Chang (2007) earnestly cautions that although the use of autoethnography gains momentum it has not been spared of criticism He is quick to add, however, that this does not mean that this method has inherent faults but instead it serves to remind the researcher to be careful, circumvent situations that would attract flak and steer clear of prospective areas of criticism. The five pitfalls that he has identified are detailed below
145 with a corresponding deliberation of the precautionary actions taken in this study to preclude them.
6.8.1. Attention on the Researcher versus the “Family”
Chang (2007) reminds us that culture is intrinsically a characteristic representation relating to a group of people where an interdependent relationship subsists. Therefore, he says an autoethnographic study should be reflective of this reciprocal affiliation. He cautions the researcher against a unconscious concentration on himself as he unravels his own stories without recognising the contextual relationship that it bears with the stories of the other members in the group. This form of introspective self-indulgence would not be an autoethnographic study but rather an all revealing biographical account of oneself. Recognising this trap, this study only starts with the personal experience of the researcher; the bulk of the study focuses on the stories of respondents that were interviewed.
6.8.2. Lack of Focus on Interpretation as opposed to Narration
Chang (2007) fears that many researchers are so immersed in the process of relating their story that they forget the goals of an autoethnographic study are to interpret the culture being studied and to analyse the text of the various stories that unfold. He cautions against the lure to be enticed with the narration of the stories at the expense of conducting a detailed analysis and providing an effective interpretation. Although the interviews conducted in this study were based on unstructured questions that allowed respondents to speak freely, they were conducted in a manner that did not allow the
146 respondents to stray away from the focal point of the impact on the siblings of caring for a person with a disability. Further, the use of the NVivo application facilitated the analysis of interview contents to provide a basis for reliability, validity and verification.
6.8.3. Recollection Based on Personal Memory as the Main Source of Data
Chang’s third reservation relates to excessive reliance on one’s own memory as a data source. He cautions that one must not overlook the fact that one’s own memory, although an excellent and exclusive reservoir of information, is not accessible to other researchers and readers. He cites the reminder of Muncey (2005) that the stories from memory are usually moulded and designed selectively and recited in the context of their personal experiences and although does not constitute an untruth but nevertheless the information provided is censored. His worries revolve around the issue of validity because the evidence adduced originates from a sole source i.e. the researcher himself, without any avenue for cross-checking or verification and therefore, the question of a lack of objectivity arises. Acknowledging that although this issue of undue subjectivity is not of paramount importance in a qualitative study but nevertheless he recognises that a multi-sourced information base renders the research to be more readily acceptable.
As a defence against this and to add authenticity to the autoethnographic study conducted, he suggests that this internally produced data should be augmented with external verifiable information to illustrate that the narration of the events were accurate and valid and this can be achieved through the use of documents and the conduct of interviews with relevant parties
147 In line with this and for this research, the researcher himself corroborated his story with other family members who attested to its authenticity. As for the respondents, other siblings were encouraged to be present at the interviews to confirm the facts stated.
Where an interview was refused and a respondent provided a written story, a request was made for the story to be verified by other members of the family to ensure the accuracy of the facts.
6.8.4. Laxity in Ethics With respect To Others in the Researcher’s Own Story
This drawback arises because where a researcher is narrating his own story he is less concerned with the issue of confidentiality says Chang (2007). However, he forgets that others are also mentioned in his autobiographic rendering and the protection of their confidentiality is equally important in an autoethnographic study. Therefore his qualms are, since the prominent characters in the story are revealed, hiding the identity of the others closely linked to them is an arduous task. Nevertheless in autoethnography just as in other research pursuits, every effort must be made to ensure that the confidentiality of the others in the story is maintained, as a matter of ethics. In the current research, the respondents have been assured that the interviews will be conducted on a no-name or fictitious name basis; any reference to the person with a disability and the sibling is by way of a pseudonym.
6.8.5. Mislabelling Autoethnography
Chang laments that another weakness is that the autoethnography term is loosely used with reference to numerous methods of inquiry in the various fields of study. He fears
148 that this may confuse both the researcher and the readers. He suggests that the researcher should convey this information to the reader, clearly defining the context of which it is being used in this study, thus enabling the reader to differentiate this research from others which also entail the narration of one’s own story such as an autobiographic account or other self–narration works.
The present study clearly indicates from the onset that although it begins with a storytelling method involving the difficulties endured by siblings of persons with disabilities, the objective is to analyse these problems, recognise the emerging patterns, draw inferences from the findings, and conclude whether a case can be made to advocate the introduction of tax relief which may help to mitigate the impact of these difficulties at least from a financial viewpoint.