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The purpose of this paper is to determine the most appropriate research design for the single client experiment run by Maritza and to discuss possible ethical constraints of the research, validity threats and measurement tools which can be used for this experiment.
First of all, it is necessary to consider the most feasible research design. Maritza is working with incarcerated women, and her main forms of counseling are group workshops and individual treatment. The goal is to create a research design for a women working with Maritza intensively over 6 months. Maritza is willing to explore the effectiveness of the intervention, but nothing is known about measurements of the client’s state before the treatment. Also, it is not clear whether Maritza would like to continue treatment and measure the effect after another 6 months, or whether she needs to perform a posttest only. Since Maritza only has one client, in case of a posttest (without pretest) the effectiveness of the research would be rather a subjective thing to measure. In this paper it is supposed that Maritza is willing to design an experimental research for this client with regard to current condition.
For this situation, the most feasible research design is single-subject research described by the formula B-A-B where B is a treatment condition, and A is a baseline condition without treatment (York, 2009). Total duration of the experiment will comprise 1 year (two periods of 6 months each). Multiple observations should take place in the beginning of the experiment, then treatment should be withdrawn for 6 months. During treatment withdraw period and in the end of it, observations should also take place, as well as in the phase of continued treatment (another 6 months). In this way, the researcher will be able to witness the effect of treatment withdrawal and of treatment itself. It would be optimal to make initial measurements before the treatment is started, but in current situation it is supposed that such measurements did not take place.
There is a number of ethical and practical constraints for this research. First of all, end of treatment sessions would most probably make the client feel worse with regard to self-efficacy and it will be practically difficult to explain the necessity of stopping treatment for 6 months for this woman. Also, she might experience negative attitude of the environment due to stopped treatment sessions: if women receiving personal treatment are considered as “special” among other incarcerated women, the former might feel certain ostracism and critics because of ended sessions.
This experiment also is exposed to validity threats. The most important validity threat is the fact that initial condition of the client was not measured. Repeated effect of the treatment could be different from the first effect. Another validity threat is Hawthorne effect (York, 2009): this woman might feel she is “special” and behave differently compared to her normal state. Moreover, this experiment is also subject to maturity threat: the client could make a significant progress during the year when the experiment is supposed to take place, and improved characteristics would then be the result of maturity, and not the effect of treatment. Finally, single subject studies are recommended to focus on only one variable, and in our case two variables (parenting skills and self-efficacy) are considered. This might lead to the interaction of these variables and lowered validity of the whole experiment.
With regard to the first threat to validity, the researcher could measure her own estimates of the client’s state before the treatment started, and compare it with similar personal assessments of the client’s state in the B-A-B periods. Hawthorne effect can be easily eliminated because Maritza works with many women personally. Maturity progress will also be assessed in personal evaluation of the client’s state done by Maritza. With regard to two variables, correlational analysis can be performed for measurements of the variables in different states. Moreover, different scales and surveys will be used to measure these variables, in order to reduce the effect of interaction of these variables.
In addition to personal evaluation of parenting and self-efficacy skills performed by the researcher (most probably, using a 10-level scale), there are other instruments for measuring key variables which Maritza should use. For parenting skills, Epstein Parenting Competencies Inventory (EPCI), parenting skills test developed by Ferguson C.J. and Schneider, H.G. (Touliatos & Perlmutter & Straus, 1990) and Parent Awareness Skills Survey (PASS) can be recommended. Skills Confidence Inventory (SCI) and Parental Self-Efficacy Scale (Touliatos & Perlmutter & Straus, 1990) are good instruments to measure self-efficacy. Since self-efficacy is both social and personal construct, it might be useful to estimate the client’s self-efficacy using the opinions of the staff and developing a weighted estimate.
In general, this single subject research design can indicate the effectiveness of treatment, but for improved validity it is recommended to add 2 more clients and to provide similar treatments to these women.

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