The Effects of Stress on Health: A Qualitative Study


The effects of stress on health have been studied extensively using different approaches. The purpose of the qualitative research by Stensvehagen et al. (2019) is to explore how women handle their daily lives after experiencing sexual abuse. The study is founded on the evidence from past studies that those women who experience sexual abuse as children are exposed to other forms of violence. Therefore, it is likely to find women suffering from such problems as mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, as well as pain-related physical ailments, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, and stomach problems.

Research Question

The study has not outlined the research question or questions that the scholars hope to answer, which means only a description of the scholars’ intentions is outlined. In this case, it is possible to estimate that the researchers seek to confirm a key hypothesis that coping with the aftermath of sexual abuse comprises a three-phase process (Stensvehagen et al., 2019). The three phases are avoiding and escaping, accepting and disclosing, and reconciling and repossessing.

Research Paradigm/Worldview

The research paradigm or worldview adopted by the scholars is not described. However, the focus on people as social actors gives it the core characteristics of an interpretive paradigm. The problem of sexual abuse is approached from the participant’s points of view ad how they give meaning to their experiences with this phenomenon. Interpretivism is mainly about understanding or interpreting the meanings that people attach to their actions, which is precisely what these scholars do.

Research Design

Similar to the research question, the authors have not expressly stated the design they seek to use in collecting and analyzing the data. However, inferences can be made from the content presented in the methodology section. Stensvehagen et al. (2019) state that the methodological approach used is the grounded theory method (GTM), which they define as a general inductive method that seeks to generate a new theory. In this case, two options in design are apparent based on this statement. First, grounded theory design is implied by the mention of GTM. This design often involves a structured and flexible methodology used majorly when little is known about the phenomenon being investigated. The rationale for using this design is that researchers can develop an explanatory theory to uncover a process involved in the research subject. In this study, the scholars seek to offer an explanatory theory regarding how female victims of sexual abuse experience and cope with their life.

Second, an explanatory research design can be inferred from the definition of GTM provided. Explanatory designs are also conducted where no or few earlier studies are conducted in the field. Stensvehagen et al. (2019) perceive their study as a novel that explains the GTM approach and makes case for explanatory research design. Most importantly, the design helps to offer insights and familiarity with later inquiries on the same topic.

Sampling Strategy

The sampling strategy can be inferred from the participants’ description section. Stensvehagen et al. (2019) express that the respondents comprised women recruited from three centers for incest and sexual assault victims. The rationalization for this population is that the centers had expertise in understanding counseling, trauma, and dealing with the aftermath of sexual abuse. Therefore, it can be surmised that the scholars have opted for a convenience sampling strategy, a type of non-probability sampling that helps scholars draw respondents from the population close to hand. In this case, the rationale for the population selected is its easy availability and the presence of expertise and knowledge regarding the research subject.

Data Collection and Analysis

The primary method of data collection was the interviews, which were conducted with the ten women comprising the sample size recruited. All interviews were conducted at the counseling centers where each of the participants received treatment. Open-ended questions also allowed the scholars to gather as many details as possible. Additionally, the interviews lasted between 72 and 105 minutes (Stensvehagen et al., 2019). The data analysis was conducted using the constant comparative method, which is described as an analytical process conducted in four stages. First, incidents applicable to each category are compared; second, categories and their properties are integrated; third, theories are delimited; and fourth, the theory is written.


The main finding from the study is in the form of a confirmation of the hypothesized three-phase model of dealing with the aftermath of sexual abuse. In other words, Stensvehagen et al. (2019) find that victims engage in avoidance and escaping, which means coping after the abuse. The second phase is where they accept and disclose where they start the recovery process. Lastly, reconciliation and repossession mean living in the present with the experience. The daily hassles faced by these victims have also been listed in such categories as self, society, family/friends, and physical. Lack of trust, control, or feeling of safety fall under the category of self, among the main problems the victims face. Problems under other categories include avoiding emotions, negative self-talk, self-harm, stress reactions, lack of family support, and excluding oneself from friends and family.

Potential Bias

The potential for bias has not been discussed by scholars. However, this potential can be manifested through the nature of the research, especially the methodology used. A sample size of ten respondents can be described as too small to allow generalizations across larger populations. Additionally, targeting counseling centers means that the scholars encounter only those women who have accepted the situation and deliberately seek help. There is an argument that other women, either due to shame or other reasons, may decide against seeking counseling, which means that the model could be based on biased data. There is also some evidence of reflexivity in the study as the scholars explain the role each played in the study, especially with regard to the collection and analysis of data.

Ethical Principles

The study obtained ethical approval from the Norwegian Center for Research Data on April 25, 2016. The scholars have acknowledged the highly personal and private nature of the data, which means that safeguarding the privacy of the respondents was their key ethical consideration. Additionally, other necessary ethical principles were followed, including voluntary participation and the right of the participants to withdraw from the study if they wished. Written consent was obtained from each respondent and confidentiality was maintained throughout the study.


The study concludes that the three phases have been confirmed by the data collected and analyzed. Additionally, the scholars acknowledge that the model illustrates the complexity of the processes of dealing with the aftermath of sexual abuse among women. In conclusion, the study also mentions that the framework provided can be used as a basis for future studies. It also acknowledges the need for further inquiry into the subject.


Stensvehagen, M., Bronken, B., Lien, L., & Larson, G. (2019). How women experience and cope with daily hassles after sexual abuse – A retrospective qualitative study. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 33(2), 487-49. Web.

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