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The added value of a relational map technique compared to traditional interviews: An explanatory study

Postma, Sanne (2015) The added value of a relational map technique compared to traditional interviews: An explanatory study.

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Abstract:The elderly are the loneliest age group in the Netherlands; their social networks consist of fewer social relations than those of other age groups. There are various research methods for studying social networks, not all of which are appropriate for an elderly target group. It has been found that elderly people prefer visual information; therefore visual research methods may be the best for studies involving this target group. Goal In this study two research methods, the relational map and the interview, were compared in order to determine how the information gathered (the results obtained, participants’ past experience with the methods, and participants’ opinions on the methods), differed between the two methods when investigating social networks. The second goal of the research was to identify the social network characteristics, such as type of relations and frequency of visits, for the target group. A third method, diaries, was used as a control method. Methods Relational mapping sessions and traditional interviews were conducted in order to answer the research questions. The participants were divided into two groups. One group experienced a relational mapping session and the second group an interview. Participants from both groups also kept a diary for a week. Results The social networks of the home care clients in this study consisted of an average of six social relations, mostly family. Family contributes to emotional support, while paid workers deliver more functional support. Results of the comparison of the methods are based on content, the experiences of participants, and the time duration of methods. The content of the relational maps and interviews was quite similar, although when comparing the outcomes of the relational map session and the interviews with those of the control method of diaries, content in the interviews and diaries was found to have more similarities than the content in the relational maps and diaries. Participants had prior experience with interviews, but not with relational maps. No differences were found in the time duration of the two methods. Discussion The expectation was that elderly people would prefer the relational map process to interviews. The content between interviews and diaries stayed more consistent, while in the relational maps participants initially reported being more satisfied with their social relations than they did later in a real-time diary. Participants had more prior experience with interviews, while relational maps were unfamiliar. These are good reasons to use interviews as a research method to study social networks of elderly. However, the relational map is also a useful method for this target group. The participants understood the method; as it is quite simple, it does not matter if participants have no prior experience with it.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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