Poverty Generations: The Biographical Family Interview as a Methodological Key to Research on the Transmission of Poverty

Daniela Schiek


In research on the intergenerational transmission of poverty, life paths are largely defined by what the individuals have learned in childhood. Little research on this topic assumes the possibility of permanent interaction processes, which preserve experiences, but also transform them, even in adulthood. Accordingly, the focus of this research is rarely directed at intergenerational relations and interactions. In this article, I use data from my own research to argue how important and meaningful such an intergenerational and interpretative research perspective can be, not only theoretically but also methodologically. Thus, studies that focus on the relationships between family members provide significant insights into the processes of negotiating values and lifestyles. However, due to their concentration on individual interviews, many studies cannot focus on the permanence and reciprocity of the transmission. In contrast, biographical group discussions with families, in which parents and their adult children negotiate their stories show that poverty is less not an early fixed and impenetrable heritage as it is discussed by the majority of poverty researchers. The intergenerational transmission of poverty is rather a negotiation by family members.


poverty research; social inequality; generations; interpretative social research; group discussion; biographical family interview; collective narrating

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-18.3.2776

Copyright (c) 2017 Daniela Schiek

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