The Survey under Unusual Conditions: The Jamaica Human Fertility Investigation

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

and bridle tracks, rather than roads, formed the principal thoroughfares, and although mules were occasionally used, the city-bred staff usually preferred their own feet-- and hands:

After leaving the main road one mile and crawling on hands and feet with shoes in hand . . . (5148)5

I had to crawl on hands and knees to reach the houses in this area. Only goats should go there. (5224)

This is a million dollar interview. Please cherish it. I risked my life to get it . . . To find two eligibles, we had to go through bush up a very steep hill where the Captain had to take her shoes off and walk barefooted. To get to the top we had to crawl on hands and feet, catch onto shrubs, some of which came up in clumps in our hands hurling us backwards down the hill. At times I, being in front, had to hold to a strong shrub and give the Captain a hand. I eventually tore off one shoe. (5132)

Upon reaching the dwelling unit, interviewers were frequently shocked at the living conditions which confronted them:

The little room has two single beds and all around it is dirt and bad smells. She has just had a baby and . . . beside her bed on the floor is a plate with a little parched corn and a can of water. That is her lunch. (6189)

I was very upset after this interview as the house was filthy. The floor was dirty, nothing to spread on the bed, the mattress was stuffed with banana trash which almost suffocated me with the smell of urine. The bed was covered with flies. (5350)

I found this respondent grating corn in a tiny shed which served as a kitchen. Her partner was frying an egg in a sardine can. He later shared the one egg among the family. (6188)

The absence of space and furniture, the insanitary conditions, and the presence of children often created a set of disturbing circumstances for the middle-class interviewers:

The sight of the bugs dancing on the cracks in the wall of this house made me very sick and uncomfortable. I kept searching myself. Remained in very uncomfortable position for over an hour on account of rain. (5443)

She hadn't a chair to sit on, so I squatted on a very low piece of stone under a tree and when the interview ended I was cramped. (6170)

At first I had a two-month old baby in my lap.

It wet me and so she took it and I had the four- year old until the end of the interview. (4362)

This family of six has one bed. I think they sleep crossways. . . . I did the interview under a tree while she washed and fed the babies. Three dogs circled around me and licked my feet occasionally as if they thought I had food or that I myself would be good food for them. I was not feeling so happy. About three yards from where I sat there was lying a pig that had died early in the morning from poisoning and respondent seemed in no hurry to remove same, so the flies that were attending him gave me quite a few visits also. (5394)


Field Problems and Their Solution

The bureaucratization of large-scale surveys compels the project director to be several steps removed from the raw data. He may "sit in" on a few interviews, and discuss problems occasionally with individual interviewers, but in general he relies on informal reports from the supervisors as to what actually happens in the field situation. Rarely is the voice of the interviewer herself "heard" in any systematic way. Thus, not only the problems which are encountered but the techniques which the interviewer develops on the spot to deal with them are lost to all but the individual interviewer.

Perhaps in this country the long cumulative experience of many surveys has made it unnecessary to give serious attention to the interviewers' experiences. Whether or not this is true, it would certainly not hold for surveys in underveloped areas, where the problems are different and the experience minimal.

As a beginning in the direction of listening carefully to the interviewer, we took special pains to assure that each interviewer regularly write in comments on each schedule immediately following the interview. In addition, at the end of the field work, each interviewer filled out a questionnaire which raised general questions about techniques in the field. The following section contains a rough classification of comments stemming from both of these sources, using the interviewer's own words to illustrate each general point. While the procedure falls short of any rigorous systematization, it is presented in the hope that it may provide leads for more systematic analyses in future studies in comparable areas.

The section is divided into two parts, the major one referring to problems of gaining entree to the community and household; the other referring to problems of gaining privacy for the interview, once entree had been secured.


A. The Problem of Entree

Because of the clustering of cases in each sample area, it was obvious that many respondents would be forewarned of the nature of the interview, since news would travel within the area faster than would the interviewer. Worse than news, however, we feared the build-up of

____________________
5
Four digit numbers following quotations identify the particular interview from which the quotation was taken. (The first digit represents the geographic area, the following digits the respondent.) When comments stem from interviewer evaluation questionnaires, a single letter is used to distinguish the responses of different interviewers, although the actual identity of the commentator was not known to the study directors.

-5-

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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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