Reading and Reviewing

I decided to further the research I did earlier on groups vs individuals (see this post). I chose two of the sources (which interested me the most) and read them both. Whilst doing this I asked myself some questions about the objectivity and purpose of the article as well as what ideas, concepts and conclusions could be drawn from them. It was very interesting to read how primary research experiments are done – some of the controls were very thorough! The amount of secondary research that was referenced in both articles was very impressive. It made me realize the sheer amount of background reading that goes into good articles (and indeed ideas)!

Here are my reviews of the to articles:

Hampson, R. B., Schulte, M. A., Ricks, C. C. (1883) Individual vs. Group Training for Foster Parents: Effectiveness Evaluations, Family Relations, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 191-201

This article was written on the well researched opinion that Foster Parents should be given training. This was reinforced by the arguments that foster children remain in care for longer than expected and that any evidence of training has proven to be beneficial. These arguments were all backed up by at least one secondary source so the investigation into training was justified.

It sought to investigate two methods of training in order to advance the argument for the training of foster parents. The question at the heart of the investigation was the relative effectiveness of group vs individual training.

The experiment and primary research carefully considered all possible variables and took example from flaws in similar studies. One exception being the lack of a control group. However both groups were overseen by a licensed psychologist to ensure training formats were as similar as possible. It implemented two, well researched, types of training: reflective and behavioral. It followed up the experiment six months afterwards to gain a second set of results. These controls together with later results and conclusions all reinforce a non-biased, productive study. The decision to not have a control group(s) could however be seen as prejudice towards training in the first place.

This does not affect me too much however as I am only interested in the training method experiment. The results of which indicated that:

“in terms of differential gains between home trained and group trained parents, relatively few differences were noted”

These results were based on ‘Parent Attitude’, ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Behavioral Principles’. It was noted however that group trained parents showed slightly higher ‘Parent Attitude’ scores. The article deduces that this “supports the notion of a group discussion format enhancing parental values and attitudes (Hereford, 1963)”. This conclusion mirrors an argument in one of the other articles I researched on this subject. It was a political journal article which argued that two parties, passionate about an issue, will benefit greatly from coalition. It did however state that:

“the analysis offers some evidence that expressive groups and corporate interests tend to join coalitions with greater regularity than occupational interests”

This statement affirms with the findings related to attendance with the group-trained parents. The attendance of foster fathers was significantly greater for the home trained group. Attendance in general was better amongst the home trained parents – as was their satisfaction with the training and improvement of their children’s behavior.

It could therefore be assumed that people expect to benefit less from group training for an occupational role. You could say that the foster parent group experiment still worked because they had ‘expressive’ and ‘corporate’ interests as well. It was ‘corporate’ in the sense that they were united as foster parents with shared goals. It was ‘expressive’ in the sense that they wanted to discuss thoughts and feelings. This expressive interest is proven by the parents who chose to train in a group citing the ‘interaction’ as their reason for choice. You could say that the home-trained parents had better results with their children because the training was more specific to their situation – i.e more ‘occupational’.

From my interest point of view I can take from this that both methods are good for imparting knowledge and techniques. However the group trained parents learn these more generally whilst the home trained parents learn them more specifically.

The parents in the groups may have learned things that they essentially don’t need to know (at the moment). This is because other parents in the group will have problems they do not. The home trained parents will have less of an opportunity to learn about problems they don’t have. This could be seen as positive or negative. This study would indicate that focused individual training is better because the home trained parents felt they had better results with their individual scenarios. Indeed they would have. What it doesn’t indicate is the amount of information they missed out on. The information the group trained parents would pick up from each others scenarios. I can therefore agree with the author that a mix of both methods would indeed be the best solution.

Haupt, A. L., Leary, M. R. (1997) The Appeal of Worthless Groups: Moderating Effects of Trait Self-Esteem, Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 124-132

This article was written to test the hypothesis that “people with low trait self-esteem prefer to join seemingly worthless groups”. This is justified by the sourced research into the functions of groups and what benefits people get from joining them.

The question at the heart of the article is “Why do people choose to join and retain membership in these relatively worthless groups” This is of course linked to the purpose of the article because the authors think their hypothesis could be the answer.

The authors use “Fleming and Courtney’s (1984)” self rating scale to asses the self-esteem of the participants prior to the experiment. They also use research done on exclusion by (Leary, Tambor, et al., 1995) to further test the self-esteem of the participants. Were they to choose to work in a group (worthless or worthwhile) they would be subject to either a random vote or a personal one. The participants were questioned about their feelings towards this vote. The results showed that the exclusion threat did not influence their decision to work in a group apposed to working alone: “their decision was based on other considerations”. (I searched for an advance on this point but the authors do not follow it up) In fact, participants with low self-esteem estimated the likelihood of exclusion by vote accurately but substantially underestimated their risk of exclusion at random.

All of the above primary research is significant but from my viewpoint, I feel the secondary research is of more importance. One particularly valid source (Covington, 1989) states that because low self-esteem is associated with one’s ability and social desirability it reflects their general sense of “includability”. This links to the reference regarding ‘the sociometer theory’ which states that self esteem is a ‘subjective monitor’ to social inclusion. The source (Leary & Baumeister, 1997; Leary & Downs, 1995, Leary, Tambor et al., 1995) notes that even a “specter of social exclusion was sufficient to affect self esteem for participants who typically felt less inclusion” The point this source makes shows an assumption for an understanding of self esteem however.

The authors also fall back on secondary research when their experiment did not produce the results they anticipated: “Yet, this study did not reveal a ready answer to the question”. They use their secondary sources to give potential answers (ones which future research could focus on):

People chose to join groups to verify their opinion on themselves. Ergo, people with low self esteem, who feel they are worthless join worthless groups; people with high self esteem verify themselves with meaningful, productive groups. (Swann, 1983; Swann, Wenzlaff, Krul, & Pelham, 1992)

The preference for the type of group (worthwhile/worthless) is influenced by the fear of communicating in a worthwhile group. People with low self esteem don’t want to loose social acceptance whilst people with high self esteem want to gain it. (Arkin, 1981; Baumeister et al., 1989)

The one I am most intrigued by is this:

“People with low self-esteem may avoid worthwhile groups because they believe that their relatively low ability to contribute to the group may relegate them to a low status” This would mean that they access their viability as a member of that group (apposed to the benefits they will gain from the group) (Tesser, 1988)

This argument reminded me of the abstract I read on an article on status in groups from the American Sociological Review. It wanted to explore whether a person could gain greater status in a group by appearing to be ‘task orientated’. The results indicated that ‘group orientated’ members were generally more influential then ‘self orientated members’. It did however concur that high status members (e.g males) would always achieve a high level of influence regardless of their motivation.

Whilst their secondary research proved more valuable to me I must conclude that the failure of the primary research was not absolute. You do need to take some time to understand the authors ideas about worthwhile and worthless groups. Once you do however you can see that the concept of groups and self-esteem would be worth considering for other matters.

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So… where can I go from here?

It would seem that the topic of groups vs individuals is a large, contextual area with lots of factors that determine the choice and result.

My research into foster care showed that the groups suffered from poor attendance rates.

“reaching foster parents” – this brings up the question of inclusion – something that can often be lost within a large group. I would need to look at group sizes and methods of working within a group to ensure not only that all members are included but also that people are ‘reached’ enough/enticed/have reason to join the group in the first place. I could look into this further by exploring why this problem occurs. I of course have a rough idea – they might presume they will not be missed too much. I would like to do some more research, perhaps primary this time, to find out some other reasons. I could also look at my new awareness of how self esteem can affect people in groups. I would like to read the secondary sources I found so intriguing in the journal article. I could then think about whether a persons self-esteem would influence their decision to not attend a group meeting. Would the foster care system have to factor in self-esteem when making the decision to train parents in a group format? I would also like to also do some primary research to find out for myself, first hand, why people give up groups. (I would also like to back it up with secondary research) This knowledge would let me consider/think about/design ways to prevent ‘drop out’.

I am also very aware that both of the articles I looked at are rather old, (one is older than me) I made the decision to look at them however on the grounds of enjoyment – I knew that If I was interested in the topic I would learn how to do this exercise better. I took some time to investigate what the situations on these issues are now.

From the Directgov website (the governments digital service for delivering information and advice about public services) and the BBC website I can see that foster parents do receive training:

“carers are fully trained for their role”

“a supervising social worker will visit foster carers on a regular basis”

This suggests individual training at least. I am also aware that the article I looked at was American. I found an article from nyscc.org which was written in 2009 and confirms that training for prospective and current parents takes place. In fact it is required by Federal Law: “the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999” (implemented two years after my article was written).

These are really positive results however the article does not specify whether or not the training is group based as well as home based. The article does note that whilst the training is successful there is very little data to support/ask WHY it is successful. It suggests an article for further reading on this issue:

Part II in a Series: Foster Parent Training: What the CFS Reviews Do and Don’t Tell Us by B.Grimm

(I can only hope that the authors second name does not foreshadow the findings of the article too much…)

My other article on worthless groups is slightly different in that it was not seeking a change which could be implemented in the future. What I could look at though is the effect of ‘modern culture’ on the issue. For example, Facebook did not exist in 1983 but it would be considered as a significant platform for both worthwhile and worthless groups. In fact there is actually a group on Facebook for “people who hate erroneous and worthless groups” – how ironic!

Firstly however I would like to gain a better understanding of self-esteem and how it effects people. I think this would help me understand how it then effects them in a group scenario – worthless or not. The experiment gave them a choice but often people do not have a choice on whether they participate in a group or not. It actually is a huge factor which should be considered in regards to groups. For example, If I wanted to create the ‘perfect group’ – self-esteem levels would need to be considered.

I can see from my quick rounding up that I have a lot of things which I could further consider. Whilst I have gained some insight from these articles I am aware that I have a long way to go. This is evident from my very long ‘further reading’ list and all the new questions I have. I will keep you updated on my progress when I get some time to follow this through!

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Here is a Bibliography of all the sources I used for my research (In the Harvard format of course)

BBC Health. Who can foster? [Online]. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/support/fostering_adoption/foster.shtml. [Accessed: 1st December 2010]

Collins. Free Online Dictionary. [Online]. Available from: http://www.collinslanguage.com/. [Accessed: 29th, 30th, November; 1st, 2nd, December]

Directgov. Training and financial support for foster carers. [Online]. Available from: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Adoptionfosteringandchildrenincare/Fostering/DG_10027536. [Accessed: 1st December 2010]

Facebook. Group for people who hate erroneous and worthless groups. [Online]. Available from: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=258542301143. [Accessed: 30th November 2010]

Gerstenzang, S. (2009) Foster Parent Training In America. [PDF] Available from: http://nysccc.org/wp-content/uploads/FPTraining.pdf. [Accessed 1st December 2010]

Hampson, R. B., Schulte, M. A., Ricks, C. C. (1883) Individual vs. Group Training for Foster Parents: Effectiveness Evaluations, Family Relations, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 191-201

Haupt, A. L., Leary, M. R. (1997) The Appeal of Worthless Groups: Moderating Effects of Trait Self-Esteem, Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 124-132

Hojnacki, M. (1997) Interest Groups’ Decisions to Join Alliances or Work Alone, American Journal of Political Science, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 61-87

Ridgeway, C. L., (1982) Status in Groups: The Importance of Motivation, American Sociological Review, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 76-88

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To add a bit of colour, I kept a note of the words I had to check/double check the meaning of:


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