Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches in Life Course Research
Abstract: Despite the growing number of statistical analyses of life-history data and a long tradition of biographical research, there is often no communication between these two streams of life-course research. It is possible to examine the life course quantitatively through life histories, which may be used to model synthetic biographies in order to reveal patterns in the timing and sequencing of life events, the durations of states between them, and the causal links between them. It is also possible to examine the life course qualitatively through life stories, e.g. biographical narratives, which reflect how persons understand, experience and attach meaning to events and states in their life. Through a quantitative analysis of life-history data we can describe and explain the morphology of particular events in the observed population, while a qualitative analysis of biographical narratives provides insight into people’s decision-making, perceptions of their options, and how they attach meanings to and experience events. This article summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches, explains in which sense they are connected or differentiated from each other, what data and analyses each perspective may utilize, and briefly introduces one type of mixed methods life course research that utilizes the complementarity of both approaches.
Key words: life course, mixed methods, life histories, life stories.
Data a výzkum - SDA Info 2014, Vol. 8, No. 1: 5-24.