Longitudinal Research Essay

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Longitudinal research is used to study individuals at different stages in their lives. One group is studied over many years.
Definition
Have you ever wondered how developmental psychologists study changes over a lifespan? How do children's career aspirations develop over time? How does divorce affect children? How stable is personality? When do developmentally delayed children receiving special services catch up with their peers, if they do? What are the physical and mental health consequences of being in a war zone? Longitudinal research can answer those questions and more.

Psychologists try to provide answers to these questions using correlational research, which does not establish cause and effect, but only a relationship between two factors.
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If interested in the initial effects, researchers might choose to study the group for one year after they return. If they are interested in long-term effects, they may choose to continue for 20 years.
Sample size: Researchers must decide who to research and how many subjects to include. The type of longitudinal study they choose will help them determine. If they choose one battalion of soldiers who served together in the war zone they would be doing a cohort study, a study that follows a group of people linked in some way.
If they instead look for individuals who were in different war zones and in different roles they would do a panel study. A panel study involves a sample from different groups that still fit the subjects of the study. If they were interested in looking at past and current wars they could use historical records, which is a retrospective study, a study that looks back into history. The retrospective longitudinal study would require acquiring records; in this case it would be medical records, which may be available from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with names removed to protect privacy. Once the sample is chosen, psychologists would evaluate the subjects on a regular basis throughout the study so the information can be compared to previous
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