Qualitative Research in Family Therapy: Publication Trends from 1980 to 1999

By Faulkner, Rhonda A.; Klock, Kathryn et al. | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, January 2002 | Go to article overview

Qualitative Research in Family Therapy: Publication Trends from 1980 to 1999


Faulkner, Rhonda A., Klock, Kathryn, Gale, Jerry E., Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


In the early 1990s, scholars from a variety of disciplines encouraged greater inclusion of qualitative research methodology in the mental health field. Moon, Dillon, and Sprenkle (1990) hoped their paper "Family therapy and qualitative research" would serve as a stimulus for further development of qualitative research in the field of family therapy. Ten years later, entering the new millennium, has the field been influenced by, recommendations for an increase in use of qualitative methodology in family therapy? A content analysis was conducted on articles published in the marriage and family therapy literature from 1980 to 1999. Of the numerous articles examined in four journals, 131 articles were published using qualitative research methodology. Findings support the contention that qualitative research is increasing, but still accounts for a small number of research articles published in marriage and family therapy journals.

In the field of marriage and family therapy (MFT) there has been a growing trend toward publishing qualitative research (Hardy & Keller, 1991). In the early 1990s scholars in various disciplines called for an increase in qualitative methodology to address clinical research questions. In 1990 Ron Chenail introduced The Qualitative Report, a quarterly newsletter of qualitative writings. Other researchers such as Gale (1993), Hoshmond (1989), Kaye (1990), and Packer (1985), were also advocating the value of qualitative inquiry for clinicians. Moon, Dillon, and Sprenkle's (1990, p. 357) key article explored qualitative research in the field of family therapy and was written as a "stimulus for the development of qualitative research in the field of family therapy." At the onset of a new decade-and millennium-how has the field of family therapy responded to the recommendation of incorporating qualitative research methodology into the field?

Recently Gehart, Ratliff, and Lyle (2001) examined the methodological issues, including sampling procedures, data collection, and reliability/validity procedures of published qualitative articles over the last 10 years. This brief report examines the quantity, topic range, and methods of qualitative analysis over the last 20 years. The contents of four MFT journals were analyzed to identify trends in the use of qualitative research. The following research questions guided this investigation: (1) What are the qualitative research publication trends over the past 20 years?; (2) What qualitative methodologies are prevalent in MFr journals?; and (3) What substantive issues are being investigated?

METHODOLOGY

Procedures

Four of the top refereed MFr journals were selected for issue-by-issue content analysis, which involved an examination of every published article from 1980 to1999. These included: American Journal of Family Therapy, Contemporary Family Therapy (Contemporary Family Therapy was titled The International Journal of Family Therapy during the years 1980-1985), Family Process, and the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. These journals were selected based on results from a precision search of the "psycINFO" database using the keywords "qualitative" and "family therapy." A variety of other keywords were used in the initial search, but these did not reveal additional references. Although a number of journals were referenced in the initial search, the above journals were selected because the database search located a minimum of five qualitative publications in each of these journals.

Selection Criteria

Articles in which qualitative methodology or mixed methodological designs were employed and articulated were selected from the four journals for detailed analysis. Case vignettes, case studies, and case illustrations not explicitly grounded in empirical research were not included in the analysis. In the early 1990s several articles were published "about" qualitative research; however, these were not included in this analysis. …

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