The Survey under Unusual Conditions: The Jamaica Human Fertility Investigation

By Kurt W. Back; J. Mayone Stycos | Go to book overview

men's opinions were easily got as they seemed never shy to talk in public as most women were, but, as it was important to get the woman's point of view, it was just as important to see his wife personally and alone.

One interviewer felt that even grosser flattery could melt the male:

Flattery more so for husbands . . . . He was a crude, caveman-like type. I commended him on how he seems a very nice husband and . . . had everything that a woman wanted from a good man. After speaking a little more to him, he did not even question my mission but took me home, called his wife, showed me all his private papers, and gave me great assistance to do my work. (J)

Generally speaking, what evidence do we have that the techniques described were successful in their objectives? We shall postpone the questions of reliability and validity, and focus our attention on the two immediate objectives toward which the foregoing techniques were directed--establishing a level of rapport sufficient to gain permission for the interview; and maintaining a level of rapport sufficient to complete the interview and leave the respondent favorably disposed toward the experience.

Our evidence is general and somewhat circumstantial, but, when two pieces of data are considered together, a favorable conclusion seems justified.

First, only six-tenths of one percent of the eligible women refused to be interviewed.8

Second, when the interviewers were asked how the reception they received on their post-interviews compared with that of their pre-interviews, the distribution of responses was as follows:

Much cooler or much more hostile0
Somewhat cooler or somewhat more hostile1
Just about the same5
Somewhat friendlier7
Much friendlier1

The majority felt the respondents somewhat friendlier and only one felt them at all cooler. Nor was it the case that interviewers were evaluating their own respondents. Since post-interviewers were never allocated the respondents they had had in pre-interview, they were evaluating the rapport work of other workers. As summed up by a supervisor:

Second visits, except in one area, found families more interested; information had been spreading and people were beginning to lose any "treasured fears" they had by the time the project had reached the final stage. The project car could not come to a halt before it was surrounded by welcoming residents--male and female--who insisted on being given the proper information which their friends had previously got. There were overt acts of friendship by way of gifts, good wishes, requests for return visits, etc.

Although we can never know, we would hope that many respondents were left with the kind of sentiments expressed below:

Her husband told me that what we are talking is good talk and nobody has ever spoken to them like that before and made them feel like human beings instead of cattle. (6286)

In so many cases there emerged the statement:

Nurse, I am so happy you came to talk with me. For years I have wanted to talk my mind to someone like you! (S)

The importance of high interviewer competence should by now be apparent. The unusual physical difficulties of field work, the initial hostility and suspiciousness of the respondents, the delicate nature of the questionnaire and the heavy work demands all required that the field staff be both skilled in interpersonal relations and characterized by dedication and high morale throughout the work. In order to bring about these desirable conditions, we gave particular attention to three areas--screening, training, and morale.

The two former aspects receive extended discussion in the following pages. Morale building aspects, because of the relative dearth of data, receive only brief consideration.


Interviewer Screening

A. Techniques

Phone calls, followed by letters, were made to a number of Jamaican leaders in the fields of social work, journalism, medicine, education and social research, requesting nominations for the position of interviewer. The letters listed in some detail the kind of characteristics desired; e.g., ability to feel at home with lower-class individuals; an absence of moralistic bias; intelligence; etc. The nature of the position and the salary was also indicated. The latter was placed relatively high (about twice the salary currently paid to interviewers for government surveys) in order to attract a higher type candidate.

The community leaders thus effected the first screening stage, since it can be assumed that the candidates obtained by this method were of a generally higher order than would have been the case if, for example, general advertising had been used.

Seventy-nine names were suggested. Of these, twenty- four could not be contacted or turned out to be unavailable once contacted. The remaining fifty-five were

____________________
8
Six and a half percent of the eligibles were not interviewed because they could not be located, even after repeated call-backs. Some of them, of course, may have been hiding from the interviewers.

-14-

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The Survey under Unusual Conditions: The Jamaica Human Fertility Investigation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Contents 1
  • Foreword 3
  • Field Problems and Their Solution 3
  • Interviewer Screening 5
  • Interviewer Training 14
  • Reliability and Validity 21
  • Part II - Interviewer Abilities and Interviewer Performance 24
  • Interviewer Traits 30
  • Performance Criteria 31
  • Interrelation of Traits and Performance 34
  • Mutual Reactions of Interviewers And Respondents 41
  • Summary 42
  • Appendix 47
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