Lavelli, M., Pantoja, A. P. F., Hsu, H., Messinger, D., Fogel, A. (2005/2008). Using microgenetic designs to study change processes. In D. Teti (Eds.), Handbook of Research Methods in Developmental Science(pp. 40-65). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Abstract.The process of change represents a main, central issue for the study of development. Basic and applied researchers in developmental psychology have aimed their research work to answer several key questions related to the problem of change. How does change occur? What mechanisms produce change? What conditions are likely to promote the emergence of change in development? What are the relationships between variability and stability in developmental processes? Nevertheless, observing and understanding how change occurs has been recognized to be a quite difficult and challenging task. It is our contention that the main problem appears to come from the difficulty of devising and implementing appropriate methods for studying change while it is occurring, instead of comparing pre- and post-change behavioral patterns. In this chapter, we aim to illustrate a research design, referred to as microgenetic designs, specifically devised for documenting change processes in development. First, we discuss the limitations of traditional research designs to capture ongoing processes of change. We then present microgenetic designs through an illustration of their key-characteristics. This is followed by a review of the theoretical foundations of microgenetic designs as well as some of the historical and current observational and experimental studies based on microgenetic designs, illustrating their possibilities. In particular, we give a detailed presentation of the relational-historical approach as a particular form of microgenetic design devised to study developmental change processes in interpersonal relationships. Examples from our studies are given to illustrate the steps of a research program informed by the relational-historical approach. In the following sections of the chapter, we describe different quantitative and qualitative strategies that can be used to analyze data collected through microgenetic designs. Finally, we discuss the advantages and the critical issues raised by the use of microgenetic designs, suggesting new directions for microgenetic research.