The research paradigm chosen for this study was the constructivist paradigm due to the belief that knowledge is socially constructed by individuals active in the research process and that researchers should attempt to understand the complex world of lived experience from the point of view of those who live it (Schwandt, 2000); in other words, we each construct our views of the world based on our own perceptions, our own subjective reality. It also reflects the uniqueness of the interaction between the investigator and the object of investigation (Ponterotto, 2005).
The constructivist paradigm related to this study because it used the theoretical lens of attachment theory, which maintains that the parental/child relationship is fundamental to build a positive emotional tie between participants. This bond between participants is a social construct that may have different interpretations depending on each individual’s perceptions.
Qualitative methods were selected to conduct this research. Attachment theory provides the theoretical framework for this research proposal. Phenomenology has been selected as the most appropriate methodological approach, as the objective of the research was to investigate the different ways in which mothers are experiencing not having technology during mealtimes. In this case, phenomenology will evaluate the “deeper meanings achieved by prolonged immersion, that is, capturing the life experience” (Padgett, 2017, p. 41). Once the data were collected, the researcher developed a framework to better understand their reasons and beliefs in a way to understand parental perception of the family dynamic. Using phenomenology, the research explored the nature of the mothers’ experiences with disallowing technology at dinnertime. What are the reasons they are prohibiting technology during mealtime? How do they experience benefits in the family relationship? Parental interviews were conducted to obtain the data.
Two in-depth individual interviews were conducted with each participant. The interviews were audiotaped and took place in a private setting of each participant’s choice where the individual felt comfortable, heard, safe, and trusted. Subsequently, the tapes were transcribed by an on-line service provider, Rev.com.
The fist interview was minimally structured to encourage free flowing narrative from the participant and lasted less than one hour. The second interview was semistructured to inquire about the participants’ experience of not allowing technology during mealtime and their perceptions on how it improved their relationships with their children.
Both interviews had open-ended questions, but the second interview contained “must-ask” questions to ensure that all areas of the research were addressed by participants, and it also provided an opportunity for clarifying and expanding specific themes.
Sampling Strategy and Inclusion / Exclusion Criteria
This study was conducted using a typical sampling of five participants and where the level of saturation had been reached. Specifically, the sample included mothers or female legal guardians of children aged 5 to 18 years. Participants were between the ages of 30 and 55, English speakers, from a variety of backgrounds, who disallow technology at mealtime. All contributors should have dinnertime with their family members at least three times per week and should have access to any technology (television, tablets, cellphones, and so one) on a daily basis.
Only mothers and/ or female legal guardians who were consistent about not permitting technology use during mealtimes were included in the study. Mothers and/or female legal guardians who sometimes relaxed their rules and were inconsistent about the disuse of technology during mealtimes were excluded from the study.
Participants were selected on the basis of individual referrals from personal acquaintances of the researcher applying the snowball sampling strategy in the Greater Toronto Area. Each individual received an incentive of a $20 gift card from Starbucks for participation in the research study.
There were minimal risks due to being involved in the study. The participants’ names and information were protected and kept anonymous. The participants were assured that they could end their involvement in the study at any time. Participants’ consent was obtained and kept confidential by the researcher.
The researcher must predict any ethical issues that may appear during the qualitative study (Creswell, 2009). This involves collecting data from people, about people (Punch, 2005); protecting participants by building trust, promoting integrity, guarding misconduct, and supporting participants to cope with potential challenging problems (Creswell, 2009). Padgett (2017) also reflects that some ethical issues can be anticipated, like avoiding coercion, maintaining confidentiality, and being sensitive about emotional issues (p. 57). Having said that, the researcher had a responsibility to respect the rights, desires, values, and needs of the participants.
This study expected voluntary participation of respondents. Privacy, confidentiality, and anonymity were guaranteed to all participants as each chose a pseudonym.
Participants could find the results of the study beneficial in exploring and identifying results of parental awareness around technology choices in order to promote better relationships with their families. It is possible that the benefits from this study will help parents to feel more comfortable and confident in their choices.