Abstract: The Life History Calendar Method: Examining the Migrant Journey over Time and Place (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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The Life History Calendar Method: Examining the Migrant Journey over Time and Place

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Mieko Yoshihama, PhD, Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Odessa Gonzalez Benson, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Background and Purpose: In this presentation, we discuss the application of the Life History Calendar (LHC) method in studies conducted in the USA: a study of Asian immigrants and a study of Congolese refugees. The LHC method is designed to collect lifecourse data retrospectively and improve respondents’ memory recall by asking first about memorable and/or easily recalled events and recording their occurrences in a familiar calendar format and in a manner that is accessible to the respondents during the interview (Freedman et al., 1988; Yoshihama et al, 2002). The LHC method provides an innovative procedure as alternative to the prospective longitudinal design, which is costly, requires a long study period, and is likely to suffer from sample attrition. LHC is found to facilitate the respondents’ memory retrieval (Yoshihama, et al., 2005) and is flexible and can be used to collect both qualitative and quantitative data.

Methods: In one study, we interviewed Asian women (n=143) aged 18-60 who have experienced intimate partner violence in a large urban area on the west coast. In this quantitatively oriented study, we used multilevel modeling (MLM) to make full use of data gathered through LHC interviews, modeling trajectory of each individual’s life experience of abuse and help-seeking across the lifecourse. In another study, we interviewed youth and young adults (n=9) from the Democratic Republic of Congo about challenges and opportunities in schooling in a midwestern city.

Results: An MLM analysis of the LHC found significantly different trajectories of intimate partner violence by immigration status and age. The probability of contacting the police, seeking assistance from social and legal services also differed significantly. Qualitative analysis of LHC data elucidated refugees’ own communities as integral to education pathways, as middle space for making sense of and individual level barriers (ie. language, academics) and structural challenges (ie. social exclusion in schools, grade-level placement).

Conclusions and Implications: The LHC can account for linguistic, cultural and institutional diversity, as those change along the migrant journey over time and place. Further, these methods not only illustrate temporal and spatial trends and patterns, but also identify critical incidents and factors that are exceptional or anomalous. The combination of the LHC method for data collection and MLM approaches to data analysis allowed for an investigation of within-group differences, such as cohort effects and differences by age of immigration/resettlement. Adaptable to both qualitative and quantitative inquiries, LHC is a promising strategy for examining migrants’ experiences across the lifecourse, to help inform policy and yield theoretical insights for migration studies.

Freedman, D., Thornton, A., Camburn, D., Alwin, D., & Young-DeMarco, L. (1988). The life history calendar: A technique for collecting retrospective data. Sociological Methodology, 18, 37-68.

Yoshihama, M., Clum, K., Crampton, A., & Gillespie, B. (2002). Measuring the lifetime experience of domestic violence: Application of the Life History Calendar method. Violence &Victims, 17, 297-317.

Yoshihama, M., Gillespie, B., Hammock, A.C., Belli, R., & Tolman, R. (2005). Does the Life History Calendar method facilitate the recall of intimate partner violence? Social Work Research, 29(3), 151-163.