Longitudinal studies are observational research techniques done to study the relationships of variables which can run for a long period of time, from several years to decades. These are also co-relational studies where data is collected from the start of these researches and repeated in the course of time.
As opposed to cross-sectional studies, longitudinal studies have three kinds; cohort, panel and retrospective. A cohort study involves the observation of a similar group based on demographics like age, region and life experiences. On the other hand, a retroactive study deals with historical data while a panel study includes a random sample of subjects. However, despite the advantages of longitudinal studies, there are also disadvantages. Let us look at the considered benefits and setbacks.
List of the Pros of Longitudinal Studies
1. Allows Pattern Determination
Since longitudinal studies can span even for decades, they are useful in giving researchers time to study variable for a long time and analyze patterns like behavior, occurrences and the like. For example, identical twins who become subjects can be observed over the years by separating them and letting them grow up with two different influences to determine the similarities and variations of their development and personalities.
2. Useful for Different Fields
For subjects who are observed for a long time and with the use of variables, data will be collected and used to help in discovering medical and psychological conditions as well as treatments. These types of studies are instrumental in exploring other areas of medicine for the benefit of the majority of the people. Longitudinal studies can be used to observe the developments in child behavior, economies and health. When it comes to medical studies, for example, certain subjects with a particular medical condition will be observed overtime and given different medication. This can help researchers discover what drugs are effective.
List of the Cons of Longitudinal Studies
1. Involvement of Time and Large Number of Subjects
Despite the advantages attributed to longitudinal studies, these researches involve years to complete and requires many people to get involved. Because of the time it takes for these studies to be done, it can be quite challenging for those involved. Also, it can be hard to look for willing participants to join these studies. For example, a study will run for 20 years and there will be 100 subjects. Inevitable events can happen and these can include death, change of mind and communication loss can hamper and affect the process.
2. Data Collection
Since these studies entail data collection done at several periods of time and with scheduling, it may happen that the information gathered might not be as accurate since no one really knows what can happen in between those periods. Moreover, with the panel longitudinal study where subjects are randomly selected, it is also possible that respondents will give conditional responses without them realizing it. In return, results will not be accurate.
Longitudinal studies are conducted with good intentions in mind. Whether these researchers are advantageous or not, it depends on the how these studies are done and recorded. But one thing is for sure, it has both pros and cons.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.