In this essay I will be evaluating the research methods of two studies who have both made important contributions into the understanding of how children interpret their definition of friendship. Brian Bigelow and John La Gaipa (1975) carried out one of the first studies into children’s friendships, at a time where there was very little research. William Caruso was also one of the leading figures in exploring children’s friendships and became particularly successful into gaining a first-hand insight into the young children’s world through social involvement.
Brace and Byford (2012). Both of these studies shared a common goal with the aim to better understand how the children perceive friendships and provide plausible expectations into this, through their method of interview-based studies. Both studies initially used qualitive measurements in their research however Brian Bigelow and John La Gaipa used a different approach. They began to investigate the understanding of children’s friendships, through collecting data from essays written by 480 children of the same sex, aged between 6 and 14 years old varying from different cities and schools.
Bigelow and La Gaipa asked the children to think about their best friends of the same-sex and what they expected from them compared to other friends or acquaintances and write their opinion in essay format. This method enabled the children to personally express themselves, meaningfully in written form allowing them time to think about what values they expect from their best friends. By using a quantitative method, researchers came up with a list of different characteristics before conducting the study. They predicted what the children might expect in their best friend, arriving at 21 categories. After analysing each child’s essay, Bigelow and La Gaipa counted how many times each particular expectation was mentioned and compared it to their list using frequency counts to look for any general patterns in the data, for a change in the nature of the children’s friendships. This however sparks arguments that say they could have lost the personal element of the children’s Individuality. Brace and Byford (2012). However, through using content analysis, it allowed them to transfer qualitative data into quantitative data, as a result of this it further allowed them to make a numerical conclusion based on the differences between the age groups and made a methodical comparison between boys and girls. As a result of this they came to a conclusion based on 3 stages of development. Firstly, children perceived friendship based on similarities in play and activities, then progressing onto dependability and sharing and finally, developing onto a focus of similar interests, loyalty and intimate relationships. William Corsaro took a different approach into studying the way children interpret friendships and was focused on understanding a child’s individual views and to better understand if personal beliefs and different sociological backgrounds made any factors. In order to make a real impact on his research, he began to watch the children’s activities within the group, with it being on their terms. In order to record and collect data he took detailed notes, video recorded their daily interactions with one another and analysed the children’s conversations, this is called a reactive method or the ethnographic approach. Furthermore, Corsaro learned that by not asking too many questions and by not acting like a typical adult the children would warm to him and accept him into their social group over time. To begin with Corsaro suggests that the researcher participates on watching and analysing the children from a distance, this proved successful in a study he conducted in Italy, where a group of children invited him into their group fairly quickly, through sharing common grounds with the children who tried to help him with his Italian. Corsaro found that the reactive method worked well in the research he has carried out Interview with William Corsaro (2010). The two different styles and approaches into studying friendship, generated different data and both gave distinct advantages and disadvantages. It could be argued that Corsaro’s adult presence and in charge status could have altered the children’s natural responsive experience, therefore conflicting observations. Bryce and Byford (2012). However, Corsaro argued that instead of asking children to write their thoughts on friendship, he was able to become fully immersed into their world and gained a first-hand experience of the children’s engagements with their friends. Bigelow and La Gaipa’s study collected essays from children between the ages of 6 ” 14 giving them the opportunity for children to write openly about their personal views on what friendship means to them, and also enabled Bigelow and La Gapia to compile a large sample of data, however through the children’s inability to communicate proficiently through their lack of verbal and written skill set, it could be argued that the children couldn’t effectively project their thoughts and feelings adequately enough in written form, especially in the younger children. Furthermore, the extensivity of the sample compiled from 480 children would have been ultimately time-consuming to acquire each Individual opinion, however crucial to have such a large database of information to work with, as they could make generalisations about children’s friendships and develop a far greater understanding that could be useful to the wider population. Brace and Byford (2012). As a result of using the ethnographic approach, not only did Corsaro witness children as young as 3 create their own way of communicating, but that the children showed concern and complete regard for one another. Furthermore, Corsaro gained an incredible insight into culture influences and values within the group of which he found that Italian children are passionate about debating, whereas white American’s and African American children, avoided this proving a reflection on culture differences. Interview with William Corsaro (2010). In conclusion, both studies conducted by Bigelow and La Gapia and Corsaro into investigating children’s understanding of friendships have provided subsequent examples on how the contribution of research methods and approaches, can produce different findings. Bigelow and La Gapia used a qualitive and later on quantitative approach and found that as the children got older their definition of friendship focused on loyalty and trustworthiness, compared to play and activities. Comparably, William Corsaro’s ethnographic method highlighted how children’s friendship can also grow and be retained but surprisingly that children as young as three can show concern and regard for others and not much later in life as Bigelow and La Gapia had argued. Bigelow and La Gapia (1975) cited in Brace and Byford (2012).
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