Quan and Qual Studies Qualitative Study Domestic Article Critique

Excerpt from Article Critique :

Quan and Qual Studies

Qualitative Study

Domestic violence is an ongoing experience of physical, psychological, and even sexual abuse in the home that is often a method used by one adult to establish control and power over another person. Exposure by children to marital aggression is now a recognized public health concern. The investigation of the effects of the exposure to this type of aggression on the functioning of a child is a significant societal concern.

Purpose/goal/research questions of the study

DeHart and Alshuler (2009) examined incarcerated women's accounts of their children's exposure to violence prior to the mother's incarceration. The researchers stated that previous research has explored the consequences of children having their mothers incarcerated (which is summarized and it appears that incarceration alone has few consequences to the health and behavior of children); however, there is a dearth of research on these children prior to the mother's incarceration. This is a central factor in determining interventions for these children who are living with the other parent, in extended kinship care, or are in community placements. The current study was performed to provide a foundation for studying violence exposure by examining the mother's accounts. This would allow the researchers to identify the types of exposure children experienced, and to better determine their implications for social work practice and policy.

Sample size and description

Participants were randomly sampled from a maximum security state correctional facility. The sample of 60 women included 52% African-Americans and 48% Caucasians with an age range of 18 to 70 (median age of 31 years). The women were incarcerated for a variety of offenses, ranging from murder to forgery, burglary, and grand larceny. They were serving sentences ranging from 15 months to life-imprisonment (median time already served at completion of the study was just under 4 years).


Open-ended interviews were performed regarding the participant's family and relationship history, history of victimization, and their lifetime delinquency and interactions with the justice systems. Participants were not directly questioned about violence exposure of their children, but this information surfaced during the interview. Handwritten notes were transcribed using a grounded theory methodology.

Variables/measures under study

The qualitative study looks at the effects of being exposed to maternal (partner) violence (independent variable) on the psychological well being and the behavior of children (dependent variables). These variables are broadly defined in this study as this study was viewed as providing a foundation for which future research could better define methods and measures to investigate this issue further.

Instruments used (if applicable).

As mentioned above open-ended interviews were the method of data collection. Transcripts were analyzed using ATLAS/ti qualitative software and a grounded theory approach.

Key findings

According the researchers 90% of the sample had children living with them prior to being incarcerated and 75% of those mentioned the impact of abuse on these children (if we do the math 56 had children and 42 of these were exposed). The authors provide rich descriptions from some of these transcripts of the participants' recollections. Psychological//emotional of effects of witnessing violence were categorized into fear and worry about violence occurring (reactions appear to range from withdrawal to severe emotional reactions). Behavioral effects included passivity (hiding), trying to intervene and stop the abuse, acting out, running away, substance abuse, and committing delinquent acts themselves. In many cases the children were also abused as opposed to just witnessing violence and these are discussed briefly.

Critique/limitations of the article

This article has a number of limitations, several of which are briefly touched on by the researchers. These include: (1) issues with generalization given the sample (maximum security female prisoners), (2) direct questioning of the mothers as opposed to the children themselves is a potential bias, (3) and no information regarding children of incarcerated fathers. These are all fair critiques; however, the researchers forget that the median time of imprisonment was four years in their sample, this indicates the potential for a severe confound regarding the subjective recall of their participants. Moreover, there is no collaborating evidence, we are just taking the women's word for the events as they occurred (some of these women were convicted of murdering their partners). Follow-ups at some level with the children themselves would have given the study more weight. The potential for inaccurate or biased recall is very high in this study. Moreover, there is no indication of the differences between just viewing parental abuse, being abused yourself, or both. Likewise, the researchers could have easily specified the types of effects children witnessing violence have recorded and fit their findings into these categories as opposed to offering very generalized conclusions.

Relation of readings main points/topic/findings to other course readings

Dysfunctional family interactions affect children. Children are not immune to the effects of abusive situations even if they are not directly abused.


More research needs to be performed with this particular group to better specify the effects of violence on children in this subgroup and on their development.


De Hart, D.D., & Alshuler, S.J. (2009). Violence exposure among children of incarcerated mothers. Behavioral Science, 26(5), 467-479.

Quantitative Study

Introduction of main topic

As stated above, exposure by children to marital aggression is now a recognized public health concern. The investigation of the effects of the exposure to this type of aggression on the functioning of a child is a significant societal concern. Moylan et al. (2010) posit what they call a dual exposure effect or "double whammy" wherein children exposed to both witnessing domestic violence and child abuse themselves do worse with respect to later outcomes than do those exposed only to one of these types of violence.

Purpose/goal/research questions of the study

With respect to the dual exposure effect Moylan et al. (2010) reviewed previous research investigating dual exposure effects and conclude that the research has led to mixed results, suggesting the need for further investigation. In their study the researchers examine several outcomes in adolescence with empirical evidence demonstrated links to child adversity. They examined a range of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. The researchers hypothesized: (1) exposure to violence will lead to an increase a child's risk detrimental outcomes later and, (2) children exposed to both abuse and witnessing domestic violence will demonstrate increased risk for such outcomes compared to being exposed to either alone. The researchers also were interested in the role of gender as a possible moderator of earlier exposure on outcomes in adolescence.

Sample size and description

Data came from the Lehigh Longitudinal Study, a study of children and families that started in the 1970s in order to examine the consequences of child maltreatment. Participants were recruited from several settings in Pennsylvania including Head Start programs, child welfare abuse and protective service programs, day care programs, and private nursery schools. Four hundred and sixteen participants were assessed through adolescence, 229 (55.0%) males, 81.5% (n=339) Caucasian, 11.7% (n=49) were biracial, 5.0% (n=21) were African-American, 1.4% (n=6) were American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.2% (n=1) is a Pacific Islander.


At the time of this research three waves of data had been collected from the children (preschool, school age, and adolescence data), and a fourth wave of data was underway as the children who began the study were adults. Data from the preschool and school-age assessments were collected from interviews with the parents. The data from the adolescent assessment came from face-to-face interviews and individually administered questionnaires with both the parents and adolescents.

Variables/measures under study

Violence exposure (dichotomous) and domestic violence exposure (dichotomous) were independent variables (gender was a moderator variable and entered as a covariant). Abuse exposure was determined via official records, mothers' reports, and adolescents' reports and the abuse variables required confirmation via all. Dependent variables included internalizing and externalizing behaviors as measured a standardized youth questionnaire, a measure of depression, and a measure of delinquency (see next section).

Instruments used (if applicable)

Standardized measures were collected for the dependent variables. Achenbach Youth Self Report Inventory (YSR) was completed by the adolescent participants. The subscales of both the internalizing and externalizing composite scales were scored and used in the analyses. Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Delinquent acts questionnaire were also used for the dependent measures.

Key findings

Regression models indicated that children exposed to violence of any type in childhood had higher levels of externalizing and externalizing behaviors as adolescents than those that were not exposed. Children who had been exposed to violence and been victims of violence were at higher risk for the entire range of internalizing and externalizing problems as adolescents than children exposed to only one of those. Overall females scored higher on measures of internalizing behaviors; males on externalizing. But gender did moderate the exposure effects.

Critique/limitations of the article

The article is limited by several factors, included how domestic violence was measured (mostly physical aspects), a large number of potential independent variables (e.g., the composite scores of the YSR measure several different symptoms, thus it is still unclear as to which types of symptoms are more apt to appear after…

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