Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Mother/daughter Intergenerational Interviews: Insights into Qualitative Interviewing

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Mother/daughter Intergenerational Interviews: Insights into Qualitative Interviewing

Article excerpt


The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society is the largest provider of well child services in New Zealand working with over 90% of new babies (The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society 2005). The Society currently employs registered nurses (commonly known as Plunket nurses), Maori Health Workers (Kaiawhina), and Karitane carers (including Pacific Health Workers) to provide well child care throughout New Zealand. The Plunket Society was founded in 1907 by Frederick Truby King, superintendent of" the Seacliffe Mental Hospital, a staunch advocate of breastfeeding and later Director of the Division of Child Welfare in the Department of Health.

Registered nurses were first employed shortly after the launch of the Society in 1907 to teach mothers about the advantages of breastfeeding and healthy alternatives if breastfeeding was not possible. One of the ways in which information for mothers was, and still is, disseminated was through the use of a Well Child/Health and Development Record Book, more commonly known as a Plunket Book. This book is designed as a means for mothers and their 'Plunket' or well child nurses to keep track of, and record, an infant's developmental progress in the early months and years of life.

In 1920 the first Plunket Book rolled off the presses at Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd in Dunedin, New Zealand. It was a small printed book with enough room to write a few words about baby. In 2006, the book is twice the size but still serves the same purpose. One of the interesting aspects associated with the Plunket book is that since its inception, many people (mostly mothers) have chosen to keep the book once their children have passed the age up until which well child checks are undertaken (approximately 4-5 years). One of the key areas of my doctoral study examining the social history of the Plunket Book has been to examine why mothers have kept their Plunket Books often for generations. In order to explore this question in greater depth, integenerational mother/daughter dyad interviews were utilised as a means of data collection. The term 'dyad' rather than 'pair' has been used as the term dyad implies a connection or relationship between the two participants - in this case - mother and daughter. This article focuses on the method with which these interviews were undertaken. In particular, how the uniqueness of the relationship between a mother and daughter offers the researcher an opportunity to explore interactional patterns across generations, modes of transmission of family history and intergenerational communication in the context of gender. Although the article touches on some of the findings from the interviews, it is the method and justification of mother/daughter intergenerational interviewing that is the focus here.


The study on which this article is based has four key aims. They are: to explore in intergenerational context the relationship between nurses and mothers in the care of well children; to examine the origins and adaptation of the Plunket Book over time; to explore the use of the Plunket Book as a text in the dialogue between nurses and mothers and how the text acts as a mediating factor in the relationship that exists between the two; and to explore how mothers and nurses have employed the Plunket Book over time.


The larger study uses an oral history approach that draws on a range of historical sources including a mixture of oral history interviews and archival data. Archival sources included a collection of 64 Plunket books ranging from 1921 to 2005. Other sources include Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand from 1908 to the present day, the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society archival collection held at the Hocken library in Dunedin, and various newspaper clippings, the New Zealand Women's Weekly, and books and articles written at the time in question. A total of 34 participants were interviewed ranging in age from 31 to 82 years. …

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