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“If I Can Offer You Some Advice”: Rapport and Data Collection in Interviews Between Adults of Different Ages

Symbolic Interaction

Published online on


Reflexively analyzing interactions between myself (young adult woman) and 150 adult research participants, I explore how interviewees responded to the interviewer's perceived age in combination with other social identity categories. Addressing a gap in scholarship on adult‐adult interview interactions, this article examines how age gradations, in combination with other axes of similarity or difference, affect researcher‐interviewee rapport and data acquisition. Racial similarity, regardless of age, unlocked access to the topic of race/ethnicity. Age intersected with gender such that women within a decade of the woman interviewer's age assumed similarity and were communicative. In interviews with similarly‐aged heterosexual men, awareness of sexuality inhibited answers around intimacy. With older interviewees, gender similarity bridged the age chasm with women. In contrast, age and gender difference inspired older men to act paternalistically and give unsolicited advice. Even among adults, interviewees' classification of the interviewer's age contours the interactional dynamic, impacts data acquisition, and reproduces social distinctions.