Learning From Vulnerable Populations: Methodological Implications of Interviewing Individuals With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Brenda S. Dow, and Brandon M. Boylan


Scholars face methodological challenges when conducting research about vulnerable populations, such as individuals living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). They often struggle to identify, sample, and interview individuals in order to learn about their life experiences and perspectives. Although some scholarship provides methodological guidance on researching vulnerable populations, scant literature addresses accessing and collecting perceptions from individuals with FASD.

Based on work with adults with FASD, we offer procedures for sampling and interviewing. Our suggestions include working with agencies and gatekeepers involved with the population; ensuring voluntary and informed consent throughout the interview process; establishing rapport with interviewees and providing a comfortable interview environment for them; and adjusting interview questions according to individuals’ cognitive abilities.

By following these procedures, researchers can learn from these individuals while reducing the risk of harm to them.

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