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This paper examined the quantitative research method in the article by Fisher, Kim, Pears and Yoerger (2013) titled “Early School Engagement in Late Elementary Outcomes for Maltreated Children in Foster Care.” In theory, the quantitative methodology is geared towards determining the relationships between the dependent variables and the independent variables. In determining the relationships, the quantitative method utilizes a systematic framework characterized by distinct philosophical perspectives, sampling procedures, and data collection approaches. Thus, the examination of the article by Fisher et al (2013) purposed to probe the identifiable dimensions of the quantitative methodology utilized in the research. The identifiable dimensions probed included the philosophical perspectives and goals of the quantitative method, the procedures used to sample the participants, the data collection processes, and the elements of the internal and external validity of the quantitative method used in the research article.
Overview of the Quantitative Method
The primary purpose of the quantitative research method is to establish an objective relationship between two variables. The two variables are the dependent and the independent variables. Independent variable is the variable that is manipulated during the research while the dependent variable is the outcome caused by the adjustment of the independent variable. Thus, the quantitative research method purposes to ascertain how the independent variable is responsible for the outcomes of the dependent variable. In determining the variable relationships, quantitative research operates with specific goals which include but not limited to ascertaining the causality and establishing the magnitude of the association between the variables under study.
The distinct goals of the quantitative research method account for the four primary research approaches employed in a quantitative study. The four primary quantitative approaches include the experimental design, the descriptive design, the correlational design and the quasi-experiment design (Creswell, 2013). The goal of the experimental design is to test causality by manipulating the independent variable while the goal of the descriptive research design is to describe the observed association between the variables. On the other hand, the correlational design strives to establish the depth and breadth of the observed relationship between the variables while the quasi-experiment design is interested in establishing causality but with minimal manipulation of the independent variable. Overall, the different quantitative designs establish the relationship between the variables through either manipulation or non-manipulation of the variables.
The quantitative research method commonly adopts the positivist philosophy. Positivism in research philosophy is preoccupied with the creation of knowledge through empirical observations (Chong, 2006). Empiricism in positivism is centered on the collection of data and the interpretation of the collected data through statistical analyses. In positivism, the researcher is tasked with collecting and interpreting the quantifiable observations within a population. The positivist philosophy is closely aligned with the principles of scientific determinism whereby every relationship in nature is characterized by the cause and effect association (Lindsey, 2016). Thus, all the quantitative research design including the experimental and the descriptive designs are preoccupied with finding the quantifiable variables to explain the underlying cause and effect relationships.
The article by Fisher et al (2013) utilized the correlational research design. The research in the article sought to establish a correlation between the maltreated foster children and the levels of school engagement among the children. In this context, the maltreated children in foster care assumed the role of the independent variable while the level of school engagement among the children was the dependent variables. In establishing the relationship between the variables, the researchers did not manipulate the independent variable. Rather, the researchers looked at the cause and effect association between the variables by quantifying the variables and utilizing statistical analysis to interpret the relationships in the quantified data.
Overall Strengths and Limitations
Regarding the strengths, quantitative research method is relatively simple to operationalize. Research designs including the experimental and the descriptive designs involve the collection and subsequent analysis of the quantifiable data; hence, the approaches of the quantitative method are easy and straightforward to implement (Lindsey, 2016). Besides the simplicity, the quantitative method also promotes precision and consistency. The reliance on the quantifiable attributes of the variables to establish or describe the cause and effect relationship promotes reliability and validity of the findings.
On the contrary, the quantitative method is undermined by limitations including but not limited to high resource intensiveness during data collection and the difficulty in understanding the context of the research. Primary data collection processes are resource intensive regarding financial costs and personnel; hence, making the quantitative method an expensive process (Lawal, 2009). Also, the quantitative method fails to take into consideration the social, political and economic factors that influence the cause and effect relationships; thus, quantitative methods may not explain complex contextual relationships between variables.
The research reported in the article by Fisher et al (2013) sampled 93 maltreated children in foster care and 54 non-maltreated children with no foster care experiences (Fisher et al, 2013). Regarding the strengths of the sampling process, the maltreated children sampled were part of a population of children aged between 3 and 6 years enrolled in the Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care for Preschoolers program. All the children in the preschoolers’ program were representative of the maltreated population because they had been referred to the program through local child protection systems. Thus, the maltreated children in foster care were sampled with the help of the children’s caseworkers. The maltreated children sampled must have remained in foster care for at least three months before the sampling.
On the other hand, the non-maltreated children were recruited into the study through flyers. The fliers were availed at daycare centers, advertisements in the local newspaper, and posts in local supermarkets (Fisher et al, 2013). The non-maltreated children must have lived consistently with at least one biological parent since birth. Both the maltreated and the non-maltreated children sampled must have had school records data as revealed by their teachers. All the children whose teachers’ lacked their kindergarten and first-grade school records were dropped from the sample (Fisher et al, 2013). From a personal perspective, the sampling of the non-maltreated children should have utilized other awareness approaches besides the use of flyers. Probably, electronic versions of the flyers should have been circulated through social media platforms to reach a broad base of potential participants.
Ethics in the Sampling
The sampling process for both the maltreated children in foster care and the non-maltreated children in their biological homes utilized the ethical attribute of consent. Before the inclusion of the maltreated children in the sample, the research staff contacted the children’s caseworkers for informed consent (Fisher et al, 2013). As the legal guardians of the maltreated children, the case workers’ consent was necessary for every child to participate in the study. Thus, all maltreated children included in the study preceded the informed consent from their caseworkers. Regarding the case of the non-maltreated children, consent was obtained from the children’s biological parents (Fisher et al, 2013). Therefore, the sampling process was conducted in an ethical manner.
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Data Collection Process
The data collected for the study focused on the two variables of maltreated children in foster care and the levels of school engagement among the children. Regarding the variable of maltreatment or lack thereof, the researchers gathered data related to the average length of stay in foster care, the frequency of physical, emotional and supervisory neglect, and the incidence of sexual and physical abuse of the maltreated children in foster care (Fisher et al, 2013). The histories of maltreatment and durations of foster care placements were recorded in separate categories for the maltreated children and their non-maltreated peers. Regarding the strengths, the data collection process for the maltreatment variable was enhanced by the focus on holistic attributes of maltreatment encompassing the physical, emotional and supervisory maltreatment dimensions.
On the other hand, the data collection for the variable of school engagement focused on the dimensions of cognitive engagement, behavioral engagement, and effective engagement. The cognitive engagement was preoccupied with parameters of academic competence including but not limited to the children’s adherence to teachers’ instructions in class, the children’s capacities for independent study skills, and the children’s grades in various school subjects (Fisher et al, 2013). The behavioral engagement focused on data related to the children’s beliefs on substance abuse and the children’s demonstration of antisocial behavior. Lastly, the dimension of affective engagement was quantified based on the emotional parameters like the children’s attitudes towards their teachers and peers in the classroom environment. Regarding the strengths, the collection of data on the three dimensions of school engagements focused on the right attributes. In particular, the dimensions of academic and affective engagement focused on relevant parameters including the children’s attitudes and the children’s levels of dependence during classroom assignments.
Ethics in the Data Collection
The data collection process primarily utilized the efforts of the parents and teachers and mostly excluded the children. The exclusion of the children during the collection of the data was necessary since children between three and six years would not fully comprehend the ethical implications of the study (Fisher et al, 2013). Thus, teachers and parents were used as to minimize the negative ethical effects of the study on the children. Also, the data collection process utilized standardized questionnaires as to minimize biases. The standardized questionnaire utilized included the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Seattle Personality Questionnaire.
Despite the strengths acknowledged above, the data collection process suffered from weaknesses including the frequent use of teachers and parents to provide responses on behalf of the children. It is possible that the responses from the teachers and the parents could not reflect the true feelings and thoughts of the maltreated and the non-maltreated children; hence, undermining the reliability of the findings. In this context, it would be recommendable to exclude the central role of the teachers and the parents. Rather, the children should provide most of the responses, with parents and teachers providing supplementary responses to the quantified variables.
Internal and External Validity in the Quantitative Method
In quantitative research methodology, validity refers to the extent to which the designs utilized in a research meet the objectives of the study (Maluccio, 2011). Regarding the article under examination, the correlational research design was intended to measure the relationship between the maltreatment of children and the levels of school engagement in the affective, cognitive and behavioral dimensions. Based on the evaluation of the sampling and the data collection procedures, it is apparent that the method utilized in the paper measured what was intended to measure; hence, satisfying the element of validity in quantitative methodology.
In the context of external validity, the results from the study are highly generalizable to a normal population. The high external validity of the research method was enhanced by the use of a population exclusively comprising of children in foster care to sample the maltreated children group (Fisher et al, 2013). On the other hand, the internal validity was enhanced by the use of standardized questionnaires to collect the responses on the variables of the study. The use of the questionnaires limited biases in the responses; hence, enhancing the accuracy of the results.
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Overall evaluation of the Article
The research process in the article was successful in implementing the quantitative research process. The research prioritized the generation of knowledge through the use of empirical tests to describe the relationship between the maltreatment of children in foster care and the levels of school engagement among the children. The sampling process was not only conducted in an ethical manner, but the sampling also utilized the appropriate population that enhanced the representativeness of the sample. Also, the data collection process utilized the attributes of maltreatment and school engagement to give the true empirical picture of the cause and effect relationship between the underlying variables. Thus, the research in the article posted a satisfactory level in using the quantitative method to answer the research questions.
In conclusion, the quantitative research method is an effective process of knowledge generation. The philosophy of positivism in quantitative method relies on empirical approaches to testing the variables; hence, enhancing the objectivity of the findings. The empirical designs of the quantitative method were evidenced by the systematic and ethically-sound approaches employed in the sampling procedures and the data collection stages of the research. The articulate use of empirical approaches in data collection and sampling process helped strengthen the internal and external validities of the research.
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