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Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life Methodological Issues in Researching Childrens Kinship Jennifer Mason and Becky Tipper University.

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Presentation on theme: "Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life Methodological Issues in Researching Childrens Kinship Jennifer Mason and Becky Tipper University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life Methodological Issues in Researching Childrens Kinship Jennifer Mason and Becky Tipper University of Manchester www.manchester.ac.uk/morgancentre www.reallifemethods.ac.uk

2 Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life Theoretical/Methodological Orientations How children aged 7-12 create kinship with others in their everyday lives. Intellectual/methodological influences: –New sociology of childhood – childrens agency, perspectives and experiences –Sociological/anthropological approaches to kinship – negotiated, situated and lived out in relational practices Reflective methodological eye – capacity to move and shake substantive or theoretical knowledge Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

3 Our research 49 children aged 7-12 Half middle class, half working class 18 boys, 31 girls 11 sets of siblings Various religious, ethnic, family backgrounds 8 interviews with selected parents Tuning in to childrens kinship. Attentive to different possibilities, eg what it is, where it is located, who it involves. Exploratory, outside- in view. Who matters, positively and negatively Individual ethnographic interviews at home Childrens photos, photo elicitation, concentric circles, drawings Children Creating Kinship: ESRC funded study, 2004 - 2006 Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

4 What can our methods tell us about: 1. Kinship as genealogies and formal structures? Limits on childrens genealogical knowledge –Some appear to have extensive knowledge of kin –Inevitably, some will be unaware of existence of some kin –Some know about kin, but are unsure which relative they are, or how they are related Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

5 Kinship as genealogies and formal structures Childrens reflections on gaps in their knowledge are illuminating Rilla: Well, there is other people that I love, its just that we dont see them often so we cant, I cant like talk to you about them cause I dont really know lots about them. Becky: Oh, OK. What kind of people is that? Rilla: Well, like my dads mum like, like my great great grandma. We went and saw her at grandma and granddads for her birthday but we dont usually, we never see her cause we dont, I dont really know where she lives or anything so we never see her. Its not the same with grandma and granddad cause, erm, I recognise like where were, if were half way I know theres like what I recognise and stuff (F, aged 7) Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

6 Kinship as genealogies and formal structures When and how children seek clarification from parents and others is illuminating Becky: So is Sharon mums sister, is that right? April: Yeah. Shes the baby of the family. Harvey: And our mums the - April: The middly. Harvey: They had a brother and he was called… April: Uncle… He likes cricket but we cant remember his name. Harvey: Ill ask mum. Mum!!! (Goes into house to ask mum, can be heard in background) Mum, what one is it, the one that likes cricket… April: Hes a bit grumpy at times! Because when its - Harvey: (Returning) Uncle Max! April: Uncle Max. Harvey: And Reece. (To mum) Who was the other two? April: But when its like Firework Day, and Christmas, he gets a bit moody because he wants to watch the cricket matches, on Sky! Harvey: (Calling out as he returns again) Cousin Reece and cousin Mia. Becky: Oh OK. Harvey: (Repeating what mum says) We dont see them an awful lot. (Harvey M aged 8, April F aged 9) Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

7 Kinship as genealogies and formal structures Children can tell us about ambiguities or complex and shifting boundaries and negotiated definitions Becky: OK, and so of Holly and Wayne which one is related to your mum? Tamsin: They are both related really because Wayne and Holly are engaged, but Im not allowed to call him Wayne because Wayne is my proper uncle but shes not my proper aunty. But I am allowed to call her Holly, but I stick to Aunty Holly not just Holly. Becky: Oh I see. Oh right but with Wayne you are supposed to call him Uncle Wayne? Tamsin: Yes because if I call him Wayne I get into proper trouble. Becky: From who? Tamsin: From everybody. (F aged 8) Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

8 Kinship as genealogies and formal structures What can our methods yield? Our study wasnt designed to document childrens genealogies in a systematic or comprehensive way – and it doesnt! But children can tell us quite a lot. Ethnographic interviews at home, especially where other people are present and sometimes get involved, help us to extend childrens genealogical accounts. Our methods can help us to understand how genealogical kinship is an interactive, relational, managed and negotiated set of constructions. We can understand something of how this works in real lives, eg stories, straplines (the one who likes cricket, the grumpy one). Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

9 What can our methods tell us about: 2. Kinship as relationships and practices? Relationships arent individual property, nor are they common property – any one perspective (including childrens) will be partial and we cant expect anyones perspective to do. But validity of understanding childrens perspectives. Abbie: Can you not show my mum and dad this (concentric circles map), because Im putting my grandma Irene separate to my grandma Joan. Becky: Shes separate? Thats fine, yes. Abbie: I still love my grandma Joan but I think Im closer to my grandma Irene. Interviews with other family members is an option (eg Punch, Edwards et al, Brannen, Finch and Mason). Small sub-sample of parent interviews Situational/relational dynamics in ethnographic interviews at home Interviews with siblings (some separately, some together) Are childrens perspectives enough to explore their kin relationships? Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

10 What can our methods tell us about: 3. Kinship as situated interactions in place and time? Kinship is embedded in childrens everyday physical spaces. Evie: Yeah, well normally on my dads side, theres my gran and granddad and my cousins, then my great grandma. And they, my gran and granddad and my cousins... and my aunty, all live near the same villages. So we normally go up there for birthday parties or they sometimes rent cottages and stuff on holiday, so well go up there. And last time they rented a bouncy castle, cause theyve got a massive garden about the size of a field! (Laughs). And they have a trampoline in it and everything. (F aged 10) Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

11 Kinship as situated interactions in place and time Value of childrens photos, also spontaneous walking tours, household material objects. Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

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17 Kinship as situated interactions in place and time Value of photo elicitation, talking about absence as well as presence in photos Chandani: She used to live in this house when she was a little girl. And there was a swing over there and he dad built her that, and when you gave me the camera I said Dad! because my dad knocked the swing down - I said Dad, why did you knock it down? I wanted to take a picture of it! because I havent got a picture of Vandan, so I said oh why did you?- I wanted to take a picture of that! cause that was Vandans. Awww! (F aged 8) Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

18 Kinship as situated interactions in place and time Importance of multiple situated accounts, being attuned to jostling accounts, real time instances and negotiations Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

19 Kinship as situated interactions in place and time Jake: I like it when Aunty Betsy is asleep because she is just sat there like that (imitates peaceful sleeping). Martine: (Laughs) Shes funny sometimes… Jake: Shes not funny now. Martine: She thinks Im her sister […] And she is singing away, she doesnt know what she is singing but- Jake: Yes, and last time I went she started crying Martine: She does. Becky: Did she? Why was she-? Jake: I dont know, she just, I think she said I dont want you to end up like this or something…And she started crying. Martine: I cant see her saying that because she doesnt really, she doesnt like know what shes saying. (M, aged 9) Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

20 What can our methods tell us about: 4. Kinship as embodiment and physicality How relatives act, look, speak, physical interactions Communicating the visual and non-verbal Jasmine: (…) Hes just weird, but he likes me the best. He does. He gives me hugs and I will say like thank you, he goes like that, and then like he will try, he is just a bit blurrggh. (Demonstrating granddad approaching and trying to hug/kiss her) Becky: Hes trying to kiss you? Jasmine: Yes. Becky: But you dont like it so much? Jasmine: No because its like his lips just fold back just like that! Its like that and like that. Probably not that much but you know like- (demonstrates by pinning her lips back). (F, aged 10) Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

21 Kinship as embodiment and physicality The significance of embodied affinities Becky: What is it that makes them particularly like brothers do you think? Harvey: Its cause, I think its cause theyre both funny. Matthew Bennett, when were always chasing him today, (crying out) aaaaaaaaaaah! And Ryan always says this: (in funny voice) Do you need hearing- aid?! (Laughter). He says (drawn-out, high-pitched voice) Sweeeeeety-pie! (Laughter). Becky: is that what he says? Harvey: Yeah, then they always laugh… (M aged 8) Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

22 Kinship as embodiment and physicality The significance of physical interactions Becky: How do you get on with Adam and [another uncle]? Reuben: Its fun with Adam, cause we wrestle a bit! (Laughs) Becky: (Laughs) Does he do karate on you? Reuben: No, just wrestle. Once I pinned him to the ground, even though hes older! Yeah, cause hes much older cause hes my dads brother, so hes… I dont even study wrestling or karate. I dont… [Detailed description of how he can jump across the couch like a high jump]… If I had space for the run-up, without touching this bit, I could jump to about there. Over it, Id be like wheeeee! Sometimes I go on my side and I go a bit further (demonstrates by flopping on his side onto the couch). Becky: (Laughs). Thats great. And so you managed to pin your uncle down too? Reuben: Yeah, I managed. Cause he pinned my, cause I was on the floor, and he pinned my shoulder, (lying on the couch to demonstrate) and I rolled over and pinned him, but then he rolled over and pinned me! (M aged 8) Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

23 Kinship as embodiment and physicality Our different methods enabled us to pick up on the importance of the visual, embodied, physical elements of childrens kinship. Given the chance, this is something that children articulate loudly and clearly about kinship. Visual and audio analytical and data management methods (NVivo databites) assisted us in this process More generally, awareness of the importance of watching and listening for these for these elements as constitutive, not just illustrative, of childrens kinship. What do our methods yield? Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

24 Concluding points and questions Creative repertoire of methods is important. But also more general tuning in on as many frequencies as possible. Ability of children to articulate verbally shouldnt be underestimated either. Importance of methods that start from childrens thinking and experience, eg their photos, their non-verbal communications, their concerns with physicality in relationships. These have the capacity to move and shake our substantive and theoretical knowledge. Importance of situated polyvocality of accounts in real time, of marginal commentaries, parallel asides and interruptions. Is there a tension, in practice or in theory, between this situated view, and the prioritisation of childrens experiences and their own versions? We think there shouldnt be, but it is easy to design research that sees these as either/ors. Important to see the intellectual influences with which we began the study as interacting, not polarised. How much of this is specific to childrens kinship? We need to tune in on all frequencies with adults too! Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life

25 THE END


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