Initially, the interview focused on eight core questions, which provided the foundation for further questions during the interview. As the interviews progressed, the previous interviews informed both the question content and order, causing revision of the core questions (see Appendices E, F and G). The interview questions focused on the experiences of individuals in a stepcouple relationship. The issues participants were asked to discuss were entirely subjective, addressing the individual’s descriptions of events and interpretations of meaning in their relationship. The questions were posed from the context of the relationship; although each individual’s opinions were solicited as data, they each were asked to consider their relationship as the context for the questions. This is consistent with the focus of the inquiry as the individual’s experience of stepcoupling.
Unit of Analysis
The unit of analysis was an individual who was part of a stepcouple. Ainsworth notes that affectional bonds are an individual characteristic, “and entail representation in the internal organization of the individual…” (1989, p. 711). Attachment theory considers the individual’s experiences of a relationship. When looking for the presence of an attachment injury, although occurring in relationship, it is individually interpreted and experienced. Attachment injury is described differently for each individual in a given relationship, in conjunction with individually experienced events.
Five respondents were interviewed over an eight-week period. The computer software package, The Ethnograph v5.0, was used to code participants’ descriptions evoked through the open-ended interview questions. The coding of later interviews informed that of the earlier interviews.
The analysis, conducted through “pattern matching” (Gibbs, 2002, p. 157; Yin, 1989), explored for markers of attachment injury. The analysis also considered the genesis of the attachment injury marker, exploring its relationship to the individuals’ experiences specific to stepfamily formation.
Yin (1989) notes the usefulness of “pattern-matching logic” if “the predicted pattern of specific variables is defined prior to data collection” (p. 109). Pattern matching in this study involved a process wherein the specific variables, (i.e., the markers of attachment injury), were identified from the attachment injury literature, then sought in each interview through coding, which yielded descriptors of attachment injury markers. Therefore, attachment injury markers were assessed through noting participants’ language (descriptors) as they expressed their feelings about their relational problems. Specifically, this study sought markers of attachment injury and then noted those that seemed directly attributable to stepfamily problems.