Problem Formation

Response to Discussion Post #1 Response post 2 classmates

Difference Between Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Studies

Cross-sectional studies are not longterm. Instead, they examine the same group of people at a singular point in time (Rubin, 2017). For example, a university surveying students about sexual abuse on campus. Conversely, longitudinal studies examine people (or data) at multiple times (Rubin, 2017). Rather than a one-time event, longitudinal studies examine data from various times to understand the processes that are occurring over time (Radey, 2020, slides 12-13). Longitudinal studies include trends, cohorts, and panels (Radey, 2020, slides 12-13). Each study type collects data a bit differently.

Trend studies are used to analyze the general population (Rubin, 2017). These studies compare data from different respondents in a specific age group at different points in time (Rubin, 2017). Expanding on the same example used for cross-sectional studies, in a trend study, the university gives its students the same survey at different points in time. This could be 2010, 2012, 2014.. or no pattern at all. Cohort studies examine different individuals at different points in time who have common characteristics (Radey, 2020). Again, using the college sexual abuse survey example, in a cohort study, the university would survey a group of freshmen in 2010, then a group of seniors in 2014. The subjects in this study are all in the same graduating class, but the exact same students may not be included. The same age group is being surveyed, but not the exact same people. Lastly, panel studies examine the same people at different points in time (Radey, 2020). This can offer more precise insight but it can be costly because researchers have to make sure they find each participant from the original examination (Radey, 2020). In the above example, the university would survey the exact same group of students in 2010, then track down the same students again for a later examination. Perhaps some dropped out of school, graduated early, are studying abroad, or transferred.

Ecological Fallacy

An ecological fallacy is a generalization about an entire group of people based on data from a smaller group of them. Making conclusions “without taking into account the fact that group level data do not necessarily reflect individual level data” is an ecological fallacy (Rubin, 2017, p. 160). In my opinion, ecological fallacies are often to blame for prejudices. People have a negative experience with a small group of people with something in common (race, gender, occupation, economic class) and make a generalization about everyone that shares that trait. For instance, the aunt of a young white woman believing the young woman’s fiance physically abuses her because she worked with other interracial couples that had this issue (real-life example). Data from a small group of interracial couples do not provide the conclusion that every single interracial relationship includes physical violence.

Military Family Reintegration to Civilian Life

Exploratory research: What is life like for service members reintegrating into civilian life?

Descriptive research: What percentage of veterans are using the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) mental health services?

Exploratory research: What contributes to veterans struggling with mental health issues?

Trend study: What percentage of 16-year-old girls were pregnant in 2000? What percentage of 16-year-old girls were pregnant in 2010?

Cohort study: What do 16-year-old girls in 2000 think about using birth control pills? What do 26-year-old girls in 2010 think about using birth control pills?

Panel study: What did 100 16-year-old girls think about using condoms to prevent pregnancy in 2000? What did those same 100 young women, now 26 years old, think about using condoms in 2010?


Radey, M. (2020). Chapter 7: Problem formation. [Powerpoint slides].

Rubin, A. & Babbie, E. (2017). Research methods for social work (9th ed). Independence, KY: Cengage.

Discussion Response #2

1.) What is the difference between a cross-sectional study and a longitudinal study?

When Discussing a cross-sectional study, researchers are only concerned with one point in time at which the research is taking place. Analysis can be measured in three different contexts: exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory.

In contrast, longitudinal studies are studies conducted over time to explain or collect research for a particular purpose. Longitudinal studies can be separated into three different categorical studies: Trend, Cohort, and Panel.

In a trend study, we can use age to study how the stances of different issues have changed based on generation. Trend studies did not take opinions from the same participant twice. In a cohort study, we consider our variable to be the same group/generation over time, not precisely the same individuals, but the same age. And finally, panel studies are used to measure the same participants at different times in the lifespan.

Longitudinal studies are from Broad to specific. As we can see, we start from a pool of participants, and we can narrow research and findings based on particular participants.

2.) Explain the ‘ecological fallacy’ in your own words.

Ecological fallacies are statements or predictions made about specific groups that have no statistical or evidence-based backup to the accusation. These facts are often made without considering data and are normal false.

3.) Consider a problem in social work in which you have a particular interest (such a child abuse, mental illness, gerontology, and so on). Formulate three different research questions about that problem, each of which would be important for the field to answer. Formulate each question to deal with a different research purpose: one for exploration, one for description, and one for explanation.

For these Questions, I will Be using the topic of Child Abuse.

Exploration- What are the main contributors to relationships within a dynamic family that may lead to future child abuse and neglect? What is the role of relationships on child abuse and neglect?

Description- What are the behavioral characteristic seen in children experiencing child abuse and maltreatment in the home.

Explanation- Does child abuse affect family relationships and dynamics within the home? What is the impact of relationships on social-emotional cognition?

4.) Select a different research topic than above. Then, considering that research topic, formulate three different research questions: one in which you would conduct a trend study, one in which you would conduct a cohort study and one in which you would conduct a panel study.

The topic of Study: School Bullying

Trend study- Asking older and younger generations on the similarities and differences of bullying in their age. Such as if they see more verbal or more physical bullying.

As a student in eighth grade, do you see more physical bullying or verbal bullying in class?

Cohort study: What are the three most effective ways to identify school bullying taking place today.

Panel- How to have the attitudes of school bullying changed from the time of your childhood to what you perceive in the world today as bullying.

This could be asked to Baby Boomer children to see the change and perception of what bullying was in their day compared to what it looks like now.


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