Conducting Research
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Conducting Research

Social and Behavioral Science Methods

Lawrence Orcher

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eBook - ePub

Conducting Research

Social and Behavioral Science Methods

Lawrence Orcher

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Über dieses Buch

‱ Prepares students to conduct their first empirical research study, with quantitative and qualitative methods covered in detail. Common features as well as differences between the two research approaches are explored.

‱ While theoretical material is included, the emphasis is on providing practical, easy-to-follow advice on how to conduct a first research project.

‱ Unlike most texts with hypothetical examples, this text—with real examples written by a variety of published researchers—makes research methods come alive. Students see how research methods are used to explore important, contemporary problems.

‱ Factual Questions at the end of each chapter help students review key concepts covered in the chapters.

‱ Questions for Discussion encourage students to consider specific techniques and strategies that they might use while conducting their research.

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Sample Literature Review 1

Associations Between Marital Happiness, Problems, and Health

Originally published as Proulx, C. M., & Snyder-Rivas, L. A. (2013). The longitudinal associations between marital happiness, problems, and self-rated health. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(2), 194-202. Copyright © 2013 American Psychological Association. Reprinted with permission.
The association between health and involvement in interpersonal relationships is well established. Married individuals are consistently found to have better health and well being than their unmarried counterparts (Waite & Gallagher, 2000). Stably married individuals are less likely to develop chronic health problems when compared with their divorced or widowed counterparts, with a longer marital duration further protecting health (Dupre & Meadows, 2007). Indeed, the association between marital status and health has been found for both men and women (Kaplan & Kronick, 2006). across multiple countries (e.g., Gardner & Oswald, 2004), and for multiple health outcomes (e.g., Pienta, Hayward, & Jenkins, 2000). However, research suggests that the beneficial impact of marriage on well being extends beyond the status of being married. Ample evidence exists suggesting that the quality of marital relationships also impacts health, with higher quality marriages being associated with higher levels of health and well being (e.g., Proulx, Helms, & Buehler, 2007) and long-term, poor quality marriages being associated with poor overall health (Hawkins & Booth, 2005).
In a meta-analysis on the associations between marital quality and spouses' well being, Proulx, Helms, and Buehler (2007) found that the marital relationship is a stronger predictor of well being than the reverse. The bulk of studies contributing to this finding were short-term longitudinal studies assessing the impact of marital quality at baseline on changes in spouses' health over the course of the study, and few studies examined both directions of effect (i.e., marital quality impacting change in health as well as health impacting change in marital quality). Indeed, little is known about the possible reciprocal associations between marital quality and health over significant periods of time. The purpose of the present study is to examine the reciprocal, or coupling, associations between two marital characteristics—one positive, one negative—and individuals' self-reported health over the course of 20 years of marriage.
Several theoretical perspectives have informed the study of the unidirectional associations between changes in marriage and health, including life course theory (Elder & O'Rand, 1995), stress generation models (Hammen, 1991), and socioemotional selectivity theory (Carstensen, Isaacowitz, & Charles, 1999). Each of these theories has received empirical support but they have not been applied to the dynamic assessment of change in both marital quality and health. We argue here for a "doubly developmental" approach to the understanding of marital quality and spousal well being (Kurdek, 1998). Such an approach highlights the reciprocal nature of interpersonal relationships and individual well being, recognizing that the direction of change in both constructs is mutually influential. What is particularly important about this perspective is recognition that trajectories of change in risk factors (e.g., health or other indicators of well being) may produce different effects than static levels of these factors. Thus, because of spouses', especially aging spouses' (Carstensen, 1992), identification with their marriage, the quality of that marriage may have direct impact not just on current levels of health, but on changes in health as the marriage unfolds. Further, although changes in health are normative as individuals age, these changes may set the stage for considerable shifts in power, leisure time and abilities, energy, and allocation of personal and financial resources in a marriage (Booth & Johnson, 1994), potentially undermining its success.

Marital Quality and Changes in Health

Cross-sectional research suggests that, when compared with single individuals, being in a satisfying and well-adjusted marriage is associated with health benefits such as better cardiovascular, mental, and physical health (Holt-Lunstad, Birmingham, & Jones, 2008). Cross-sectional research has also demonstrated that negative aspects of marriage are associated with poorer health (e.g., Bookwala, 2005). If, as some researchers have suggested, marital quality declines over time (i.e., conflict increases and happiness declines; Kurdek, 1999; Umberson, Williams, Powers, Liu, & Needham, 2006), then declines in marital quality may result in subsequent changes in health for married individuals. Longitudinal studies using community-based samples have found a link between changes in marital quality and perceptions of health (Umberson et al., 2006; Wickrama, Lorenz, & Conger, 1997). Using three waves of data spanning 8 years of mostly midlife marriage from the American's Changing Lives study, Umberson, Williams, Powers, Liu, and Needham (2006) found that negative marital experiences increased over time and positive marital experiences declined. These changes, in turn, were linked with diminishing reports of self-rated health as spouses aged. Alternatively, using latent growth curve analyses and three waves of data spanning 3 years' time in early midlife. Wickrama, Lorenz, and Conger, (1997) found that as married individuals' marital quality (a composite of items assessing marital happiness, satisfaction, and stability) improved, reported symptoms of physical illness declined for both men and women. Both of these studies conceptualize marital quality as the independent variable, and thus, do not tell us whether changes in physical health might also be influencing changes in marital quality.
The studies cited above use either positive or negative conceptualizations of marital quality and, like other studies, underscore the varying effects that positive and negative marital quality may have on health in mid and later life. Negative aspects of marital quality in long-term marriages may be especially important to consider, as marital strain has been shown to affect health cumulatively over time and more aggressively at older ages among continuously married individuals (Umberson et al., 2006). Alternatively, positive aspects of long-term marriages may be particularly important in the health–marriage link given that long-term marriages have endured and thus may be characterized by sustained positive qualities. The marital relationship in middle and older age is particularly salient (e.g., Carstensen, 1992) and, when combined with the normative declines in health associated with aging, positive aspects of marriage might be especially important in protecting spouses' health.

Changes in Health Predicting Marital Quality

In recent studies assessing changes in marital quality and health, health has been less frequently conceptualized as the independent variable than has marital quality. Early work on this topic, often focused on specific disease entities like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, demonstrated consistent cross-sectional relationships between illness and decreased marital satisfaction (e.g., Hawley, Wolfe, Cathey, & Roberts, 1991). In one of the first studies to assess if declines in health were associated with corresponding declines in marital quality, Booth and Johnson (1994) analyzed individuals over two waves spaced 3 years apart and found that respondents who experienced a decline in self-rated health also reported small but significant declines in marital happiness. There was no association found between declines in self-rated health and self-reported divorce proneness. Subsequent research has been mixed, with some studies verifying the findings in Booth and Johnson's work (e.g., Northouse, Templin, Mood, & Oberst, 1998), others finding the opposite direction of effects (e.g., declining health relating to increases in marital quality; Swensen & Fuller, 1992), and still others finding no association (e.g., Yorgason, Booth, & Johnson, 2008). Given these mixed findings regarding how changes in health may be related to marital quality, additional research appears warranted.
Address correspondence to: Christine M. Proulx, University of Missouri, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, 314 Gently Hall, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. Email: [email protected]


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Booth, A., & Johnson, D. R. (1994). Declining health and marital quality. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 218-223. doi: 10.2307/352716
Carstensen, L. L. (1992). Social and emotional patterns in adulthood: Support for socioemotional selectivity theory. Psychology and Aging, 7, 331-338. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.7.3.331
Carstensen, L. L., Isaacowitz, D. M., & Charles, S. T. (1999). Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. American Psychologist, 54, 165-181. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.54.3.165
Dupre, M. E., & Meadows, S. O. (2007). Disaggregating the effects of marital trajectories on health. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 623-652. doi: 10.1177/0192513X06296296
Elder, G. H., & O'Rand, A. (1995). Adult lives in a changing society. In K. S. Cook, G. A. Fine, & J. S. House (Eds.), Sociological Perspectives on Social Psychology (pp. 452-475). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Gardner, J., & Oswald, A. (2004). How is mortality affected by money, marriage, and stress? Journal of Health Economics, 23, 1181-1207. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2004.03.002
Hammen, C. L. (1991). The generation of stress in the course of unipolar depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100, 555-561. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.100.4.555
Hawkins, D. N., & Booth, A. (2005). Unhappily ever after: Effects of long-term, low-quality marriages on well-being. Social Forces, 84, 451-471. doi: 10.1353/sof.2005.0103
Haw ley, D., Wolfe, F., Cathey, M., & Roberts, F. (1991). Marital status in rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic disorders: A study of 7,293 patients. The Journal of Rheumatology, 18, 654-660.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Birmingham, W., & Jones, B. Q. (2008). Is there something unique about marriage? The relative impact of marital status, relationship quality, and network social support on ambulatory blood pressure and mental health. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 35, 239-244. doi: 10.1007/sl2160-008-9018-y
Kaplan, R. M., & Kronick, R. G. (2006). Marital status and longevity in the United States population. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60, 760-765. doi: 10.1136/jech.2005.037606
Kurdek, L. A. (1998). The nature and predictors of the trajectory of change in marital quality over the first 4 years of marriage for first-married husbands and wives. Journal of Family Psychology, 12, 494-510. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.12.4.494
Kurdek, L. A. (1999). The nature and predictors of the trajectory of change in marital quality for husbands and wives over the first 10 years of marriage. Developmental Psychology, 35, 1283-1296. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.35.5.1283
Northouse, L. L., Templin, T., Mood, D, & Oberst, M. (1998). Couples' adjustment to breast cancer and benign breast disease: A longitudinal analysis. Psycho-Oncology, 7, 37-48. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-1611(199801/02) 7:1<37::AID-PON314>3.0.CO;2-#
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