Public Selves, Inequality, and Interruptions: The Creation of Meaning in Focus Groups with Teens

Rebecca Raby

Abstract


Focus groups have received substantial attention over the past few decades, particularly as they are considered to provide rich, interactive data, yet only occasionally do researchers discuss the process of conducting focus groups with young people. This paper contributes to wider debates on focus groups through engagement with three interrelated topics, each with unique reflection on focus groups with teenagers: the advantages of focus group interactions, particularly in relation to hierarchies of age and the research relationship, how focus groups shape self-representation and “truth-telling,” and, finally, the challenge of “unruly” data. The author addresses these topics through drawing on several sources of data: 18 focus groups with secondary students on the topic of school rules, exit questionnaires collected from focus group participants, and in-depth interviews with the primary investigator and three research assistants.

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