Reflections on Qualitative Approaches, Especially Grounded Theory and Crawford, et al’s Women’s understanding of the effects of domestic abuse

Having studied qualitative methods in a previous course, grounded theory as Locke, et al (2010) describe it is familiar territory for me.  Before discovering asset-based community development (ABCD) and participatory action research (PAR), grounded theory was particularly intriguing because the research determined the theory, rather than the theory determining the research.  My familiarity with it is a little rusty so this review is helpful.  Additionally, I have never liked forcing round pegs into square holes, but I do love exploring and learning and this is ideal for that.  Grounded theory could work for my research question, “How are black teen girls’ and women’s unintentional propaganda within social media postings about cultural artifacts (e.g., clothing, music, fashion) effected by mass media that uses sexist themes and may be defined as propaganda of one form or another?” It may require a little more analysis than other methods I have considered in the past.  However; given that my aim is to understand the lived experiences of the participants, incorporating grounded theory into a PAR research study is not entirely illogical.  Both incorporate the voices of the participants, and both validate their experience.  Only PAR incorporates them and co-researchers.  In this case, the co-researchers, with their own experiences could contribute to the coding of information into meaningful units.

Crawford, et al (2009) utilize the transcripts of interviews with eight women using grounded theory methodology.  The authors isolated key questions from their literature review built around five key areas, the effects of domestic abuse, women’s response to domestic abuse, the factors that influence resilience, agency, power, and identity, the needs of women experiencing abuse, and the implications for service planning.  While all of these are important questions to a changed approach in how women are treated, the latter question is key to change at the bureaucratic level.

I admit that my bias is in favor of qualitative methodologies, with quantitative methods given hearing in certain cases when necessary, but in this case, I agree with the authors that a qualitative methodology is the most appropriate one to elicit nuanced and complex responses from the women involved and to engage them as “active agents constructing meaning from their own perspectives.” Also important was the authors insistence on the principles of feminist research that included a non-hierarchical relationship between researchers and participants, an interactive research process, and to further empower the women participants.

Normally there is much I would skim through in a research study to get to the heart of the matter in the discussion, which I will explore, but in this case, since grounded theory is being discussed, the data analysis is key.  Intriguingly the authors decided to code the information in the interviews through meaningful units, rather than line-by-line, to extract more personally valid information from the participants to analyze and codify those into themes.  These themes, collapsing and merging into higher levels of abstraction helped to develop a theory based on those participant’s reports.

Grounded theory allowed the authors to break down a series of interviews and analyze their statements and beliefs into results that illustrate vividly what these women experience via societal influence (unintentional propaganda in my view) in perpetuity as well as on a personal level.  While it is painful to hear these stories, it is also powerful to see it broken down into elements that are vivid enough for social workers and researchers to see in the cold light of day to realize that bureaucracy ignores these stories and generally treats people, especially women as numbers in a system that doesn’t seem to care.  While there is no excuse for those social workers to treat those clients as if they were numbers, it is fair to note that those social agencies are probably understaffed and overworked and have little time for nuances, safety for abuse victims, and understanding.  Obviously, a grounded theory methodological study amongst social assistance agencies would be valuable here as well.

 

References:

Crawford, E., Liebling-Halifani, H., & Hill, V. (2009). Women’s understanding of the effects of domestic abuse: The impact on their identity, sense of self, and resilience. A grounded theory approach. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 11(2), 63-82.

Locke, L. F., Silverman, S. J., & Spirduso, W. W. (2010). Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9. In Reading and understanding research (3rd ed., Chapters 10-12). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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