Improving the comparability of qualitative research designs to investigate social influence on fertility

Laura Bernardi, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Sylvia Keim, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Holger Von der Lippe, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Comparative non-quantitative research designs are still a challenge rarely met, mainly because of the subjectivity involved in data collection and interpretation processes. This paper draws on insights from a comparative mixed-method study on the role of informal social networks in family formation in East and West Germany. We discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of using semi-structured data collection tools to ensure the validity of the information collected as well as the possibility to compare the information coming from the two social contexts. Our in-depth interviews were supported by network charts and a network grid designed to map individual social networks and some of their characteristics. We critically examine the opportunity of applying in-depth interviews to research on social network influences on fertility decisions and the relative advantage of collecting parallel information by members of individuals' social network directly.

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Presented in Session 169: Non-quantitative methods and strategies