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Adolescent Adjustment and Well-Being: Effects of Parental Divorce and Distress

Critical analysis of the Scientific Merits of a Research Study

The paper presents a critical analysis of the scientific merits of a research study by Storksen, Roysamb, Holmen, & Tambs(2006)titled “Adolescent Adjustment and Well-Being: Effects of Parental Divorce and Distress”. To achieve this, the paper will summarize and evaluate how the study contributed to the advancement of knowledge, how the study contributed to theory, and how the study exemplifies the hallmarks of a good research study.Further, the paper will explain and evaluate the validity and reliability of the research study, as well as identify and describe ethical issues identified in the study. This critical analysis will be conducted in the context of research terminologies as learned during the course period.

Advancing the Knowledge Base

The general objective of the study was toinvestigate the impact ofdivorce on the well-being and psychological adjustment of adolescents. The specific objectives were:

  1. To estimate the effect that divorce had on the psychological well-being and adjustment of an adolescent;
  2. To explore the gender by divorce interaction-effect on thepsychological well-being and adjustment of an adolescent;
  3. To investigate whether effects are affected by time, that is, does effect show a discrepancy subject to time since divorce, or age of divorce; and finally,
  4. To establish whether the psychological distress of the parents acted as a factor inparental divorce and indications of depression and anxiety in anadolescent.

Towards the meeting of these objectives, the study was able to advance the knowledge base towards this end. Accordingly, the research study was able to establish that adolescent more than any other populations were the most affected in terms of adjustment problems after a divorce. The study also found that some adolescents are negatively affected by divorce, with the female adolescents being more enduring to depression and anxiety in inference to instances of divorce relative to boys. Further, the study found that adolescent depression and anxiety was to a large extent an upshot of parental anxiety and depression as well as also parental divorce. Lastly, the study established that among the participating adolescents, distress symptoms were more prevalent among theadolescent population who had been subjected to parental distress and divorce.Therefore, the study established that parental divorce and distress had an impression on adolescent psychological well-being and adjustment. However, the effect varied based on gender, theage of divorce, and duration of divorce. Thus, the study contributed to the scientific knowledge base towards this end.

Contributions to Theories

The study was a valuable addition to the literature, and will form a rich source of empirical literature for studies in psychology. It could also inform many policy decisions that are aimed at safeguarding children from the negative psychology effects that the study has found parental divorce to have on adolescent children.

Regarding its theoretical contributory roles to the field of psychology, the research study has reinforced the theoretical foundations and conjectures underlying many psychological theories. One key psychological theory that relates to the study isAttachment Theorythat was conceived by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. The theory hypothesizes that parental attachment iscritical inshaping an individual’s behavior and personality throughout his lifetime (Holmes, 2006). The theory posits that the disruption of an individual’s’ attachment structure (for instance through aparental divorce) modifies and influences the behavior of children and their well-being throughout their life. The foundations of this theory are supportedby the findings of the present study byStorksen, Roysamb, Holmen, & Tambs(2006)that found that parental divorce had a negative consequence on the psychological well-beingand adjustment of an adolescent.

Another contribution to theory by the study is towards Erik Erikson’sTheory of PsychosocialDevelopment. The theory postulated a lifespan model of development that involved five stages of development. The theory maintained that a persons personality and behavior developed following a preprogrammed sequence, andthe personality builds upon each previous stage. The disruption or interference at any of the first five stages of the lifespan model of development results is an individual who is psychologically disturbed. Parents divorce is one of the factors which disturbs the psychological development of a person andas a resultnegatively affects the psychological well-being of the individual as established by Storksen, Roysamb, Holmen, & Tambs(2006). Also, the study also supported Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory that posits that individuals learn from their environment (Engler, 2008, pp. 234-235). For example, a child observes and then imitates the behavior of other children and adults around them.

Description and Evaluation of the Data Collection Procedures

The research employed a survey where questionnaires were administered. The target study population consisted of all students in Senior High School, as well as all students in Junior High Schoolaged between 13 to 19 years from the county of Nord-Trøndelag in Norway. The response rate was 88.1%. According to Monette, Sullivan, & DeJong (2013, p. 172),a response rate of more than 60% in a survey is acceptable. Therefore, the response rate of the study was well above the minimum response rate needed for validity and generalization of findings. The use of questionnaires allowed the study to have a high response rate. Given that the target respondents were more than 10,000 individuals, the use of questionnaire allowed for high response rate which would not have been possible if another data collection instrument was used. This is in synchronicity with findings by Sanderson (2009, p. 38) who stated that survey is the best data collection instrument in studies where there are many participants.Additionally, the use of questionnaires allowed for cost and time efficiency, which are benefits associated with the use of questionnaires (Sanderson, 2009, p. 38). Further, the data collected through the survey on the study Young-HUNT was bolstered by findings and data obtained from HUNT II. This ensured that the findings were more reliable and valid.

To measure the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and well being, various instruments were employed including the Subjective Well-Being (SWB) Scale, and Symptom Checklist-25 (SCL-25). According to Merson, Black, & Mills (2005, pp. 362-363), these constructs are very effective in the measurement and detection of symptoms of anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms disorders. Therefore, their usein the study add to the validity of its findings. Symptoms of depression and anxiety were measured using a Symptom Checklist. Responses were scored according to a scale that ranged from “not all” to “extremely”.On the other hand, The Subjective Well-being (SWB) scale was used to measure the participant’s perception and assessment of their well-being, and it involved the participants answering three questions that were categorized into a seven-point scale that ranged from “very satisfied” to “very dissatisfied.”Thus, the data collection procedures can be adjudged to have met scientific threshold.

Methodology

The study employed various research methods. The study employed a Descriptive Research Approach. According toThyer(2010, p. 120) Descriptive Research allows researchers to examine relationships among variables and helps in drawing causal inferences about how one variable predicts another. The study by Storksen, Roysamb, Holmen, & Tambs(2006)sought to establish the effects of divorce and parent distress on the well-being and psychological adjustment of adolescents.Therefore, the use of Descriptive Research Approach was most appropriate. Further, Descriptive Research Approach endeavors to answer the questions of “who, what, when, where, and how” aiming at describing a social phenomena when it is relatively new or needs to be described. As such, it was the most appropriate research approach to employ in the present study.In addition to describing the characteristics of individual variables, Descriptive Research also conducts analyses to assess whether there are any patterns of relationships among variables. This further shows the suitability of this research approach for the study by Storksen, Roysamb, Holmen, & Tambs(2006).

On the whole, the methodology, design, and sampling employed for the studywere the most suitable taking into consideration the external factors, the aims of the study as well as the research questions that the study was seeking to answer.

Validity and Reliability

Validity and reliability are critical elements in research design. While reliability refers to the constancy and dependability of results obtained in a study, validity refers to the degree to which a data collection instrument accurately measures the target it was designed to measure(Monette, Sullivan, & DeJong, 2013).

In the case of the study by Storksen, Roysamb, Holmen, & Tambs(2006), the study can be adjudged to have high levels of validity and reliability. The questionnaire and the construct used in the measurement and collection of data in the study were both reliable and valid and therefore researchers can have confidence in the data collected with the instruments. The instruments were able to measure what they were meant to measure. To measure the symptoms of anxiety and depression, the study employed the use of the Subjective Well-being (SWB) scale, and Symptom Checklist-25 (SCL-25). According to Merson, Black, & Mills (2005, pp. 362-363),these constructs are very effective in the measurement and detection of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and somatic symptom disorder among other mental disorders. Therefore, their employment in the study ensured that the study had high levels of validity. The questionnaires also had a response rate with the population perceived to follow a normal curve.This ensures that under the same conditions, other researchers can generate the same findings.

Ethics

The study took into consideration issues of ethics while conducting the research.First, it ensured that the identities of the participating respondents were hidden ensuring their anonymity and maintained high levels of confidentiality. The researcherssecured the participantsanonymity by encrypting the ID codes of their national identification numbers.The research study also required informed consent from to the parents or guardians of study participants who were below the age of 16 years. According toGrinnell & Unrau (2011), informed consent forms from parents are a requirement mandatory in the Code of Ethics of most countries and states when dealing with minors in research. Therefore, the study by(Storksen, Roysamb, Holmen, & Tambs(2006) took into consideration all ethical considerations when conducting the research study.

Overall Scientific Merit of the Study

In general, the research study adopted the most practical and effective research approach. It identified a gap in the research and a problem that needed to be addressed. Towards this, it came up with research objective, whose achievement would fill the identified gap in the literature and address a societal problem. Therefore, it contributed new knowledge to the field of psychology which is a key goal for any research study. It also supported and advanced the hypothesis of psychological theories that have already been developed. It also employed the most suitable methodology given the facts and objectives of the study. Lastly, the data collection instruments employed, target population and sampling method used, as well as data analysis methods applied the study can be concluded to have met the hallmark of good research. Additionally, all the four researchers who conducted the research study are experts in the field of psychology with many published articles in peer-reviewed journal articles. This further boosts the credibility of the research study.

Conclusion

The study by (Storksen, Roysamb, Holmen, & Tambs, 2006)was able to achieve the study objectives that it had set forth. It employed the most effective research approach and ensured that the instruments employed during the collection of data were both reliable and valid.The study also took into due consideration all the prerequisite ethical concerns bearing in mind that the topic under investigation was sensitive, and most of theparticipants were minors. The study’s objectives aimed at investigating the effects of divorce and parental distress on adolescent’swell-being and their psychological adjustment. The study established that parental divorce and distress had an effect on the well-being and psychological adjustment of an adolescent. However, the effect varied based on thegender of respondent, theage of divorce, and duration of divorce. Thus, the study also contributed to the scientific knowledge base towards this end.The research study was a valuable addition to the literature, and will form a rich source of empirical literature for research in this field of research as well as to other researchers. It could also inform many policy decisions that are aimed at safeguarding children from the negative psychology effects that the study has found divorce to have on adolescent children. In brief, the study by (Storksen, Roysamb, Holmen, & Tambs(2006)by all measures is a well conducted and exceptional scientific paper.

 

References

Engler, B. (2008). Personality Theories (8 ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Grinnell, R. M., & Unrau, Y. A. (2011). Social Work Research and Evaluation: Foundations of Evidence-Based Practice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Holmes, J. (2006). John Bowlby and Attachment Theory. New York, NY: Routledge.

Merson, M. H., Black, R. E., & Mills, A. (2005). International Public Health: Diseases, Programs, Systems, and Policies. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Monette, D. R., Sullivan, T. J., & DeJong, C. R. (2013). Applied Social Research: A Tool for the Human Services (9 ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Sanderson, C. A. (2009). Social Psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Storksen, I., Roysamb, E., Holmen, T. L., & Tambs, K. (2006). Adolescent Adjustment and Well-Being: Effects of Parental Divorce.Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 47, 75-84.

Thyer, B. (2010). The Handbook of Social Work Research Methods (2 ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

 
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