Life History Interviews (hereinafter referred to as: LHI’s), as a research method is selected as an appropriate mean for collecting of valid information on social phenomenon subject to observation. An advantage of the LHI’s compared to regular standard interviews is it’s potential to provide more in-depth information on quality of life the informants have, being women, displaced/refugee/returnee in a post-war, transitioning society with particular consequences this has on their psychosocial well-being today, through getting more in depth information on social life, social support, social networks, gender roles, satisfaction with life as per health services, social services and life in a social surroundings.
The interview covered following issues:
- Experiences (what they experienced while being displaced and return)
- Feeling (how women felt)
- Interpretations (how women interpret what happened to them and why)
- Meanings (meaning of what they say)
Steps to ensure quality of the data are presented below:
- Explaining the reason of visit to women and all other family members;
- Explain the type of interview
- Giving a present
- Persuading the respondent/women to find a calm and intimate place and convincing the family that you need some “women to women type of talk”;
- Only when women is in her “safe place” and feels comfortable the interview should be done
- Explaining that there will be a friendly discussion and that you need to record the voice.
- Explaining to the respondent that no one will have access to that recording beside interviewer;
- Informing respondent about its right to ask you to stop recording at any time she wants and that even if you have recorded, she may ask you to not use/cite a specific part of discussion.
- All interviewers were either graduated psychologist or sociologist with extensive experience in doing in-depth-interviews and managing interviewing process.
- First phase is conducted by seniors on psychometric study - extraction from SPSS database, only those who said Yes (willing to participate in further research), 30 total, Females.
- Second phase is observing psychological criteria by taking mean for all instruments and screening for women within the mean distribution by hand from the selected cohort. Final sample of informants for LHIs should consist of Women who said yes to follow up interviews and who have average mean scores on the dependent psychological variables
- Thirdly, observe the population categories: displaced, returnees, (refugees) and look for even distribution where possible
- Fourthly, observe the socio-demographic characteristics and look for diversity, seek for diversity but take into account big/small i.e., urban/rural, isolated/developed/underdeveloped regions/towns/town areas/villages, Age, Ethnic/national identity, Educational level, Family structure, Housing, Income, Status before the war and current, Psychological Diagnosis.
Life history interview does not cover all aspects of informant’s life but is TOPICAL and will focus on:
- life before the war and displacement,
- life during the war and actual displacement
- life after the displacement/today in refugee/returnee, and
- on their future life situation/conditions/ how they see their future).
- Ask more in depth on social life, social support, social networks, gender roles, satisfaction with life as per health services, social services and life in a social surroundings
- Have in mind the AIM of LHIs: LHIs will add to project data and findings by complementing and further explaining the results from the surveys BUT also have a potential to provide more in-depth information on quality of life the informants have, being women, displaced/refugee/returnee in a post-war, transitioning society with particular consequences this has on their psychosocial well-being today.
- Challenges of accessing women-s health/ quality of data:
Researchers find it difficult to point women towards talking about themselves, their own opinions, their own experiences, emotions, thoughts, and views. They tend to talk about 'others', usually children, other family members etc
- Try to revert their attention but also just listen to them while talking about 'others' – they also talk about themselves and their social position and project their own emotions and inner states, social positioning while talking about others! (See previous research in literature above).
- Interview environment and researcher's adaptability to informants
- Use environments comfortable to women, most probably this will be their homes (naturalistic environments, kitchen –working and talking, sharing concerns with you and (re)constructing their life stories).
- Be flexible and go along with their choices.
- Adapt to listen and bond, in order to understand the layers of experiences and meanings attached to their stories that lie beneath the retold trajectories.
- Researchers social skill and interviewing technique
- Be empathic and fellow human recording life stories as if they were your own family members of friends.
- Life stories are fragmented parts (before, during, after displacement) for your informants but you will by interpretation of collected data detect how bits and pieces fit into overarching mosaic and build 'coherent' life story/pattern of events that reveal various, often shifting meanings and social positioning and roles.
- We are not looking for brute facts here but meanings that lie beneath experiences of displacement and return. If you are not understanding retold sequences and ascribed meanings to them that emerge by both contents chosen to be retold but also interpretation of these that informants do and how these sequences fit into the topical life periods, please ask and be patient to hear the told several times.
- If too detailed and broad in recounting or f loose track and divert from topical periods and probing questions, use your communication skills to redirect informant to the topics we look for.
- Lastly, women to women talks are best tool here. Use whatever commonalities you have to bond and understand your informants.
- Ethics and dealing with traumatic contents
- Common rule is that informants may avoid these contents on their own and that you do not push for these. We do not want to cause harm. Do not by any mean stress for explication of traumatic events but be prepared to handle the sensitive, traumatic topics that may be covered by informants.
- At any time interview can be interrupted by informant if unpleasant (informed consent will provide this information) but best technique here is to observe the stress levels, and emotional contents and to 'move forward' the conversation by coming back to 'today' by asking more every day focused well-being topics.
- Technical details
- Recording the interviews by using Dictaphones is a necessity.
- Do convince and explain to your informants the practical aspect of recording as crucial to documenting the rich and vivid details of their lives that we want to capture and the principle of anonymity!
- 60 minutes - 90 minutes per informant
- Transcribe if possible soon after conducting s it will take less time having it all fresh in your memory.