Critique of Research Report: Howlett, N., Kirk, E., and Pine, K. (2011). Does ‘Wanting the Best’ Create More Stress? the Link Between Baby Sign Classes and Maternal Anxiety. Infant and Child Development.

Topics: Infant, Sign language, Mother Pages: 9 (2889 words) Published: June 12, 2013
Critique of Research Report: Howlett, N., Kirk, E., and Pine, K. (2011). Does ‘Wanting the Best’ create more stress? The link between baby sign classes and maternal anxiety. Infant and Child Development.

This assignment will critically review Howlett, Kirk and Pine’s (2011) study, which aims to investigate whether attendance of gesturing classes affects parental stress. Howlett et al., (2011) attempt to examine claims, advertised by commercial products, that believe attending gesturing classes can improve child-parent communications, thus reducing parental stress. Participants gave demographic information and completed a Parenting Stress Index (PSI) questionnaire. ANCOVA was used to look at whether attending gesturing classes affected parental stress, mothers attending a gesture group and mothers attending a non gesture group were compared; with ‘sibling status’ and ‘birth order’ controlled. Researchers found that mothers who attended infant gesture classes had higher stress scores than mothers who had attended non-gesturing classes. From these findings the following claims are made:

* that mothers in the gesture group had higher pre-existing stress than in the non gesture group, * that mothers attended gesturing classes in an attempt to alleviate their pre-existing stress, * that gesturing classes may cause mothers to view their child negatively. This critique will firstly provide an overall evaluation of the article with reference to strengths and weaknesses found. Flaws will also be highlighted with suggestion to how these could be rectified. Points of detail in the evaluation will then be expanded and conclusions discussed.

Overall evaluation

First and foremost, the overall presentation of the article appears to lack in structure and organisation; this results in a lack of flow and clarity. In the introduction, the research question and key definitions of interest (i.e. ‘gesture, ‘non gesture’ and ‘stress’) are not discussed at the beginning. Characteristics of non gesturing mothers are instead firstly mentioned in the discussion section. The outline of categories in the background demographic questionnaire should have been made aware to readers in the methodology. Furthermore, in the results, findings from the study should have been stated in the opening paragraph.

A fundamental flaw consistent throughout the article regards its lack of sufficient detail in ensuring strength of argument. In the introduction and discussion more research is needed in relation to how and why parental stresses occur to support findings. Furthermore unjustified claims are used to sustain argument which questions the validity of the research. The lack of detail regarding the direction of study also instigates ambiguity. More information is also needed about the procedure of the study so as to allow for replication. Further details as to how these flaws can be rectified are discussed later.

Fundamental flaws are apparent regarding the non-random sample used and the lack of baseline stress measures. As no baseline pre-test has been conducted authors’ claims, as stated previously, can only be based on speculation. More information is provided on these flaws in the latter section.

Strengths highlighted in the article include the demographic information provided. This information is useful as it allows for generalisation of results by ensuring groups are appropriately matched and offers useful information for future research in the region. (Keith, 2010). Furthermore the PSI questionnaire used, is well validated (Colver, 2006); using a creditable measuring instrument like this increases the reliability of the study. Moreover, the correct statistical test has been used, ANCOVA, and results are also provided with appropriate information.

Abstract and Introduction

The abstract fails to provide a rationale for the study; as this is unclear, readers may misjudge the subject matter. There is also no...

References: * Colver, A. 2006. Study protocol: SPARCLE – a multi-centre European study of the relationship of environment to participation and quality of life in children with cerebral palsy. BMC Public Health, 6:105.
* Howlett, N., Kirk, E., and Pine, K. (2011). Does ‘Wanting the Best’ create more stress? The link between baby sign classes and maternal anxiety. Infant and Child Development, 20, 437 – 445.
* Hyson, M. C. 1991. Building the hothouse: how many mothers construct academic environments. New Directions for Child Development, 53, 31-39.
* Keith, K. 2010. Cross-Cultural Psychology: Contemporary Themes and Perspectives. Wiley-Blackwell.
* Kirk, E., Howlett, N., Pine, K, J., and Fletcher, B. (C) Under Review. To sign or not to sign? The impact of encouraging infants to gesture on infants language and maternal mind-mindedness.
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