In this essay I will be critiquing two research studies which examine the impact infant massage classes have upon the health and wellbeing of mothers and their infants. This topic was chosen in order to begin to assess the evidence base for its current inclusion in Health Visiting Services. Infant massage has been used as a health promotion tool for several years. I am currently teaching it as part of a Postnatal Support Programme and in my experience parents appear to enjoy and value the activity. However, on discussion with colleagues it has become apparent that health professionals have a varied and limited knowledge of the evidence base for this intervention. During the search for the two papers it became evident that there is, in fact, a lack of recent research in this area, consequently, the chosen research papers are older than recommended. For clarity each study will be critiqued separately, with reference to the other when appropriate, followed by discussion of the two studies in the conclusion. For the purposes of the critique I have used a combination of Valente’s critical analysis tool (2003), and the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme ( 2010). For additional guidance and to ensure depth in my critique, I have included some aspects of the framework for critiquing health research, devised by Caldwell et al (2011)
Paper 1- Infant Massage improves mother-infant interaction for mothers with postnatal depression (Onozawa et al 2000) The first paper for analysis in this assignment is a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT), the title of which suggests that it aims to test the researcher’s hypothesis that ‘Infant massage improves mother-infant interaction for mothers with postnatal depression’. The RCT is the ‘gold standard’ research design for assessing the effectiveness of an intervention and it is used to develop an evidence base for practice. The RCT is an established research method in Medicine; however it is now becoming more widespread in Nursing research (Moule and Goodman 2009). If the study design is correct, the RCT is the most rigorous way of determining a cause and effect relationship between treatment and outcome, requiring random allocation of subjects to intervention or control groups in order to reduce bias which minimises the risk of systematic differences between intervention and non-intervention groups. (Sibbald and Roland 1998) The authors clearly identify their research hypothesis in the title of the paper. The hypothesis is an attempt to answer a question which has emerged from a research problem and is usually very detailed and specific (Moule and Goodman 2009). However on further reading, the abstract states that the aim of the study is not to prove or disprove that the practice of infant massage improves interaction, but to examine the effect of attending an infant massage class on depression and interaction between mother and infant. It is important that the aims of the research are clearly defined ( Balnaves and Caputi 2001) and in this instance there appears to be some confusion. The distinction may appear insignificant, but as we read later, the researchers conclude that this study did not distinguish which aspects of attending the class produced the results. Therefore a more accurate title and hypothesis may have been ‘Attending infant massage classes improves mother-infant interaction for mothers with postnatal depression’. This criticism aside, the abstract of the paper clearly summarises the key components of the study, including background which provides context, aims, an outline of the methodology used, the main findings of the research as well as some of the limitations of the study. It clearly informs the reader of the content of the paper. The introduction includes a fairly thorough literature review. This is an essential task to identify findings of prior research and make a judgement about the quality of the research in order to justify the relevance and...
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