In this paper the author explores how relationships are defined within the context of constructing a life history. The life history of Benjamin, a homeless young man transitioning to adulthood, is used to illustrate how difficult it is to define the parameters of the research environment. During an “ethically important moment” in the research process, the author had to critically analyze his obligation to his participant based upon the relational titles exchanged. As chaos in Benjamin’s life increased, a choice needed to be made about the researcher’s involvement in his life. Should the researcher provide support or simply document events? Based upon the obligations inherent in how Benjamin defined his relationship with the researcher, the author explains why and how Benjamin’s life was interrupted.


Life History, Relational Dynamics, Ethics, Vulnerable Populations


Although I take full responsibility for this manuscript, I want to thank Lynn Beck, Susan Finley, Adrianna Kezar. Laura Perna, Margaret Sallee, and Linda Skrla for their helpful comments on an earlier draft. In addition, I appreciate Benjamin’s efforts in offering feedback and approval of this manuscript.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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