Gillespie; voluntarily childfree women

my pre release answer on may 2011 sociology exam

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Using the pre release material and your wider sociological knowledge
explain and evaluate the use of semi structured interview/ qualitative
method to understand the gender identity of voluntarily childfree
By using the qualitative and quantitative method of semi structured interviews Gillespie
collected numerical and linguistic data in order to obtain an understanding of the gender
identities of voluntarily childfree women and how this shaped in the context of
motherhood. In this way she would hope to borrow from a positivist and interpretive
approach and base her conclusion on reliable and valid data. Gillespie had two aims, firstly
to examine why individual women choose to remain childfree, secondly she wanted to
gain a broader understanding of gender identities.
A starting point for any research is to determine how the sample is to be collected.
Gillespie recruited from an initial survey she carried out on the child bearing intentions of
269 clients of a family planning clinic in 1997. The clinic was based in a city centre location
in a large ethnically diverse city on the south coast of England. Participants in the survey
were largely self-selected as they were asked on arrival at the clinic if they would be
willing to participate in the survey. Although it's not mentioned in the study who the gate
keeper is, Gillespie would have contacted the manager of the clinic to gain individual
consent from the participants. Out of the 269 survey respondents aged between 15 and
56 years, 33 defined themselves as having no desire for motherhood and stated their
intentions to remain childfree. Out of 33 childfree respondents only 25 participants
agreed to be contacted for an interview. All of the 25 participants were white and ranged
in age from 21 to 50 years. The participants that were selected for the interview reflect
Gillespie's assertion that staying childless is mainly an increase of opportunity such as a
freedom to study or enhance their occupational interest. Gillespie's sample was also
limited to a fixed group, for the reason that they were all white. As a result it would be
impossible to draw generalisations about the childfree behaviour of all women in
contemporary UK, as Gillespie sample is not representative of ethnic minorities. Overall
there are serious concerns about the representativeness of the data.
Semi structured interview was used to analyse the individual women who choose to
remain childfree and this was used to collect quantitative and qualitative data about the
intersection of gender identities in society. Data was collected on why they choice to be
childfree, what it meant to them and how this shaped their identity. An advantage of
semi structured interviews is that the interviewer (Gillespie) offers the opportunity for the
participants to take control, this then gives participants a greater chance to express their
own views. This open-endedness of the method means that interviewers can avoid
problems of imposition. By using semi structured interviews which lasted between one
and a half and two hours. Therefore Gillespie was able to established trust and rapport
with her participants, who were then consequently more likely to be honest in their
answers. In addition semi structured interviews might be the only possible approach when
studying certain sensitive groups such as individual women choosing to remain childfree.

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Another alternative method of researching sensitive subjects could be a questionnaire,
however often there are problems of a low response rate.
The method of semi structured interviews cause the interviewer to affect the responses
of the participants to a certain extent. This could then create problems of leading
questions. We don't know the questions that Gillespie asked her participants. However
one may argue that Gillespie was maybe interested in staying childfree herself.…read more

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If this method of data collection
were to be used Gillespie may have particular issue with finding participants for the semi
structured interview as practice of remaining childfree is a personal subject for many
people.…read more


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