Strengths of Young Parents Project young parents about their children

Strengths of Young Parents Project
Rationale for using images to talk to
young parents about their children
Prepared for Interrelate
Family Centres
by Richard Fletcher &
Jennifer StGeorge,
Family Action Centre,
University of Newcastle
In the Taree Young Parents project, instead of the usual survey questions, we used
photographs to interview the parents. We wanted to discover their views of how they
connected to their young children. Here we explain the reasoning behind this method.
Photographs used as a component of qualitative health research are a powerful tool that
can be used to provoke emotion and stimulate memory (Bender, Harbour et al. 2001;
Epstein, Stevens et al. 2006). Photo methods create a dialogue based on the knowledge and
ideas of the participant rather than the researcher (Harper 2002). The participant is able to
identify social and interpersonal data that can be missed in other methodological
approaches (Clark-Ibanez 2004), providing researchers with important insights and
understanding (Oliffe, Bottorff et al. 2008).
Photographic research has its origins in the fields of Anthropological and Social science
(Bender, Harbour et al. 2001; Hurworth 2003), and is now seen in the disciplines of
psychology, education, organizational studies (Harper 2002), nursing and social work
(Epstien, Stevens et al. 2006). Research methods that include photographs have been
beneficial when researching persons with language difficulties (Bender, Harbour et al. 2001),
marginalised groups (Bender, Harbour et al. 2001; Dean 2007; Oliffe, Bottorff et al. 2008)
and young people (Dean 2007).
In enabling data from multiple sources to be analysed, photographic research may add
validity and reliability to a word-based survey(Harper 2002). Additionally, methodology
including photographs can be applied to any number of topics (Clark-Ibanez 2004; Oliffe,
Bottorff et al. 2008).
The use of images in research falls into two broad categories of photovoice or photoelicitation, dependant on the origin of the materials. Photovoice methods are those in which
participants create their own images. In this research, the participant produced images are
used in a number of ways. Images may prompt researchers and guide the interview
process, identify themes or be interpreted by the participants to provide data (Oliffe,
Bottorff et al. 2008).
Photo-elicitation methods record the response provoked by images selected by researchers.
In this method, use of photographs is primarily to act as an introduction and to help define
the context in which the discussion is placed (Epstien, Stevens et al. 2006). Photo-elicitation
methods enable a comprehensive discussion of a topic to occur(Clark-Ibanez 2004), as
participants feel empowered and essential to the research process (Epstien, Stevens et al.
2006; Oliffe, Bottorff et al. 2008). The images used in photo-elicitation methods cover a
range of emotiveness from isolated objects, images depicting recognisable cultural events
through to images representing social intimacy (Harper 2002). Where the participant can
place the image within their own past experience, extensive coverage of a topic occurs as
participants draw on their memories and experiences (Harper 2002).
The use of photo-elicitation in the Taree study of Young parents aims to empower the
participants, creating a broad, revealing discussion of their views.
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American Behavioural Scientist 47(12).
Dean, C. (2007). "Young Travellers and the Children's Fund: Some Practical Notes on an
Experimental Image Based Research Project." Journal of Research in Special
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Epstein, I., B. Stevens, et al. (2006). "Photo Elicitation Interview (PEI): Using Photos to Elicit
Childrens Perspectives." International Journal of Qualitative Methods 5(3): 9.
Harper, D. (2002). "Talking about Pictures: A Case for Photo Elicitation." Visual Studies 17(1):
Hurworth, R. (2003). "Photo-Interveiwing for research." Social Research Update(40).
Oliffe, J. L., J. L. Bottorff, et al. (2008). "Analyzing Participant Produced Photographs from am
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