Conducting intersectionality-informed mixed-methods research to explore cigarette smoking among young African-Caribbean women in the UK.

Douglas, Jenny (2019). Conducting intersectionality-informed mixed-methods research to explore cigarette smoking among young African-Caribbean women in the UK. In: Third Regional Mixed Methods Research Conference, 26-28 Mar 2019, The University of the West Indies,Trinidad & Tobago.



This paper investigates cigarette smoking among young African-Caribbean women aged 15 to 17 in urban Britain. It reports on a study that used a multi-method, interdisciplinary research design that combined approaches from health promotion, women’s studies and sociology. It explores how ‘race’, class and gender intersect with cigarette smoking and how an intersectionality informed analysis can develop an understanding of the relationship between these factors. Intersectionality proceeds from the recognition that these demographic dimensions are not isolated, independent variables that are additive but rather that they are interlocking and inter-active. However, trying to develop an intersectionality informed approach for social research presents a challenge and Denis (2008) comments that the practice of developing appropriate intersectional methodologies has not caught up with the theory. This study aimed to address this. It suggests that the categories of ‘race, gender and class intersect, shape and influence each other and cannot be viewed as individual, independent entities or individual variables. Hence research methodologies must capture the interconnections between variables. The paper argues that mixed methods are therefore possibly better suited to research utilising an intersectionality- informed methodology.

In this study, quantitative and qualitative methods were employed to explore different aspects of the research study. In the first stage, data on patterns and influences on smoking behaviour in young African, African-Caribbean and white women were collected using a self-completion questionnaire to compare the influence of gender, ethnicity, social class on cigarette smoking behaviour and perceptions of cigarette smoking. In the second stage seven focus groups were conducted with young African-Caribbean women to collect qualitative data on factors which influenced smoking behaviour and the meaning that smoking had for this group of young women.
The survey provided data on patterns of cigarette smoking while the focus groups provided rich data on social identity and meanings and perceptions of cigarette smoking. The mixed methods approach allowed the collection and analysis of the experiences of young black women. By using both methods – survey and focus groups in a multi-method research design – the intersection of these two methods provided insights that could not have been gained using one method alone.

The study concluded that while there is a body of literature on gender and smoking which demonstrates an association between social disadvantage and cigarette smoking in young white women, this explanation does not necessarily apply to black women. Caribbean culture, family life and religion were central to the lives of these young, African-Caribbean women and to a large extent protected many young women from cigarette smoking. An exploration of gender, ‘race’, ethnicity, class and cigarette smoking in this study highlights the need for new directions in health promotion research on young women and cigarette smoking that utilise a multi- method, intersectionality informed framework.

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