I have a number of thoughts about your questions, as someone finishing a
degree in Education but with a background as a social worker. I think you
first of all have to figure out what you are looking for. There is a
tremendous amount of research on "family dynamics" from a number of different
disciplines--social work, psychology, communications, anthropology, sociology,
etc. So what exactly are you interested in? Are you wondering if communication
differs, or the family dynamics differ, between biological parents/kids and
foster parents/kids? If yes, why would you think so? How will you make a
comparison? Have you done any background reading on that to know what you want
to be looking for, as well as what you want to ground your research in?
Having said that, I'm not sure how easy it would be to find a foster family
that would be willing to allow you to observe/listen in/record their
interactions unless you were able to be around them for a long time before you
tried to do so. That's not personal; it's just that I don't think you'll have
much success in the span of a semester in fostering enough of a trusting
environment. Try not to think in terms of "conducting research on a family."
That sounds really clinical. YOu would like to ask a family or families to
help you understand the nature of how they deal with each other. You need
THEIR help. Put yourself in their shoes. What would make you willing to allow
some stranger to be a part of your life, to ask you questions, to take notes
about your answers?
And having said that, maybe you will be lucky enough to find a family that has
kids who are older, maybe teens, who might think it's cool to discuss how
their foster parents talk to them and vice versa. You might be able to
interview them, individually, or maybe all together, or both. I would
encourage you to transcribe your tapes (or notes) and let the family members
read and make comments, and tell them you'll do that right off the bat.
Perhaps some local mental health professionals, a family service agency, a
child card agency, a teen organization, or even some department at your school
might be able to steer you to possible participants, if there aren't foster
care professionals available. If somebody was willing to smooth your way with
a family, even better.
Just make sure all the preliminary stuff is as thought out as it can be in
your own mind, because you should provide the family with a good sense of why
you're doing what you're doing ("It's for a class" doesn't count), how you're
going to go about it, and what their role is, along with their rights. You
can be very professional without coming across as some researcher who is
seeing "subjects" instead of people.
Sorry to be so long winded but anything that helps me avoid writing up my own
dissertation seems to get taken care of first! Good luck. Debbie
>===== Original Message From "Family, School, Community Partnerships SIG"
<[log in to unmask]> =====
>I am hoping that some in our group would have some ideas to offer this
>person. Perhaps you would post them to our list, with a cc to Jen Scharf.
>I, personally, would be interested in your responses! Pam
>Pam Kay [log in to unmask] VOICE MAIL (802) 656-8551
>School Research Office, -> NEW FAX - (802) 656-9416 <-
>88 University Heights, Burlington, VT 05405
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 09:34:54 -0500
>From: Jen Scharf <[log in to unmask]>
>Reply-To: Qualitative Research for the Human Sciences
> <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Research on a Family
>I am very new with this type of research, as I am only working on my
>Masters degree at this point. For a class I am in, I am conducting a
>rather small amount of qualitative research in order to learn and
>experience the process. I am very interested in family dynamics,
>primarily in regard to communication since that is my primary field.
>At this point, I would actually like to conduct my research on a
>family with foster children in order to describe the dynamics of their
>communication. Have any of you had experience conducting research on a
>family or know someone who has? Do you have any pointers for me in
>conducting this research?
>Jennifer J. Scharf
>Department of Communication Studies
>To leave this discussion group, send this message to
>[log in to unmask]: signoff QUALRS-L
>Direct requests for assistance to [log in to unmask]
University of Illinois College of Education M/C 147
1040 W. Harrison St.
Chicago, Il. 60607