Choosing Controls in Biologic Psychiatry

Ezra Susser, Sharon Schwartz, Alfredo Morabia and Evelyn J. Bromet

in Psychiatric Epidemiology

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780195101812
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199864096 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Psychiatry Series

Choosing Controls in Biologic Psychiatry

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  • Public Health and Epidemiology
  • Medical Statistics and Methodology


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One of the most difficult and intellectually intriguing tasks of a biologic case-control study is the selection of the control group. An inappropriate control group can mask the presence of a true association or create the illusion of an association when one does not exist. Choosing a control group depends on thinking through the implications of many other features of the study: the types of cases being selected, the biologic process being examined, and most critically, the specific hypothesis being tested. No criteria can be advanced to define the perfect control group, because there is no control group that is appropriate for all or even most case-control studies. Nonetheless, it is possible to approach the task systematically. The previous chapters derived a practical guideline for making the best choice of a control group in an ordinary case-control study. This chapter demonstrates how it can be applied to biologic studies of causes. It takes up a central question, applies the guideline, and arrives at an answer that has important implications for biologic research.

Keywords: biologic research; case-control studies; control group selection; association; criteria

Chapter.  4797 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Medical Statistics and Methodology

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