Social Research Methods and Research Practices > Social Research Methods

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This chapter discusses the origins of the authors’ commitment to caring research in experiences of conducting participatory research with users/survivors of health and social care services, and in discovering feminist care ethics. It offers a brief introduction to the ethics of care and the way in which this has been taken up by researchers working in many different contexts and disciplines who are concerned with the relationship between care and justice, and the necessity to hear different voices. This introduces the importance of thinking outside the boundaries both of disciplines and fields of study in order to encompass the interdependencies of human lives and the more-than-human world. Authors note the harms done by focusing on methodology to the exclusion of caring ethics. The chapter outlines the book structure.

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This and the following chapters draw on conversations with ethics of care researchers as well as the authors’ own experiences. An introduction to this part of the book introduces these researchers. Discussions are structured by the stages of research, starting with the initial phase of how we identify and frame the research we plan to do. ‘What do you care about?’ can offer a useful way in to conversations that stimulate ideas and priorities. Providing space for storytelling and careful listening is important. Conversations with other researchers revealed both personal and political motivations to research. There were examples of ways in which doing research stimulated understanding of why things mattered to people as researchers, and of care ethics helping to enable personal reflections on new experiences, including growing older. These experiential impacts have informed the way in which researchers try to care about others they research with, as well as the issues they research. The different contexts in which researchers work and the different relationships they have with the topics raise complex questions about how we achieve epistemic justice through our work.

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Applying Feminist Care Ethics to Research Practice

What are the implications of caring about the things we research? How does that affect how we research, who we research with and what we do with our results? Proposing what Tronto has called a ‘paradigm shift’ in research thinking, this book invites researchers across disciplines and fields of study to do research that thinks and acts with care.

The authors draw on their own and others’ experiences of researching, the troubles they encounter and the opportunities generated when research is approached as a caring practice. Care ethics provides a guide from starting out, designing and conducting projects, to thinking about research legacies. It offers a way in which research can help repair harms and promote justice.

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Tronto’s analysis of the phases of care and the principles associated with them offer a way of analysing different practices that can be understood as caring. Here the authors consider what attentiveness, responsibility, competence, responsiveness and solidarity mean in the context of doing research. The importance of the different perspectives from which to consider what these mean in practice is emphasised. For example, the attentiveness that is the starting point for care requires us not only to notice problems needing investigation from the perspective of service providers, but what service users identify as priorities. And this may mean being open to shifting our focus as research develops. It is important to be attentive throughout the research process in order to be able to respond to ethical dilemmas that may arise, and to recognise the importance of previously unacknowledged issues. As a research project develops responsibilities and competences can be developed and shared among those involved. Caring research requires a capacity to recognise the way people are responding to taking part, and generates the potential to build solidarities among those differently positioned in the research process. This is particularly important in generating positive legacies from research.

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Among the many social characteristics that run in the family, education is one of the most strongly persistent. The long-term changes in educational reproduction within families and across generations and the gender-specific drivers of these changes remain partially unclear. Using population data for all Finnish siblings and their parents, we assessed the level of and trends in the intergenerational persistence of education among cohorts born between 1950 and 1989. The variance in education shared among siblings was 37% and remained stable over time. Parental education steadily increased its explanatory power in the shared variance, from 30% among cohorts born in the 1950s to 40% among cohorts born in the 1970s and 1980s. The direct contribution of maternal education net of paternal education for sibling similarity more than doubled across cohorts (from 5% in 1950 to 13% in 1989). The direct contribution of paternal education (10–12%) remained stable. Same-gender siblings resembled each other in education more closely than their opposite-gender counterparts. The growing importance of maternal education over time, which surpasses the predictive power of paternal education, demonstrates an important qualitative change in the determinants of educational stratification. The growing importance of mothers’ education can plausibly result from the strengthening meritocratic achievement of women in education and the associated increase of women in defining the social position of the family. Incorporating the education of both parents in future analyses of intergenerational reproduction of education will probably be increasingly salient.

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Longitudinal surveys traditionally conducted by interviewers are facing increasing pressures to explore alternatives such as sequential mixed-mode designs, which start with a cheaper self-administered mode (online) then follow up using more expensive methods such as telephone or face-to-face interviewing. Using a designed experiment conducted as part of the 2018 wave of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) in the US, we compare a sequential mixed-mode design (web then telephone) with the standard telephone-only protocol. Using an intent-to-treat analysis, we focus on response quality and response distributions for several domains key to HRS: physical and psychological health, financial status, expectations and family composition.

Respondents assigned to the sequential mixed-mode (web) had slightly higher missing data rates and more focal responses than those assigned to telephone-only. However, we find no evidence of differential quality in verifying and updating roster information. We find slightly lower rates of asset ownership reported by those assigned to the web mode. Conditional on ownership, we find no detectable mode effects on the value of assets. We find more negative (pessimistic) expectations for those assigned to the web mode. We find little evidence of poorer health reported by those assigned to the web mode.

We find that effects of mode assignment on measurement are present, but for most indicators the effects are small. Finding ways to remediate the differences in item-missing data and focal values should help reduce mode effects in mixed-mode surveys or those transitioning from interviewer- to self-administration.

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Risk-taking behaviours are a major contributor to youth morbidity and mortality. Vulnerability to these negative outcomes is constructed from individual behaviour including risk-taking, and from social context, ecological determinants, early life experience, developmental capacity and mental health, contributing to a state of higher risk. However, although risk-taking is part of normal adolescent development, there is no systematic way to distinguish young people with a high probability of serious adverse outcomes, hindering the capacity to screen and intervene. This study aims to explore the association between risk behaviours/states in adolescence and negative health, social and economic outcomes through young adulthood.


The Raine Study is a prospective cohort study which recruited pregnant women in 1989–91, in Perth, Western Australia. The offspring cohort (N = 2,868) was followed up at regular intervals from 1 to 27 years of age. These data will be linked to State government health and welfare administrative data.

We will empirically examine relationships across multiple domains of risk (for example, substance use, sexual behaviour, driving) with health and social outcomes (for instance, road-crash injury, educational underachievement). Microsimulation models will measure the impact of risk-taking on educational attainment and labour force outcomes.


Comprehensive preventive child health programmes and policy prioritise a healthy start to life. This is the first linkage study focusing on adolescence to adopt a multi-domain approach, and to integrate health economic modelling. This approach captures a more complete picture of health and social impacts of risk behaviour/​states in adolescence and young adulthood.

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Highly educated parents hold high educational expectations for their children, which influence children’s motivation and achievement in school. However, it is unclear whether grandparents’ (G1) education influences parents’ (G2) expectations for children (G3) independently of, or in interaction with, parents’ own education. We address this question using data from 477 families in the US Youth Development Study, which has followed a cohort of young people from adolescence through adulthood. Using mixed models to account for shared characteristics of children in the same family, our results demonstrate both main and interaction effects. First, they indicate that grandparents influence parents’ expectations for their children directly. Grandparents’ income and the educational expectations they held for their G2 children when they were in high school predict the G2 parents’ expectations for their own children, even after controlling G2 college attendance. G1 college attendance does not directly affect G2 expectations for G3 after accounting for other relevant family characteristics. However, G1 college attendance moderates the effect of G2 college attendance on their expectations for G3. If G1 did not attend college, G2 college attendance does not significantly heighten their expectations for G3. But G2 college attendance does significantly boost their expectations for G3 if G1 also attended college. We partially replicate these findings using nationally representative data from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth – Child and Young Adult cohort. This study highlights the need to expand the scope of status attainment research beyond the parent–child dyad to examine the influence of prior generations.

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Previous research has shown that parental educational aspirations for their children are an important predictor of children’s academic attainment. However, recent studies have pointed to potential negative effects, in particular if there is a mismatch between parental educational aspirations and the aspirations of their children. This study examines (1) the role of socio-demographic and school achievement–related factors in shaping a potential (mis)match between parental educational aspirations and the aspirations of their children, and (2) whether incongruence between parental and their children’s educational aspirations hinders academic attainment in times of social change. We use data collected for the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study (BCS70) and Next Steps (formerly known as the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England), a cohort of young people born in 1989/90. We find that in both cohorts socio-demographic and achievement-related characteristics are associated with incongruent aspirations, and that incongruent aspirations between parents and their children are associated with a decreased likelihood of participating in and completing higher education. The study contributes to current debates regarding the causes and correlates of discrepancies in educational aspirations and how such discrepancies affect later life chances.

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As school learning should enable people to self-determine their own lives, its long-lasting relevance for participation in further education is an essential outcome. Contemporary adult education research shows that beliefs and memories from one’s school years have an impact on the motivation to pursue further education in working life. However, almost no longitudinal research exists that investigates the long-term forces behind adults’ motivation to educate themselves. Hence, the present study examined whether students’ learning-related behaviour, cognitions and emotions that developed in their school years are related to the subjective value they place on further education, their expectations of success in solving further learning tasks, and thus the likelihood of participating in further education. Corresponding structural equation analyses on data from the German panel study LifE (n = 1,110) revealed that the learning behaviour, ability self-concept and test anxiety at the age of 12, along with their individual change between the ages of 12 and 16, are associated in different ways with the attainment value and subjective costs placed on further education and expectations of success at the age of 35. In contrast, no influence of youth characteristics on the likelihood of participating in further education could be found. The findings indicate that especially the development of learning-related cognitions and emotions in secondary school is sustainably related to the individual’s success expectancy and achievement value of further education. Long-term dependencies should be further investigated with regard to academic domains and socio-economic pathways.

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