Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Mixed Methods Research of Adult Family Care Home Residents and Informal Caregivers

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Mixed Methods Research of Adult Family Care Home Residents and Informal Caregivers

Article excerpt

Robbins (2001), a noted ethnographer, argued that "rigorous qualitative research can provide the 'why' behind statistically significant differences" (p. 27). Noted quantitative researchers, Crawley et al., (2000) stated that "qualitative research is needed to clarify and improve the knowledge of health care professionals of the demographic, socioeconomic, psychosocial, and medical factors that influence decisions regarding end-of-life care" (pp. 2522-2523).

In gerontology, although quantitative methods have been used most widely, numerous studies provide a rationale for the use of qualitative research in gerontology (Easton, 1999; Ekblad, Marttila, & Emilson, 2000; La Veist, 1996; Mays & Pope, 2000; Nuwaha, Faxelid, Neema, Erikson, & Hojer, 2000; Sofaer, 1999; Williams, 1994; Yin, 1999). Keith (1994) suggested that aging research, with its emphasis on meaning and perspective of research subjects, most clearly calls for qualitative methods. However, mixed qualitative and quantitative research methodologies can provide the best of their respective traditions, the naturalistic and positivist paradigms.

Mixing quantitative and qualitative methods can enhance a study that is suitable to both paradigms (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004) aptly state, "A tenet of mixed methods research is that researchers should mindfully create designs that effectively answer their research questions" (p. 20). In this research, a qualitative method was the central approach used to explore meanings associated with living in, or supporting someone who lives in, an adult family care home (AFCH). A quantitative approach was also employed to elaborate on these meanings and to assess the effects of living in an AFCH on both residents and their relatives (or informal caregivers).

Mixed Qualitative and Quantitative Methods

Research questions or hypotheses have historically dictated whether a qualitative or quantitative method would be best to answer the central questions of a study. For example, according to Morse and Field (1995), sound research requires two important components; using the most appropriate method at the appropriate time and applying the appropriate method, according to the type of research questions that are being explored.

Qualitative research has been increasingly used as a methodology due largely to its ability to generate rich descriptions of complex phenomena (Chenail & Maione, 1997; Crabtree & Miller, 1992; Golander, 1992; Kaufman, 1994). Qualitative research also helps to illuminate the experience and interpretation of events by research participants (Gubrium & Sankar, 1994). Sofaer (1999) argued that qualitative inquiry allows for "initial explorations to develop theories and to generate and even test hypotheses while moving towards explanations" (p. 1101). As Denzin and Lincoln (1994) put it, qualitative researchers "seek answers to questions that stress how social experience is created and given meaning. In contrast, the quantitative approach emphasizes the measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables, not processes" (p. 4).

In recent years mixed method approaches have arisen, due in part to recognizing some inherent limitations and strengths of both qualitative and quantitative approaches (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2003). Quantitative research has been regarded by some as the standard of "quality" research (Ayer, 1959; Maxwell & Delaney, 2004; Schrag, 1992). Quantitative purists have argued that "social observations should be treated as entities in much the same way that physical sciences treat physical phenomenon" (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004, p. 14). A number of limitations of the quantitative paradigm have been acknowledged, primarily centering on the awareness that the researcher cannot be assumed to be separate from the object of observation (Creswell, Plano-Clark, Gutman, & Hanson, 2003; Miles & Huberman, 1994). …

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