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What are we measuring and why? Using theory to guide perinatal research and measurement

Ayers, S. & Olander, E. K. (2013). What are we measuring and why? Using theory to guide perinatal research and measurement. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 31(5), pp. 439-448. doi: 10.1080/02646838.2013.834041


Background: A theory is a set of ideas that attempt to explain phenomena and can provide guiding principles on which to base practice. Many theories from biological and social sciences are relevant to women’s health and wellbeing during pregnancy and after birth, yet theory is not commonly explicitly reported in perinatal research.

Method: This paper outlines the importance of theory to perinatal research and provides a pragmatic overview of when and how to use theory in research. In particular, we consider (i) deciding when it is appropriate to use theory, (ii) choosing which theory to use and (iii) how to operationalise theory in research. We give examples that illustrate how four different theories have been used in perinatal research to increase understanding and inform the development of interventions.

Conclusion: Even when it is not appropriate to use theory in our research, careful consideration of pertinent theories contributes to greater clarity of concepts and understanding of different explanations or perspectives on what we are studying. It also prompts us to consider where our research fits in terms of contribution to knowledge or the development and evaluation of treatments. However, it is important that a critical approach is taken so that theories continue to be developed. In this way we will systematically advance our understanding of general factors or processes that are relevant to perinatal health, as well as those factors that are unique to perinatal health.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: "This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology on 8/11/14, available online:"
Publisher Keywords: Theory, measurement, research, pregnancy, postpartum, postnatal, perinatal
Subjects: R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
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