jo moran ellis department of sociology university of surrey l.
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Multiple & mixed methods approaches to vulnerability
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  1. Jo Moran-Ellis, Department of Sociology, University of Surrey Multiple & mixed methods approaches to vulnerability

  2. outline • PPIMs project • What’s so great about mixed/multi methods? • Arguments against • Arguments in favour: the case of vulnerability

  3. PPIMs project - • Methodological aims • Making visible the hidden work of integrating multiple and mixed methods • Substantive aims • Richer understanding of vulnerabilitythrough the use of multiple methodologies

  4. 5 small scale projects; 3 methods: • Secondary analysis of existing quantitative data for the relevant neighbourhoods(Geographical/Area level data) • 3 sets of Qualitative interviews with individuals: • Whole Households: all household members • Solo living respondents • Homeless people • Visual methods: photographs and video data with individuals • Range of respondents derived from individual interviews

  5. Arguing against...Is it too seductive??

  6. Loose thinking about the significance of... • Combinations of methods that could be chosen • The epistemological and ontological implications of what is chosen • The practicalities of carrying out the research • How the data are going to be brought together (lack of theory?) • Tensions between approaches and methods

  7. Do we know what we are doing? • Multiple Method Research Designs (MMRD) • Multi-method designs -1+ method within paradigms • Mixed methods designs -1+ method mixed paradigms • Combining methods – 1+ method, one subsumed to other? • Integrating methods – 1+ method of equal weight?* • Triangulation – outcome of MMRD?* • Data transformation • Quantitized data • Qualitized data

  8. Do we know why we are doing it? • Emic and etic understandings? • Multiple research questions? • Multiple facets or contexts • Multiple of singular reality? • Mixed phenomena?

  9. How are we going to do it and can we organise it all? • Sequential or parallel? • Linked or independent? • Respondent enrolment • Development of research instruments • Time required • Costs – value for money? • Necessary expertise? • Team organisation and communication

  10. Handling the data • Where’s your theory? How does that help? • Assumptions and presumptions – negotiating a path through/round them • Integration; triangulation; combination? • When are you going to integrate? Have you missed the moment? • Will your audience understand?

  11. Possible tensions? • Methodological • Differing findings • Unit of analysis • Political • Preference/requirements of ‘audiences’ • Practical • Time • Money • Age of data

  12. Arguing for...Is it the ideal approach?

  13. Strengthens understandings of: • Multi-faceted nature of all phenomena • Contextuality • Micro-meso-macro dimensions/relationships • Agency and structure

  14. vulnerability • Essentialist approaches • Constructionist approaches • Fixed state/status • Contextual and fluid • An inherent weakness or something managed and negotiated? • Children and vulnerability

  15. Single method approach? • Which one and why that? • Insufficient for some purposes • eg Policy development • Cannot elaborate micro-meso-macro interfaces and relationships • Structure and agency • Some presumptions are problematic

  16. Multiple or mixed methods • Multi-dimensional phenomenon • Access via different methods derived from an interpretivist stance • Can explore contingency and dynamic aspects • Draw on emic and etic conceptualisations to plan a strong design for mixed methods • Can explore structural relationships and agency/structure interfaces

  17. Etic secondary data and research questions • Census data • National data sets (eg GHS) • National statistical returns (eg Crime statistics for HO) • Published research findings • Local surveys (primary data) • Local statistics (secondary/primary data) • Limited data about children • Research Questions • Specific (hypotheses) • Determined at start by outside ‘experts’/prior research • Limited by what is available eg area; analysis unit

  18. Examples of etic questions concerning ‘vulnerability’ and children The example of children and non-domestic violence • Area level: ‘risky’ areas? • Deprived areas (IMD measurements): are high crime rates against children associated with neighbourhood levels of deprivation? • Individual level: vulnerable people? • Are children more or less vulnerable to non-domestic violence than other age groups? • How does this vary by (eg) age, ethnicity, gender, imputed social class, household income?

  19. Examples of emic questions concerning children and ‘vulnerability’ ’ • What does ‘vulnerability’ mean in children’s everyday lives? • Vulnerability unspecified by researcher; aim to understand how respondents define it; subjectivity and context of great importance. • How is ‘vulnerability experienced and managed by children in different arenas of their lives? • An individual level experience: eg feeling safe. • A cultural/community level understanding: eg what ‘being vulnerable’ means to children living in this area

  20. How are multiple methods relevant? • Children are often seen as inherently vulnerable • Particularly the case in policy terms • Indirect challenge from sociology of childhood • Agency ; social actors • But ambivalence about children as vulnerable members of society

  21. Are children inherently ‘vulnerable’? • Uneven distribution of economic, social and political power in society leads to certain groups of people being at greater risk of adverse events such as ill-health, trauma or material loss. • But connecting vulnerability to a characteristic such as age or social status does not tell us about the experiential nature of feeling vulnerable or being seen as vulnerable. • Designating specific groups of people ‘vulnerable’ glosses how people experience and manage vulnerabilities in everyday life. • Need to “create ways of analysing the vulnerability implicit in daily life”, and the coping strategies that people develop to manage these (Wisner 1991:128) and connect that with structural dimensions.

  22. A multiple methods approach • Interested in the different ways in which children might construct, explain and experience vulnerability • Theoretical integration with macro level understandings of children as vulnerable • Children aged between 10 and 18, living at home with at least one parent

  23. Integrated multiple methods • No predetermined definition of vulnerability • Interviews to explore how they conceptualised vulnerability and how they responded to it • Photo-elicitation and video-journey interviews in addition • Focus here on integrated findings for non-domestic safety and vulnerability

  24. ‘being vulnerable’ • Others’ constructions: all were aware of the ways in which adults thought children were vulnerable although they were not always sure as to why • Sometimes accorded with their own experiences and constructions, sometimes not • Spent time managing other people’s worries whilst also managing the situations in which they felt they were vulnerable

  25. The internet I: are there any […] rules that your parents set [about using the internet] P: not really but they don’t let us have hotmail because of the chat room, my sister had it but I don’t know what she did but then they banned it … so I don’t get the benefit which I think is really unfair as all my friends have it and I’m the only one who doesn’t have it I: do you understand the reasons why you can’t have it? P: not really, I asked but they wouldn’t tell me (Tom, age 13 years)

  26. Monstrous worries The threat that strangers (could) pose when no adult present to protect them (eg in the town) P: If I like see someone who doesn’t, if it’s late or something and I find, if I see someone who doesn’t look like normal than I just walk off with my mates and go somewhere else. I: […]what kind of things do you look for when you’re trying to decide if someone’s OK or a bit..? P: It’s just like if he doesn’t look right, they’re watching and things. (Stuart, age 12 years) I: What is it about strangers that you worry about? P: Kidnapped (Jack, 13 years old).

  27. Contextual vulnerabilities parental fears about how places became more unsafe at night or outside the bounds of daytime were understood as being simply about ‘the dark’: I: What about when you are outside playing? Are there rules about where you can go or what time? P: Sometimes I am not allowed to go to the park I have to stay right in front [garden]. And we are not allowed to come home really late. I: What is late, what would be late? P: Well, when it gets dark. When it gets dark. (Yasmin, 11 years old).

  28. ‘real’ vulnerabilities, multiple domains • Respondents 14yrs and older differentiated parental worries about vulnerability from the ‘real’ vulnerabilities to be dealt with • Threats of violence: in some places other young people were looking to fight, were in gangs, or there was a strong chance of general violence occurring (visual and video data). • Important to know when to leave a place and who to avoid (video data) • Important your parents did not know

  29. Managing parental worries • False information about whereabouts • I go to my friend’s house and we’ll go out, and I’ll just text my parents and say we’ve gone here, there or wherever. If I’m staying at a friend’s house, I will go out with them but won’t tell my parents (Lucy, 14 years old). • Withholding information about own vulnerabilities • Managing gendered threats to self

  30. “this is where my mum dropped me off outside [the station] and there was a man on his phone there…I felt uneasy because...as I got out of the car he hung up and looked at me and I was just about to walk down [the underpass] and he turned as if he was going to walk down to…so I went down there [another way]… I felt much better doing that where I knew there were a lot of people around rather than having rather than I don’t know whether he was following me you as a teenage girl you feel uneasy about these things” (Rachel, aged 13, video data)

  31. “Usually I would say that there’s not many people my age that I could be frightened of, because they’re my age therefore I know how they think, and even if they’re acting hard and they’re going hard and they’re going to beat you up, you they’re not because ..[they just] want to scare people” (jane, 13) • “If I see a man on his own I get scared if they’re big, especially if they start looking at you, and sometimes there are men that will look at you and not take their eyes off you and you start to feel uneasy and think ‘what are they looking at?’

  32. Theorising the integrated findings • Vulnerability emerges as contextual to the social worlds of the participants • Reflects the ways in which children/young people are positioned between structures which constrain their actions on the basis of their age, and their own desires, opportunities, and abilities to be (relatively) autonomous social actors • Vulnerability is a site around which the relationship between their structural position in their families, and in society more generally, and their status as social actors is played out

  33. Further developments • Using a mixed methods approach • Interface between micro and macro dimensions of physical safety, distributions of risk, violence • Would need primary data to capture distributions of management strategies

  34. conclusions • Vulnerability is experienced in many domains, at many levels • Single methods approaches are limited in the understandings they can produce • Need to be specific about which methods, why, how, when.

  35. Finally - a caution • Ideal resolution: • Careful prior design and planning! • Integration or other relationships? • Tendency to a particular kind of multi methods design in some contexts • Often driven by etic ‘mode’ of intervention/government • Often leads to resolution through: • Etic measures of the emic • Loss of depth?

  36. Integration- a process: • Which combines methods/data/analyses in such a way that • they form a whole but • retain their paradigmatic nature (ie they are not translated one into the other) and • make a contribution of equal value **

  37. Potential integration points • From the start • During data generation/fieldwork • Through data analysis • Via interpretation • As a product of presentation