This is my first attempt at a sample answer for this question, and I've used the basic writing frame I supplied students with. Expect more sample answers to this and different questions as the year goes on...(I've added the writing frame subheadings purely for ease of reading). - Joel
Using the pre-released material and your wider sociological knowledge, outline and evaluate the use of semi-structured interviews in understanding changes in traditional gender roles 
The aim of Hauari and Hollingworth’s study was to explore the extent to which the role of the father has been transformed by social expectations. They used a mixed-methods approach, collecting mainly qualitative data. This suggests that Hauari and Hollingworth are working from an interpretivist perspective, which means they are interested in gaining verstehen (empathy and understanding) with their subjects and collecting rich, deep and valid data.
Semi-structured interviews are a good method to use to gain qualitative data as they give the interviewer flexibility to clarify, explain and reorder the questions asked and the respondent has flexibility to expand on their answers.
The researchers used a sample of 29 two-parent families. They selected five regions of the UK and, from each, focused on a single ethnic group living there. They gathered the sample using purposive sampling, meaning they selected the families themselves, using the Index of Multiple Deprivation as their sampling frame. There are issues with the representativeness of this sample, meaning it might not be entirely typical of the wider population. Firstly, it is quite a small sample. Secondly, it is limited to two-parent families, ignoring the roles of fathers in more diverse family types. Thirdly, it covers a diverse area of the UK and a range of ethnicities, but only covers one or two ethnicities per area. For example, in the north of England, only Pakistani families were covered. Other ethnicities in this region are not represented; what is true for Pakistani families might not be true for families of other ethnic groups. This means that, overall, it may be difficult to make generalisations from the study.
Practical & Ethical Issues
The size and limited range of the sample may be due to the practical constraints of the methods used. Gathering detailed qualitative data usually takes more time than gathering numerical, statistical quantitative data. For example, semi-structured interviews can be time-consuming, particularly in comparison to structured interviews or questionnaires. In this particular study, the interviews lasted between 45mins and 2 hours. If Hauari and Hollingworth had used unstructured interviews, this time could have been even longer and less predictable; semi-structured interviews at least gave them some control. A bigger sample would have taken more time, and time equals money, as researchers/interviewers need to be paid.
The ethical issues in this study mainly revolve around the use of children as respondents. Good ethical practice means that everyone taking part in a study should give informed consent, meaning they agree to take part, having had the study explained to them thoroughly. Legally, children are not able to provide informed consent, so the researchers would have needed to do this for them. There are further ethical issues, given the nature of the study. The children were interviewed about the roles and importance of their fathers. This is a sensitive issue and one that the children might not have otherwise considered. The researchers would have had to be extremely careful not to influence or guide the children with their questioning, as they risk making children question their relationships with their fathers.
The validity of a study or method describes how truthful the results are; are the researchers gaining a true, accurate and detailed picture of the lives of those being studies. Qualitative research tends to be high in validity as its whole aim is to uncover meanings and gain rich, detailed data, therefore the semi-structured interviews used by the researchers were far higher in validity than a more structured or quantitative study/method might have been. To increase validity, respondents were interviewed in their own homes, making them more relaxed, comfortable and therefore likely to be open. However, there are also issues with the validity of the surveys. For example, in any interview or questionnaire, it can be difficult to establish in the respondents are telling the truth. Semi-structured interviews are more valid that more structured methods, because the interview can ask additional or more probing questions to establish truthfulness, but this is still not a guarantee. Additionally, there is the issue of social desirability, meaning that respondents have a tendency to say what they think is the ‘right’ or ‘socially acceptable’ answer. So, when asking fathers about their role, fathers are likely to answer in a way that would make them seem like the best possible fathers, whether or not this is the case. There would be additional issues with the interviews with children: Children would presumably need a parent or guardian to sit in on the interviews with them, which might make them less likely to be completely honest with the interviewer.
The reliability of a method describes how accurate it is and a measure of this would be how likely it is that repeating the study under the same or similar conditions would yield similar results. Qualitative methods are often low in reliability because they lack structure, making them difficult to repeat. Semi-structured interviews, for example, cannot always be easily repeated (to gain similar results), because the degree of flexibility that both interviewer and respondent have makes it unlikely that exactly the same interview would happen twice over.
Overall, semi-structured interviews were a logical choice for gaining qualitative data on the changing roles of fathers. A more structured, quantitative approach would not have been able to fully depict the thoughts and beliefs of the respondents, whilst a completely unstructured approach would have been far too time consuming and would have been generated results that were incredibly difficult to interpret. There were issues with the validity and reliability of the semi-structured interviews, but Hauari and Hollingworth may have overcome this in part by using a mixed-methods approach: As well as the interviews, they gave respondents time diaries to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. Using more than one method means data can be trickier to interpret and analyse, but in this case, they could have used triangulation (checking different sets of data against each other) to compare the results of the two methods, adding validity and reliability to each.
This website is designed for the use of Sociology students at Northampton College. Please note that views and opinions expressed on this site may not necessarily reflect the views of Northampton College itself. Resources on the site are created and published by the NC Sociology department and should not be redistributed or republished elsewhere without permission from the creators.