Talking Together: Challenges and Solutions in Research with Couples

Julie Fennell, Brown University

The call for more fertility-related research among couples has been sounded among demographers for at least a decade. In this paper, I review some the benefits and challenges of couple research based on my own experience doing qualitative research, and potential solutions to the challenges. The benefits of couple research include the ability to better understand couple communication and to do data reliability checks. The greatest challenge is selectivity bias, resulting from a sample composed of overly functional couples. Couples who agree to be interviewed appear to be much more likely to be living together and to be in highly communicative relationships than couples who do not participate. Other problems addressed in this paper include interview timing, differential interview quality, ethical considerations, and redundant data. I suggest that the best solution to these problems is to first recruit and interview individuals, and subsequently to recruit those individuals’ partners.

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Presented in Session 60: New Approaches in Demographic Data Collection and Measurements