Research That Matters (January 17 - 20, 2008)

Sunday, January 20, 2008: 8:45 AM-10:15 AM
Palladian Ballroom (Omni Shoreham)
[P/C] Recruitment, Retention and Sampling of Vulnerable Transition Age Youth in Longitudinal Qualitative Research
Symposium Organizer:Laura S. Abrams, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles
Recruitment in Qualitative Research with Hard-to-Reach Youth: Experiences and Issues Taken from Multiple Studies with Homeless Youth
Bart W. Miles, PhD
Engaging and Retaining Vulnerable Transition Age Youth in Longitudinal Research
Sarah Taylor, MSW
What Your “N”? Representation and Meaning Making in Qualitative Research with Transient Youth
Laura S. Abrams, PhD
Abstract Text:
Social work practices and policies are currently developing a focus on the needs of “transition age youth” (TAY), meaning young people between the ages of 16-24 who have traversed one or more social services systems including foster care, mental health, criminal justice, and/or homeless shelter systems (California Mental Health Director's Association, 2005). Studies to date illustrate a grim outlook for this cluster of youth as they transition to adulthood. Homelessness, criminal justice involvement, low access to health or mental health care, and underemployment are all serious risk factors for TAY (Osgood, Wayne, Foster, Flanagan, & Ruth, 2004; CMHDA, 2005).

While a great deal is known about the significant risks that TAY face as they cross the threshold to independence, research is needed to understand how TAY experience their interactions with social services; how they navigate and access social support networks; how they employ strengths and survival strategies; and how they perceive challenges they encounter. These key questions lend themselves well to a qualitative mode of inquiry that follows groups of TAY over some period of time. However, recruitment, retention and sampling with this population pose barriers to the successful completion of even very small longitudinal studies.

In this symposium, three researchers with experience conducting longitudinal qualitative research with diverse TAY populations will tease apart these central research challenges. Critical questions that thematically unite these papers include: 1) what is the significance of various recruitment sites and strategies with TAY? 2) Once engaged, how do we retain TAY in research over time? and, 3) what are the implication of sampling, recruitment, and retention strategies when it comes time to draw interpretations from qualitative data?

In the first paper, Dr. Bart Miles will draw on his field research spanning three studies of homeless young adults to address the issue of recruitment. He weighs the strengths and weaknesses of agency-based versus street-based recruitment and poses implications for the types of questions you can answer with diverse recruitment sites and strategies. In the second paper, Sarah Taylor details several innovative strategies to engage and retain TAY in longitudinal qualitative research that include use of a reflexive self, a creative interviewing technique, and extensive contact between interviews. In the final paper, Dr. Laura Abrams will discuss how to make meaning of these recruitment and sampling strategies in the stage of data interpretation. She will use examples from her four year project with formerly incarcerated youth to analyze the limitations of small convenience samples and suggest how to interpret the data that results from small studies with TAY.

Beyond the mechanics of selecting subjects, little is written about the meaning of the engagement, retention, and sampling strategies employed in qualitative social work research. This symposium will extend the burgeoning knowledge base on TAY by looking at ways to capture their own perceptions and experiences related to critical issues and transitions over time. It will also contribute to the qualitative methods literature by offering concrete examples of and critical analysis of methods employed with transient young adults.

See more of Symposium

See more of Research That Matters (January 17 - 20, 2008)