Abstract: Intersectionality and Focus Group Design and Analyses: Intra, Inter, and Anti Categorical Approaches for Research with Diverse 2SLGBTQI+ Populations (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Intersectionality and Focus Group Design and Analyses: Intra, Inter, and Anti Categorical Approaches for Research with Diverse 2SLGBTQI+ Populations

Friday, January 13, 2023
Maryvale A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Beth Glover Reed, Ph.D, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Background. Enacting intersectionality frameworks in research illuminates the impacts of complex systems of power in different contexts for people with different mixes of positionalities. Focus groups are an important method for research with 2SLGBTQI+ populations since methods enact social dynamics and can be used to explore individual and subgroup perceptions and experiences as well as how people define themselves and experience consequences related to positionalities. Groups can be composed as intra-categorical (everyone shares one or more positionality) or inter-categorical (people represent a range of different positionalities with none in common for everyone). Facilitation methods can emphasize (intra/inter-categorical) or problematize the implications of particular categories (anti-categorical) and contexts. To explore impacts of various approaches, this presentation addresses the following questions: How do responses differ when particular 2SLGBTQI+ positionalities are, or are not, defining characteristics of a group? What is the impact of protocols that emphasize particular characteristics, or that challenge and complicate categories? How to prepare people to consider multiple categories and environments, and conduct analyses that capture complex patterns within and between groups?

Methods. Data from three types of focus group compositions (N=95) explored the influence of group contexts on how social categories/positionalities and related patterns of privilege-oppression were understood and enacted. Three groups were inter-categorical (members differed on many positionalities with some identifying as cisgender and heterosexual). Seven represented two types of intra-categorical compositions: in two all members shared several positionalities (2SLGBTQI Black male older adults); in five, everyone identified as 2SLGBTQI but differed on other positionalities (age, race/ethnicity, religion, class, dis/ability). A survey and experiential activity were completed individually before groups began to introduce the categories and assist participants to explore their experiences in different environments. Some facilitation techniques focused directly on impacts of categories, while others problematized those categories. Using grounded theory, transcriptions were analyzed by several coders using open and axial coding.

Results. Data depict how participants described themselves and their experiences in different environments before and after they are asked to identify their key positionalities within the three types of groups. Intra-categorical groups with shared multiple positionalities allowed participants to focus directly on the interfaces of these (e.g., how being Black and an older adult affects how they have defined and navigated being 2SLGBTQI+ over their life). Groups with shared 2SLGBTQI+ positionalities but differed on other positionalities promoted exploration of diverse experiences among 2SLGBTQI+ people in different settings. Participants in inter-categorical groups focused heavily on navigating positionality boundaries. Those with privileged positionalities were more likely to discuss these after they were asked to identify explicitly their positionalities.

Conclusions and implications. 2SLGBTQI+ participants interact and describe themselves and their environments very differently in intra and inter-categorical groups, and in response to methods that increase or decrease salience of particular positionalities. In intra-categorical groups, participants are more able to explore similarities and differences among 2SLGBTQI+ people and complex consequences of power. We end with principles and questions to consider with focus groups to illuminate power dynamics and consequences associated with different mixes of positionalities among 2SLGBTQI+ people.