AS and A LevelPsychology
DSE212 Exploring Psychology
TMA 04 Qualitative project Jennifer Verney
June 2007Personal ID: R6402528
A qualitative study to explore the meaning of identity using interview data and relating it to theoretical understanding in this area
This qualitative study explores the subject of identity in relation to a pre-recorded interview of a married couple who are asked specific research questions. A thermatic analysis of the interview is carried out and relevant material extracted. This information is then interpreted in relation to theoretical understanding on the subject of identity to compare the two – how does the ‘lived reality’, as represented by the individuals interviewed, fit in to various theories on identity?
From the information gathered from the interview, Jo and Tony have experienced a great deal of social changes that have happened to them personally, in their time. Using the information they offer in their interview, they have both experienced a war and were young children when their fathers were taken away from them. They both had a disruptive childhood and had very limited options when leaving school.
Many social changes have taken place in the last 50 years including changes in gender roles, patterns of employment, changing class and ethnic composition of the UK. These social changes are taking place at a global level as well as at a personal level and can produce uncertainties in relation to who we are and our place in the world. However it also means opportunities for the formation of new identities creating new opportunities for redefining ourselves at home and in the workplace.
Although their ages are not specified in the video recording, in addition to their own personal experiences it is likely that during their childhood, their adolescence and throughout their adult life they will have seen and experienced many of these social changes and can reflect on their own identities as a result. The fact that they mention they were both around during the war means they will have experienced grown up during the ‘golden age’ of full employment (1950’s to mid 1970’), seen the end of the ‘golden age’ (mid 1970’s to mid 1980’s) and finally flexible working (late 1980’s onwards). They also have children and are also able to reflect on their own children’s lives and the differences in their children’s characters and lives – partly due to their upbringing but also due to the era in which they were raised and how different that was to the era in which they themselves were raised in. Different identities are produced in different historical periods and different cultures.
Different theories on the subject of identity fit into different parts of Tony and Jo’s lives but no one theory is comprehensive in relation to their experiences and indeed no one theory offers the truth. They do, however, offer several ways of examining identity and undoubtedly, identity is physical, biological, social, historical, psychological and embodied. Embodiment is important to our identities because we use our bodies to produce identities.
The report tends to make evident how the represented lives of a married couple interviewed together, agree or disagree with various theories on identity. A point worth noting here is that much of the cited work (such as Erikson’s, 1968) has been carried out in different cultural context and at different historical periods.
This is a qualitative study on identity. A thermatic analysis of an interview was decided to explore meaning whilst addressing issues in context. The study involves analysing pre-existing material, provided by The Open University. This is a videotape of a filmed interview of a married middle-aged couple called Tony and Jo. The videotape was specially constructed for teaching purposes. The couple are firstly interviewed by Jane Tobbell, who has known them for quite a long time and secondly by Dan Goodley who is meeting them for the first time. The couple are asked similar questions by the two interviewers. Finally, a further interviewer, Carol Tindall, asks them to reflect on their experiences of being interviewed – the experience in general, how each interview differed and whether this has any bearing on the relationship between the interviewee and the interviewer (an insider viewpoint).
As with all psychological study, ethical implications are always considered. The researcher is a psychology student at The Open University and is therefore not ethically or professionally authorized to provide counselling or to interview in this context. Pre-existing material is used for this reason and the participants have given their full permission for their interviews to be used in this manner and are aware that they are being studied.
The thematic analysis was carried out by extracting material relevant to the research topic and grouping the information taken into themes listed below.
On reading the transcript, a number of themes emerge relating to the topic of identity.
Tony had a disrupted childhood, taken ill at eleven and didn’t attend school much before then and because of the war and being moved around and refers to himself as:
…totally uneducated(Tony) [line 28].
Although it is clear that from a young age he already had clear views on his own identity:
They also wanted to turn me into something that perhaps I wasn’t. I always remember I was told never to put Brylcreem on my hair because I would look like a barber’s son(Tony) [lines 37-39].
He mentions that at that time there were:
…a lot of strange influences(Tony) [line 40]
And when answering the interviewers question about how he was educated, because she mentions that he doesn’t ‘seem’ uneducated, he replies:
…yes I suppose I am self-educated I’ve read an awful lotobviously(Tony) [lines 40-41]
Jo’s childhood was also affected by the war:
…I went to school in Leeds ‘til I was just eight and then I was evacuated(Jo) [lines 44-45]
She offers information about how she felt about this:
Which I found quite traumatic like everybody else. (Jo) [lines 45-46].
Both Jo and Tony share the fact that their fathers were taken away from them because of the war and this is the first point Tony makes when asked by the second interviewer to compare his childhood to that of his own children’s. He answers it as a shared experience. It clearly had an impact on their lives:
our fathers were taken away from us because of the war. Now our children didn’t have that(Tony) [lines 90-92].
And it was the period of whether he would get home. And I remember that distinctly(Jo) [lines 95-96).
After leaving school Jo comments on how ‘rigid’ (Jo) [line 71] it was and how these options available to her did not fit in with what she wanted to do. She offers a possible reason as to why this was the case:
…when I left was you know you’ll either be a nurse or you’ll be a domestic science teacher, you go into an office or be a teacher it was so narrow I wanted to do something with biology plants I was so interested. But there was not, no opening. And to a certain extent things were governed by how much money you had to be able to pursue certain things(Jo) [lines 72-77].
It appears here that Tony is suggesting that life is possibly easier now:
And I think that you can do so much more now with with less qualification. As I say it’s just a wider canvas(Tony) [lines 84-85].
The theme ‘workaholic’ emerges when asked to describe themselves, it’s the first word Tony uses to describe himself:
workaholic to a certain extent(Tony) [line 7].
we’re both tarred with the same brush of being workaholic(Jo) [lines 11-12].
Tony and Jo go on to expand on the possible reasons for this, related to early upbringing and parental attitudes:
It’s part of our background, it’s the Victorian work ethic (Tony) [line 54].
Our parent’s influence(Jo) [line 59].
Could have been you know the Methodist attitude(Jo) [line 62].
Jo’s mother was brought up as a Methodist and my father was as well. And I think Methodist principles were fairly firmly entrenched. And yes I think that has, that makes us to a certain extent the sort of people we are(Tony) [lines 63-67].
Both Tony and Jo have clear views on the second interviewer’s question regarding the conflict couples have maintaining their own individual identities and taking on a shared one:
I don’t think we’ve ever achieved that[a shared identity](Tony) [lines 110-111].
Never(Jo) [line 114].
And give the reasons: