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Chapter 4

PSYB32H3 Chapter 4: Research methods in the study of Abnormal Behavior

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Konstantine Zakzanis

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Chapter 4 Research methods in the study of Abnormal
4.1 Science and Scientific Methods
Science is the pursuit of systematized knowledge through observation.
The term comes from the Latin word 'scire' meaning to know, refers to both a method and to a goal
it is always important for scientific observation and explanations to be testable, meaning the are open to
systematic probes; and reliable
Testability and Replicability
A scientific approach requires first the propositions and ideas to be stated in a clear and precise way, which is then
being subjected to systematic probes and tests. While there are two criteria that the claims need to attain
Regardless of how plausible they may seem, must be testable in the pubic arena and subjected to disproof.
While each observation must be replicable, meaning it must occur under prescribed circumstances not once,
but repeatedly.
o If the event cannot be reproduced, then the scientists become wary of the legitimacy of the original
The role of theory
A theory, is a set of propositions meant to explain a class of phenomena. The primary goal of science is to advance
theories to account for data, often by proposing cause-effect relationships
A theory permits the generation of hypotheses, expectations about what should occur if a theory is true, and is
to be tested in research
While the generation of a theory is perhaps the most challenging part of the scientific enterprise
4.2 Case Study, Qualitative, and Epidemiological research methods
In the field of abnormal psychology, there is a large body of descriptive literature concerning the typical symptoms
of people who have been diagnosed as having particular disorders. While science demands more than description of
relationships, the cause of the relationships is what we ultimately wanted.
4.2.1 The case study
The most familiar and time honoured method of observing others is to study them one at a time and record detailed
information about them. Case study is to collect historical and biographical information on a single individual
While importantly, the kinds of information being collected depends on the paradigm the clinician adopted
Family history and background, medical history, educational background, jobs held, marital history, and
details concerning development, adjustment, personality, life course and current situation
However, the case studies from practising clinicians may lack the degree of control and objectivity of
research using other methods, but they have played an important role in the study of abnormal behavior providing detailed description
Since the case study is dealing with only one individual, there can include much more detail than is typically
induced with other research methods.
However, there are also drawbacks for using case studies, the validity of the information gathered in a case study is
sometimes questionable the case study as evidence
Case histories are specially useful when they negate as assumed universal relationship or law. Yet, the case study
fares less well as evidence in support of a particular theory or proposition, because it does not provide the means for
ruling out alternative hypothesis Generating hypotheses

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Case studies plays an unique and important role in the generation of hypotheses
Through the exposure to the life histories of a great number of clients, clinicians gain experience in
understanding and interpreting them
Eventually the clinicians may notice similarities of circumstances and outcomes and formulate important
hypotheses that could not have been uncovered in a more controlled investigation
o Theory-building case studies
o There must be an adequate theory being able to account for commonalities across case studies, as well
as the distinct and unique element of a particular case
While some cases might seem so unique that they are impossible to generalize to other individuals,
o These unique case studies are primarily informative in terms of the specific and unique manifestations
of a disorder
o when similar cases begin to surface, it may result in the author getting new insights into the nature of
the phenomenon being considered and point to necessary change in the theoretical understanding
Therefore, case studies, focusing on one individual are an excellent way of examining the behavior of a single
individual in great details and of generating hypotheses that can later be evaluated by controlled research The case study for psychotherapy training
Despite the limited scientific use because it may not reveal principals characteristics of people in general and is
unable to provide satisfactory evidence concerning cause-effect relationships
However, there is growing interest in case studies in recent years, primarily for psychotherapy training
It has been observed that there is increasing recognition that systematic case studies can play a vital role in
adding to the evidence base for psychotherapy and counselling policy, practice and training
This is because of the sophisticated methods of data collection and recording that enable the usefulness of
case studies for psychotherapy training
While there are usually multiple research methods used, with case studies as one method; the published case
study detailing the delivery of a new psychotherapy is likely to be more useful to a practitioner who wants to
learn the new intervention
4.2.2 The Rise of Qualitative Research
Qualitative research focus on the unique and rich experiences of a small group of people who are studied in depth,
like case studies.
It is subjected to some of the same criticism that apply to case study accounts
4.2.3 Epidemiological Research
Epidemiology is the study of the frequency and distribution of a disorder in a population
The data are gathered about the rates of a disorder and its possible corelated in large sample or population
This data can be used to give a general picture of a disorder, by knowing the following data is important for
planning health care facilities and services and for allocating provincial and federal grants for the study of the
o Prevalence, the proportion of a population that has the disorder at a given point or period of time
(usually lifetime)
o Incidence, the number of new cases of the disorder that occur in some period, usually a year
o Risk factors, conditions or variable that, if present, increase the likelihood of developing the disorder
The knowledge about risk factors can give clues to the causes of the disorders
The study of risk factors in epidemiological research relationships among variables
4.3 The Correlational Method
The great deal of research in psychopathology relies on the correlational method. This method stablishes whether
there is a relationship between or among two or more variables
Often employed in epidemiological research, as well as in other studies
This method is different from experimental studies because the variables collected are existing in nature, there
is no manipulation involved
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