Psychosocial interviews

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"Pays particular attention to emotions, thoughts, motivations and feelings"


The psychosocial approach to interviewing modifies techniques derived from clinical psychoanalysis and applies them to the social research interview.

It examines both the social and psychological aspects of the interview. It pays particular attention to unconscious as well as conscious processes, allowing for a deeper, enriched understanding of the interview material.

The psychosocial approach takes into account narrative construction, beyond the conscious, spoken narrative level, by allowing unconscious influences to shape the end results.

The psychosocial interview pays particular attention to emotions, thoughts, motivations and feelings. A sociological interview may only be able to recognise these features at a conscious level whereas a psychosocial interviewer would seek to register emotions which reside outside conscious thought. These emotions are understood to be difficult to acknowledge in conscious thought or too sensitive or intimate to share explicitly with other people.

These unconscious emotions may be revealed through a number of techniques.

One is to look at the dynamics at play between the interviewer and the respondent.

Another method is to take into consideration the incoherencies, gaps and contradictions in a story and highlight the 'emotional subtexts' which are often ignored in other forms of sociological analysis (Day Sclater, 2000).

Finally, the method necessarily requires critical reflection by the interviewer in order to monitor the process. As in the life story/oral history narrative analysis, the psycho-social interviewer needs to be constantly asking 'why has this person said this?', 'why at this moment?' and, just as importantly, 'why did I respond in this way and how did it reflect in the interview?' (Roper, 2003).

Hollway and Jefferson (2000) have attempted to incorporate the sociological and psychological approaches in their study, whereby they adapt psychoanalytic ideas and practices in order to supplement their qualitative biographical approach to interviewing. They view the individual not as situated purely sociologically or psychologically, but rather necessarily and inescapably as a 'psychosocial' subject.


Study Number: 4581
Study Title: Gender Difference, Anxiety and the Fear of Crime 1995
Principal Investigator(s): Hollway, W., Jefferson, T.
Date of Fieldwork: 15 June 1995-14 December 1995

Abstract: This research focused on crime and its relation to risk of victimisation and the suggestion that high-risk groups, in particular, young men, report lower fear than low-risk groups, in particular, older women. The research suggests that the relations between risk and fear of crime cannot be understood without theorising the multiple meanings attaching to a person's identity which become invested with anxiety.

Citation: Hollway, W. and Jefferson, T., Gender Difference, Anxiety and the Fear of Crime, 1995 [computer file]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], October 2003. SN: 4581,

Interview technique
Interview extract one (part one)
Interview extract one (part two)

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