Intergenerational Exchange was a three year research project that investigated how grandparents support and care for their grandchildren. It was based in a low-income estate in the north of England where the team had been conducting research since 1999.
Intergenerational Exchange built on the foundation of a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council under their Research Method Programme, during which we developed access methods to hard-to-reach groups and individuals in these localities.
Drawing on existing participants and accessing new participants for this study, we developed eight case studies of grandparents whom we interviewed four times over a two year period.
Walking alongside our participants for over two years of fieldwork, we captured insights into the lived experience of vulnerable and marginalised grandparents. This included their role as carers in mentoring, supervising, and managing their grandchildren and how these roles have changed or stayed the same.
In this qualitative longitudinal study, we sought to understand our participants’ experiences of their lives, how this shapes their experiences of the present and possibilities for the future. We have been able to compare the insights from varied circumstances, and investigate the importance of home and the place in which they live in shaping their lives and those of their grandchildren. We have also been able to track policy changes and investigate the effects these have had in these poor households.
Methods for data collection
Repeat interviews were undertaken with each member of the study, using life history methods, family trees and timelines.
In addition, we collected key informant interviews and telephone interviews with formal and third sector workers in the area, through some of whom we had gained access to our participants. We maintained extensive fieldnotes and research diaries, and collected historical data from the locality in which we conducted our research.
We collected secondary quantitative data collection including publicly accessible census, health, socio-economic, and demographic data at various aggregations down to super-output areas. We also continued tracking and analysing relevant policy in health and social care.
Additionally, as part of our casing methods developed in previous research to interrogate relationships in and across place and over time, we tape-recorded, and included in our analyses, briefing and consultation meetings with formal and third sectors workers.
Over the course of Intergenerational Exchange, four waves of interviews were collected with our core case study sample of grandparent participants.