The aim of this article was to conduct a critical evaluation and assess the internal validity of the research, designed by Gammer, Hartley and Jones. The study performed by them evaluates online, low- intensity, an intervention which is companion based on a population known as Kindness for Mums Online (KFMO). They have targeted mothers who have delivered a child in the past year and are in the postpartum stage. They developed this study to increase self- companionship and well- being and to ultimately reduce depression, stress, self- criticism and anxiety among them (Gammer, Hartley & Jones, 2020). Overall impression of the study’s internal validity was not good as there were multiple threats that were observed in their experiment.
The design used by the researcher was a randomized control trial (RCT). For the experiment, women who used KFMO were compared against the women who were in the waitlist. The women who received the delayed intervention were grouped as control. 1:1 ratio was used to randomize the participants. Automatic randomization was done by a computer to make sure that group sizes are equal. The intervention was provided through a study website. The KMFO group consist of 105 mothers and the control group consisted of 101 mothers. KMFO program was conducted for 5-6 weeks. They were given exercises to perform (Gammer, Hartley & Jones, 2020).
The method undertaken for the study was to take women who gave birth in the last year randomly from a large population. An initial screening was done with the help of a questionnaire and then the participants were selected. Tests were given to them to evaluate their well- being, self- compassion, self- criticism, self- reassurance, depression, stress and anxiety. And then, few exercises were also mentioned that they can perform so that changes in the above-stated factors can be noted (Gammer, Hartley & Jones, 2020).
There can be various threats to their study. The first threat was selection bias. Even though the study was a randomized control trial, the groups that were formed have unequal participants. 206 women were considered for the study but due to biasness the intervention group contained 105 participants and the control group contain only 101 participants. This could have caused a threat to the internal validity of the research performed as the number of applicants should be equal so that the result does not deflect from the expected outcome.
The other threat that can be seen in this study is the history of the participants. Historical events in individual life may influence the experiment results. As this study was 5- 6 weeks long, various factors could have been changed in these women's lives. It may be something related to their personal lives or even to the other things like weather or a natural disaster. All these issues can affect the person who is under the observation and therefore can deviate the expected results.
Another threat to the internal validity of this study was maturation. Maturation means changes occurring over some time. These changes could be growing older, stronger than before or even getting impatient and tired. This all happens when the period of the experiment conducted is long. For this study also, 5- 6 weeks were required. The participants could have faced tiredness or have become impatient with the long process. This could be a threat to the internal validity of the research and this paper.
Attrition was also a threat to the internal validity of the study performed. It means losing subjects which were used in studies over a while. Few studies last for multiple days, weeks and sometimes for months also and not all participants can complete the duration hence they leave the research. In this study also, many applicants did not entirely complete the measures which were post-intervention but did entire measures of a follow- up. This may have caused some biasness in the result as the outcomes which are shown will be according to the participants who have completed the whole experimental process.
Testing was one of the threats to the internal validity which was controlled. It means when subjects are provided with the same tests again and again they start to do better in them because they develop learning about the test and become familiar with the learning process. For their study, Gammer, Hartley and Jones have given different tests in every session. This inhibits the repetition and the participants have to face a new test each time. The exercises which were given to them were also different from each other. And hence, testing would not have caused any deviation from the results expected and the internal validity was safeguarded.
For reducing the threats to the internal validity of the study, researchers for this experiment could make a test which has a shorter duration. 5- 6 weeks for a study like this is a large time especially when it involves mothers of infants. Women who were taken for this study have their baby in the last year only. At this age, the child usually asks for a lot of attention from parents and mainly from their mothers. So, it can be difficult for the participants to be involved in such a long experimental process. Hence, the duration can be cut short. Researchers should also pay attention to group formation. Like in their studies, the groups formed were unequal even though they have been formed by a random method with the help of a computer. The internal validity can be increased if these two things have been incorporated in their study.
In the conclusion, it can be said that the study performed by Gammer, Hartley and Jones were having multiple threats to internal validity. The threats that were identified were: selection bias, history, maturation and attrition. One of the threats which were completely controlled was testing as there was no repetition of the test that was provided to the women over 5-6 weeks.
Gammer, I., Hartley‐Jones, C., & Jones, F. W. (2020). A randomized controlled trial of an online, compassion‐based intervention for maternal psychological well‐being in the first year postpartum. Mindfulness, 11(4), 928‐939.
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