Interviewers as Intruders? Ethical Explorations of Joint Family Interviews

Madeleine Herzog, Martina Jürgensen, Christoph Rehmann-Sutter*, Christina Schües

*Korrespondierende/r Autor/-in für diese Arbeit


This paper discusses a case vignette that captures an ethically challenging situation in qualitative research. The study was about families who had experienced a life-saving bone marrow transplantation between siblings, who were children at the time of transplantation. A difficult situation emerged during a joint family interview that took place a few years after the transplantation. Parents, donor and the recipient were present, both still children. This interview technique produced unique, rich, and nuanced data about the family dynamics, about how the family constructed relationships and identity (“doing family”). The difficulties included a confrontation of the 10-year old donor child with accusations and pejorative statements from the other family members and his sidelining from the conversation. The interviewers have been acutely aware that their presence in this situation in this moment was an intrusion into family dynamics. In his commentary, Simon Woods emphasizes a model of ethical reflexivity, which shows how reflexive researchers can incorporate moral reflection at the different stages of the research process. Tim Henning argues for a morally engaged interviewer: the researcher should not stay uninvolved and should show willingness to actually engage in a moral discourse with the participants. Since the actual harms were caused not during the interviews but long before, it may be beneficial to bring them out in the open, as a matter for discussion, painful though it may be. The authors of the vignette (Madeleine Herzog, Martina Jürgensen, Christoph Rehmann-Sutter and Christina Schües) respond to the commentaries by endorsing the model of the reflexive researcher while rejecting (for methodological and moral reasons) the model of the morally engaged researcher.

ZeitschriftJournal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics
Seiten (von - bis)458-461
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 01.12.2019

Strategische Forschungsbereiche und Zentren

  • Profilbereich: Zentrum für kulturwissenschaftliche Forschung Lübeck (ZKFL)


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