The numbers of Chinese teenagers studying abroad have dramatically increased since the late 1990s, and this phenomenon has received significant attention from researchers and policymakers alike. There is substantial consensus about its proximate causes – the recent changes in the higher education landscape and the labour market in China and parental influence – but there is little understanding about why these trends have occurred, and how these changes have interacted with the lived experiences of parents who make higher education decisions for their children. I propose to use a multi-method tool-based familial biographical case history reconstruction to explore the causes and developmental course of higher education decisions through biographical experiences and family histories. This case study examines some methodological challenges of using the family-history narrative interpretive method to enquire into and analyse the structural relations and connections of biography and family history, societal changes and transformations and Chinese families' higher education choices and decision-making. Particular attention is paid to the difference between traditional interview and narrative case-study approaches, and how to incorporate institutional regulations and established societal structures and changes in people's biographies and family histories through the method of Peircean inductive-hypothetic reasoning and the reflective team approach.