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  1. SAMPLE 4


    Evaluate the contribution of interview research to our understanding of friendship    



Subject Psychology Pages 3 Style APA



Interview research is a type of qualitative research which involves a conversation between an interviewer and an interviewee. The interviewer asks questions to which the interviewer provides answers. Interview research is used where the researcher wants to get information from the subjects’ point of view. In understanding friendships, researchers in the past have relied heavily on the open-ended interviews as a method of investigation. First, there is no universally accepted criterion for friendship (Bell and Coleman 1999) which makes it necessary for researchers to consider individual points of view of their subjects. Second, interview research makes it easier to study and indeed collect data from a large group of people. This paper, therefore, evaluates the contribution of interview research to our understanding of friendships.

A 2014 study by University of Denver used interview research to investigate children’s friendship expectations. The study focused on 2nd, 4th and 6th grade children. The study established that while friendship expectations relating to observable behavioral characteristics did not change across the three age groups, expectations relating to dispositional characteristics did change with age. It was also noted that the children acknowledged the significance of various friendship expectations before voluntarily mentioning them in the interview. Also, all the children were able to separate acquaintances from friends.

            The use of interview research in studying friendships has helped investigators to note how children’s perception of their peers and friends change as they continue to develop. For instance, older children seem to pay more attention to concealed personality traits while the much younger ones focus more on observable behavior and physical characteristics (Livesley and Bromley 1973). Interview research has also helped researchers establish that children start out by considering their playmates as friends. However, as they begin to develop, children start identifying certain qualities that they find admirable in their friends. Eventually, they begin to value loyalty, intimacy and acceptance as determinants of friendship (Brace and Byford 2012).

            There are other alternative methods that have been used to study friendships and these have proven quite promising. Social-cognitive researchers have employed picture or story stimuli in studying friendship perceptions among children of school-going age. Other researchers have attempted to quantitatively analyze different characteristics which are used to describe friendship. These methods have been found to provide an in-depth understanding of friendship perceptions among children as compared to interview research. However, interview research remains most appropriate when it comes to determining characteristics that best describe friendship. In this way, interview research is still valuable to researchers as without it the benefits of using structures research techniques cannot be realized (Brace and Byford 2012).

A challenge seems to exist in the limited body of knowledge when it comes to children’s perception of peer relationships other than friendship. Adults and adolescents are able to differentiate among different kinds of positive relationships but children may not be able to. Researchers like Hayes (1978) have established that much younger children perceive preferred and disliked age mates differently. There is little understanding of how school-aged children differentiate positive friendships or acquaintances. As such, we can improve our understanding of friendship conceptions among children by first grasping how their areas of differentiation change as they (children) develop.

A study conducted by Furman and Bierman (1984) attempts to address the limitations in the use of interview research in studying friendships. The study involved 84 children, spread across 2nd, 4th and 6th grade. The study employed three techniques: open-ended interview, story recognition and structured questionnaire ratings. The purpose of interview research in the study was to allow for spontaneity in answering questions. The story recognition task was included in the study to gauge the subjects’ recognition of common friendship expectations. Of course, the researchers expected the younger children to relate friendship to a limited number of certain observable behaviors.

Slightly older children were expected to describe more friendship expectations than their younger counterparts whereas the more developed subjects were expected to associate friendship with characteristics such as support and intimacy. The researchers also expected the children to acknowledge these characteristics on the story recognition task before mentioning them during the open-ended interview. Another hypothesis of the researchers was that older children would relate more to behavioral characteristics during the story recognition task but not in the interview. The final hypothesis was that the subjects would describe acquaintances differently from friendships and that as their age increased so would the degree of differentiation (Brace and Byford 2012).

As per the researcher’s expectations, the subjects recognized almost all of the characteristics under investigation but did not mention them in the interview. However, behavioral association was mentioned relatively equally on both the story recognition task and the interview. Children at all levels associated behavioral characteristics with friendship showing little consistency in developmental changes. Behavioral intimacy, on the other hand, was reported increasingly with age. The study further analyzed the possibility that developmental changes were due to the increase of verbal fluency with age and this was ruled out.

The study concluded that friendship conceptions do improve with age. Like previous research, the study found that by 2nd grade most children had clearly defined expectations relating to behavior and these expectations became more elaborate with age. A majority of the subjects mentioned helping, sharing and other friendly behavior during the interview. This was also noted with the story recognition task and the questionnaires. Overall, the findings were similar across the three methods of research. This implies that developmental trends relating to friendship conceptions are not unique to interview research. It was also noted that the younger children were willing to elaborate their comments when prompted by the interviewers.    

            Conclusively, interview research has been relied on for years by psychologists attempting to understand friendships. While there are certain limitations of the method such as the overreliance on the subject’s opinion as facts, interviews do create an environment for children to answer questions more voluntarily. For this reason, interview research is definitely invaluable to the study of children’s friendship perceptions. Unfortunately, children are bound to be selective in their responses, focusing more on salient features or those that they discuss often. This paper proves that it may be more effective for researchers to use multiple methods when studying friendships because the children might withhold information in some instances and give it up more readily in others.  Still, the contribution of interview research to our understanding of friendships cannot be overemphasized.



Furman, W. and Bierman, K. L., 1984. Children’s conceptions of friendship: A multimethod                    study of developmental changes. Developmental psychology, 20(5), p. 925.

Brace, N. and Byford, J. eds., 2012. Investigating Psychology: Key Concepts, Key Studies, Key Approaches. Oxford University Press.


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