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Imagining a gendered future: combining qualitative and quantitative approaches to the analysis of childrens essays Dr Jane Elliott Centre for Longitudinal Studies, March 2007 Project Funded by the Nuffield Foundation
Aims of the presentation Present preliminary findings from a project to analyse a subset of essays written by 1958 cohort members at age 11 in 1969 Focus on understanding gender using both qualitative and quantitative approaches to research Think through how gender may be constructed differently when we use qualitative and quantitative approaches Demonstrate the value of the British Birth Cohort Studies for both qualitative and quantitative research Discuss methodological issues Criticisms of quantitative research Narrative features of cohort data Possibilities for combining qualitative and quantitative methods
British Birth Cohort Studies Existing UK/GB National Studies: 1946: MRC National Survey of Health & Development 1958: National Child Development Study 1970: 1970 British Birth Cohort Study MCS: Millennium Cohort Study - the first national birth cohort study for 30 years (2000-1)
Birth Cohort Study Sample of over 17,000 infants born in March 1958 (perinatal mortality study) Sample followed at ages 7, 11, 16, 23, 33, 42, 46 (prospective study) Multipurpose study: family life; education; employment; skills; housing; health; finances; citizenship Focused bio-medical study at age 44 (MRC funded) Over 10,000 individuals are still participating Sample of children of the cohort members measured in Now funded by ESRC with data collected every four years
NCDS 11-year old Essays At age 11, in 1969 NCDS Cohort members completed a short questionnaire (at school) about leisure interests, preferred school subjects and expectations on leaving school They were also asked to write an essay on the following topic: Imagine you are now 25 years old. Write about the life you are leading, your interests, your home life and your work at the age of 25. (You have 30 minutes to do this) essays completed, mean length 204 words Copies of the original essays (in childrens handwriting) are available on microfiche at CLS and are currently being digitised.
Existing research on the essays A small sample of 521 essays have been coded for word count Boys 180 words Girls 228 words All essays have been coded for employment aspirations, over 90% give a classifiable occupation No other systematic coding and analysis of the essays has been carried out to date
Research project funded by the Nuffield foundation March February 2007 (Elliott and Morrow) Project is intended as a pilot study to explore the potential of the age 11 essays as a research resource Aim to type up and code a sub-sample of 560 essays & conduct preliminary descriptive analyses Sample stratified to reflect: gender; ability; social class; family structure Essays are being coded for themes such as: family life; leisure; employment; housing expectations; contact with parents; pets; transport and travel; aspirations Both qualitative and quantitative analysis are being carried out using NVIVO and SPSS to help organize, code, and analyze the data Main research questions: how do gender and social class shape childrens aspirations?
Combining quantitative and qualitative methods Historical/cultural information provides a context for both qualitative and quantitative analyses Analysis of quantitative data collected in 1969 provides a description of the context in which the essays were written Large sample and quantitative variables allows for the creation of a stratified sample for in-depth/qualitative investigation Qualitative – close reading of essays enables development of a coding frame that emerges from the text Coding of essays using new coding frame produces a quantitative description of a sub-sample of the essays Extracts from the essays accompanied by a quantitative summary of frequencies provides a more detailed description of the content and style of the essays Quantitative variables van be used to identify a very specific sub-sample of essays for more in-depth qualitative analysis (and also provides the context for the essays analysed)
Historical context: being eleven in 1969 Films and TV – cultural reference for children, discourses around gender and social class Popular toys, games and activities Family life: living conditions, housing, role of mother and father School life: type of school, class sizes, gender of teacher & head teacher.
Popular toys of the 1960s The Toy of the year Awards began in James Bond Aston Martin Die cast Model car 1966 Action Man 1967 Spirograph 1968 Sindy 1969 Hot Wheels Cars
Home experiences 46% of the eleven-year-olds were living in owner-occupied accommodation while 42% were in council housing At age eleven, 44% of children had their own bedroom When the child was eleven, 19% of girls and 16% of boys shared a bed with another member of the family When the child was eleven, 54% of mothers and 51% of fathers were reported to take the child for walks, visits or outings most weeks When the child was seven, 48.5% of mothers and 34.6% of fathers were reported to read to the child every week When the child was aged sixteen, 58% were in families with only a black and white TV, 41% were in families with a colour TV, 65% of families had a car and 16% of these had two cars.
School experiences (1969) The majority of children were in primary schools when they wrote the essays Only 4% of children were at independent schools At age 11 the median class size was 36 pupils (mean 34.3), while at age 7 the median class size had been 37 with a mean of % of children were in a school with a male head- teacher 45% of children had a female class teacher
Logistic regression models to predict aspirations to be a professional or teacher (age 11 essay) BoysGirls BSE BsigBSE Bsig Social class I Social class II SC III & IV non-manual SC III manualref cat SC IV manual SC V manual Ability score age Constant
Summary of influences on aspirations Boys and girls have rather different occupational aspirations Ability, gender and social class are all associated with occupational aspirations at age 11 There are significant interactions between gender and ability and between gender and social class ability is more important for girls than boys in predicting professional aspirations Social class is more important for boys than girls in predicting professional aspirations
Qualitative results: themes in boys and girls essays Table 2: Gender differences in themes and topics included in childrens essays Boys (N=243)Girls (N=252) Mother19%37% Siblings7%20% Friends18%29% Domestic labour (Child care etc)22%55% Cars41%18% Money/earnings/savings etc42%25% Occupational skills/nature of work46%32% Working hours27%35% Husband/Wifes occupation10%23% Football39%2%
Social class differences: themes within the essays Social class differences were much less marked than gender differences Children with non-manual fathers were more likely to write about… their father (32% vs. 20%) a home in the country (18% vs. 9%) car ownership (36% vs. 23%)
Results: Marriage and family life in boys and girls essays 57.3% of girls wrote about being married 51.4% of boys wrote about being married 48.6% of girls wrote about having children 40% of boys wrote about having children Strong association between writing about children and writing about marriage for boys and girls Gender differences are relatively minor here but this only gives a very broad quantitative overview of the themes included in the essays and not how the children wrote about these topics
Gender within quantitative and qualitative approaches to research Gender (sex) within quantitative analysis is relatively unproblematic It is one of the easiest variables to code, use and understand There is an assumption that gender is constant over time (for individuals) Cross-cohort comparisons can be used to start exploring whether the meaning of gender is changing within British society However it is only by adopting a qualitative approach that we can problematise gender and explore the individuals role in establishing their own gendered identity Qualitative analysis needs to acknowledge that individuals can only act within the constraints of a gendered society and have access to specific resources with which to construct a gendered identity Also need to be aware that social class and ethnicity are key components of identity and interact with gender
The essay task: creating a narrative identity? Striking that children all took the task of writing an essay so seriously Children understood that they were part of a special longitudinal study They had already taken part at age seven (medical, parental interview, reading and maths tests) Only one or two children at each school would have been part of the study Essays were written at school and children had already completed ability tests Essay task demands a capacity and willingness to imagine the future future society individual future Children are also being expected to imagine an adult identity but to maintain a continuous sense of their own selfhood (Ricoeur: Ipse and Idem) The main resources that children use successfully to complete the task are the binary oppositions of adult/child and male/female
Selecting case studies for more detailed qualitative analysis Of the 495 children whose essays have been transcribed 271 (55%) stated they will be married at (44%) stated they would have children 192 (39%) wrote about content/skills of their occupation 60 essays included all three of these themes Focus additionally restricted to those in the middle 50% of the ability range and those whose essays were words long Sample of 16 essays Eleven written by boys Five by girls Case studies on 4 essays, boy with non-manual father, boy with manual father Girl with non-manual father Girl with manual father
Case study 1 Sarah: Girl with non-manual father (spelling corrected) I have two children one 4 the other 6. I am working in a school as a teacher. My husband is an Estate Agent. In the evenings we have tea and each person tells the rest about any interesting events which has happened to them. Then we have a sit and talk about what we are going to buy or if we are going to buy a house or not. We then watch Calendar and the news. At half past seven the children will have a bath and be put to bed. Meanwhile my husband will be seeing that the cars engine is all right so that we shall not be stranded any where if something goes wrong. After that I shall do the ironing or washing or any other jobs that want doing. At Eleven oclock we shall go to bed and get up at seven oclock. At eight oclock I would take the children one to school with me the other to her grandmas. My husband goes to work at nine oclock. At school I [illegible] teach first English, Maths and Art. In the afternoon P.E., Projects and History. On Sundays in the summer we will go to the sea for a day or go visiting. In winter I [illegible] stay at home and watch television or bake. Every Thursday we go to my mothers or mother in laws. At home I do all the housework at night after tea. When I am twenty nine I shall go to another school or stop being a teacher.
Case study 2 Debbie : Girl with manual father (spelling corrected) My name is Debbie Jones I work at a shop in town. I am an hairdresser. I go to H**** road to my shop it is called Peggy Smith that is my friends name. I work with a girl call Jackie and a girl called Anne. We live near each other Jackie lives at 4 [road name A] and I live at 25 [road name A]. I am just a learner though, because I have just finished training and college. I cut peoples hair but I don't set them yet because I don't know how to yet but I work till 6 oclock and start at 9 oclock in the morning. I catch the 20 to nine bus from town and the 20 past eight to town But first I call for Jackie and Anne lives at 20 [road name B]. We have our holiday the last week in July and the first week in August. I got married when I was twenty one I have 2 boys and 2 girls. The boys names are Steven and Paul and the girls names are Marie and Julie. Steven is 3 and Paul is 3 Marie is 2 and Julie is one. My husband works at B**** He is 28 years of age. He goes out at half past six and comes in at six or eight. We live at 25 [road name A] my sister lives at 8 [road name C] H***. My interests are in sewing knitting and clubing in my spare time that is. But I don't get much spare time we are going to (small seaside resort) for our holidays. We are going in a caravan in a park at (small seaside resort) at the last week in July. I like making dresses for people and knitting for people that I know and who I work with.
Case study 3 Andrew: Boy with non-manual father (spelling corrected) When I am 25 years old I want to be a footballer I am very cross when my team loose Leicester. I will start to be 25 years old now. I am a footballer I am very popular. Some times I play inside left. I play for Leicester. Last season I scored 12 goals and the year before I scored 13 goals. At the beginning of the season I was injured. I had to have a cartridge operation. The season has ended. I have scored 29 goals I am married and I have a wife called Susan. She is just about to be having a baby. If he is a boy he is going to be called Peter if a girl Julie. I hope he is a boy so he can play football. I married 2 years a go. When I was 11 I said I would not marry. I help my wife now seeing she is going to have a baby I go to all the shops. In my car. One night on June the 7th Susan has to go and have a baby I ring for the ambulance. I hear siren outside. In the hospital she has Us baby a boy. When Susan comes home with Peter there is happiness. The season is comes round quickly. I have my first match on August the 16th We play Leeds at home [illegible fiche] 7-1 I score for Peter is made a mascot for Leicester I have a record season with 74 goal beating [illegible fiche] I get offers but I will want to play for Leicester team. People say I am a clot not going to teams like Everton and Manchester Utd
Case study 4 John: Boy with manual father (spelling corrected) My work is football. I am getting on quite well as a footballer. I have quite a bit of money in the bank. I have two children and a wife. We are all very happy in my house. My oldest child is 8 years of age. He wants to be a footballer just like myself. My youngest child is 2 years old. She wants to play Tennis when she is older. We mostly watch Tennis games and football games when I am not at work. I usually get up very early for training. I sometimes take my son with me I think he has a good time. When I come home from work I mostly take my wife out to the Cinema. I hardly ever stay at home. When I do I mostly have a rest. At all other times Im mostly giving my son some football practice and my daughter some tennis practice. My wife works in a Restaurant and she cooks delicious meals for me and my family We are a pretty wealthy family. I earn about 60 pound a week but I only have 20 pounds to spend etc. My wife earns about 50 pounds and she has 30 pounds left to spend. So we altogether have 50 pounds to spend. I think that is quite a lot of money. I have a Zephra 7 to ride around in. We have only one car but we could easily buy another one.
Features within the essays Children have been very skillful in demonstrating their competencies in the context of the essay writing task Although girls are slightly more likely to write about husbands and children both boys and girls frequently write about an imagined future family life Although there are some examples of companionship the main emphasis is on men and women having different roles within the family Children also demonstrate their understanding of the gendered adult world with reference to working hours, pay, responsibility for household tasks, gendered friendships The binary divide between men and women and between adults and children is much more in evidence than social class distinctions
Further analysis of writing about husbands and wives- using NVIVO to analyse text Among the boys essays, 87 used the word wife and in total the word wife is used 141 times across all the boys essays (1.6 times within each essay) Among the girls essays, 94 used the word husband and in total the word is used 205 times (2.2 times within each essay) Girls tended to provide more details about their husbands than the boys did about their wives, but important not to overplay the gender differences here Both boys and girls use wives/husbands to emphasize different roles and arguably to cement their own gender identity
Further analysis using NVIVO – the possession of a husband or wife Research by Swain on children in the last year of primary school suggests that there is an important discourse around having a girlfriend or boyfriend that does not necessarily translate into an actual friendship or relationship In particular for boys the possession of a girlfriend is a means for asserting masculinity NVIVO can be used to identify the occurrence of phrases such as I have a husband or I have a wife as distinct from I am married or I live with my husband… Among the 252 girls essays there were just five examples of the phrase I have a husband, compared with twenty two examples among the boys essays.
Examples of having a husband or wife I will have a husband who is a manager of somewhere. I then have to make a dinner for them all, and I usually have a hungry husband on my hands after him being at his job all day … I have a wife and 2 children I have got a wife named Dorothy I am 25 years old I own a shop it is running well I have a beautiful wife and 3 children they are call Peter Michael Paul … I have a wife and 2 children
Conclusions: children doing gender Different approaches to analysis of the essays provides a rather different understanding of gender Gender as a fixed attribute Gender as constructed and performed within a specific social context Important not to overplay the differences between the content of the boys essays and the girls essays Both boys and girls write about an imagined future in which they will be part of a nuclear family Both boys and girls place themselves at the centre of the narrative about their future family life Both boys and girls use gender to structure their vision of the future
Conclusions: the essays as a resource The essays provide a very rich resource for researchers interested in childrens perspectives on adult life The essays must be understood in their historical context and it would be very interesting to be able to compare them with essays written today There is some tension between using qualitative material to create a quantitative indicator and performing a more wholehearted qualitative analysis of the essays
Original sample of boys (N=6210) Family type/soc classNon-manualManualNo Father Ability Low (25%) Medium (50%) High (25%)
Stratified sample of boys (N=280) Family type/soc class Non-manualManualNo Father Ability Low (25%)30 10 Medium (50%)60 20 High (25%)30 10