The Wall Street Journal recently published an article asking “Is Working Good for Mom’s Health?"
The article opens with the claim “working mothers tend to be happier and healthier than their stay-at-home counterparts.”
a.) What type of claim is this?
Here is a quote from the article describing the study’s sample and methods:
The researchers…interviewed a national sample of 1,364 mothers before and after the birth of their children, with follow-up interviews lasting more than 10 years.
The study found that part-time and full time working mothers were better at managing stressors and had greater mental health and less depression than mothers who did not work.
b.) What type of design does this study seem to use? Why might the researchers be using this design?
c.) Why don’t they just do an experiment?
d.) Do you think the researchers were in theory testing mode or generalization mode?
a.) This is an association claim. The verb here, "to be," (as in, "working mothers tend to be happier and healthier...") is a simple linking verb, not a causal verb. Because there are two variables, maternal employment and mother’s well being, that means it's probably not a frequency claim. And the claim isn't causal because the claim is not that working increases a mothers health and happiness, just that the two go together.
b.) This is a longitudinal correlational design. The clues are that they state that the interviews occurred for more than 10 years and that the researchers studied the same sample and the same variables. By using this type of design, researchers can often establish temporal precedence in a correlational study.
c.) Mothers can’t be assigned to work or not work--that just isn’t feasible or ethical. So an experiment isn't really possible here.
d.) Because this study used a “national sample," we might expect that the study is in generalization mode. We could ask if the national sample was a probability sample, something that would be important for good external validity.
Guest post by Kate Banford, University of Delaware