Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Some RBI Questions and Answers

Some RBI Questions and Answers

RBI trainers have asked three questions about conducting Routines-Based Interviews. First, how do you conduct an interview with both parents present?

Principles you should follow when interviewing both parents:

1.      Make eye contact with both parents when asking questions. Look at the person replying and not at the other person during the reply.

2. Accept both parents’ responses.

3. We’re not trying to get at the truth: We’re trying to get at whatever parents want us to know.

4. In routines where only one parent is present, ask only that parent about those routines.

5. The RBI isn’t worth fighting over.

This question usually arises when interviewers are afraid of conflicting answers, which are actually very rare. Nevertheless, people should know how to handle them.

During the ecomap, if one parent says he or she gets a lot of support from someone and the other parent says he or she doesn’t, draw both kinds of lines.

If the answer to “What happens next?” is different, tell the parents you’ll discuss both and tell them which one you want to ask about first. Remember, then, to ask about the other one right afterwards.

If the parents contradict each other about what happens in a routine, say, “It sounds like sometimes [this happens], and sometimes [that happens]. Right?”

In outcome/goal selection, write down both people’s ideas, if both are contributing. If one parent says that one is not important, ask the parent who suggested it whether it’s still important to him or her. If it is, write it down and say, “I’ll just write them all down and then you all can decide on the most important ones.”

During prioritizing, if the parents disagree, see if they can come to agreement. If not, say it doesn’t matter and get each parent’s priority order, separately. But don’t have two sets of outcomes/goals.

Apart from disagreement, a problem for some interviewers is lack of participation by one of the parents. That’s the parent’s choice. You should continue to look at both parents when asking questions. You can ask follow-up questions to only the parent who provided the first answer.

A common problem when interviewing both parents is time management, if both parents contribute much. Managing time is an essential skill in conducting the RBI, regardless of the number of parents. Interviewers will know that the solution is to skip some routines and, when the parent becomes repetitive, to interrupt as politely as possible.

In general, keep it simple. It’s just a conversation with a couple of parents about their family life and the child’s engagement, independence, and social relationships. Keep the five principles above in mind.

The second question is What about a grandparent who tries to take over? Specifically, the question was when the parent of the child was a teenager, but the issue can occur even for older mothers (or fathers).

Principles you should follow when interviewing two generations:

  1. Figure out who runs the household and respect that person’s role.
  2. Respect the parent’s response, regardless of his or her age or other characteristics (e.g., intellectual capacity).
  3. Figure out who is the main caregiver and teacher of the child in each routine and pay more attention to that person, while keeping Principles 1 and 2 in mind.
It’s not easy to juggle these principles, and it’s simplistic to say that the parent’s point of view should always take precedence. If the grandparent has the power in the family or is the actual caregiver of the child in a given routine, you have to listen to that person’s perspective if you want the resulting plan to be meaningful.
Some of the same issues as interviewing two parents, discussed above, come up when interviewing any two people in a family. Again, remember that most two-generation interviews are free of conflict, but it is possible to have a domineering grandparent. Don’t alienate that person by trying to ignore him or her or to shift the balance of power too obviously.

Sometimes, the ongoing support person, such as the weekly home visitor, will find out that one or the other of the parties has a hidden agenda. For example, I’ve known parents who have told me, out of earshot of the grandparent, that their biggest goal is to get out from under the grandparent’s (their parent’s) thumb. Similarly, grandparents have sometimes taken me aside to tell me that they have serious reservations about the caregiving the parent provides. These have been goals that didn’t come up during the RBI. That’s OK. 

The RBI does not necessarily get what caregivers want: It is designed to get what they want to tell us, as we discuss daily routines.

Remember, when interviewing two-generation families with a domineering grandparent, the three purposes of the RBI:

1. To obtain a rich and thick description of child and family functioning;
2. To establish a positive relationship with the family (not just the parent); and
3. To leave with a meaty list of functional outcomes/goals.

Don’t overcomplicate these two-generation interviews. We’re not trying to resolve differences in an RBI. We’re just trying to achieve the three purposes just mentioned.

The third question is What do you do with Hispanic families who want to know why you’re asking so many questions? Be very careful about questions like this! People assume the RBI works differently for Anglo families from Latino families and from Native American families and so on. It’s a thin line between being culturally sensitive and stereotyping families.

Principles to follow in this regard are

1. Don’t discriminate against anyone on the basis of their cultural background by denying them access to the RBI;
2. As with all families, “read” them as you’re proceeding through the interview;
3. Most families of all cultures are eager to talk about their day to an expert who is really interested; and
4. The interviewer’s style is far more likely to make a family comfortable with the RBI than is the family’s cultural background.

The known characteristics of many Latino families can have an impact on the RBI. One cultural variable is respeto—the importance of children respecting their elders (Barker, Cook, & Borrego, 2010). It sometimes carries over to families’ beliefs that lay people should not question professionals. A well-conducted RBI should obviate this issue, however, because the professional is not providing information; he or she is seeking it. Respeto can sometimes account for parents’ saying what they think the professional wants to hear. The interviewer should not become distressed about that. Remember that we are trying to find out what parents want to tell us, not the Truth (capitalized on purpose).

A second Latino cultural variable is personalismo—the desire to get personally close to the professional (Barker et al., 2010). Parents might want you to hold their child or they might ask you about your own family. What a great problem! Let’s not assume that Latino cultural variables are all challenges. On the contrary: Anglos could learn from many of them. Self-disclosure: I was born in El Salvador, spent my early childhood in South America, my father’s family lived in South America continuously for 50 years in the 20th century, and I speak Spanish (sort of). So I have some familiarity with Latino culture. Ironically, however, some doubters about the cultural validity of the RBI are themselves Hispanic, but that doesn’t legitimize their concerns. Their concerns might reflect their own awkwardness with asking detailed questions, which is one of the most common learning-curve problems when developing RBI competence, regardless of the culture of the professional or the interviewer. In Portugal, a Latin country, the RBI is well accepted as being not only culturally appropriate but actually a good match for families’ love of talking about their families. This brings up also the caution that not all Latinos are alike for two important reasons. One is that their countries of origin are distinct. Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans, to name only three, do not like to be thought of as one culture. The second reason Latinos are not all the same is acculturation (Barker et al., 2010). Families differ in the extent to which they hold on to beliefs and ways of being from their country of origin versus taking on Anglo or American beliefs and ways of being. Barker and colleagues point out that families differ in the amount of acculturation stress they feel—how difficult or easy it is for them to adjust to life in the U.S. These variations within Latino families demonstrate why it’s important not to overgeneralize about their comfort with the RBI.

Another Latino cultural variable that can have an impact on the RBI is machismo—the idea that the man is in charge(Barker et al., 2010). The wise interviewer will try to ascertain if this is a strong dimension of the family being interviewed. If the father is present, some of the challenges discussed in the first two questions above need to be met. If the father is absent during the interviewer, the interviewer might question whether the father (or grandfather) will support the resulting outcomes/goals. It’s actually not as big a deal as you might think, because often with the machismo culture comes a willingness to let women take care of child rearing. Furthermore, marianismo, in which women are venerated as pure and noble (as in the Virgin Mary), is a cultural value that is often part of machismo. Although some Anglos might not be comfortable with these ideas, they actually don’t interfere with successful RBIs, if the interviewer is competent.
In sum, interviewers should be culturally sensitive but they should not see the RBI as a culturally restrictive tool. It should be considered universal. Latinos do not, as a group, have problems with detailed questions any more than Anglos do. It all depends on how you ask them.

Have fun interviewing couples, two-generation families, and Hispanics. They make interviews fun.