The purpose of this paper is the evaluation of the qualitative research methodology in the example of the study “Childhood maltreatment and psychological adjustment: A systematic review” published in Psicologia, Reflexão e Crítica Journal in 2014. The study is conducted to identify the effects of early childhood maltreatment on the consequent developmental outcomes in adolescence and adulthood. Through the previous literature review, the authors aimed to detect the extent of childhood maltreatment’s adverse impacts on individuals’ psychological well-being with a focus on the lifespan development theory principles.
The analysis of the research design, the selection of sampling and data collection tools, their strengths and limitations will help to evaluate the overall efficiency of the qualitative research methodology in answering the formulated research questions. The main objective of the analysis conduction is the development of the ability in writing the research papers, including the skills of research design and appropriate methods selection. Since the design influences, the effectiveness of the conducted research and the credibility of the results largely depends on the methods and instruments applied in the study, the evaluation of other researchers’ work is of significant value for the scholars and students in the field of psychology because it allows the comprehension of procedures that may lead a scholar to success in the research conduction.
Qualitative Methodology Review
The purpose of the analyzed article is the investigation of childhood physical and emotional maltreatment’s impacts on individuals’ self-esteem and social performance (Pacheco, Irigaray, Werlang, Nunes, & Argimon, 2014, p. 815). Through the literature review, the authors aimed at the establishment of the relations between exposure to child maltreatment and abuse and the development of self-esteem, formation of social identity and competence, as well as aptitude to build relationships with peers, and academic achievements.
The study hypothesis is formulated within the theoretical framework of psychological lifespan development. The development of individuals is multidimensional and includes physical, social-emotional, and cognitive aspects that are interrelated. When one of these aspects of human functioning is affected, the consequent impacts on the other two dimensions take place. In this way, emotional or physical childhood maltreatment affects a child’s adaptation to the social environment, his/her academic achievements, and cognitive aptitudes, etc. (Pacheco et al., 2014, p. 815). The exposure to negative emotional and psychological experiences in childhood may also negatively affect the later stages of individuals’ development, especially in the areas of behavioral and emotional regulation.
In their research, Pacheco and colleagues (2014) applied the grounded theory approach. The grounded theory approach implies the development of theory based on the systematic collection and analysis of data related to the subject. In this case, data collection, analysis, and theory are interrelated with each other (Lessor, 2000). By following this principle, the researchers chose the inductive analysis methods, and it means that the models, themes, and categories of analysis are developed as the analytical outcomes; they were introduced merely after the data collection. The researchers focused primarily on the natural variations in data derived from the previous literature findings and then categorized and systemized them to support and generate theoretic ideas.
The qualitative research is associated with the methods of receiving the empirical data that is aimed primarily at the description of the topic. The main distinction of the qualitative research from quantitative research is in the character of the analytical approach and hypothesis introduction. In the qualitative studies, the hypothesis is usually inductive; it is concluded from the collected data.
The main strength of the qualitative research methodology is the focus on the comprehension, explanation, and interpretation of data rather than statistical estimations. The qualitative methods are exploratory and imply the free form of data collection. At the same time, the interpretation is always characterized by a high level of subjectivity, and the validity of the results cannot be proved according to the traditional scientific criteria. However, it is considered that knowledge in itself is always interpretative, and it always depends on the individual perspective (Lessor, 2000). Therefore, the subjectivity of the qualitative research results is regarded as a norm.
The researchers implemented the non-probability sampling technique. The total sample of 19 studies analyzed in the research consisted of 8014 participants aged between 0 and 61 years; all the participants were exposed to childhood maltreatment (Pacheco et al., 2014, p. 817). The sample was selected non-randomly, and the researchers’ choice was primarily influenced by the character of the investigation and orientation to the topic of childhood maltreatment. The process of non-probability sampling is associated with the provision of limited opportunities for the individuals to be selected for participation in the study, and it usually is influenced by the lack of sufficient time and finance for the conduction of randomized sampling procedures.
The researchers applied consecutive sampling in their work. Similarly to convenience sampling, this sampling type is characterized by the simplicity and high level of access to the studied population but, at the same time, it attempts to include all available individuals as a part of the sample. In comparison to the convenience sampling, the consecutive sampling is more advantageous for the research conduction because it represents the entire population of interest.
It is possible to assume that for the research of childhood maltreatment effects through the literature review, the non-probability consecutive sampling technique is the most appropriate. In this case, the researchers were limited by the previous literature frames, and the random sampling thus is simply unavailable. But at the same time, the researchers aimed to include all potential subjects of the study into the sample, and the results of the analysis are thus may be considered generalizable within the boundaries of childhood maltreatment subjects.
The main data collection tool applied in the study was literature analysis. Pacheco and colleagues (2014) selected 19 studies that were in line with the objectives of the conducted research (p. 816). The peer-reviewed articles were chosen according to the particular criteria that included the investigation of maltreatment concerning self-esteem and academic performance, randomized sampling technique, and the evaluation of individuals with the history of childhood maltreatment.
The structural and systematic literature review that is conducted according to the principles of induction allows the researchers to obtain substantial data for the evaluation of relationships between the investigated causes and effects, identify the specific patterns, and explore the subject as a whole. However, the inclusion of such data collection tools as interviews, focus groups, and observation could help the researchers to look at the issue from a different and new perspective. The main limitation of literature analysis as a tool for data collection is the absence of direct contact with the sample and the inability to evaluate the individuals personally. It is possible to assume that in the qualitative research, the observations and interviews may give more room for the reflections on the issues, new insights, and possibilities for interpretation.
Credibility and Dependability
Qualitative research can be evaluated as a holistic process requiring the rationalization of the applied methods with the particular strategies that may serve for the orientation of researchers’ cognitive activities and control of their inference. The credibility of qualitative research largely depends on the revelation of the researcher’s stance and self-evaluation of the work that helps to ensure the clear-cut interpretation of results. Many validation strategies are focused on the principle of intersubjective revision of the interpretations that allow the formation of different perspectives on the subject by addressing the additional methods and positions of other experts (Whittemore, Chase, & Mandle, 2001). This strategic approach complies with the character of modern psychology development.
It is considered that the validation of qualitative research papers demonstrates whether other psychologists will be able to accept the view of the researcher, understand the initial data provided in the paper, and comprehend the offered suggestions and conclusions (Whittemore, Chase, & Mandle, 2001). To achieve a high level of credibility, it is possible to use such methods as referential adequacy, analytical induction, triangulation, etc. It is possible to assume that Pacheco and colleagues (2014) applied the strategy of analytical induction for validation of their study. While using this method, the researchers reassessed the working hypotheses by the inclusion of new data. In this case, the additional information sharpened the interpretation and conclusion to the achievement of the highest possible level of generalization.
The process of research validation always includes the perspectives and methods suggested by other researchers and experts. The credibility of a qualitative paper depends on the extent to which it fits the psychological discourse. In this way, qualitative research is characterized by dependability on other works in the field of study.
Research Design Efficiency
The applied techniques, tools and methods of study helped the researchers to answer the formulated questions. The main question of the study was related to the impacts of childhood maltreatment on social performance and psycho-emotional well-being in adulthood, and the systematic literature review contributed to a better understanding of the issue. The theoretical framework of lifespan development facilitated the interpretation of the collected data and supported the achievement of works’ credibility. The study findings provide comprehensive evidence demonstrating the negative effects of childhood abuse on lifespan development. Therefore, it is possible to say that the research design was highly effective and efficient.
The application of qualitative research methods in the field of psychology becomes more frequent (Whittemore, Chase, & Mandle, 2001). In comparison to the quantitative research methods, the qualitative approach allows psychologists to fulfill the gaps in the theoretical knowledge through the description of data, generalization, and interpretation. A lot of attention is paid by scholars to the processes of qualitative research validation, and nowadays there are many strategies developed that ensure the credibility of the studies.
When the research is conducted in compliance with the principles of inductive analysis, referential adequacy, and others, the study results attain the quality of the objective scientific conclusions. It is also important to select the tools and research procedures that will be appropriate for answering the particular research questions and will be effective in the investigation of the topic. In case all the mentioned aspects of qualitative research conduction are taken into consideration, the study findings obtain all the necessary qualities for becoming a valuable part of the psychological discourse.
Lessor, R. (2000). Anselm Strauss’s Grounded Theory and the study of work. Sociological Perspectives, 43, 1. Web.
Pacheco, J., Irigaray, T., Werlang, B., Nunes, M., & Argimon, I. (2014). Childhood maltreatment and psychological adjustment: A systematic review. Psicologia, Reflexão e Crítica, 27(4), 815-824. Web.
Whittemore, R., Chase, S. K., & Mandle, C. L. (2001). Validity in qualitative research. Qualitative Health Research, 11(4), 522-537. Web.