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Intensive family observations: a methodological guide

Lareau, Annette and Rao, Aliya Hamid ORCID: 0000-0003-0674-4206 (2020) Intensive family observations: a methodological guide. Sociological Methods and Research. 004912412091494. ISSN 0049-1241

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0049124120914949


There is a dearth of methodological guidance on how to conduct participant observation in private spaces such as family homes. Yet, participant observations can provide deep and valuable data about family processes. This article draws on two ethnographic studies of family life in which researchers conduct in-depth interviews, recruit families, and ultimately enter the family as a quasi-stranger for daily observations lasting a fixed period (e.g., three weeks). We term this approach “intensive family observations.” Here, we provide concrete methodological advice for this method, beginning with guidelines for recruitment and gaining consent. We also discuss logistics of conducting family observation (e.g., scheduling, spatial positionality in the home, role in the field, among other issues). We elaborate on the key challenges, specifically issues of intrusion, power, and positionality. Last, we reflect on how this method provides opportunities for accurately capturing deeply intimate moments as well as unexpected insights.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2020, SAGE Publications
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 09:57
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2022 09:15

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