SOC 341-02 – Fall 2015

SOC 341-02 – Fall 2015
Mon., Oct. 12
Dr. Putney
Instructions for Interview Project and Paper
Paper due: Monday, November 16.

For this assignment, you will interview two people: a man and a woman. One of your interview subjects should be older, age 60 or above; the other subject should be in midlife, ages mid 30s to late 40s. Your interview subjects can be family members, such as your parents or grandparents, or friends or other people you know. Representing two different generations, this man and woman would have grown up under different cultural and economic conditions and probably had different gender role socialization experiences. Through in-depth interviews, you are going to explore how gender norms, roles, and behaviors are different for these two subjects, and how their gender beliefs, roles, and behaviors might have played out in their lives as they aged. More generally, what do their gender experiences as they aged imply (if at all) about the persistence of gender role stereotypes and gender inequality in American society.

The interview schedule

You will develop a list of 12 to 15 questions (the interview schedule). By asking your subjects the same questions, you will be able to compare their responses. The first few questions on the interview schedule will relate to demographic information: sex, age, education, marital status, occupation (or retired). You will also ask about the subject’s cultural background.

The rest of the interview questions will be about your subject’s recollections of gender role socialization during their growing up years and their experience of changing gender norms and behaviors as adults. For ideas about the kinds of questions you might include, see Questions and issues that could be addressed (below).

You should avoid asking questions that can be answered with a yes or no, or with single words (except for the demographic questions). You want to encourage your subjects “to speak,” to elaborate, to tell their story.

Before beginning the interviews

Explain to your subjects that you are conducting the interview as part of a class project for your CSULA course on the sociology of gender roles and behaviors. You will be asking subjects questions about their experiences and opinions concerning gender roles and behaviors.

Assure your subjects their answers are confidential and that you will not use their real names in the paper. Ask the subject if he/she gives you permission to record their interview (electronically or your written notes), and assure them that after you write your paper, any notes or recording of the interview will be destroyed.

Once permission is given, turn on the recorder or prepare to take notes. The interview will last about 45 minutes (or less time if the subject tires).

Conducting the interviews

Establishing rapport with the subject early on is an important goal. You will try to ask questions in a way that is conversational and personal.

In asking your questions, you are inviting your subject to reminiscence, to elaborate, to tell their story. Most middle-aged and older people love to share their stories, especially with young people, or their grandchildren – – “what it used to be like” for them. If the subject wanders off the topic, gently guide him/her back to the question.

When interviewing, allow your subject to answer questions in his/her own words. Avoid suggesting answers or putting words into the subject’s mouth.

Questions and issues that could be addressed

Following are some of the questions and issues you could ask about in your interviews and address in your analysis. You do not need to include all of these questions. There may be other interesting issues that emerge in your interviews that you want to follow up on and then later discuss in your paper. You will compare and contrast the stories and gender role beliefs and experiences of the man and woman subjects.

• Ask your subject to reflect upon his or her own life journey as a man (or a woman). When growing up, what did they learn about the kinds of roles and behaviors that were appropriate for boys and girls, for women and men – – about femininity and masculinity? What did they learn from their mothers, from their fathers, or from other family members or at school? Ask about the gendered division of labor in their households during their youth.

• Can the subject to briefly describe the kinds of toys girls and boys had when they were young children? What was his/her favorite toy? What were the kinds of games they played and how were they different for boys and girls.

• What does the subject recall about culturally prescribed gender roles and behaviors during the high school and college years (if appropriate)?

• Did the subject wish he/she had made other life course choices when younger (pursuing or completing education, pursuing one career instead of another, marrying or not marrying, marrying too early). If the subject wishes he/she had made a different choice(s), why. Does the subject have any regrets?

• Because of the differentiated gender roles that existed prior to the 1970s, older women may have felt that higher education was not an option for them. You could ask the woman subject if this was true for her and how she felt about this.

• More generally, can the subject think of opportunities that he/she had, or didn’t have, because of being a man or woman, particularly in terms of education and employment.

• What are the subjects’ current beliefs about appropriate roles, responsibilities, and behaviors for men and women? Can they describe how their beliefs about gender roles may have changed over time – – and why?

• What is each subject’s opinion about men’s and women’s roles in marriage, in the home, in the labor market? Should family responsibilities at home be shared between wives and husbands (partners), or should they have separate responsibilities? Why?

Analyzing your interview data

You will analyze and discuss the interview data you collected. First, carefully listen to the recordings or read your notes. You may have to repeat this process a few times to get a clearer sense of what the subjects are saying and what you think they mean. (Note: Qualitative analysis usually requires verbatim transcription of each recorded interview and detailed coding of the words and concepts for themes and subthemes. You will not be doing this here.)

As you analyze your subjects’ stories, you will be comparing and contrasting. Are there differences between the man and woman in their gender role experiences, and differences in their views because of their age? Do you notice any overall patterns or themes that seem to emerge from the stories? Do you notice any contradictions? In analyzing your subjects’ gender role beliefs and behaviors in childhood and in adulthood, refer to the theories of gender role socialization (social learning, cognitive development theories), as well as what you learned from the film “Divide of the sexes: Gender roles in childhood,” and your toy store project. How do you think larger cultural and historical changes may have influenced your subjects’ beliefs about appropriate gender roles and behaviors as they aged into midlife. Refer to the lectures, readings or class films to support your observations.

Format of the paper

This is a qualitative research paper. You will use an essay format. The paper should include: (1) an
Introduction (stating the purpose, what you want to find out and why it’s important; (2) your research methods (a description of your interview sample/subjects, a brief overview of the questions asked, how you analyzed the interview data); (3) a description of your findings, include two or three short, illustrative or interesting quotes. In writing up your findings, when introducing a subject it is useful to include his/her age (for example: “James, age 45, . . . . “). Here you will comment on how your observations are related to theories of gender role socialization (social learning, cognitive development theories), the film “Divide of the Sexes. . . ,” and toy store observations; (4) a discussion and conclusion section. Here you can discuss the possible effects of larger cultural or historical changes on your subjects’ lives, and how they differed in their gender experiences—in that one is a man, the other a woman, and they were born and grew up in different times.

This paper should be at least 6 full pages, double-spaced. Attach a copy of your interview questions (these pages not counted as part of the 6 page minimum requirement).

No later than 4:20 p.m. on MONDAY, November 16, you need to upload your paper to You should also bring a hard copy of your paper to class on that Monday.

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