low priority for some groups, especially when the research is not considered to be timely or relevant to immediate needs. Many potential research users lack the skills to access, understand and interpret research findings unless there is significant translation of the academic jargon associated with most research reports. The idea of translation fits with knowledge transfer models of the research use process, and it is only by adding the element of discussion that we move beyond this into a relationship based on knowledge exchange; discussion opens up the possibility of integrating research knowledge with other kinds of knowledge. Understanding the context for any knowledge exchange activities is a key ingredient in increasing the likelihood of research being utilised. Research use is complex and as such is contingent on context (Sanderson 2000). Contextual analysis involves understanding how particular audiences might react to research, how it fits with current policy and practice thinking, and whether it will reinforce existing beliefs or challenge them. The audience’s attitudes to research in general, and their orientation to particular research methods, can also influence research use. For example in Porteous’s account, the audience’s reaction to details of random sampling is a barrier to the uptake of his survey findings. Similarly, in Wilkinson’s account, the contentious nature of the research shaped the way she was able to communicate it. Walter et al (2003) highlight the need to understand the specific barriers to and enablers of change in particular settings, as these will have significant effect on the impact of a research project or programme. Some researchers find the idea of contextual analysis challenging. They understand the issues within their research, but may not have the knowledge or the skills to analyse the policy or practice context. CRFR’s approach is usually to work with an advisory group for each research project, who may provide valuable advice in relation to the current context for research use. These groups are also helpful in gaining access to research participants and in identifying potential audiences for research findings. For example, in a recent CRFR project on worklife balance, one advisory group meeting set aside 20 minutes for a contextual analysis of work-life balance policy at the local, Scottish, UK and European level. This was used to inform the knowledge exchange activities for that project.

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Enthusiasm is probably not what most researchers think about when preparing a talk on their research, but it is one element found to help the uptake of that research. Individual enthusiasm, from researchers themselves or from knowledge brokers can be key in developing the right mind set for others to utilise the research. A small study (RoeschMarsh and Morton 2007), conducted to explore the impact of a seminar series on childhood issues found presentations that were clear and articulated with conviction had a much greater influence on the audience than those presented in a more traditional academic way. Walter et al (2003) note that in ‘selling’ research ideas personal contact is important. In line with this, Flueckiger’s account demonstrates the enthusiasm she brings to her knowledge broker role. The credibility of research will, of course, affect its potential impact. However, credibility depends on more than strong methods and clear results; it also depends on whether the researcher/research organisation has achieved a prior reputation as a trusted source. The accounts of Porteous and Wilkinson both emphasise the importance of credibility in communicating their work to stakeholders. CRFR’s position as a University-based research centre has contributed to the credibility of its research compared to, for example, independent think-tanks. Endorsement of the research by opinion leaders can increase perceived credibility, and when this is coupled with high levels of researcher commitment and enthusiasm, the potential for impact is increased. CRFR endeavours to maximise the credibility of its research by, for example, inviting ministers to comment when findings are presented, getting media coverage for research, and working enthusiastically with organisations and potential users on the implications of the findings. A project which coincides with or fosters a high level of commitment from opinion leaders and the political will to act is most likely to effect change. For example, a CRFR research project in partnership with Health in Mind (a voluntary organisation), presented findings about male survivors of childhood sexual abuse in 2009 to the Scottish Government’s Survivors Scotland National Reference Group; this was followed by a Scottish Government commitment to establish a working party to develop an action plan to address the research findings. Leadership emerges as an important factor in increasing the uptake of research in the Walter et al review (ibid). Getting leaders in policy and practice organisations to commit to the value of research is obviously beyond the influence and control of most academics, and CRFR has been fortunate to work with a range of individuals and organisations who have demonstrated such a commitment. In the absence of

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such leadership, it can be frustrating to try and ensure that research has an impact. The current policy context in the UK, with research funding and assessment bodies promoting the importance of research impact, may offer new pathways and incentives to those who seek to engage with research impact activities in academia. The provision of support for research use is important both in academic and in policy and practice settings. One of the key differences between working in research centres with a commitment to knowledge exchange and working in standard academic departments is often the level of knowledge exchange support available. If knowledge exchange is not costed into research funding applications, and is not supported by university practices it will be hard for individual researchers to carry out the activities necessary to increase the impact of their work. Our experience indicates the need for support on a practical and an emotional level. This includes the provision of advice on talking to unfamiliar audiences, help in developing research translation skills, and the opportunity to debrief after working with external partners or giving a high profile presentation. Flueckiger and Skafida reflect on giving and receiving support in their accounts, with Skafida discussing how the support she received felt reassuring, though not perhaps enough when faced with the realities of talking to the press. One of the roles of a knowledge broker (knowledge coordinator or ‘boundary spanner’) has been to provide this sort of support. From its inception, CRFR has invested in a dedicated resource to work across research-policy-practice boundaries. Initially one individual, this has now grown into a knowledge exchange team, including both Flueckiger and Kelly whose first-hand accounts of aspects of their knowledge broker roles and the skills required form part of this chapter. This team has facilitated the development of an extensive network of researchers and research users, and has produced dedicated knowledge exchange strategies for individual projects. There is a need to recognise that different skill sets are required to conduct high quality research than those needed to communicate research findings and understand policy and practice contexts. We commented earlier on the need for research to be integrated with other forms of knowledge in the process of research use. CRFR has found that involving stakeholders in the research process from the beginning to the end of a research project facilitates this integration. A good example of this is Kelly’s account [p. 170] of the issues of developing a user-community for the Growing up in Scotland study, where she is the dedicated dissemination officer. Partnership models, practitioner

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research programmes, and research advisory groups are all mechanisms that facilitate the integration of research within organisational systems. It is important to note however the differences that exist across the policy making arena in terms of receptivity to evidence. It is often easier to engage with civil servants than with politicians. The former are often active players in topic-based networks and so it is possible to develop relationships on specific areas of mutual interest that can lead to opportunities for research to be used within the development of policy on these topics. With respect to politicians, some aspects of their world are more open to engagement with research. For example, in the Scottish Parliament there is a strong committee structure where much policy is made, and engaging at this level can offer opportunities for more open discussion of research evidence than might be the case in debates in the main parliamentary chamber, a more public arena where party positions are more entrenched and political issues more overt. As previously discussed CRFR was involved in productive discussions with committees during the passage of the Family Law Reforms in Scotland 2001–2006. Despite this the debate on the controversial aspects of the reforms in the main chamber made little reference to research and relied much more strongly on political and moral values. In some arenas we have to accept that politics and public opinion will feature more strongly than research evidence. Press coverage of research finding can facilitate a number of the activities outlined above. It can help reach a wider audience, bring credibility and endorsement from opinion leaders, and help in the work of translating the research for different audiences. However, as the accounts by Skafida and Wilkinson highlight, working with the press can be challenging. Publishing solely in peer-review journals maintains a degree of researcher control over what is said about your research, and allows for further discussion and debate with colleagues. Once research is communicated more broadly, especially through the press, there is no control and no right of reply; nevertheless, loss of control needs to be balanced against the potential to reach large audiences and develop a momentum of interest in the research. Porteous’ account reflects on getting good press coverage for his work, although, like Skafida and Wilkinson he still notes the challenges of ‘letting go’.

Looking forward: The future of knowledge exchange It is important to make use of opportunities for increased interaction between governments and universities and between individual policy

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makers and researchers. Opportunities to respond to government consultations, provide expert opinion to committees and engage in informal discussion with civil servants and politicians predated devolution in the UK, but the proximity and activity of a Scottish Parliament has increased these opportunities in Scotland (Jung et al 2010). At the time of writing, imminent cuts in public spending are consuming the attention of policy makers and public service delivery organisations in the UK. The need to make substantial cuts in public spending raises questions about the value of publicly-funded research. Research councils are focusing their minds on methods for estimating the economic and social return on research investments, and pencils are being sharpened to finalise the details of how impact will be assessed in the Research Evaluation Framework, which will determine the future allocation of resources to universities. Will it be enough for the research use/knowledge exchange agenda to continue in much the same vein as it has done over the last 5–10 years? We noted above that Best et al (2008) argue that there is a need for a new form of scholarship to fit with the ideas of systems thinking if research is to have an impact (and thus be perceived as providing value for money!). Academics, it is argued, need to get round the table with policy makers, managers, and practitioners to think holistically about social problems, system blockages and gaps in knowledge. They need to work collaboratively on cycles of enquiry and action. In this vision of the future, academics work within and outwith the academy, and are comfortable in a range of settings, applying existing knowledge and seeking out new knowledge to fill identified gaps on specific topics. Recent work at CRFR illustrates how we are starting to think about a systems approach to knowledge use. At the start of 2010 we received funding from the Big Lottery for a partnership project with a consortium of voluntary agencies to address issues of parenting. In this project, academic knowledge will be integrated with service evaluation, telephone helpline data, and practitioners’ views in the process of addressing contemporary parenting challenges. A cycle of enquiry and action will enable learning and identification of new issues. The focus will be on pooling knowledge to address gaps in services and policies, which will be addressed by the project partners. One of the interesting and useful features of this kind of thinking about the future of research and research use is that it identifies the need for a new kind of space for interaction between researchers, policy makers and practitioners. Currently most of our interactions with policy makers happen within their territory (e.g. people are called in to assist with the

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policy process). Interactions with practitioners might happen in a range of settings – at conferences, in training events or via networks – but rarely are any of these spaces mutually constructed as neutral territory. Perhaps truly shared spaces might be away from both the academy and the policy and practice spheres. If that is the case, they need to be constructed to allow for an equal dialogue about the uses of multiple sources of knowledge from the research, policy and practice worlds.

Sharing slippery knowledge – handling the unintended impact of knowledge exchange Heather Wilkinson the mere generation of evidence, however, does not mean that policy and practice will act upon it (de Leeuw et al 2008). When undertaking a piece of research, I always hope it will have some effect or impact that is positive. Much of my work has aimed to inform policy and/or practice around dementia care. The dissemination methods used have changed over the years, moving away from a standard report to more diverse and innovative ways of translating research findings into accessible messages for a number of ‘users’. The example presented here relates to a piece of work that had both intended and unintended outcomes. It illustrates how the processes of knowledge exchange can be controlled and planned, but only to a degree, and that there can also be uncontrollable and unintended consequences! As the project exploring night-time care in care home settings13 developed (see Chapter 5), it was clear that various findings emerging were of relevance to a number of different policy and practice communities, including night staff, regulators of care quality, managers and providers of care homes, residents and relatives, training and education providers, and policy makers at a government level.


This project was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and was carried out by Heather Wilkinson and Diana Kerr, University of Edinburgh, and Colm Cunningham, University of Stirling.

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A clear policy of the funders (JRF) as well as the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) was a strong emphasis on dissemination from the beginning of a project. We always intended to produce a standard, accessible report alongside a four-page ‘Findings’ summary. However, as the important and innovative nature of the findings became clear, the process of knowledge exchange was extended and planned for in greater detail. The following forms of knowledge exchange and dissemination received additional funding and occurred in the year after the project in order to target and communicate effectively with specific audiences to whom the research was relevant: Table 7.1

Additional knowledge exchange activities and formats




A launch event

Study participants, funders, care home managers, UK Care Commissions representatives,14 other interested researchers

Audience invited to attend a one day event with speakers, copies of materials and a theatre piece.

Theatre piece ‘Night and Day.’

Launch audience

A short piece of drama highlighting the key findings in a story format using actors.

Media coverage

General public

Press release produced by research team working with JRF Communications team. Press, radio and TV interviews.


Care homes, trainers and practice developers, general interest

Designed by the research team in conjunction with the JRF communications team and made available as hard copy set of 6 or downloadable free from the JRF website.


Care homes, trainers and practice developers, general interest

A postcard designed with the JRF web address to access the other materials.


Care Commission Scotland, Care Commission England (now the Care Quality Commission CQC) and NQIA Northern Ireland. Wales did not identify a representative.

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Additional knowledge exchange activities and formats – continued





Care home staff, trainers and practice developers, general interest.

Based on the ‘Night and day’ script developed for the launch a 15 minute audio drama was recorded using actors and accompanied with some facilitators’ notes. Free to download from the JRF website.

The reports were produced and the planned launch was a success. The findings were well received by the targeted audience, with the theatre piece proving to be a powerful and effective communication that many felt was the most memorable part of the day (based on event evaluation forms). There was also much media coverage, particularly on local and national radio, including some interviews with care home staff. Following the excitement and relief of the launch event’s success it quickly became clear that not all of the findings were well received by everyone. While we had focused on the positive findings in the report, the changes that had taken place during the action research phases in the care home settings, it was the more negative findings that required sensitive handling that became the focus of some of our audience. In part this seemed to be triggered by anxiety at the media giving a negative ‘spin’ to some findings for the sake of a good story. For example, I received phone calls from a newspaper threatening to ‘reveal’ the homes that had taken part in the work, clearly against all principles of research ethics but in their view part of a ‘good story’. Such a media focus on some of the care practices before the action research interventions was threatening to some of the organisations and individuals affected by the findings, leaving them feeling vulnerable and defensive. What we had hoped would be informative and influential research that would be used to support better practice was soon viewed by some as contentious and challenging. To return to the de Leeuw et al (2008) quote, it was clear that evidence does not necessarily result in action, but I would add that evidence does not necessarily result in the action that was aimed for or intended as part of the knowledge exchange process.

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Rather than the intention of (naïvely surely now in retrospect?!) working with key stakeholders to effect supportive change, we spent a long period of time engaging with some audiences who focused more on responding to the negative findings. Whilst it was important to learn from some of the negative findings, the process of learning had to be supportive rather than detrimental to those involved. In hindsight, despite the tensions, the longer-term outcomes were more effective and robust because of this process of dialogue, central to the engagement of some of the organisations affected by the findings. Night-time care had previously been a largely ‘invisible’ aspect of care. The process of engagement and discussion around the findings allowed for a more in-depth consideration of night-time care than a more straightforward dissemination would have allowed. The novelty of the findings, and resulting reactions to these were underestimated during the initial dissemination. By engaging in a more measured process of knowledge exchange it was possible to address the tensions created by the presentation of the findings, for them to become more embedded into policy and procedures thereby giving more visibility to night-time care, from the level of individual care homes to more national organisations. One consequence was the establishing of a small working group (funded by the JRF) involving individuals from the three regulatory bodies Over 5 meetings this group engaged in positive debate, with outcomes including a checklist and guidance for care home inspectors, and indicators around night-time care. This work is now located on the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) website.15 I learned the hard way from this project! My understanding deepened of the complexity, slipperiness and challenges of unintended outcomes during the dissemination and knowledge exchange process. Initial well-meaning but naïve intentions had to be reconsidered through a process of dialogue that explored the wider implications of the work in more detail and from a variety of perspectives. Being able to engage in this process was a crucial factor in ensuring that there were real lasting outcomes to the work. No pain no gain.

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The process of editing from academic to ‘real world’ language Jennifer Flueckiger The academic world is of course part of the ‘real world’. However, academic language, style, structure and format can get in the way of communicating research and findings with ‘real world’ or wider audiences. My role at CRFR is to act as a bridge between the Centre and external audiences such as policy makers and practitioners. This type of job is relatively rare at universities, however is an example of a range of new positions emerging in response to the desire to maximise the impact of research. While my title is Information and Publications Officer, my role has been also described as ‘knowledge broker’, ‘advocate’ and ‘communication and knowledge exchange advisor’. The many names for this position is evidence of its new and developing nature. What makes me passionate about communicating research to wider audiences is that this information is just too important not to share. The elements of social science research that help us understand complex situations, provide a voice for marginalised groups or help us ask difficult questions about ourselves are an important part of our collective knowledge. Using research to highlight areas for much needed improvements or evaluate whether those changes have made a difference is a core part of most government’s work. My previous employment outside of academia was in a variety of information and policy posts in several non-governmental organisations, doing research, developing policy and communicating with a range of policy makers. In these roles I was also a user of academic research in the same way as many other policy makers. These experiences gave me a perspective on how to effectively communicate research findings. But doing this kind of work can be difficult. The motivations, language and worldview of the researcher can be very different from the audience. Politicians, policy makers, practitioners and the wider public may really want to understand the important questions social scientists are asking, yet often find academic research difficult to access, understand and apply to their situations. In this account I illustrate some of the tensions, frustrations and difficulties that come from communicating between different worlds. At CRFR we employ a number of different techniques, tools and approaches to communicate research. However the backbone of our work is communicating through words, whether in our Research Briefing series,

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our website or other tools. I work very closely with a graphic designer to ensure that our finished publications have the most visual impact, but I focus on ensuring that the content is accessible, useful and understandable. Consequently, I spend much of my time editing research findings. The word ‘editing’ however only partially describes the work that is necessary to make research accessible. ‘Translating’ and ‘restructuring’ more adequately describe the work required to ensure outside audiences understand and get what they want from research. Academic language is often the first stumbling block for ‘real world’ readers. In an academic context, terms may have specific meanings. Some of these words and concepts however can be completely alien, or worse, completely incomprehensible to those outside of academia. For example, there are no ‘sample children’ in the real world. To talk about ‘the group of children studied’ does not change the concept but makes the language much more accessible. Similarly, for non-academics: • ‘framing’ might be what you do to nice holiday photos • ‘agency’ might be an organisation that distributes benefits or represents models • ‘empirical’ might have something to do with 20th century American foreign policy • phrases like ‘non-human feminism’ or ‘concepts of selfhood’ might solicit bewilderment or even mockery. The style and structure of academic writing also needs to be amended to make it accessible. In working with academics, there is a process of negotiation of a different style and content of writing, which may be hard for those imbibed in academic culture to appreciate. Fewer words can make ideas clearer, but will lose some of the nuances. Shorter sentences can guide the reader through a complex idea, but may seem simplistic to someone accustomed to writing for peer-reviewed journals or academic conferences. Summary findings and punchy policy implications are most important to ‘real world’ audiences but may be hard for academics to deliver. Most external audiences have very little interest in funding context or research design. I do appreciate how difficult it can be for academics to resist using phrases or words they see as fundamental to their research. To have a colleague remove it or find it difficult to understand may actually feel painful. However, the translation from ‘academese’ to everyday language needs to happen for our work to be more widely disseminated.

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Beyond words – other tools for good knowledge exchange Every research project will have different objectives, findings and potential audiences. Consequently, different knowledge exchange tools are appropriate. User involvement in disseminating findings may sometimes be very important. One example of innovative dissemination involved the CRFR artist in residence working with participants of a project on the experiences of male survivors of childhood sexual abuse to develop a drama and art installation, presented at a final conference. Another project examining the experiences of people who had been diagnosed with dementia used a video to record participants’ experiences. This footage has been used in training videos for practitioners. Such activities allow practitioners and policy makers to see the people behind the findings. We have also developed postcards and posters to help with dissemination of research findings. The findings of a project looking at the experiences of young people who faced a change in their family, such as divorce or the death of the parent, indicated that schools had an important role to play in supporting young people. A poster and series of postcards to help communicate this message were developed and circulated to staff rooms for teachers. Teachers and other practitioners had a chance to comment on a draft of the poster. Often researchers are so close to their work that they don’t realise that the language used and standard academic formats are inaccessible to the people with whom they most want to communicate. There are also understandable fears of ‘dumbing down’, of losing nuance and depth. But using short messages and different formats can be the difference between research being engaged with or ignored. If you want to engage with policy makers for example, sending them a 130-page research report is not the answer. They will not have the time to identify what is most relevant to them. Presenting research in a way that is accessible and relevant will help audiences get the most from the findings. Demonstrating research impact is increasingly important. Doing knowledge exchange requires different viewpoints and skills from doing research. While researchers may be concerned that simplifying language or changing the style or structure will dilute or misrepresent complex ideas in their research, my experience is that most colleagues are pleased with the results of the editing process. What we write down is only the start of the process of communicating our ideas. The other fundamental component is that it must be understood.

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Dissemination – ‘sounds painful!’: Experiences in a dedicated Knowledge Exchange role on a Government survey Lesley Kelly For the last three years I have been employed as a Dissemination Officer for Growing Up in Scotland (GUS), a longitudinal study following the lives of 8,000 children and their families from birth through to adolescence.16 My main remit is to develop and implement an Engagement Strategy to ensure findings from GUS are accessible to a wide range of audiences, including study participants, national and local policy makers, practitioners and academics. This involves maintaining the study website, producing newsletters and summary briefing material, organising events and training, giving presentations, and building up networks of contacts and data users. Based on this experience, I would like to share some of the challenges and successes of disseminating findings from a large survey. A key advantage is that I am disseminating consistently high quality research with new findings published annually. Additionally, dedicated resources mean that new funding does not need to be found for dissemination activity. I have the benefit of working closely with the Scottish Government and main research contractor (ScotCen), while being based in an academic research centre (CRFR) with access to the study’s academic advisers, as well as administrative and knowledge exchange support. GUS is unique in providing new information about the lives of young children and their families in the Scottish context, and is generally well regarded by a range of professionals keen to hear about the findings. Our key successes include popular annual conferences attended by a wide range of professionals, and a group of nearly 800 people who have signed up through our website to receive regular information about the study. We have evidence that research findings from GUS are being used in a variety of contexts; for example, GUS is used extensively across the health sector and also by Further Education colleges in the training of early years professionals. We have established a network of academics and others who are keen to use the emerging data to


The principal aim of the study is to provide new information to support policymaking but it is also intended to be a broader resource that can be drawn on by academics, voluntary sector organisations and others.

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inform their own research and have provided training to support those who wish to use the data. However, there are a number of challenges associated with communicating the survey’s findings. It is relatively easy to convey how, in general terms, the research is useful and relevant for those developing policies and services for children and their families. But when it comes down to the specifics, it is more of a challenge to facilitate the link between particular research findings and their potential significance for policy or practice. There is a gap to be bridged between the responses ‘oh, that’s interesting’ and ‘mm, we could really use this information to have a re-think about the way we are doing things’. To encourage a deeper level of engagement, I have to create occasions that facilitate a particular type of reflection, for example, more directly asking practitioners whether they feel the findings confirm their experiences of working with families, or not. Reflecting on the findings in relation to their own experiences may in turn help practitioners to identify where policies and services need to adapt. There are further challenges around how best to present lengthy and complex research findings to non-academic audiences. Practitioners are pushed for time and say they want very concise summary research briefings. It is possible to produce bullet point summaries and headline findings, especially as GUS is a quantitative study; yet, quite often producing such truncated material means the detail and meaning can be lost. There are also dilemmas concerning how profession-specific briefings should be. It has been suggested that briefing material tailored to very particular groups of professionals (for example health visitors, social workers, nursery teachers, speech and language therapists) might better encourage engagement with the findings. While there is scope for pursuing this approach, it has to be balanced with political agendas which aim to improve outcomes for children by adopting a shared approach across professions and sectors and the more general intention that any material produced should appeal to a wide audience. Another issue is that of providing local data. Professionals from Local Authorities and Health Boards are always going to be most interested in findings for their particular geographical area. It can be challenging to communicate the limitations of the study design – GUS is a nationally representative study; the sample is not designed to produce results at the local level. However, in order to increase the utility of the findings, we have highlighted how they are relevant to local agencies: for example, by providing context and figures against which to benchmark local outcomes or performance.

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In disseminating the findings from a large-scale study such as GUS there is always more that could be done to raise the profile and reach a wider audience. Having a dedicated member of staff is an interesting approach and does open lots of opportunities; however there are still resource issues. As the study grows and becomes better known we are increasingly asked to present findings to a range of practitioner and other audiences. With one part-time dissemination officer, and two full-time research staff who have a heavy workload carrying out the study, we are starting to struggle to meet the demand. While it is essential that GUS is a relevant and well-utilised piece of work, there is a balance to be struck between developing interest in the work and developing capacity of others to engage with the survey in a meaningful way.

Construing or misconstruing families in research and media Valeria Skafida For my postgraduate research I explored maternal breastfeeding patterns in Scotland. I drew on quantitative analysis of survey data from the Growing Up in Scotland study to look at patterns of breastfeeding take-up among different groups of mothers. I found that mothers with more educational qualifications and those who attended more antenatal classes were more likely to breastfeed their baby. In order to disseminate my ongoing research, I decided to publish a Research Briefing summarising these findings. Here I reflect on my experiences of communicating the research via the media, and dealing with subsequent press attention. The press release Following the briefing’s publication, CRFR knowledge exchange staff recommended writing a press release to attract some news coverage. I felt a mixed rush of excitement and anxiety, and vaguely recall blushing at the thought of my research coming to be noticed by a crowd other than my two supervisors. Somehow, I thought the media could allow me to communicate my findings to the rest of the world – or at least Scotland. To my dismay, the rush was short-lived, and I realised that interacting with the press entailed a potential loss of control over the content and tone of the reported findings. I was advised to liaise

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with the University Press Office to collaborate on an accessible and accurate press release. Writing the press release was a challenging task involving much to-ing and fro-ing of drafts between the press-office advisor and myself. Aware that choosing one word over another could make a radical difference to the overall tone of the findings, I wanted to avoid giving my account a negative or condemning feel. For example, I strategically stated that ‘mothers with less educational qualifications were less likely to breastfeed’, rather than ‘uneducated mothers fail to breastfeed’. I feared that a misrepresentation of results would lead to many mothers, particularly the more disadvantaged, feeling disheartened on reading the news. My thoughts were primarily of those mothers with fewer years in formal education who might not have breastfed. I wondered how they would feel reading yet another news article condemning them for not being ‘good enough’ mothers. I also thought of the 8000 or so mothers who actually participated in the longitudinal survey on which my findings were based. Among this original sample, the ‘less educated mothers’ may have been less likely to want to participate in the survey in the first place, and less likely to want to stay in the survey for subsequent sweeps. I was concerned that they would feel cheated on seeing their personal experiences of motherhood had led to media coverage casting them in a negative light. Finally, I considered that even in a hypothetical situation where total control of media coverage was possible, an accurate and nonvalue laden account of my findings could still be disheartening to these mothers. Essentially, there was no guarantee that even a considerate dissemination of my results would not upset anyone, and I felt the weight of this responsibility. The interview A further situation which had the potential to misconstrue mothers came when a journalist for The Herald got in touch. She was writing an article on the low breastfeeding rates in Scotland and wanted my ‘expert opinion’ on why mothers may find it difficult to breastfeed. The call had been taken by the CRFR secretary, so I was able to prepare myself before getting in touch. This time I would have to speak about my findings, rather than write about them, leaving even more space for ‘poor word choices’ and more room for a potentially negative article on mothers’ breastfeeding patterns. The knowledge exchange staff at CRFR offered to have a mock interview with me, where I

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presumed they would subject me to an uncomfortable interrogation for the sake of training me in dealing with the media. I respectfully refused, anticipating this would turn my apprehension into a sheer phobia. I wrote out a set of clear, comprehensible sentences which were likely to come in handy, and made the phone-call. I could tell that the journalist had a set agenda on the tone of her article, and she wanted to confirm, rather than form, her opinion. She occasionally asked me if I agreed with certain set statements but, being wary of having words put into my mouth, I stuck to my well-rehearsed script. I emphasised that mothers were dealing with a range of conflicting demands and expectations, and low breastfeeding rates should be understood within that context. Feeling confident that I had given an accurate account, while avoiding blaming already stressed-out mothers, I picked up a copy of the newspaper to read the final result. To my disappointment, the article’s main heading read: ‘Scottish mothers fail dismally to breastfeed their babies successfully’ and the following text put forth a rather depressing account of how mothers failed to meet government targets on breastfeeding (Tweedie 2009). I was overcome with a feeling of guilt that I, like others before me, had contributed to further stigmatising mothers for not living up to socially constructed ideals of perfect motherhood. The same day, a university staff-member and mother (not a participant in the study) got in touch after reading the article. She felt annoyed with the storyline set forth but, to my surprise, not because it stigmatised mothers. On the contrary, she disliked that the article featured mothers who ‘whined’ excessively about the poor breastfeeding support they received from the NHS. She seemed to suggest that mothers should be more proactive in learning to breastfeed, and felt that this article discredited the NHS which, in her experience, had offered excellent support with breastfeeding. Even though this feedback did not directly relate to my contributions to the article, it had not occurred to me that mothers in the reading audience might find the coverage misrepresentative or offensive for a completely contrasting set of reasons to those which I originally had in mind. In light of these experiences, I surrendered to the idea that family practices cannot be construed in a ‘factual’ or value-free way. Any report or article hoping to do so will fail from the point of conception, given the value-laden nature of all research, and the variety of possible interpretations the readers may have of your disseminated findings.

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Communicating Edinburgh City Council’s Annual Neighbourhood Survey David Porteous For each of the last three years Edinburgh City Council have asked about 5000 citizens for their views on local services and a range of quality of life indicators. Edinburgh’s Annual Neighbourhood Survey (ANS) is one of the largest face-to-face surveys of its kind in Britain. While we’ve been consistent about the approach taken to ‘doing the research’ over the three years, the way we’ve communicated the ANS has been overhauled and rethought more than once. The issue that we’ve faced repeatedly isn’t doing good research, but getting that research from our desks to those who can do something with it. However good quantitative research is, to actually make use of it, you need to combine it with detailed understanding of the areas to which it relates. I think in the first year, honestly, we had no concept of how to reach out beyond those individuals, those managers and teams who were already engaged with research. Our first year was a process of discovery and we received more than one ticked off phone call asking why this group, partner or person (who we’d never heard of) hadn’t been briefed on the results. Our wounds licked and bandaged, we resolved to do better the second time around. And we were assisted not just by experience, but by the figures themselves. The results of the second year showed a general improvement. This was good news, and good news is easy to like. We spread the findings through our own newspaper and website, and the local newspaper – often less than friendly towards the Council – ran a very positive spread. It was the most publicity received by any research the small, specialist team had ever done. Some of the key groups we approached directly during the second year of communications were neighbourhood partnerships. Edinburgh monitors, manages and provides oversight for services at a local level through a dozen neighbourhood partnerships. These groups involve senior managers, local councillors, community council representatives, the police, the NHS and other partners and representative organisations. The people gathered at each of these neighbourhood partnership meetings are informed and aware of local issues. These groups – or at least the individuals present at the meetings – will be involved in every significant decision that affects a neighbourhood. Effecting change

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requires their attention, their enthusiasm and their support. For the ANS to have a substantial impact, it needed to be communicated effectively to the neighbourhood partnerships so they can interpret the information in a local context. We found some parts of this easier than others. The main issue was confidence. We took the initiative and began a long series of briefings to neighbourhood partnerships by assuming that people would want to know about how we’d done the survey and why the results were valid and to what level. The kind of information I’d want. I spent the first few sessions explaining at length that we’d done everything right and that there were procedures which dealt with their concerns and mathematics which backed the findings. I didn’t think to keep track of the number of times I heard the question ‘how can 400 people represent the views of the 20,000 people who live here?’ I frequently heard that the results weren’t valid because we’d failed to interview any close friends of the people the findings were being presented to (though personally I don’t make a point of telling my friends and neighbours when I take part in a survey – is this something people like to be kept up to date with?). In defence of my position I developed a prayer-like mantra about random selection, confidence intervals and confidence levels which I can still repeat by rote. At each presentation where a question about validity came up, the next presentation included an extra point of information about it. So at each successive session we spent more time talking about why the results were sound and less time talking about the results. It was, on reflection, frustrating for all involved. The problem was simple. We were asking people not to think about penguins and then showing them pictures of tuxedos. Every time we highlighted why the information was correct our audience became more sceptical, as if they were trying to spot the sleight of hand in a magic trick. To fix this, we reversed our position and instead said almost nothing in the briefings about the methods we had used. The response changed immediately to one of focus on the results rather than the methods. Is it unethical to deliberately not disclose you haven’t done anything wrong? Possibly, but if so it’s an act of omission rather than manipulation, one that our experience indicates prevented distraction from the findings of the survey. A tracking survey like this presents opportunities for change and growth, for trying out new approaches in research and resultant action.

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Recently I did my first presentation of the third year findings. This year we want to turn our senior managers into active communicators of the results and for the research team to provide more technical support. In part this is motivated by increasing demand and decreased resources (while I’ve heard it said that some researchers work in ivory towers, I have no experience of this myself and our budget is being squeezed along with the rest of the public sector). Another reason for this decision is that we’re conscious of how important trust is, and that our managers will be communicating to groups with which they have established relationships. Right now, I have no idea whether this approach will be more or less effective. I could get into the office tomorrow and find a brush fire has swept through the research. The control freak in me says that the managers I’m trusting don’t actually understand the difference between confidence levels and confidence intervals. My experience tells me they don’t need to. And if there’s anything I’ve learned about communicating research, it’s that the process is about releasing and letting go; a process which is always a little scary, inevitable and sometimes rewarding.

8 Conclusion Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis

The focus of this book is the real life experiences of conducting empirical research about families and relationships. In bringing together these reflexive accounts, our aim has been to contribute to the developing body of work on researching personal lives. In this concluding chapter we highlight the pleasures such research can engender (whilst also acknowledging the frustrations!), and reflect on some of the crosscutting issues raised in the contributions to this book. Finally, we consider some aspects relevant to the future of families and relationships research.

Pains and pleasures When soliciting contributions to this book, in addition to the challenges of conducting research, we invited authors to reflect on its positive dimensions. Yet the accounts in this book in the main focus on dealing with a difficulty or problem encountered during the research process. Some authors refer to practical difficulties they have experienced, others to troubling or disquieting emotions generated by the specific revelation of a research participant or the subject matter being researched. Some describe the anxiety of having to respond to unanticipated circumstance or situations as they arose, the ‘immediacy’ of the research encounter Stuart Aitken discusses in Chapter 5, while others refer to more generic issues researchers commonly experience. We hope the range of issues addressed across various methodologies and disciplines provide researchers with stimuli for personal reflection, valuable insights and useful guidance. At the very least, we hope these accounts provide reassurance to researchers that they are not alone in experiencing the complexities to which researching families and relationships can give rise. 178

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Nonetheless, we also want to draw attention to the positive experiences of doing research. In inviting contributions, we suggested addressing ‘the things that researchers regularly talk to each other about but which are often conspicuously absent from the usual methods texts’. It may be that we do not often voice the pleasures of research, nor consider the small satisfactions – identifying the quote that eloquently encapsulates a central theme, or spotting the gremlin in the syntax preventing our quantitative analysis – worth reporting. Accounts of specific research experiences may not allow for the gratifications of having one’s ideas recognised or acknowledged, or the chance meeting at a conference that indicates others share one’s excitement or perplexity at a topic previously considered an arcane interest. And, as discussed elsewhere, it may be that the contemporary conditions of production in HE seemingly leave little room for optimism. Nevertheless, we want to recognise the satisfactions and sense of achievement that can be engendered by doing research. These include the unexpected findings that makes one reconsider central assumptions and may lead to re-interpretations of a research area. It includes the pleasures of an intellectual grappling with ideas, the process of ‘thinking harder’ in order to further develop a thought. There is a flavour of this in several accounts, with authors referring to how thinking differently about an issue generates new ideas and insights. These pleasures are less often addressed in the literature, and there seems to be a lack of language to capture what we might describe as the ‘mindenhancing’ experience of intellectual endeavour. In the sphere of physical activity we talk of ‘hitting the wall’ to capture barriers or limits, or achieving the ‘highs’, a state of euphoria felt when working to one’s maximum potential. These metaphors help capture the sense of frustrations, but also the excitement and exhilaration that researchers may also experience. Although we may more readily voice the former, it is these positive dimensions that for many of us outweigh the various trials and tribulations of conducting research.

Reflections on process The material in this book is grouped under chapters organised as if following a trajectory through various stages of research, from the initial framing of our concepts through to dissemination of our research findings. Yet, as the reflections in the extended think-pieces and accounts of various research experiences demonstrate, research is a process, and one that is not straight-forwardly linear. Indeed, many aspects of research

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addressed in separate chapters here are themselves processes that potentially or ideally infuse the whole trajectory of a research project. This is often acknowledged with respect to framing and interpreting and it has also become ‘good practice’ for any intended knowledge exchange with policy makers and practitioners to start early in the life of a project, rather than being an end piece. In the introductory chapter we outlined a number of theoretical and methodological issues, some long-standing and others related to more recent developments. The accounts in this book illustrate how researchers grapple with these issues when conducting research, and what ‘applied reflexivity’, for example, or dealing with unexpected and difficult emotions, feels and looks like in practice. In combination the accounts and the overview reflections provide food for thought and insight into ways through the complex messiness of the research process. All of the accounts in this book demonstrate reflexivity. For some authors this involves looking back to consider how they might have acted otherwise, retrospective reflections that demonstrate one aspect of research involves ‘learning by doing’. These accounts also display what Mauthner and Doucet (2003) term ‘degrees of reflexivity’, with some influences shaping our research requiring time, distance and detachment to become apparent. Several accounts highlight the ways in which thinking reflexively can challenge pre-conceived ideas and normative assumptions; for example both Naumann [p. 36] and Kelly [p. 141] describe a gradual realisation that their initial assumptions were limiting understanding of their respective topics. As well as depicting the bafflement and frustration that forced them to confront and question deeply-held beliefs, they also describe excitement at the insights thinking anew about their topics could generate. As David Morgan emphasises, such emotions are an important part of intellectual development, not to be put to one side but rather valuable guides in the reflexive process. The productive role of emotions is evident in several accounts across a number of chapters. Thus Houmøller and Bernays [p. 117] refer to feeling ‘awful’ when caught up in the immediacy of a young person’s distress, an experience that prompted reflection on the impact of such involvement on the type of data generated. As Stuart Aitken’s discussion of the immediacy of the research encounter and the role of happenstance notes, research methods training rarely prepares us for such situations. Houmøller and Bernays’ account also highlights another theme common to several – the difficulty of inhabiting a researcher ‘role’ in which one is expected to maintain a degree of

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detachment and minimise one’s influence on what is being observed. As several accounts of deliberating about whether to intervene in certain situations powerfully demonstrate, the implicit injunction not to act can come up against an individual’s moral sense of the right thing to do. Thus Bell’s dilemma of whether to respond to homophobic comments [p. 83] and Milne’s concern at witnessing bullying amongst children [p. 92], demonstrate consequences of feeling ‘complicit’ that silence may have for researchers. Highet’s [p. 85] account of intervention on behalf of a child who faced deportation highlights that researchers may feel themselves to be inhabiting several roles. Aitken maintains that research is necessarily a political activity that carries specific responsibilities at various scales, including a broader public mission, an argument that chimes with Burawoy’s (2005) contention that academics need to consider the wider political purposes of research, and make ‘public issues out of private troubles’. The accounts in this book demonstrate that researchers are typically keenly aware of their responsibilities, and are actively engaged in navigating a route between the roles of impartial observer, concerned onlooker, or potential advocate. As Highet concludes, such accounts allow discussion about and reflections on our research practices that serve as a valuable resource in working out who we are and where we stand. As discussed in the introductory chapter, there is a considerable scholarship critiquing conceptions of the researcher as a neutral observer and emphasising the subjective nature of research. There are parallels here with wider debates about agency and understandings of the self. While some sociological traditions have always stressed the relational nature of the self, the emphasis on selves as if fully autonomous individuals in much popular and academic writing has necessitated a new set of critiques (Benhabib 1992; Di Stefano 1991; Mackenzie and Stoljar 2000). These debates have given rise to a reassertion of a configuration of the self as relational, and a sharper focus on agents as emotional, embodied, desiring, creative and feeling, as well as acknowledging their capacity for rationality. This richer depiction of agents fits with researchers’ accounts of how they experience the research process, in ways which challenge views of research as an objective and ‘depersonalised’ intellectual endeavour. As these accounts demonstrate, the emotional, embodied, desiring, creative, feeling aspects of ourselves are also involved in this process. Families and relationships research, as Angus Bancroft observes, means a level of involvement in the relationships of the researched. This is

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illustrated in Hill’s account [p. 65], in which she describes her discomfort at being drawn into discussion about the family situation of a potential respondent. Research involves relationships not only with respondents but, as in other research, with colleagues, ‘gatekeepers’ that may allow access or, in the case of ethics committees, approve the research project. These varying relationships involve different responsibilities which can lead to tensions that need to be managed, as the account by Philip [p. 61] of the research team being caught up in conflicts between the young people they were observing, and the staff working with them, shows. Several accounts across the chapters demonstrate researchers’ keen awareness of what Aitken describes as the power-laden and ethical consequences of probing others’ stories. Sensitivity to the potential consequences for research participants may shape how research is conducted even before relationships between researcher and participant have been formed: thus Allman’s [p. 31] work on men who have sex with men in Nigeria had to involve covert activities, as it would be potentially life-threatening to research participants to be open about the nature of the research given the criminalisation of homosexual relationships. Some accounts here are unusual in addressing the responsibilities of secondary data analysis. Much of the literature addressing the potential risk of harm to research participants is dominated by a focus on the qualitative research encounter (for example Daly 2007; Dickson-Swift et al 2007; Heath et al 2009; Mauthner et al 2002). Yet researchers may feel an ethical obligation to respondents even in situations where there is no direct relationship, and where the researched are unknown. Thus Nelson [p. 61] considers researchers’ obligations to young people participating anonymously in a large-scale survey. Jackson et al [p. 138] describe the emotions analysing secondary data generated, an experience which has received little attention in the literature, and how this heightened an imperative to represent the children whose experiences they were analysing. Similarly Skafida’s [p. 172] encounter with media depicts anxieties at the responsibilities involved in disseminating findings from a large-scale survey. The accounts in this book display some of the burgeoning array of methods being developed by those researching family and relationships. As Lynn Jamieson notes, much research on families and relationships employs methods that are intended to capture the diversity, subtlety and complexity of social life. Several accounts also address various difficulties to which particular methods may give rise. Both Skafida and McLean [p. 56] are conscious of the requirement of repeat

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interviews inherent in longitudinal research designs, and their responsibility to ensure their actions don’t impact negatively on the likelihood of future participation. Thus McLean, involved in interviewing family members as part of a qualitative longitudinal research study, describes attempts to ensure potential disruption for her respondents is minimised, including a ‘practice run’ at weekends driving around to familiarise herself with an area. Although not directly interacting with respondents, Skafida too was nevertheless conscious that negative portrayals of respondents’ practices, in this case not breastfeeding, may risk their continuing involvement in the survey. May [p. 143] and Davies [p. 146] reflect on the status of the different data arising from various methods, and the issues involved in how to interpret and represent their subjective and objective dimensions. The different understandings to which different data can give rise is also addressed in Wasoff’s account [p. 34] of using quantitative and qualitative methods to research attitudes about family change and family law. In combination, they offer insights into how researchers worked through a wide range of challenges thrown up by their methods. Some accounts highlight the limitations of standard ethical procedures, interpreting strict adherence to these as sometimes resulting in unsatisfactory outcomes. This charge is more than the difficulties of ensuring ideal practice, as in, for example, Elsley’s account [p. 119] of participant observation in a busy residential home, where the number of people meant individual consent to her every visit was impossible. Rather, Nelson [p. 67] argues, guarantees of anonymity and confidentiality may sidestep moral obligations and actually work against the best interests of young people at risk. Wilson’s account [p. 40] of failing to secure ethical approval to conduct a pilot study describes a scenario in which existing relationships between the researcher and potential respondents are understood as limitations, rather than a potential resource. This is a rare example of discussion of the research proposals that do not see the light of day, discussion that enables problematisation of the understandings of agency, risk and protection underpinning such decision-making procedures (see also Heath et al’s (2009) account of a doctoral student refused permission to interview lesbian, gay and bisexual young people without parental consent). Wilson’s account of refusal of ethical approval despite parental consent leads her to question the ethics committee’s understandings of autonomy, with their alternative suggestion of researching unknown participants via a school indicating that an ‘ephemeral, bureaucratised, mediated trust’ is the only acceptable form. Kay Tisdall also critiques

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the limitations of a contractual, technocratic approach to research ethics, particularly locating this within debates in childhood studies. Wilson also notes that there may be a ‘yuk factor’ accompanying the idea of researching one’s own child. Issues emerging when conducting research with those with whom one already has a relationship are addressed by Seymour [p. 90], whose respondents included family members. She recounts how the ‘strangeness’ of some professional practices involved in the researcher role were made explicit by interviewing those who were not strangers. She also notes her own reluctance to include their interviews in her writing, concerned their relationship undermined their status as ‘real’ research respondents. These initial feelings have led her to reconsider the biographical turn within social sciences. Angus Bancroft highlights the paradox of arguments that researchers should become close to the people they study, alongside suspicions when they start out intimate. A theme that runs through several accounts is that of setting. As Kay Tisdall and Stuart Aitken both emphasise, where the research is conducted impacts on how and what is done. Several accounts describe practical and other implications of researching in particular places, including a busy family home or a school (MacLean [p. 56], Spratt [p. 58]), a workplace where one is simultaneously a colleague and observer (Nowak [p. 111], or residential care institutions (Wilkinson [p. 114], Elsley [p. 119]. As Sarah Morton and Sandra Nutley outline, the increased focus on the benefits of publicly-funded research to wider society means dissemination is likely to be of increasing concern, as researchers are more directly involved in demonstrating the impact of their research. The issue of ‘setting’ is also relevant to those disseminating their research, as the accounts by Skafida and Wilkinson on newspaper coverage, and Porteous on meetings with neighbourhood partnership members [p. 175] suggest. Davidson’s account [p. 109] of carrying out qualitative interviews by telephone highlights several themes addressed throughout this book. Initially motivated by budgetary concerns to design a ‘costeffective’ research project, Davidson adopted this method despite some concerns that the physical separation would have consequences for rapport between researcher and respondent. Nevertheless, she found the distance an advantage in enabling respondents to create ‘spaces’ that suited them, and in which they could recount sensitive experiences in an open and honest way. This account exemplifies the ways in which the unanticipated dimensions of research may nonetheless prove productive.

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The future of families and relationships research The introduction and commentaries beginning each chapter noted a number of aspects of researching families and relationships that are distinctive. The core concepts are open and slippery. Reflexivity in the research process is more intense when relationships are both part of the doing and the subject matter, for example, heightening the need to acknowledge embodied emotions as part of the research process. Particular difficulties are created by the inherent privacy of the topic area. Also, the complex balancing acts involved in analysing and presenting the lives of others are complicated in particular ways by the combination of politicisation, the routine use of family issues for political purposes, and commonsense – everybody has families and relationships and, therefore, everybody can claim expertise. Some aspects of this distinctiveness create particular opportunities, both theoretical and political. The introduction pointed to the former in debates around ‘agency’ and ‘the autonomous individual’. A corollary of the openness of core concepts, such as ‘family’, is the pervasive assumption, in academic theorising and in popular discussion, that personal lives are freer, less institutionalised and regulated, than other domains of conduct. However, research continues to document and theorise inequalities and their reproduction within and through families and personal relationships. Related debates occur in discussions of leisure and consumption, a domain of practice that overlaps with family practices (Morgan 1996), and is both characterised and contested as an area of creativity and freedom. It is widely accepted that freedom to make and remake personal lives without adhering to set scripts has increased in recent decades. The emphasis on creativity, however, has sometimes made recognising and understanding continuity, similarity and persistence take on an unfashionable valence. All of this renders the study of families and relationships a particularly fruitful site for analysis of social change. We believe that studies of families and relationships are a key site for the theoretical work of peeling the layers of social realities making the ‘agency’ and ‘action’, not only in the doing of families but in the doing of social life. A focus on the ‘negotiation’ of families and relationships has not absolved researchers from theorising the social, economic and technical affordances and constraints structuring creativity in making relationships. A range of theoretical approaches continue to distinguish between the interactive negotiation of personal relationships and other levels of experience that structure, intrude into or ‘haunt’ the apparent

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freedoms of the here and now. This is more than but includes the personal baggage of family histories and biographical memories individuals carry with them. It also remains important to acknowledge the potential, albeit immeasurable, impact of locally and globally circulating discourses. Both institutionalised structures, such as markets and bureaucracies, and discourses that appear more ephemeral are implicated in the idealising and taking to heart of particular forms of families and kinship, particular gendered ways of being friends and family, and particular sexualities. The increasingly rich range of methods deployed by family researchers makes them well placed to bring evidential substance to more adequately capture and theorise such complex intersections. In all democratic nation states governments seek legitimacy by claiming support for ‘families’ as a form of acting for the ‘common good’, but what is ‘right’ and ‘good’ in personal life, and whether or how the state might support this, is rarely a settled matter. Whether or not research on personal life is value-neutral, it brings independent evidence to such debates, including discussion of how the state should best demonstrate its support for families. Talk of the need to cut back on state welfare provision has been recurrent in recent decades across a number of wealthy democratic nation-states. This was and is not simply a matter of ‘economic facts’ but contains an ideological component automatically valuing the market over state provision. In the midst of recession and associated need for spending restraint, research on families and relationships may help cut through political rhetoric to the impact of welfare reductions on real lives, an impact that often falls disproportionately. Democratic participation in the policy process is not robust enough to include underprivileged voices or to proof against adopting models of personal life that damage some lives as they are lived. One of the ways in which social science research has long sought to contribute to the ‘common good’ is by recording, contextualising and analysing the experiences of such socially excluded and otherwise silenced disadvantaged groups; a number of examples have been presented in this book. Indeed, many government representatives, policy makers and practitioners would acknowledge that research into the complexities of everyday personal lives potentially provides insights that could help them to maximise good and minimise harm. Researchers across the social sciences currently face numerous challenges as the conditions of producing research become more difficult. In a number of national contexts, global recession is associated with

Lynn Jamieson, Roona Simpson and Ruth Lewis 187

contraction in funding for academic research and the higher education institutions with which it is associated, and academics are experiencing intensification of work. As discussed in Chapter 1, large proportions of research staff in Higher Education in the UK are employed on fixedterm contracts. Such employment has often been a stepping stone to more secure academic posts and has played a key role in replenishing academic disciplines. As recession shrinks full-time permanent posts, it heightens the personal costs for contract researchers of occupying a relatively marginal status with its insecurities and inferior material conditions. The increasing difficulty of acquiring, staying in or progressing out of contract research is likely to have a negative impact on academia and academic research as a whole. Contract researchers can feel stunted by the pressures of regularly having to secure their next project, pressures which afford little time and flexibility for consolidating intellectual achievements, maximising research impact or forging the development of innovative programmes of research. However, we do not want to present too gloomy a picture; there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of families and relationships research – the literature is vibrant and in many countries research centres are still thriving. In the UK, several large collaborative programmes of research have been at the forefront of methodological innovation in recent years, particularly regarding qualitative longitudinal research. There is no end in sight to the intellectually interesting and theoretically, politically and socially significant work still to be done. Alongside the tradition of seeking to give voice to the socially disadvantaged, it has long been acknowledged that the rich, and the processes by which they sustain their privilege, remain understudied. There are a number of classic studies of middle-class families, but not of the wealthy. There is now a very urgent research agenda in which rich and comfortably off families must feature: how to support a shift away from taken-for-granted high-consumption life styles and family practices. Research contributing to meeting the challenge of reducing carbon emissions and rate of depletion of natural resources and biodiversity is more likely to succeed if it includes and builds on high quality sociologically-informed research on families and personal relationships. The significance of families and personal relationships goes far beyond the current contribution of family households to carbon emissions; it may be that the actions of governments will be far more important, but families and personal relationships are also agents of social change, the ones that governments like to claim to please and support.

188 Conclusion

This book has sought to support reflexivity about all aspects of the research process when researching families and other intimate relationships, from framing the topic to knowledge exchange. Our conviction concerning the importance of high quality social science research on families and relationships for our academic disciplines, for policy makers, for domains of professional practice and for everyday lives underpins the necessity of reflecting on the process of conducting such research. Awareness of particular issues arising from engagement with the domain of personal life sharpens this necessity. We hope the experiential accounts have contributed to your reflections on researching families and relationships and on the value of such research.


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Index access, 48–50, 65–7 see also gatekeepers advocacy research, 111–13, 150–63 see also participatory/action research affect see emotion/s agency, 47, 49, 55, 73, 74, 78, 82, 141, 181, 185 see also children’s agency analysis, 17, 22, 81, 90, 124–32, 136, 139–40, 143–9, 158, 182 anonymity see confidentiality archive/archiving, 126 ethical issues, 13, 81 see also secondary analysis Annual Neighbourhood Survey (ANS) see surveys, large-scale quantitative attrition see longitudinal research audiences, 17, 122, 125, 134, 144, 150, 154, 157–61, 164–72 auto/biographical research, 20, 26, 92, 127, 186 ‘auto/biographical turn’, 26, 184 British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) see surveys, large-scale quantitative bias see positivism biographical methods, 127 biographical turn see ‘auto/biographical turn’ biography see auto/biographical research childhood studies, 4, 16, 47–8, 55, 125, 126, 135, 137, 184 see also children’s standpoint children’s agency, 47, 49, 55, 69, 73 children’s standpoint, 136–7 choice/choices, 5, 21, 24, 33, 35, 57, 80, 87, 98, 134, 135, 152, 173 codes of practice see ethical codes/guidelines

cohort studies, 126 collaboration see research teams comparative research, 25, 36–9 conceptual use (of research), 4, 40, 96, 152, 153, 156 see also knowledge exchange conceptualising/conceptualisation, 16, 30, 31, 43, 152, 154, 155 see also theory conditions of production contract research, 14, 109, 187 public sector cuts, 162 Research Evaluation Framework (REF), 162 research funding, 10, 14, 16, 83, 124, 160, 168, 187 confidentiality, 8, 33, 87, 91, 183 consent, 5, 8–9, 16, 33, 40, 42, 46–50, 53–5, 65, 67, 69, 73, 75, 91, 115, 120, 121, 183 contingency, 36 contract research see conditions of production CRFR (Centre for Research on Families and Relationships), 3, 150–2, 156–62, 164, 167, 169–70, 172–3 cross-cultural/cross-national research, 32, 36–9 data archiving see archiving data analysis, 128, 139, 182 collecting, 8, 15, 74, 114, 124, 126, 127, 129, 136 digital, 13 qualitative and quantitative, 52, 126–7, 143, 144, 171, 172, 175, 183 see also secondary analysis design see research design dissemination see knowledge exchange/transfer 202

Index 203 e-research see SITs Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), 11, 124, 126, 145, 146 emotion/s, 10, 30–1, 39, 43–4, 71–2, 76–9, 86, 102, 107, 114–16, 117–19, 129–31, 138–41, 180 empathy, 33, 43, 77, 116, 130–2 empirical research, 1, 6, 15, 45, 124, 168, 178 employment see conditions of production English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) see surveys, large-scale quantitative epistemology/ies, 72, 128 feminist see feminism/feminist research ethics/ethical codes/guidelines, 13, 47, 53 governance, 8–10 Human Subject Panels, 97 institutional Review Boards, 9, 97 issues, 2, 9, 16, 46–8, 52, 63, 94, 102 practice, 5, 9, 10, 33, 48, 55 Research Ethics Committees, 9 review, 82 see also situated ethics ethnicity, 9, 71, 98, 101 ethnography, 40, 42, 62, 75, 79, 99, 111 evidence/evidence-based policy see policy relevance family/families family/ies, defining, 19–31 family practices, 4, 20, 21, 23, 90, 183 family scripts, 138 ‘family stories’, 4 feminism/feminist research, 5, 6, 7, 20, 36, 38, 71, 98, 100, 125, 128, 132, 141–3, 168 fieldwork, 71–95, 96–121 focus groups see methods funding see conditions of production

gatekeepers, 29, 46, 49, 52, 55, 59, 65–7, 75, 182 see also research participants gender issues, 7, 11, 36–9, 79, 94, 128, 133–5, 141, 143, 186 governance see ethics Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) see surveys, large-scale quantitative harm see risk historical method, 81, 127 Human Subject Panels see ethics Identity formation/work/performance, 8, 11, 14, 55, 77, 79, 87–90, 91, 94, 99, 102, 105, 112 ideology, 73 indicators, 19, 39, 166, 175 impact see knowledge exchange/knowledge transfer ‘immediacy’, 17, 97, 102, 105–8, 180 informed consent see consent Institutional Review Boards see ethics interdisciplinarity, 12, 14, 47 interpretation/interpretivism, 122–35, 145, 147 interviews see methods intimacy/intimate relationships, 4, 16, 20, 23, 24, 29, 52, 53, 75, 76, 92, 94, 107, 123 see also personal relationships, personal life kin/kinship, 1, 23, 26, 33, 102, 120, 146, 186 knowledge knowledge claims, 128, 134, 135, 143, 149 knowledge construction/production, 2, 6 knowledge exchange/knowledge transfer, 3, 13, 17, 140, 151, 154, 156–8, 160, 161–6, 167, 169, 170–3, 180

204 Index knowledge – continued subjective vs objective, 6, 129, 133, 144, 148, 181, 183 see also dissemination

narrative analysis, 126, 128, 144 National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM), 11, 124, 145, 146

life history see oral/life history linked lives/voices, 125, 127, 128, 135 local contexts, 4, 31, 90, 99, 171, 175, 176 location see research setting/s longitudinal research, 12, 52, 56–8, 69, 126, 135, 145, 170–2, 172–4, 182–3

objective/ivity, 6, 86, 100, 105, 116, 128–9, 132, 133, 141, 144, 148, 149, 181, 183 oral/life history see auto/biographical research ‘othering’/otherness, 59, 61

measurement, 144, 148, 149 mediated research see SITs memory work, 127 methodology/methodologies, 5, 6, 11–13, 15, 17, 22, 47, 49, 59, 61, 75, 78, 91, 97, 107, 109, 113, 135, 180, 187 methodological innovations, 5, 13, 135, 187 methods focus groups, 28, 36, 58, 59, 109 interviews face-to-face, 109, 144 in-depth, 11, 62 mediated, 12, 74 semi-structured, 129 telephone, 106, 109, 111 unstructured, 75 participant observation, 89, 111, 183 surveys, 27, 30, 34–6, 43–5, 58, 67, 68, 74, 106, 109, 126, 144, 145, 156, 158, 170–2, 173, 175–7, 182, 183 visual methods, 12, 101, 126–7, 133, 146–9 Millennium Cohort Survey (MCS) see surveys, large-scale quantitative mixed methods research, 11, 36, 126, 127, 143–6 morality see ethics multiple-methods see mixed methods multiple voices see linked lives

participant observation see methods participatory/action research, 65, 104, 114–16, 165 see also advocacy research performance see roles personal relationships/personal life, 1, 2, 4, 16, 23, 71, 97, 103, 122–3, 126–9, 185–8 perspective/s, 4, 27–8, 38–9, 72, 80, 122, 129, 131, 136–7, 141, 166 photography see visual methods pilot studies, 40, 183 place see research settings policy relevance, 36, 134, 150–62, 163–6, 167–9, 170–1, 172–4, 175–7, 186 positivism/positivist approaches, 6, 7, 72, 77, 82, 91 postmodernism, 5, 80 poststructuralism, 97, 102 power/knowledge relations, 6–8, 11, 33, 42, 51, 64, 67, 72, 73, 75, 82–3, 87, 92, 94, 97, 98, 100–2, 103, 108, 115, 123, 128, 136, 141, 182 primary and secondary sources, 127, 130, 138–9, 152, 182 Qualitative Longitudinal Research (QLR) see longitudinal research qualitative vs quantitative, 126, 127, 143, 183 questionnaire-based survey methods, 43, 44, 45, 52–3, 54, 58, 67, 68, 69 questionnaire, self-report, 52–3, 54

Index 205 rapport see research relationships reflexivity, 6–7, 29–31, 180–8 cultural reflexivity, 37–9 ‘reflexive turn’, 2 self-reflexivity, 128–33 relativism, 10 Research Evaluation Framework (REF) see conditions of production research design, 4, 12, 17, 62, 65, 97, 124, 125, 133, 168, 183 research ethics see ethics Research Ethics Committees see ethics research funding see conditions of production research proposals, 41, 109, 183 research setting/s family home/s, 51, 56–7, 90–2 residential home/s, 101–2, 103–4, 114–16, 119–21, 183–4 schools, 48, 49, 51, 58–61, 69, 70, 93, 169 research methods see methodological innovation, methods, SITs research teams, 14, 32–3, 87 researcher subjectivity/biography, 26, 127, 129, 149 ‘researcher knowledge’, 2 research relationships, 7, 16, 46, 58, 61, 63, 71–5, 76–9, 80, 81, 82, 92, 94–5, 114, 115, 116, 130 rapport, 7, 62, 67, 73, 76, 77, 84, 85, 111, 184 see also power relations research use see knowledge exchange resemblance/s, 127, 129, 133, 146–9 respect, 41, 46, 55, 141, 142 responsibilities, 7, 13, 43–5, 85–7, 94–5, 107, 122, 129, 181 risk, 8, 10, 27, 42, 55, 67, 80, 82, 83, 105, 182, 183, 186 roles, 4, 46, 57, 64, 72, 73, 79, 85–6, 91, 98, 100, 102, 117, 119, 181 sampling/selection, 49, 60, 90, 124, 158, 177 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSAS) see surveys, large-scale quantitative

secondary analysis, 127, 130, 138–41, 182 selection see sampling/selection semi-structured interviewing see methods Social Interactive Technologies (SITs), 106 situated ethics, 9 situated knowledge, 5, 105 social class, 31, 82, 98, 99, 134, 187 social constructionism, 41–2, 47, 54, 128–9, 133, 134, 142, 145 space see research settings standpoint see children’s standpoint stories, 8, 55, 79, 97, 102, 107, 109, 111, 136–7, 139, 142, 182 subjective/ity, 6, 12, 102, 123, 129, 133, 134, 144, 147, 148, 149, 181, 183 survey see methods surveys, large-scale quantitative Annual Neighbourhood Survey (ANS), 175–6 English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), 126, 145 Growing Up in Scotland (GUS), 126, 160, 170–2 Millennium Cohort Survey (MCS), 126 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSAS), 27, 34, 156 Understanding Society Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (BHPS), 27, 34, 126, 156 symbolic interactionism, 123 theory/theorising, 5–6, 8, 20, 22, 72, 80, 86, 92, 96, 102, 105, 107, 123, 126, 133–5, 180, 185–6 ‘throwntogetherness’, 17, 97, 103–4 trans-disciplinarity see interdisciplinarity transparency, 5, 6, 75, 125, 131 triangulation, 124 truth/truths, 155

206 Index UK Essex Data Archive, 81 Understanding Society Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (BHPS) see surveys, large-scale quantitative unstructured interviewing see methods

validity, 12, 74, 176 visual methods see methods voice, giving, 60, 69, 92, 124, 125, 129, 130, 131–3, 135–8, 140, 167, 186 vulnerability, 14, 27, 40, 41, 46, 48, 61, 87, 111, 115, 119, 165