Was your father a problem drinker?

The challenges of life story interviewing in researching adult sons of problem drinking fathers

  • Henna Pirskanen

Abstract

In this article, the challenges of carrying out life story interview research on the adult sons of problem-drinking fathers will be discussed. Earlier studies have shown that parents’ problem drinking can disturb family life and be harmful in various ways to children. In the case of a problem-drinking father and his son, aspects of the father-son relationship and of the father as a male role model also assume major importance. Consequently, fathers’ drinking may continue to be a sensitive and a painful topic for their sons in adulthood. Moreover, several studies indicate that recruiting young men as a focus group for interview study is complicated. In addition, family matters are often perceived as something private, not to be talked about or shared with outsiders.For these reasons the life story interview method can be problematic for the researcher interested in collecting and interpreting interview data on sons’ childhood experiences. In my study, both finding interviewees, carrying out interviews on a sensitive topic and interpreting the data “truthfully” were challenging tasks presenting a number of ethical considerations. The data used in the study consist of 21 life story interviews with young Finnish men aged 21-42. While these young men were growing up, their fathers were problem drinkers. In the interviews the young men produced narratives or stories about their lives from an adult perspective. Thus narrative analysis is suggested to be applied in analysing the interviews.

Author Biography

Henna Pirskanen

Researcher
University of Jyväskylä
Finland
henna.pirskanen@jyu.fi

References

Ackerman, R. (1992): Lapsuus lasin varjossa. Lapsi alkoholiperheessä. Translated in Finnish by Teuvo Peltoniemi. Helsinki: A-klinikkasäätiö.

Alasuutari, P. (1986): Työmiehen elämäntarina ja alkoholismi. Tutkimus alkoholismin suhteesta emokulttuuriin. Tampereen yliopisto, Sosiologian ja sosiaalipsykologian laitos, Sarja A. Tutkimuksia 9/1986.

Atkinson, R. (1998): The Life Story Interview. Qualitative Research methods, Volume 44. Thousand Oaks, London and New Delhi: Sage.

Bates, Catherine (2002): Memories and Vision. In: Narrative, Memory and Life Transitions, Horrocks, C., Milnes, K., Roberts, B. & Robinson D. (Eds.) University of Huddersfield. 155–162.

Bamberg, M. (2006): Stories: Big or small. Why do we care? Narrative Inquiry 16, 1. 139-147.

Bochner, A. (2007): Notes Towards an Ethics of Memory in Autoethnograpic Inquiry. In: Ethical Futures in Qualitative Research: Decoloniazing the Politics of Knowledge, Denzin, N. & Giardiana, M. (Eds.), Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press. 197-208.

Butera, K. (2006): Manhunt: The Challenge of Enticing Men to Participate in a Study on Friendship. Qualitative Inquiry, 12. 1262–1282.

Čermák, I. (2004): “Genres” of Life-Stories. In: Narrative, Memory and Identity: Theoretical and Methodological Issues, Robinson, D., Horrocks, C., Kelly, N. & R. Roberts (Eds.), University of Huddersfield. 211-221.

Čermák, I. & Chrz, V. (2005): What is life story genre? In: Narrative, Memory and Everyday Life, Kelly, N., Horrocks, C., Milnes, K., Roberts, B. & Robinson D. (Eds.), University of Huddersfield. 49–57.

Cohler, B. (1988): The human studies and life history. Social Service Review, 62, 4. 552-575.

Craib, Ian (2003): The Unhealthy Underside of Narratives. In: Narrative, Memory and Health, Robinson, D., Horrocks, C., Kelly, N. & Roberts, B. (Eds.), University of Huddersfield. 1–11.

Fiese, B. & Sameroff, A. (1999): The family narrative consortium: a multidimensional approach to narratives, in: The stories that families tell: narrative coherence, narrative interaction and relationship beliefs. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 2. 1–36.

Fingerroos, O. & Haanpää, R. (2006): Muistitietotutkimuksen ydinkysymyksiä. In: Muistitietotutkimus. Metodologisia kysymyksiä, Fingerroos, O., Haanpää, R., Heimo, A. & Peltonen, U. (Eds.), Helsinki: Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura. 25–48.

Fontana, A. & Prokos, A. (2007): The Interview. From Formal to Postmodern. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Fraser H. (2004): Doing Narrative Research: Analyzing Personal Stories line by Line. Qualitative Social Work, 3. 179–201.

Goffman, E. (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books.

Goodall, H. (2005): Narrative Inheritance: A Nuclear Family with Toxic Secret. Qualitative Inquiry, 11. 492–513.

Greene, S. & Hill, M. (2005): Children’s experience of parental separation: Methods and methodological issues. In: Researching Children’s Experience: Approaches and Methods, Greene, S. and Hogan, D. (Eds.), London: Sage.

Holmila, M. (2001): Perhe, päihteet ja sukupuoli. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka, 1. 55–62.

Holstein, J. & Gubrium, J. (1995): The Active Interview. Qualitative Research Methods, Volume 37. Thousand Oaks, London and New Delhi: Sage.

Holstein, J. & Gubrium, J. (2007): Constructionist Perspectives on the Life Course. Sociology Compass, 1. 335–352.

Horrocks, C., Milnes, K., Roberts, B. & Robinson, D. (2002): Introduction. In: Horrocks, C., Milnes, K., Roberts, B. & Robinson, D. (Eds.), Narrative, Memory and Life Transitions. University of Huddersfield. xvii–xxiii.

Itäpuisto, M. (2005): Kokemuksia alkoholiongelmaisten vanhempien kanssa eletystä lapsuudesta. Kuopio University Publications E, Social Sciences 124.

Itäpuisto, M. & Grönfors, M. (2004): Isä, poika ja pullon henki. In: Muuttuuko ihminen? Hänninen, V. & Ylijoki, O. (Eds.), Tampere: Tampere University Press. 137–154.

Jackson, S. (1998): Telling Stories: Memory, Narrative and Experience in Feminist Research and Theory. In: Standpoints and differences : essays in the practice of feminist psychology, Henwood, K. & Griffin, C. & Phoenix, A. (Eds.), London: SAGE.

Jedlowski, P. (2001): Memory and Sociology. Themes and Issues. Time & Society 10, 1. 29-44.

Johansson, A. (2005): Narrativ teori och metod. Med livsberättelsen i fokus. Malmö: Studentlitteratur.

Jähi, R. (2004): Työstää, tarinoida, selviytyä. Vanhemman psyykkinen sairaus lapsuudenkokemuksena. Acta Universitas Tamperensis 1015, Tampereen yliopisto: Tampere.

Kohler-Riessman, Catherine (2005): Narrative analysis. In: Narrative, Memory and Everyday Life, Kelly, N., Horrocks, C., Milnes, K., Roberts, B. & Robinson D. (Eds.), University of Huddersfield. 1–7.

Korhonen M. (1999): Isyyden muutos. Keski-ikäisten miesten lapsuuskokemukset ja oma vanhemmuus. Joensuun yliopiston yhteiskuntatieteellisiä julkaisuja, Joensuun yliopisto.

Korkiakangas, Pirjo (2006): Etnologisia näkökulmia muistiin ja muisteluun. In: Muistitietotutkimus. Metodologisia kysymyksiä, Fingerroos, O., Haanpää, R., Heimo, A. & Peltonen, U. (Eds.), Helsinki: SKS. 120–144.

Koski-Jännes, A. & Jussila, A. & Hänninen, V. (1998): Miten riippuvuus voitetaan. Helsinki: Otava.

Lee, R.M. (1993): Doing research on sensitive topics. London: Sage.

Lumme-Sandt, K. (2005): Vanhan ihmisen kohtaaminen haastattelutilanteessa. In: Haastattelu. Tutkimus, tilanteet ja vuorovaikutus, Ruusuvuori, J. & Tiittula, L. (Eds.), Tampere: Vastapaino. 125–144.

Olney, James (1998): Memory and Narrative: The Weave of Life-Writing. University of Chicago Press.

Perälä-Littunen, S. (2004): Cultural images of a good mother and a good father in three generations. Jyväskylä studies in education, psychology and social research 239. University of Jyväskylä.

Portelli, A. (2002): What makes oral history different? In: The Oral History Reader, Perks, R. & Thomson, A. (Eds.), London: Routledge.

Renzetti, C. & Lee, R. (1993): The problem of researching sensitive topics: an overview and introduction. In: Reseaching sensitive topics, Renzetti, C. & Lee R. (Eds.), Newbury Park: Sage. 3–13.

Ruusuvuori, J. & Tiittula, L. (2005): Tutkimushaastattelu ja vuorovaikutus. In: Haastattelu. Tutkimus, tilanteet ja vuorovaikutus, Ruusuvuori, J. & Tiittula, L. (Eds.), Tampere: Vastapaino. 22–56.

Saastamoinen, M. (2000): Elämänkaari, elämäkerta ja muisteleminen. In: Ruumis, minä ja yhteisö - sosiaalisen konstruktionismin näkökulma, Kuusela P. & Saastamoinen M. (Eds.), Kuopion yliopiston selvityksiä E, Yhteiskuntatieteet 21. University of Kuopio. Also available in: http://www.uku.fi/~msaastam/MS1.PDF [3.3.2009]

Shuman, Amy (2006): Entitlement and empathy in personal narrative. Narrative Inquiry 16, 1. 148–155.

Silverman, D. (1997): Towards an aesthetics of research. In: Qualitative Research. Theory, method and practice, Silverman, D. (Ed.), London: Sage. 239–253.

Smart, C. (2006): Children’s narratives of post-divorce family life: from individual experience to an ethical disposition. The Sociological Review, 1. 155–170.

Velleman, R. & Orford, J. (1990): Young adult offspring with drinking problems: Recollections of parents’ drinking and its immediate effects. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 29. 297–317.

Velleman, R. & Orford, J. (1993): The Importance of Family Discord in Explaining Childhood Problems in the Children of Problem Drinkers. Addiction Research, 1. 39–57.

Vilkko, A. (1997): Omaelämäkerta kohtaamispaikkana. Naisen elämän kerronta ja luenta. Helsinki: Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura.

Warren, C. (2005): Qualitative Interviewing. In: Handbook of Interview Research, Gubrium, J. & Holstein, J. (Eds.), Thousand Oaks, London & New Delhi: Sage. 83–101.
Published
2009-04-01
How to Cite
Pirskanen, H. (2009). Was your father a problem drinker? The challenges of life story interviewing in researching adult sons of problem drinking fathers. Journal of Comparative Social Work, 4(1), 89 - 105. https://doi.org/10.31265/jcsw.v4i1.47
Views
  • Abstract 222
  • PDF 120
Section
Articles

Most read articles by the same author(s)