Content Analysis and Ethnographic Research in Decoding Children’s Understanding of Friendship

Content Analysis and Ethnographic Research in Decoding Children’s Understanding of Friendship

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In recent years there have been a number of studies regarding how children perceive friendship (Brownlow, 2012). Children may have different understandings of what friendship means to them depending on their age or where they live. Two methods used in this field are content analysis and ethnology. This essay will illustrate the similarities and differences between the two methods through the work of two groups of researchers. Content analysis was used by Brian Bigelow and John La Gaipa, and ethnographic research was carried out by William Corsaro. The essay will show that although the researchers worked in the same area of study with some similarity in their approach, they produced contrasting data that was therefore analysed differently.
Research in any given area can yield many different results despite having the same aim. Varying results of separate studies may be due to different circumstances and conditions that surround them. Both Bigelow and La Gaipa and Corsaro differed in their conclusions (Brownlow, 2012). However, both had a similar aim in as much as they wanted to research how children understood friendship. By contrast, how and whether previous studies influenced them differed. The work of Bigelow and La Gaipa was not rooted in any background or tradition of research. They carried out their work in 1975 and at that time most studies about children had centred on attraction. Therefore, the work that they did was among the first of its kind. In addition to being an original piece of research, it also had validity because subsequent individuals carried out similar work. One such person was William Damon with the research he did in 1977 (Brownlow, 2012). Damon was also studying children’s friendships and as a conseq...


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...aro appeared to have overcome these problems by using the ‘reactive method’.
In conclusion, content analysis and ethnographic research have similarities and differences. They can both be used with the same aim in mind; in this case to study what friendship means to children. They are similar in that neither of them involve laboratory experiments but rather focus on the children’s words. The content analysis of Bigelow and La Gaipa was significant in that it was unique as a method and provided insights into an under researched area. Corsaro’s ethnographic work built on previous studies, but because it focussed on how children spoke to each other it gave a more complete understanding of the subject matter than interviews or essays. Therefore, regardless of the differences that research methods may have, they can equally be utilised to study the same area of research.

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