Development and Psychopathology

Special IssueContextualism and Developmental PsychopathologyEditorsDante Cicchetti & Lawrence Aber

Integrating qualitative and quantitative methods in the study of developmental psychopathology in context

a1 Rutgers University


Qualitative methods are well suited to advance the understanding of the role of social context in the development of maladaptation and psychopathology. However, they have not been widely used by developmental psychopathologists, despite being utilized in related fields, particularly in the sociological study of crime and delinquency. This article assesses the potential for the increased use of qualitative methods in developmental psychopathology and addresses the challenges involved in integrating them with quantitative research strategies. The interplay of qualitative and quantitative methods in the study of juvenile delinquency is reviewed for relevant lessons about both the utility and the difficulties of integrating the two types of methods. The problem of assessing continuities and discontinuities over the life course in patterns of antisocial behavior is discussed as an example of the challenge of integrating methodological paradigms. Schools of thought about qualitative methods and their relationship to quantitative research paradigms are identified and compared. Examples are discussed of narrative life history interviewing and qualitative observational techniques and of recent research endeavors integrating these qualitative techniques with quantitative data analyses.

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Mercer L. Sullivan, Ph.D., School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University, S.I. Newhouse Center for Law and Justice, 15 Washington Street, Newark, NJ 07102.