Using Qualitative Secondary Analysis to Maintain a Critically Reflexive Approach to Research with ‘Troubled' Families

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sarah WILSON, School of Social Sciences, University of Stirling, United Kingdom
This paper focuses on the way in which  insitutional aspects of the research process, including disciplinary boundaries, the demands and approaches of funders and ethics committees, and broader political narratives emphasising the distinctiveness of ‘troubled families’ may contribute to the further stigmatisation of those considered to fall into such categories. The paper draws on the author’s  qualitative secondary analysis of data produced for a project on ‘ordinary’ young people’s sibling and friendship relationships. This work was initially undertaken as preparation for a subsequent project with more ‘vulnerable’ young people who had spent time in state care. While initially conceived of as a means to develop her own conceptions of domestic space and to learn how other researchers had employed visual methods,  this experience also interrogated asumptions sedimented over the course of a research career dominated by more  ‘applied’ research with young people in difficult circumstances. For example, she identified a significant minority of situations and narratives in the analysed study which ressembled those highlighted in her previous work with more ‘vulnerable’ samples. This finding suggested therefore that such more difficult experiences may often be obscured in studies with ostensibly ‘ordinary’ families both by the lines of questioning thought ‘appropriate’ based on the initial characterisation of the sample, and the focus of subsequent publications on ‘majority’ findings. The author also re-considered her previous interpretations of common experiences and strategies discussed by members of more ‘vulnerable’ samples that tended to emphasise their more difficult circumstances, rather than appreciating the significant overlaps between such strategies and those employed in more ‘ordinary’ family lives. Most troublingly, she also identified instances where funders’ requirements might have led her own research to re-produce negative future expectations of young people from more ‘troubled’ families, while implicitly reinforcing idealised perceptions of ‘ordinary’ family lives as ‘trouble-free’.