Evaluate the contribution of interview research to our understanding of friendship.
The use of interview has long been used by researchers to elicit information from questions in order to better understand a topic from that person's perspective. In relation to friendship, interviews are a very useful tool as it allows researchers to give rich detail on their thoughts and feelings in response to the question. Despite this, being based on individuals means its use as a method can limit its generalisability to wider environments such as different races and locations, therefore it is difficult to theorise to a wider scale using this qualitative method which is a challenge in understanding friendship, so other methods could be better served.
A key study of friendship was conducted by Bigelow and La Gaipa (1975, as cited by Brownlow, 2012) who were interested in the development of friendships as children grew. They asked 480 children to write an essay about their expectations of their best friend. This method allowed a large sample size to be collected quickly as if they had conducted individual interviews they would have required a trained interviewer, and the time required to conduct interviews to this scale would have been expensive and time-consuming. Bigelow and La Gaipa took this qualitative data and made it quantitative by using content analysis. Before the essays, they identified 21 categories that could be used to analyse the essays with and the frequency of these topics could be noted to highlight patterns and trends within the wider data. From this data, Bigelow and La Gaipa (1975, as cited by Brownlow, 2012) concluded that friendship becomes more complex with age and began to develop a model that showed the evolution of friendship and its expectations as children grew up. This transition from qualitative to quantitative data enabled these developments, which is now regarded as a key foundation of our understanding of friendships and this would not have been possible using a pure interview method as the conclusions could not be drawn from qualitative data.
McLeod et al (2008, as cited by Brownlow, 2012) used the method of interviews to investigate the social context and reasoning for smoking and its correlation to friends. Much of the early research into friendship viewed adolescents as passive recipients of peer influence but through McLeod and other research, they are now seen as playing an active role in selecting peers meaning influence is a far more complex dynamic (Brownlow, 2012). McLeod (2008) used 14 pairs of identical twins, aged between 27 and 33, and conducted interviews with the smoking and non-smoking twin. Using twins eliminates a number of variables like genetic differences allowing the researcher to focus on the effects of friends on this outcome as many of the twins said they had differing social groups. McLeod found that many of the smokers highlighted social mobility as a key reason, as smoking gave them access to a...