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Article Critique of Parent Perspectives on Child Health and Wellbeing in Same-sex Families: Heteronormative Conflict and Resilience Building

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Purpose of the Study

Crouch, McNair and Waters (2017) wanted to shed light on the gap in qualitative research regarding how same-sex parents view stigmatization towards their families. Specifically, the purpose of their study was to explore how stigmatization impacted children of same-sex parents, with regards to the child’s overall health and well-being, with the intent to understand same-sex parents socially constructed strategies to mediate their child’s health. Crouch and colleagues (2017) explored this issue with a two-folded research question, asking, “what external factors do same-sex attracted parents see as being influential on the health and wellbeing of their children; and does experienced and perceived stigma and discrimination affect the health and wellbeing of children with same-sex attracted parents?”.

In particular, the researchers conducted six family-based interviews with same-sex parents and their children. The families interviewed were chosen based on a larger surveyed sample of same-sex parents who had answered questionnaires based on their child’s overall health. Crouch and colleagues (2017) chose to interview the six families in their home, which was a naturalistic setting. The family interviews were conducted from January to August 2013, across three Australian states, specifically “Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia”. With regards to this study, the sample was primarily Caucasian, specifically consisting of 11 same-sex parents and 10 children, who were part of the middle and upper class. Moreover, the same-sex parents consisted of four gay men and seven lesbian women. In addition, the children in this study ranged in ages from 3 to 18 years old and were either raised from birth by their same-sex parents or were children from prior relationships.

Research Design of the Study

The theoretical paradigm used in this specific research design was a social constructivist epistemological approach. This was defined according to Hays and Singh (2011) as numerous perspectives and opinions which added to the “truth” about an issue. The paradigm was suitable for the study, due to the fact that the family-based interviews allowed for open-ended questions, which involved a researcher-participant relationship to emerge. Thus, in line with the social constructivist approach, collaborative interactions between the interviewer and the interviewees allowed for constructed meaning to be explored.

On the other hand, the specific theoretical tradition of the study was not clearly emphasized, but based on the methodology used, this study could be considered a phenomenological tradition. According to Hays and Singh (2011), phenomenology was defined based on studying participant experiences and how these experiences impacted the participant’s life. Thus, I believe this tradition was appropriate for this present study even though it was not clearly explained, due to the nature of the tradition and how the researchers used family-based interviews, in order to collect data about same-sex parent families. Ultimately, this tradition allowed the researcher to co-construct meaning with the same-sex families based on their experiences, which were discussed during the interview. Hence, both the social constructivist paradigm and the phenomenology tradition were appropriate for this study, due to the fact that researchers were able to explore how same-sex parents have socially constructed strategies, in order to build resilience by addressing how stigmatization affected their children’s overall well-being.

As a whole, the research design involved conducting six same-sex parent family-based interviews using open-ended questions (regarding strategies used to build resilience, in order to ensure their child’s well-being), in a naturalistic home environment. Additionally, these family-based interviews were all audiotaped and transcribed for further analysis, which helped in the triangulation of the study later on. Considering this, I believe this was an appropriate research design for a social constructivist approach, due to the fact that the setting, sample size and interview questions were adequate for triangulation, as this helped researchers acquire recurring themes through different perspectives. Although there are both positive and negative critiques, regarding the sampling method and recruitment strategies, data collection and analysis, and trustworthiness of the study, which will be further discussed.

Critique of the Sampling Method and Recruitment Strategies

The sampling method and recruitment strategies were based on site and participant selection. Crouch and colleagues (2017) gathered participants based on a larger recruited sample survey, who used convenience sampling, which was defined as selecting participants within easily accessible proximity. Hays and Singh (2011) noted that a sample of convenience was the least representative and the probable outcome was “a nonrepresentative sample with flawed findings”. Thus, this was a negative critique of the article, due to the inappropriate recruitment strategy of convenience sampling, as this posed an issue for transferability (which was defined based on if the researcher provided enough detail throughout the study, in order to replicate this study in another similar setting). Further, this was problematic regarding obtaining a more homogenous sample, as opposed to a heterogenous sample, which stemmed from excluding certain outliers (which skew the sample), based on similarities between participants. Additionally, the purposive sampling method used to recruit participants for the interviews was defined based on developing prior criteria regarding the sample, in order to narrow the scope of the recruited participants. Thus, with respect to Crouch and colleagues’ (2017) predetermined participant criteria, families were selected for the interview based on “scores for child health and stigma from the quantitative surveys and … from an anonymous sub-sample of children to provide a range of health and well-being experiences from different regions, parental genders, child ages and numbers of children”. This was a positive and more appropriate critique of this article, due to the fact that the participants were recruited for the interview using purposive sampling criteria, which improved transferability, with regards to providing a detailed participant criteria, which would help replicate this study in a similar setting, as the sample was more diversified and heterogenous.

In order to improve the participant selection process, alternative recruitment strategies could have included more representative samples, regarding maximum variation (defined based on participant difference) and purposeful random sampling (defined based on arbitrarily selected purposive samples. These alternative recruitment strategies would have limited researcher bias, with regards to convenience sampling, ultimately bringing about more transferability to a different context, as the samples would be recruited based on random sampling, thus creating a more heterogeneous sample. Likewise, a small sample size was also a positive critique of this article, due to the fact that a social constructivist approach required the researchers to obtain profound data about participant experience during the interviews. Thus, the small sample size was beneficial in light of transferability, since the researcher gathered more detailed information, allowing for a richer experience explained by participants, which would be useful for replicating this study in a similar setting.

The context of the study, referred to site selection was based on home interviews in Australia. This site was appropriately selected, since the home was seen as a protected area, where participants would freely open up during the interview, as they were in the cosiness and solitude of their own home. The clarity of the context in this study, with reference to the site selection was well explained. Although, it would have been useful to know more about the exact location of the interview, as this could affect the transferability to another similar setting, regarding if more details would have been explained based on if the interview took place in, for example, the living room (a more comfortable area) as opposed to a household office (a more professional area). Also, the fact that this study was conducted in Australia is relevant to the issue of transferability in another similar setting, since it was one of the first qualitative studies on the issue of same-sex parent families’ views on stigma and practices of resilience building. Thus, it is important to note that this is still a sensitive issue in Australia, making this a pivotal area of interest when the researchers explained details regarding the location of the study.

Critique of the Data Collection and Analysis

The data collection method included six same-sex family-based interviews. The notion of the researcher-participant relationship was based on developing reciprocity with the participants during the interview, where a relationship was built in order to construct new ideas between the interviewer and interviewees. Thus, in order to ensure that the interviewer was reflexive, participants were informed (prior to the interview) that the interviewer was a gay father and a medical doctor. In doing so, participants obtained more information about the researcher, which helped develop reciprocity, by creating a comfortable collective exchange. Additionally, the interviewer used open-ended questions to develop reciprocity with the families, by allowing participants to expand on their opinions and obtain a deeper understanding of their experiences, which was in line with the social constructivist paradigm. Overall, this data collection method was appropriate to help the researchers address their research questions, due to the fact that open-ended interview questions allowed the families to elaborate on their experiences, thus creating a communal exchange. However, the researchers did not provide any of the open-ended questions in the article, which would have been useful for transferability in another similar setting. Since, this was one of the first qualitative studies on this issue in Australia and the more information explained in the article, the more beneficial it would have been. Thus, this is a negative aspect of the study, due to the fact that there was a lack of clarity regarding which open-ended questions were asked during the interview to elicit a discussion.

Based on coding and data analysis, it was revealed that data was analysed using “HyperResearch 3. 5. 2”, in order to code the interviews which sub-categorized recurring themes of “family construct”, “gender”, “discrimination”, and “institutions”. The data analysis regarding how the interviews were coded was clearly explained, which was beneficial for transferability, due to the fact that it would be easier to replicate their analyses in future studies, as a result of the specific sub-categorical themes, which emerged.

Critique of the Trustworthiness of the Study

The trustworthiness of the study also brings about both positive and negative critiques regarding the validity of the study, in terms of the research design, sampling methods, and the data collection process. Firstly, the research design, as previously mentioned, was a social constructivist paradigm. With this respect, coherence was defined based on whether the research paradigm was clearly maintained throughout the study. In this case, coherence was met, due to the fact that the authors followed the social constructivist paradigm during the family-based interviewed, due to the reciprocity that was developed between the interviewer and interviewees.

Secondly, as formerly stated, the sampling methods included convenience sampling and purposive sampling, which brought forth issues concerning the criteria of trustworthiness (or validity) of the study. With respect to credibility (which was defined as believability of the study), convenience sampling may be problematic, due to the fact that the sample was more homogenous than heterogeneous, which can skew results, due to the fact that outliers may be disregarded. This sampling method threatened the issue regarding whether the results obtained from the interviews were believable, or if differences would be present in a similar study with a more heterogenous sample. Furthermore, the sampling methods regarding sample size brought about a positive aspect of sampling adequacy, which was defined based on whether the sample size was appropriate for the study. In this case, sampling adequacy was respected, as a result of having a small sample size, since obtaining deeper information during the family interviews helped develop reciprocity between the researcher and participants.

Thirdly, as previously revealed, the data collection process also conveyed positive and negative aspects. Specifically, concerning the researcher-participant relationship, the fact that the interviewer was a male doctor could have created a power and gender imbalance between the interviewer and participant families, which may have caused participants to withhold information during the interview. In particular, same-sex female parents may have felt that they were censoring their opinions regarding male parenting, due to the fact the interviewer was a male and they may not have wanted to offend him in any way. Thus, this causes an issue with the criteria of trustworthiness (or validity) of the study due to: 1) the credibility of the study, (which refers to the believability of the data); and 2) the confirmability of the study (which refers to if the researcher was neutral when reflecting what the participants have said during the interview), since participants may have withheld information, as a result of the gender imbalance. An alternative could have been to also include a female interviewer, in order to obtain more gender diversity. This could help improve the overall trustworthiness of the study, since the humanness of research approach was triangulated, due to the fact that the researchers would be able to verify how the interviewer affected the nature of the study. In addition, the fact that the interviews were strictly family-based also may be problematic for the criteria of trustworthiness. Thus, credibility (which refers to the believability of the study) and authenticity (which refers to if the participants’ perspectives were well explained by the researcher) may be at risk, due to the fact that the interviews were strictly family-based and participants may have withheld their opinions, as a result of their parent, child and/or partner in the room during the interview. Thus, an alternative could have been to have family interviews, as well as individual interviews with each family member, in order to obtain more information from each individual, which could have improved the overall trustworthiness of the study.

Findings and Interpretations of the Study

In conclusion, Crouch, McNair and Waters (2017) found that same-sex parent families tried to teach their children strategies regarding resilience building, in order to prepare children with regards to addressing the family dynamic, accepting gender differences, being aware of discrimination, as well as comprehending and recognizing institutional obstacles. The same-sex parent families also built resilience based on these themes, in order to improve their child’s overall well-being when facing stigmatization, as same-sex parenting was still a sensitive issue. Overall, these findings can be interpreted by other homosexual parents, heteronormative parents and institutional authorities. With regards to other homosexual parents, it is important to know that other countries, apart from North Americans, are addressing issues regarding same-sex parenting and how children are affected, since there are more “post nuclear families” all around the world. Additionally, these findings allow heteronormative parents to realize that they should be educating their children about the differences present in the world and how difference should be embraced and not stigmatized against. Similarly, institutional authorities in the government, schools and health care system should also be aware of their heteronormative biases and learn how to evolve, in order to be accepting and respectful to all people. Thus, as a whole, this was a well conducted qualitative study, with credible and applicable findings, although there were certain caveats.

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