Using Focus Group Data to Derive a Reality-Based Farm Stress Injury Model and Questionnaire

  • Kidd, Pamela;
  • Scharf, Ted

Questionnaires are used frequently in occupational health to assess exposure risks and compliance with safety measures. Occupational health researchers use models for the generation of testable hypotheses. This paper will discuss how qualitative data were used in model and questionnaire development by illustrating the process of developing one cluster, -- workload.-- This cluster was expanded into "workload and other demands" as part of the Farm Stessor Inventory (FSI). The FSI will be the topic of another paper presented by C. Heaney and M. Elliott. Workload was defined as perception, assessment, and judgment regarding the work environment as part of a farm stress and injury model. T. Scharf, P. Kidd and M. Veazie will describe the model.

Transcripts from nine focus group interviews with a total of 90 farmers and/or spouses of farmers were examined as part of a secondary analysis of agricultural stressors. Data were coded according to a keyword dictionary derived as part of the project. Printouts were generated for each keyword using the FYI 3000 qualitative data software program. Two researchers independently summarized - - item clusters -- within each major keyword category. Item clusters were topics of conversation repeated more than once across groups. The stories told by the farmers were examined further to generate contextual framing for the keyword categories. Then, item clusters were compared to identify areas of redundancy and were combined for parsimony. The derived clusters were compared with existing stress questionnaires relevant to farming to determine if the use of qualitative data provided insights into farm stressors not apparent in deductively derived questionnaires.

The mental demands of farm work are not addressed in existing questionnaires except as time pressures, hazardous working conditions or climatic conditions. To illustrate, the focus group participants related time pressures with the stress of planting and harvesting in the context of an inadequate labor force. Thus, the derived workload cluster encompasses labor availability and supervision, task/skill mix, and responsibility for others. Further, the farmers' perceptions of their work environment influenced their safety decision making. This theme served as the basis for the generation of a stress and injury model.

The inductive development of a questionnaire and model offers several advantages: (1) issues of concern to the target audience are identified and defined using their own jargon, (2) the content-rich examples provide a context for future item development and model testing, and (3) additional sources of data are identified that can be triangulated with questionnaire scores to enhance validity in construct measurement.

This research abstract was extracted from a portion of the proceedings of "Agricultural Safety and Health: Detection, Prevention and Intervention," a conference presented by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The authors above are from: The University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY; and NIOSH, Cincinnati, OH respectively.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More