Court Files as Data in Sociological Family Research: Methodology and Methods for a Little-Tapped Data Material
Keywords:nonreactive data, qualitative file analysis, document analysis, family sociology, court files
In methodical terms, court files have barely been developed as data material for qualitative social research. In the present paper, we explore the methodology and methods associated with court files as data employed in sociological family research. Based on a survey of 70 divorce and guardianship files from the years 1976 to 2019, we discuss three key methodological areas in research with family court files: 1. we examine epistemological aspects from the perspective of a praxeological sociology of the family; 2. we analyze gatekeeping processes and other aspects of research practice with regard to field access and data collection; 3. we review the unit of analysis of court files. Proceeding from this discussion, we propose a new methodical approach for the qualitative analysis of records in sociological family research: the multiple case study from a praxeological discourse-analytical perspective, by means of which court files can be explored as an intersection between law and the family. In analytical terms, we ask by, with, and for whom family court files are produced. The proposed methodical approach makes it possible to consider family court files as both produced by and themselves producing a process of undoing family. We finally advocate a pragmatically oriented methodological approach. The diversity of qualitative methodology can thus become a seminal basis for the further development of court files as a data source.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Viktoria Parisot, Marlies Zuccato-Doutlik, Ulrike Zartler
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.