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Recordability: Resistance and collusion in psychometric interviews with children
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. (Welfare and Lifecourse)
2012 (English)In: Discourse Studies, ISSN 1461-4456, E-ISSN 1461-7080, Vol. 14, no 6, 691-709 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Different areas of child welfare work call for psychometric measurement to replace professionals’judgements with objective numbers. Using data from a national Swedish evaluation of interventionsfor abused children, the present article investigates child interviewees’ resistance to constraintsin psychometric questions. The article contributes to studies of how psychology operates ininstitutional settings; it looks into the discursive production of the interviewee’s position in thestruggle between the principle of recordability and ‘sensitive’ interviewing. The findings suggestthat interviewees resist questions’ structural restrictions in the service of telling the interviewerabout their lives. Thus, the function of their misalignment is affiliative; it cooperates both with theinstitutional goal of eliciting information and with the interviewer’s interest in them. However,the interviewer’s solutions to children’s problem presentations remain focused on generatingrecordable answers. The article concludes that the narrow focus on recordability neglectsimportant opportunities to talk about children’s experiences.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 14, no 6, 691-709 p.
Keyword [en]
Children, discursive psychology, institutional talk-in-interaction, psychometric interviews, questions and answers, Sweden
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-187606DOI: 10.1177/1461445612456997ISI: 000312552400002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-187606DiVA: diva2:575291
Welfare and Life-course
Available from: 2012-12-09 Created: 2012-12-09 Last updated: 2014-12-11
In thesis
1. Making Questions and Answers Work: Negotiating Participation in Interview Interaction
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Making Questions and Answers Work: Negotiating Participation in Interview Interaction
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The current thesis explores conditions for participation in interview interaction. Drawing on the ethnomethodological idea that knowledge is central to participation in social situations, it examines how interview participants navigate knowledge and competence claims and the institutional and moral implications of these claims. The data consists of, in total, 97 audio-recorded interviews conducted as part of a national Swedish evaluation of support interventions for children exposed to violence. In three studies, I use discursive psychology and conversation analysis to explicate how interview participants in interaction (1) contribute to and negotiate institutional constraints and (2) manage rights and responsibilities related to knowledge.

The findings of study I and study II show that child interviewees actively cooperate with as well as resist the constraints of interview questions. However, the children’s opportunities for participation in this institutional context are limited by two factors: (1) recordability; that is, the focus on generating recordable responses and (2) problematic assumptions underpinning questions and the interpretation of interview answers. Apart from restricting children’s rights to formulate their experiences, these factors can lead interviewers to miss opportunities to gain important information. Also related to institutional constraints, study III shows how the ideal of model consistency is prioritized over service-user participation. Thus, the three studies show how different practices relevant to institutional agendas may hinder participation.

Moreover, the findings contribute to an understanding of how issues of knowledge are managed in the interviews. Study II suggests the importance of the concept of believability to refer to people’s rights and responsibilities to draw conclusions about others’ thoughts. And the findings of study III demonstrate how, in evaluation interviews with social workers, children’s access to their own thoughts and feelings are based on a notion of predetermined participation; that is, constructed as contingent on wanting what the institutional setting offers. Thus, child service users’ low epistemic status, compared to the social workers, trumps their epistemic access to their own minds. These conclusions, about recordability, believability, and predetermined participation, are based on interaction with or about children. However, I argue that the findings relate to interviewees and service users in general. By demonstrating the structuring power of interactive practices, the thesis extends our understanding of conditions for participation in the institutional setting of social research interviews.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. 91 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 88
Interviews, participation, epistemics, institutional-talk-in-interaction, questions and answers, social studies of childhood, sociology of scientific knowledge, discursive psychology, conversation analysis
National Category
Social Psychology Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology) Social Work
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-201318 (URN)978-91-554-8698-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-09-17, Sal IV, Universitetshuset, Uppsala, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2013-08-16 Created: 2013-06-10 Last updated: 2014-01-07

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