Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

A Content Analysis of Quantitative Research in Journal of Marital and Family Therapy: A 10-Year Review

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

A Content Analysis of Quantitative Research in Journal of Marital and Family Therapy: A 10-Year Review

Article excerpt

In the field of marriage and family therapy (MFT), the role of research has greatly evolved over the past several decades. Competing with other mental health fields, many believe that the field should continue to provide evidence that supports the effectiveness of MFT interventions in improving the clients' well-being (Hawley, Bailey, & Pennick, 2000). Additionally, Hawley and his colleagues state that, "research can strengthen the field by legitimizing [marriage and] family therapy as an approach to other mental health disciplines and third-party payers and by helping improve services to our consumers, the clients" (p. 9).

The evolution of MFT has been influenced by the use of different qualitative and/or quantitative research methods and procedures (Køppe & Dammeyer, 2014). With the advancement of technology, statistical analyses have become easier to complete and have become more sophisticated over time (Køppe & Dammeyer, 2014). In particular, in recent years, technology has advanced more quickly than ever before, expanding the possibilities of ways quantitative research data may be analyzed. When examining the field of MFT over the past 10 years, how the trends in quantitative research methods and statistical analyses are reflected in the top journals of the field has not been investigated. In this study, the authors conducted a content analysis to examine these trends in a leading journal of MFT, the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (JMFT).


The Research-Practice Gap

According to Sprenkle and Piercy (2005), "Over the course of its history, the field of MFT has had an ambivalent relationship with research" (p. 3). While the founding of MFT was built on early family therapy pioneers, or "researchers," who examined the interactional patterns of problem families, the field has maintained only a relatively small empirical research tradition compared to its clinical component more than 70 years later (Sprenkle & Piercy, 2005). One reason that may explain this discrepancy is that a master's degree was established since 1970 to be the minimal degree required to enter into the field (Sprenkle & Piercy, 2005). Additionally, many master's programs do not include a rigorous research curriculum in their training (Crane, Wampler, Sprenkle, Sandberg, & Hovestadt, 2002; Hawley & Gonzalez, 2005; Sprenkle & Piercy, 2005). With that, it is possible that many master's level therapists may feel that research is irrelevant to their clinical work and thus may not feel the need to produce research (Ko^suti^c, Sanderson, & Anderson, 2012; Owenz & Hall, 2011).

Although the field of MFT has grown over the last several decades, a research-practice gap is still present (Hawley & Gonzalez, 2005; Owenz & Hall, 2011; Sprenkle & Piercy, 2005). Based on a qualitative study by Owenz and Hall, a number of barriers have posed as difficulties in bridging the gap:

One common stereotype in the literature is that master's level students are interested in only becoming practitioners (Crane et al., 2002; Gelso, 2006). When program decisions about student interests are based on this stereotype, students may not receive the integrated research-practice training they desire or need, which is a missed opportunity for the students, their programs, and their fields in general. Results from the present study indicate that some master's students are interested in research, others are ambivalent about it, and some were motivated to apply to doctoral programs.(p. 29)

With varying degrees of interest in research, it is important to support these interests, especially encouraging those who express a desire in conducting research.

Major Trends in MFT Research

Sprenkle and Piercy (2005) identified five major trends in the history of MFT research. The first trend arose during the founding of the field with "soft" research conducted by prominent family therapy pioneers, such as Gregory Bateson, Murray Bowen, Don Jackson, and Jay Haley (Sprenkle & Piercy, 2005). …

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