Survey Methodology in Life-span Human Development Research
James S. Jackson and Toni C. Antonucci
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
The survey research method is a commonly used social science data collection technique. It has recently received expanded application in research on life-span human development, particularly in the area of adult development and aging ( Campbell, Abolafia, & Maddox, 1985; Cutler, 1979; Markides, Liang, & Jackson, 1990). The purpose of this chapter is to explore conceptual and methodological issues in the application of survey research methods to the study of life-span human development.
Other types of research methods, for example, experimental designs ( Labouvie, 1980), ethnoscience techniques ( Axinn, Fricke, & Thornton, 1991; Fry, 1985; Fry & Keith, 1980), and clinical procedures ( Gatz, 1980), can be used to study intra-individual change. Some of these approaches may be better suited to ipsative studies of development and change than the sample survey ( Alwin, 1988; Eichorn, Clausen, Haan, Houzik, & Mussen, Eichorn, 1981). If, however, the concern is with the effects of normative events, and description and explanation of environmental and biological normative influences, then large, well-selected probability samples, systematically designed research protocols, and carefully collected, coded, and analyzed quantitative data are needed. These are the components and results of a well-designed, well-conducted sample survey study ( Schuman & Kalton, 1985).
This chapter highlights those factors critical to an examination of the survey method in life-span development research ( Martin, 1983). Regardless of its quality, the basic survey process is susceptible to several potential