ESRA 2017 Programme

Tuesday 18th July      Wednesday 19th July      Thursday 20th July      Friday 21th July     

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Tuesday 18th July, 16:00 - 17:30 Room: F2 108

Mixed Methods - Epistemological and Methodological Issues 2

Chair Dr Leila Akremi (Technical University Berlin, Germany )
Coordinator 1Dr Susanne Vogl (University of Vienna, Austria)

Session Details

Mixed Methods research has a long tradition in social science and currently under major resurgence. In this session we would like to stimulate an exchange over methodological and epistemological issues arising from Mixed Methods research: Do we move ‘beyond paradigms’ with Mixed Methods research? What are lessons learned from empirical Mixed Methods research from a methodological perspective? What has to be considered or which specific problems have to be solved during the different phases of the research process?
We welcome presentations on any kind of combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. Therefore the proposals can focus on different aspects and problems during the research process in Mixed Methods studies, e.g. different research questions, which require different approaches and types of data to be answered; combinations of different data collection methods; dealing with different types of data; data analysis and integration of the findings etc.
As we would like to reflect upon epistemological and methodological implications of Mixed Methods research in this session, proposals only dealing with mere presentations of the Mixed Methods design will not be considered. However, the proposals can be work in progress and do not have to offer fully developed theoretical frameworks, but they should inspire a discussion on methodological issues in Mixed Methods research.

Paper Details

1. Doing mixed-methods research with couples about parenting very preterm infants: what challenges do researchers face?
Mrs Mariana Amorim (ISPUP-EPIUnit, Universidade do Porto, Rua das Taipas, nº 135, 4050-600 Porto, Portugal; Global Public Health Doctoral Programme; Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade do Porto, Alameda Prof. Hernâni Monteiro, 4200-319 Porto, Portugal )
Professor Elisabete Alves (ISPUP-EPIUnit, Universidade do Porto, Rua das Taipas, nº 135, 4050-600 Porto, Portugal; Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade do Porto, Alameda Prof. Hernâni Monteiro, 4200-319 Porto, Portugal)
Professor Susana Silva (ISPUP-EPIUnit, Universidade do Porto, Rua das Taipas, nº 135, 4050-600 Porto, Portugal; Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade do Porto, Alameda Prof. Hernâni Monteiro, 4200-319 Porto, Portugal )

Joining the call for an embodied research and an ethics-in-context approach, we intend to explore emotions and feelings we have experienced when doing mixed-methods couple-based research about parental experiences in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) and the effects of a very preterm delivery on parental quality of life. Empirical examples emerging from our fieldwork illustrate ethically important moments related to the following dilemmas: listening to untold stories and disagreements; reciprocity and trust; safety and welfare; reflexivity and management of emotions.
We have administered NICU-based surveys to 83 parental couples of very preterm infants admitted at the 7 public level III NICU of the Northern Portugal, inquiring mothers and fathers separately, 15 to 22 days after birth (July 2013 - June 2014). Afterwards, we have conducted 27 jointly couple semi-structured interviews with a subsample of these parents, four months after delivery (November 2013 - July 2014). Interviewees were purposively sampled to include parents of extremely (<1000g; n=10 couples) and non-extremely (≥1000g; n=17 couples) low birth weight infants.
We faced some dilemmas regarding informed consent, voluntary participation and privacy previously described by other researchers involved in couple-based studies. Even carefully obtained, consent of the two spouses can become a “deformed” consent; the potential for coercion became problematic when tensions or disagreements occurred between participants. Dilemmas regarding privacy emerged in joint interviews when silent participants provided a subtle, but clear indication that the account given by their partner was incomplete or contested.
A primary issue to consider was whether we should have conducted separate or jointly couple interviews, taking into account the following issues: the presence of the partner lead to greater agreement on several attitudinal and behavioral items; the challenge in finding interview times that considered both partners’ schedules; the presence of the partner hindered/changed the responses and distracted the participants; one partner dominated the interview; we only get the ‘public story’; and the interviewer become more sympathetic to one member of the couple. An additional issue clearly under-discussed in the literature included difficulties in data analysis of discordant self-reported couple-level variables, such as household monthly income and the length of marital relationship.
Interviewer experienced emotions difficult to bear and a feeling of exhaustion at the end of some research relationships. Those emotions and feelings were particularly acute in two different situations: when conducting interviews in adverse environments with weaken personal safety and welfare; and in the presence of parents who asked for support when expressing personal and highly emotional experiences often concealed, revealing psychological distress. While Amorim studied parents’ experiences in NICU and parental quality of life after a very preterm delivery, it become evident the double role she was assuming as a researcher and, simultaneously, as a psychologist, whose scientific knowledge was often invoked by parents to sustain hope and trust when babies born with health complications. Methodological issues involved in couple-based mixed-methods research need to be systematically discussed in the literature, embedded on researchers’ experiences.


2. Which negative ties are not mentioned in quantitative research? Comparison of qualitative and quantitative data.
Mr Philip Adebahr (University of Technology Chemnitz)
Dr Andreas Klärner (Thünen Institute of Rural Studies)

Research question
The measurement of negative ties is difficult. Four reasons can be considered. First, the respondents are unaware of negative ties being a relationship because negative ties are experienced as emotional distance and not as emotional closeness. Second, there is social desirability in a performance-orientated society not to have trouble because it restricts the own performance capability. Third, negative experiences (e.g. quarrels) are to a certain extend psychologically repressed and cannot be consciously remembered. Furthermore Labianca states „there has been a proliferation of operationalisations of negative ties […] over time (e.g. distant relationships, difficult relationships, prefer to avoid, dislike, distrust, conflict, relationship conflict, task conflict, ‘disrupts’, excludes socially, being a political adversary, troubled relationships)” (2013: 8).

With this presentation, we want to stimulate the discussion on the operationalisation of negative ties by answering the question ‘which negative ties have not been mentioned in quantitative research and which reasons can be derived?’ Thus, we follow an epistemological perspective by looking for repressed and unconscious social relations.

Survey-design
The University of Rostock collected the database in 2013 to 2015 during the Project ‘aspects of poverty in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’ (Germany). The project was funded by the AWO Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Arbeiterwohlfahrt Bundesverband e.V. / Workers' Welfare Federal Association). During this project, 55 poor people have been asked in problem-focused interviews (Witzel, Reiter 2012) on aspects of poverty, their everyday life, families, social environment and social resources (and much more). After the qualitative interview, the respondents were requested to map their social networks within a quantitative questionnaire. Beneath demographic information on ego and alteri, the network generator ‘With whom do you occasionally have quarrels or conflicts?’ has been used to collect negative ties.

Analytical Method and Results
As result of this mixed method design we have qualitative and quantitative data on negative ties. With this data, we are able to characterise the alteri who have negative ties and have been mentioned in the qualitative surveyed network but not in the quantitative one and vice versa. We used qualitative content analysis to explore the qualitative data (Mayring 2002) and identified patterns why alteri with negative ties are not mentioned through the quantitative network generator on negative ties.
For the ESRA Conference we are going to reflect the results on an epistemological background, especially with focus on the repression and unconsciousness of negative social relations.


3. Qualitative methods doing the researcher’s job – illustrated using the example of index construction
Dr Kathrin Gärtner (Statistics Austria)
Mr Manfred Zentner (Danube University Krems)

In the last decade, a growing importance of target group involvement in the process of researching realities of living conditions can be seen. This can be done through the involvement of members of the dialogue group itself or of experienced practitioners in various fields of interest – e.g. education, health, family, gender, youth and others. In many examples of social research members of the target group, experts or practicioners are involved in the process of problem formulation, in the choice of samples and methods and even in the process of data collection and interpretation. The involvement is normally organized via qualitative research methods like observations, interviews or discussion rounds, which are conducted before the main data collection. In some cases, qualitative methods are also used to support interpretation – for example through the use of cognitive tests to clarify the meaning of items used.

This paper analyses the possibility of non-researchers’ involvement in the definition of indicators, which usually are either created by researchers with statistical methods or are derived from theoretical concepts.

In the process of the construction of a Better Life Index-Youth on the basis of EU-SILC 2013, a series of group discussions with youth-practitioners and young persons was held to decide which variables should be included in this composite indicator and how they should be weighted. Following this, analyses with this index were conducted to find out which factors affect youth well-being. Thereby the participants in the qualitative settings performed a job which is done by the researchers themselves in a traditional quantitative mono-method design: definition and operationalisation of the concept which should be analysed.

However, this method does not totally lift the burden of defintion, operationalisation and other potentially tricky tasks from the researchers. Our example shows clearly: the limits of definition are still in the hand of the scientist. The potential outcomes are delimited by the framework of the research which is defined by funders, the research community or restricted by existing data (in our case by the decision to use EU-SILC).