Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Methodological Issues

10/01/2007

Having described the conceptual issues that justify the development of typological formulations, particularly in relation to homelessness and homeless families, this section considers the benefits and disadvantages of various methodological approaches for typology development, as well as criteria for selecting variables, measurement procedures and statistical methods for the identification of homogeneous subgroups.  Among the methodological approaches that have been employed in typological research on psychiatric populations are clinical description, statistical discrimination, and response to treatment. 

Clinical description is based on observation of clinical cases that come to the attention of service providers.  A major limitation of early attempts at clinical description is the failure or inability to use objective measurement techniques to provide a basis for testing assumptions about differences between subtypes.

With the advent of structured interview schedules, psychiatric diagnostic criteria, personality inventories, and administrative data bases used to collect descriptive information, quantitative procedures have been used to identify homogeneous groups.  For example, subtype discrimination and identification can be brought to a higher level by using statistical clustering techniques that identify homogeneous subgroups based on correlations among individuals sharing similar characteristics.

From the experience gained in other areas of clinical research, it is clear that classification theory and clinical practice should both be grounded in objective clinical assessment and sound research methodology.  It is, therefore, important to focus on the selection of classification variables and their measurement as the most fruitful empirical approach to the development of a typology.

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