Investigating Family Relations through Court Cases: Qualitative Endeavours and Pitfalls

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Stephan KÖPPE, University College Dublin, Ireland
Misa IZUHARA, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
Qualitative research of intergenerational relations is faced with two data collection problems. First, consent has to be thought from at least two individuals. When investigating intergenerational conflicts and disputes, the likelihood to recruit respondents decreases dramatically. Second, disputes around inheritance and inter-vivo gifts also involve to a large degree exploitation of vulnerable family members such as elderly abuse. For good reasons, social researchers have to go through thorough ethical review to interview victims of such family conflicts. We propose to tap into underexplored court case data bases to investigate intergenerational family conflicts. Court cases contain detailed information about extended family relations, family history, object of dispute and amount of financial transfer. These court cases reveal rich and complex social data that can be used both for qualitative and – after sufficient coding – quantitative analysis. In addition, data is available in digital repositories to allow historical studies over time and comparative research. The paper draws on a current research project and highlights the benefits and pitfalls related to analysing court cases qualitatively. Several data management tools are presented to deal with the amount of data and how to aggregate the data into a mixed-methods design. In the conclusion we discuss how qualitative administrative data of court proceedings and the juridical system can be harvested for social research.