Whose Family Story to Tell? Reflection on a Longitudinal Ethnography of Asian Parenthood

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Yi-Ping SHIH, Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan
Everyone has his/her own version of family stories. This paper examines how qualitative family study might imply innovative design, even incorporating with quantitative skills, to better configure stories in domestic settings with in-depth perspectives. Using fieldwork records from a two-wave longitudinal ethnography (2008, 2015) in Taiwan, three innovative approach of qualitative family research are discussed here. First, I propose that family researcher, especially whose study is related to children, might consider recruiting family via a school survey. Families recruited from same school usually are homogenous in socioeconomic status, age, and residential community. Here I demonstrate the advantages and weakness to do a pilot recruitment school survey, as well as my implication of pre-incentives and its effect for parents.

Another innovation on qualitative family study is about home visit. Having the mother or father tour around their household, display their family photography and things with memories, and treat the researcher food or beverage, all these fieldwork experiences is an alternative data collection in family ethnography. As previous studies indicate, the interior design, furniture and decoration of a home usually represents a family’s location in a social ladder, as well as their children’s educational resources (e.g. Halle 1996, De Graff 1986), yet very few family sociologists focus on these subtle yet significant details of family life.

Lastly, I propose to use “family” as the basic research unit instead of “individuals”—interviewing all family members. Not only the definition of family should go beyond the stereotype of heterosexual, legally married, nuclear family, in facts, young children’s voice should be recognized equally as important data as their parents’. At the end of this paper, I would demonstrate how having the whole family interviewed might generate rich cross-check analysis on husband-wife dynamics and intergenerational comparisons.