Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Boy How This Project Evolves

A few months ago we posted a brief outline of the overall project in the post "So How are You Going to Do This?" In that entry, we described the process of instrument creation, pilot testing, with a culmination of the BIG data collection. Well that BIG data collection moment is right around the corner (It is scheduled for next month. So stay tuned!!). But in order to get all of our instruments ready we had to go down a little detour along the way.

The majority of the Center staff's time this summer has been revising the Event History Calendar (EHC). So much so that we are now convinced that another pilot of this instrument is necessary.

In April/May of this year, the EHC was pilot tested by our Palestinian colleagues. The "results" of the pilot spurred on a massive effort to refine the instrument in preparation for a July training. While we had made substantial changes to the EHC in hopes that it would accurately capture the life experiences of Palestinians, we quickly learned in the July training that there were still many additional changes that needed to be made. We were close, but not quite "right on the money." We had crafted the changes to the EHC based on our Western perspectives of what mattered to family life here in America. We did not account for the types of complexity in Palestinian family life to the extent that was necessary. Thankfully the trainees were very patient with us and provided valuable feedback which has been instrumental in the creation of the newest EHC draft.

In the next week or two the most recent version of the EHC will be piloted again. Hopefully this time, the results will give us confidence to move forward with the September BIG data collection moment. In the meantime, many of us here at the Center are recovering from a fast-paced summer of travel, training preparation, and instrument revisions. Despite the minor detour, there have been many lessons learned about managing and implementing a large data collection effort, creating new instruments, and, most importantly, working in another cultural context.

It would have been much easier to create a survey (or another type of instrument), collect data, and analyze results without much input from the people we are wanting to learn about. We might have even gotten somewhat valid information. However, there is no substitution for this iterative process of constantly involving the local populatoin in all phases and actively seeking and incorporating their feedback.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Creation of the Event History Calendar

In order to understand how the events in one's life impact their current perceptions of well-being or quality of life, the Event History Calendar method of data collection is being used. Life event calendaring has become a highly respected and credible method as assessing an individuals biographical history. It allows for the assessment of multiple dimensions of a person's life that unfold simultaneously and that are interwoven both temporally and causally. This method is effective in overcoming the subjective and often elusive nature of memory by facilitating the reconstruction of memory through increasing the respondent's ability to place different activities within the same time frame during the interview process. Critical life events such as marriages, deaths, and births of children are used to help respondents remember less salient events such as school enrollment, details of employment, and living arrangements.

In May 2010, the Center staff along with EHC expert Dr. Robert Belli began the process of creating an Event History Calendar specific to the Pal project. Throughout the next 16 months, the Center staff, Dr. Belli, and the Center's Palestinian colleagues edited, re-arranged, cut, added, and reconfigured the Calendar to both accurately reflect the experiences of Palestinian and address the Center's research questions.

To date the EHC domains are as follows:

  • Education

  • Residence

  • Family Formation

  • Significant Personal Separations

  • Work for Pay (Employment)

  • Household Amenities

  • Imprisonment/Detention/House Arrest/Deportation

  • Political Conflict Exposure

  • Political Conflict Activity

  • Political Affiliation

  • Mobility

  • Health Care

  • Material Loss

  • Safety

  • Access to Basic Needs

  • Income Adequacy

If interested in more information about Event History Calendaring send an email to youthconflict@tennessee.edu.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Theories that Guide the Project

So now that you know the basic idea of what we are going to do. It is only natural that we should outline the theories that are the main driving forces behind the project. In answering the basic research question, "How does experience with political conflict impact young people?" this project adopts an Event History - Resource framework. Essentially, the model posits that experience with political conflict is consequential to long-term well-being to the extent that it impacts key life events across the course of a youth's progress towards adulthood. The model considers these critical events as resources, the impairment or loss of which complicates or hinders successful adaptation and achievement of culturally sanctioned values and standards of behavior.

The two specific theories this framework is derived from are Event History Theory and Resource Theory

  1. Event History Theory - or Life History theory or Life Span theory or Life Course theory - suggests that human development continues throughout the course of life and that individuals establish pathways or trajectories through the variety and sequence of events that they experience in various contexts. Thus, contextualized development is embedded in history such that it is impacted by the sociocultural conditions present at a given historical period, which are thought to change over time.

  2. Resource Theory - suggests that the loss of threatened loss of critical resources defines the stress that impacts a person's adaptive capacities. Resource theory also gives attention to context and culture in defining significant resources.

In addition to integrating principles from these two theories, the PAL project also elaborates upon the theories in two ways: (1) incorporating a focus on political resources, and (2) emphasizing the importance of subjective appraisals when considering objective events.

For more information about either of these theories, contact the Center at youthconflict@tennessee.edu.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

So How are You Going to Do This?

Some of you maybe wondering how we are going to go about assessing the long-term impact of political conflict on young people. Well here is the timeline for the project. Basically there are five phases of the project.

1. Group and Key Informant Interviews - Part of the innovation of this project is to create a culturally relevant measure of well-being. Typically, people who study the effects of conflict tend to focus too narrowly on the psychological impact. Differently, the PAL project departs of this typical approach by facilitating the creation of a culturally-driven, holistic assessment of well-being. In order to create this measure we needed to hear from local Palestinians what well-being means in their culture. In February and March of 2010, Barber (PI) and Spellings (doctoral student) went to the West Bank, E. Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip to conduct group and key informant interviews alongside the project's Palestinian colleagues.

2. Instrument Creation - Once the February and March interviews were transcribed, the PAL research team in Tennessee coded the interviews for thematic content and from the themes and sub-themes wrote survey questions which attempt to capture all the domains of well-being (more on the domains and process of creating the survey questions in a later post). In January, 2011 the 200-item version of the Multi-Domain Adult Functioning Inventory (MDAFI) was created and sent to our Palestinian colleagues for pilot testing.

In addition to MDAFI, the research team at Tennessee began designing an Even History Calendar with the help of calendar expert Dr. Robert Belli. The calendar is designed to capture an individuals life history while maximizing memory recall and accuracy (more on this in a later post). It will be used in the BIG Data Collection phase of the project.

3. Pilot of MDAFI - Currently (June 2011) the 200-item version of MDAFI is being piloted on a representative sample of 500 Palestinian adults in the West Bank, E. Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. Results of the pilot data will be analyzed during the 2011 summer months.

4. The BIG Data Collection - In the fall of 2011 the BIG data collection will begin. This phase include nationally representative sample of 1500 Palestinian adults who will complete both the MDAFI and Event History Calendar. The aim with this phase of the project is to link life expereinces with current levels of well-being.

5. Life-History Interviews - One year after the completion of the BIG data collection, a sub-set of participants will be asked to share their stories in a life-history interview. This will give substance and meaning to the numeric data that is captured in the Event History Calendar and MDAFI.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why Study Palestinians?

Often people will ask us "Why do you study Palestinians? Aren't young people affected by political conflict all throughout the world?"

The answer to the second question is undoubtedly YES. Young people from Colombia, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt (just to name a few) have experienced conflict, in their own country, on a regular basis. Their experiences should be documented, and, in fact, the Center hosts yearly conferences to do just that. So what is so unique about Palestinians that the Center would embark on a multi-year project to better understand this group of people? Well Palestinians were selected for this study for three reasons:

  1. Because of their exposure to multiple periods of political conflict (i.e., first intifada, second intifada) and peace (i.e., Oslo) since their early adolescence

  2. Because of their very high level of participation in political resistance as adolescents and young adults during their first intifada (1987-1993)

  3. Because when compared to other populations (i.e., Bosnians), Palestinian young people appear to be functioning more positively.

In general, there are very few long-term follow-up studies and those have typically been either very small in scope and/or of refugee populations. In contrast, the PAL project will assess a large, fully representative sample of former Palestinian youth who have remained in their homeland. We hope that with this project, we can better understand the many ways (both positive and negative) political conflict - exposure to and involvement in resistance activities - affects the lives of young people as they mature into adulthood.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Center Receives $1 million Grant to Study Long-Term Impact of Political Violence on Youth

Brian Barber and the research team at the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Conflict received $1 million grant in November 2009 from the Jacobs Foundation to support a multi-year study of a cohort of Palestinian youth: The Impact of Political Conflict on Youth: Assessing Long-Term Well-Being via an Event History - Resource Model (Barber, PI; McNeely, co-investigator; Spellings, doctoral student). This pioneering study assesses the long-term functioning of youths who endured and participated in substantial political conflict.

The purpose of this blog is to document the evolution of the project and serve as a main dissemination tool for the project's findings.