Maternal Depression and Child Development


For my final research proposal, I selected the topic of childbearing depression and childhood aggression. This topic was of importance to me, as it remains underdiagnosed and undertreated, this threatening the quality of life of the mother, the infant, and in extension the people around them. However, a greater focus on the same can shed light on how childbearing depression and childhood aggression can negatively influence the lives of the affected parties, consequently providing for a way through which one can avoid the same and hence have a more positive life experience. The articles explored here indicated that maternal depression is bound to lead to stressful life events such as child aggression at both child and adult stage for the child, birth difficulties for the mother, socioeconomic stressors, and other negative consequences to family members. In light of these, it is therefore important to explore this topic for the benefit of the mother, the child, family and in extension the entire community.

Research question: The effect of maternal depression and how this affects the development of the child.

The hypothesis for the study: maternal depression or childbearing depression negatively affect the development of the child, influencing negative children behaviors, negative attributes such as childhood aggression, body system dysfunction, and disruption of individual, family and community interactions.

Qualitative study

Qualitative research is the scientific method of data collection through observation, a method used to collect non-numerical data. Sandelowski (2010) describes that qualitative research methods are preferred as they give voice to the respondents, not only allowing for an interactive session between the respondents and the interviewer, but also reveals true selves of those involved. Although there are various forms, the interview is identified as the main form of data collection in qualitative research. In qualitative interviews, questions are structured which the respondent responds to, providing the information required by the interviewer. People believe that qualitative research, which is influenced by the opinion of the interview, can distort the data, but I believe the ability of the interview to incorporate personal emotions in the study best reflects the characteristics of the phenomenon under investigation and the respondents. Qualitative research is the best means of data collection in my research, as I will rely on the observable characteristics of the mother, and other participants in the study to conclude. Moreover, I will also utilize questionnaires to understand the emotions and selves of the respondents.

Observational study design

Observational study design involves the direct observation of the subjects or participants of the study directly in their natural setting. Unlike experimental studies, the exposure being measured or studied in the observational studies is not assigned by the researcher but is induced by the environment. In these types of studies, the subjects are classified depending on the presence or absence of the exposure but not randomly selected. In his article, Freedman (2011) discusses the Neyman-Holland Rubin model use in observational studies, where for example, the initial group used in the experiment have a similar problem, one group subjected to the treatment, the other not treated, while the other represents the healthy people. This stratification allows for a close comparison of the observable attributes of the study group.

This research design applies to my study, where three groups can be categorized. Two of the groups would comprise of maternal mothers suffering from depression, with one group subjected to treatment while the other not given medication. The third group would consist of healthy maternal mothers with no history of depression. Characteristics of the life of the children, the mothers, and those close to them would be observed over a period and conclusions made based on their observable characteristics.

Posttest-only control group experimental study

The Posttest-only control group preliminary study is a form of true experimental design that involves random allocation of test units to experimental groups and control groups. According to Frey (2018), the groups involved in the study have a common baseline with one or two groups receiving the treatment while another sample does not and acts as the control group. After the treatment or intervention has been administered, data sets are recorded for the samples basing this on cognitive, behavioral, or psychological assessment, with the goal of making causal inferences. In this way, the primary aim of this form of study is to determine whether a difference in the groups arises as a result of the intervention administered. However, specific considerations have to be met to infer causality, these including the elimination of alternative causes and explanations that may have caused the effect (Frey, 2018). Covariation of the proposed cause and effect is necessary, this also complemented by the condition that the intervention or treatment must be made before any differences between the groups can be observed.

The Posttest-only control group can be applied in my study in that different groups of mothers will be used, one suffering from maternal depression and a control group comprising of healthy mothers. These would then be subjected to similar lifestyle including their diet and environment together with their children, the depressed mothers continually exposed to factors inducing stress and the healthy ones strictly observed to maintain their health. Within specified intervals, the psychological, emotional, and behavioral characteristics of the children would be observed and recorded, these then later analyzed at the end of the study period. A prevailing paradigm in this theory claim that samples subjected to similar conditions, and as I concur with this, I will have many samples to analyze, thus reducing the margin of error.

Grounded theory

In their article, Charmaz and Henwood discuss the grounded theory methods of qualitative analysis, describing their evolution over the last sixty years and offering a guide on their utilization in qualitative research. The authors explain that the grounded theory comprises of systematic inductive, iterative, comparative, and interactive approach in which theorists integrate data by making systematic comparisons through inquiry. Properties and characteristics of the elements are noted and these combined with the researcher’s assumptions of the phenomenon under study to create meanings of the research findings. A central aspect of this method involves simultaneous data collection of groups, this combined with continued analysis allowing the researcher to identify emerging trends and thus account for them (Charmaz. & Henwood, 2017). Studies following the grounded theory begin with open-ended research questions that are expounded by the researcher following their ideas developed once in the field.

Grounded theory research design can be applied in my research, as it is also based on open-ended questionnaires meaning to identify how childhood depression affects various individuals and in different ways. The two-phase qualitative coding of the data that provides for analytical treatment from the start is ideal for my study topic, and will allow the grouping of data in separate groups and subjecting them to varying conditions from which a pattern is obtained based on the theoretical categories’ reactions (Charmaz. & Henwood, 2017). Just as in the grounded theory research method, I will be required to make some assumptions in this study will act as a guide in the identification of the relationships of the categories.

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Explanatory research

Explanatory research is the initial research conducted on a theoretical or hypothetical idea, focusing on a concept developed by the researcher or an issue they have observed which has not been studied before in depth. According to Biesta (2010), explanatory research aims to provide the groundwork for more extensive study on an issue, as it connects different ideas to understand the phenomenon or aspect noted by the researcher. Because the research is focused on previously unexplored areas, the researcher is expected to be flexible to adapt to new data collected which provide insight into the case under investigation.

The explanatory research method would be ideal for my study, as I aim to explore an area which has not been intensely studied by other scholars. It is through my observation that I noted the association between maternal depression and instances of child aggression. Therefore, I would effectively employ this research design to allow the people to have a better understand the correlation, and consequently lay a foundation from which more elaborate and extensive research can be conducted. The prevailing worldview view here is that aggression is genetically inherited or learned behavior, but as I am unsure of this claim, I aim to prove the opposite through the explanatory research method, as the process will not be perceived to be providing a definitive conclusion.

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  1. Biesta, G. (2010). Pragmatism and the philosophical foundations of mixed methods research. Sage handbook of mixed methods in social and behavioral research2, 95-118.
  2. Charmaz, K. & Henwood, K. (2017). Grounded theory methods for qualitative psychology. In Willig, C., & Rogers, W. The SAGE Handbook of qualitative research in psychology (pp. 238-256). 55 City Road, London: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781526405555.
  3. Freedman, D. (2011). Statistical models for causation: what inferential leverage do they provide?. In Vogt, W. P. (Ed.) (Ed.), SAGE quantitative research methods (pp. 692-713). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9780857028228.
  4. Frey, B. (2018). The SAGE encyclopedia of educational research, measurement, and evaluation (Vols. 1-4). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781506326139.
  5. Sandelowski, M. (2010). Reembodying qualitative inquiry. In Atkinson, P. (Ed.), & Delamont, S. (Ed.) (Eds.), SAGE qualitative research methods (pp. 105-115). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9780857028211.
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