The purpose of this paper is to discuss methodological issues connected to being a member of a stigmatised group invited to take part in a research study.
This paper draws on experiences of interviewing young parents and their families about teenage parenthood. The paper reflects on how the feelings of young parents about being under surveillance all the time, by official agencies and in their communities, could lead to resistance to “official” visitors, role confusion relating to access, and a great deal of image management, all of which potentially influenced the interviews.
Participants may feel that they should consent to an interview because of their position as a member of a group accustomed to being under surveillance, but they can take the opportunity to use the interview to demonstrate their competence, in this case as mothers. Interviewing members of a stigmatised group such as teenage parents empowers them to challenge negative stereotypes normally encountered in discourses of teenage parenting, thus subverting a sense of feeling bound to take part in an interview and turning the encounter around to assert a positive identity.
The “positionality” of the researcher as an influence on the research process has been widely examined, the positionality of the participants less so. This paper highlights how members of a stigmatised and potentially vulnerable group position themselves, and by so doing, can use the interview as part of the process of asserting a valued identity.
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