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Research Methods in Prenatal Development Studies Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Jul 16th, 2020

The purpose of the study is to evaluate research methods in two articles by Bouchard (2011) and O’Connor, Monk, and Fitelson (2014) devoted to the investigation of prenatal development. The analysis of research constituents will help to identify the correlation between research instruments, internal and external influences, ethical considerations, and overall research outcomes.

Research Design

Bouchard (2011) employed the experimental research design for the investigation interrelations between the psychosocial variables and prenatal attachment. In this case, the psychosocial variables included neuroticism, quality of union with partners, and attachment to family members (Bouchard, 2011). The researcher assesses the given indicators in the sample of 161 adult couples in the third trimester of pregnancy to find what influence they have on the quality of the current attachment to the unborn child. The experimental study allowed Bouchard (2011) to analyze the effect of alternative, independent variables in distinct participants on the dependent variable of prenatal attachment.

In their study, O’Connor and colleagues (2014) investigate the relationships between the variables of maternal mood and developmental outcomes in infants. The authors obtained information about the multiple study participants from the databases. They didn’t have the opportunity to alter the independent variables to evaluate the cause-and-effect interrelations between maternal anxiety, depression, and the adverse outcomes in children. It means that the researchers applied correlation design.

Research Methods

The sampling technique in the study by Bouchard (2011) is convenience sampling. The data collection tools include the different scales for assessing paternal and maternal attachment indicators to the fetus. Other instruments included neuroticism subscales, the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, Adult Attachment Scale, and the London Measure of Unplanned Pregnancy (Bouchard, 2011). The instruments were applied to accumulate the global scores and correlate them with the associated prenatal attachment.

O’Connor and colleagues (2014) collected data from large databases such as PubMed, Cochrane Library, etc. The data analysis tool implemented in the research is the selective literature review. The authors included various quantitative papers in their review to evaluate prenatal maternal mood’s relevance to the psychological, cognitive, and biological development of infants. O’Connor and colleagues (2014) introduce the theoretical and historical background of the problem and focus on empirical evidence linking the study variables.

Summary

Bouchard (2011) found that both paternal and maternal quality of prenatal attachment is affected by their previous experiences and emotional states but in a different way. A high level of partners’ union quality was correlated with women’s strong prenatal attachment only when the participants were not characterized by a high level of attachment to their caregivers, and their neuroticism level was low. On the contrary, a high level of union quality positively affected males’ prenatal attachment when the participants had a strong psychological attachment to their parents (Bouchard, 2011). The obtained results allowed the researcher to identify the cause-and-effect relationships between the variables, and find out how the unique protective psychological mechanisms affect the level of prenatal attachment.

The literature review conducted by O’Connor and colleagues (2014) revealed a direct link between the infants’ exposure to prenatal maternal distress, depression, anxiety, and the adverse psychological and biological, developmental outcomes. It was observed that the exposure to the prenatal distress might affect the fetus in the “dose-response patterns,” and it means that the prenatal development’s adverse impacts may be clinically detected (O’Connor, Monk, & Fitelson, 2014).

The observations made by the authors have significant medical implications – the researchers suggest that effective prenatal intervention is possible for both mothers and children. The ability to provide effective psychological and physiological interventions may help the families to reduce the potential emotional and financial burden associated with the disorders developed due to the prenatal distress exposure.

Strengths and Limitations

The major strength of the experimental study conducted by Bouchard (2011) is the opportunity to evaluate the cause-and-effect relationship between the variables. According to the researcher, the inconsistency in the previous research findings related to the subject of prenatal attachment was associated with the failure to examine the interrelations between the predictors of attachment (Bouchard, 2001). The researcher fulfilled the gap identified in the literature review by evaluating the psychosocial variables in couples. However, the sample included merely first-time parents to eliminate the interference of previous pregnancy experiences. But the inclusion of participants from a broader demographic background may increase the representativeness of the research data.

The selective review of literature conducted by O’Connor and others (2014) provides a structured, consistent, and systematic evaluation of the principal findings in the field of prenatal development and the effects of exposure to prenatal distress. The study demonstrates that the further investigation of the subject may help to elaborate an efficient prenatal intervention of potential disorders and to prevent the adverse developmental outcomes through education of patients. Although the qualitative studies are usually associated with a high potential of data biasing and subjectivity, the researchers’ professional skills helped to minimize the subjectivity. They helped to maintain the scientific rigor throughout the study.

Evaluation of Internal and External Factors

The major internal factor influencing both of the studies is the researchers’ ability to track the causal relations between the introduced concepts, the program of the study, and the research outcomes (Bleijenbergh, Korzilius, & Verschuren, 2011). The internal structure of the articles should be consistent and logical. Otherwise, the research results will lack validity. The studies conducted by Bouchard (2011) and O’Connor and colleagues (2014) are associated with a high level of consistency because their outcomes are logically interrelated with the selected research methodology.

The external factors influencing the outcomes in the qualitative study include the consistency of conducted analysis with the theories in the psychological discourse. O’Connor and colleagues (2014) managed to increase the external validity of the results by considering multiple perspectives in the text and rationalization of distinct points of view. The external validity of the quantitative study conducted by Bouchard (2011) primarily depends on the sample size and sampling technique. However, the researcher used the appropriate sample selection as it allowed her to answer the formulated questions, and a large sample size guarantees that the data may be generalized.

Ethical Issues

The assessment of prenatal developmental abnormalities has many ethical implications. The prenatal diagnosis usually creates significant distress in pregnant women and their families (Zizzo et al., 2013). Therefore, the data accumulated in prenatal assessment is associated with a high level of sample participants’ vulnerability, and it requires careful use of the obtained information in research.

Bouchard (2011) assessed the psychological indicators of the study participants, and she had to follow the principles of informed consent and confidentiality. The disclosure of data obtained through examination of psychosocial variables may have a significant impact on the social and psychological identity of the participants. Therefore, by following the principle of confidentiality, Bouchard (2011) reduced the opportunity of damaging the participants’ well-being.

Since O’Connor and colleagues (2014) implemented the literature review method, their major ethical consideration was compliance with the APA standards of referencing and formatting the retrieved information. There was no direct contact with the study participants so that the authors couldn’t go against the ethical principles of prenatal assessment.

References

Bleijenbergh, I., Korzilius, H., & Verschuren, P. (2011). . Quality and Quantity, 45(1), 145-156. Web.

Bouchard, G. (2011). The role of psychosocial variables in prenatal attachment: An examination of moderational effects. Journal of Reproductive & Infant Psychology, 29(3), 197–207. Web.

O’Connor, T. G., Monk, C., & Fitelson, E. M. (2014). Practitioner review: Maternal mood in pregnancy and child development – implications for child psychology and psychiatry. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 55(2), 99–111. Web.

Zizzo, N., Di Pietro, N., Green, C., Reynolds, J., Bell, E., & Racine, E. (2013). Comments and reflections on ethics in screening for biomarkers of prenatal alcohol exposure. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 37(9), 1451-1455. Web.

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