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Asking Concrete Questions

Posted on July 7, 2008

Margarita Alegría (bio) describes different ways of approaching data collection in the Latino community.


It's an epidemiologic psychiatric study collecting data about psychiatric disorders and service use, but we also wanted to collect a lot of data about the context where people were living, the situations in which they left the country of origin. We wanted to really target a lot of the immigrant population and how they saw their problems, did they recognize them, how did they help seek for their problems? So it really included a lot of different aspects.

We did a lot of qualitative work for the first year-and-a-half of the study. We did a lot of qualitative data mainly to make sure that the instruments we were using really had conceptual equivalence and really were tapping on the same concepts that we wanted to tap and making sure that people, when they were responding, they really were responding in a meaningful way. So we spent quite a bit of time doing just that and doing the translation, back translations. And then for the next three years, we collected the data face-to-face in interviews.

I think particularly one of the concepts that we had to change quite dramatically was the gender role assessment. So for example we were very interested in how gender roles might play a role in mental illness particularly because there's been data showing that women, especially Latino women, tend to have high rates of depression and while men, Latino men, don't show those rates comparable to the mainstream population. So we wanted to see, what about gender roles?

Well, we started with the scales that have been used in the literature, and what we found is that people were giving us very socially desirable answers. Everyone was saying, "Sure, we believe in equality," and "Sure, we believe in sharing of responsibilities." So their answers were really not very helpful in what we were trying to tap, so we decided, let's just go and ask very concrete things people do: who makes decisions about money, who makes decisions about every day lifestyle things. Let's ask about who does the chores and responsibilities in the caring of the children, so let's be very specific. And we got very different answers.

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Excerpted from an interview with researcher at the 2008 Developing Interventions for Latino Children, Youth, and Families Conference in St. Louis, MO.


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