A longitudinal study is designed to observe and investigate phenomena over time. Many theories in the social, behavioral, and health sciences postulate some causal association between variables (e.g., cigarette smoking causes cancer or poor conflict management skills cause divorce). The only way to validly test such theories is to follow and measure people over time. This is because of a basic fact in the logic of science: Cause must come before effect. So, for example, if conflict management skills are indeed a causal factor in divorce, it is essential to show that the poor conflict management skills predate the divorce. It is certainly possible that people going through a divorce do not bother to put much effort into managing their conflicts effectively. This ...
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