Dichotomous Variables

Dichotomous Variables






Dichotomous variables

Often in study and practice, one encounters variables that only fall within a handful of discrete and non-quantitative values such as blood type and gender. Such variables are categorical, and they include dichotomous and continuous variables (Holly and Saimbert, 2012). Polit and Beck (2004) defines dichotomous variables as those that take only two values. This paper considers the characteristics of dichotomous variables and some of the variables as encountered in family care. The paper also considers an approach to summarizing dichotomous variables.

One of the features of dichotomous variables is that they are binary. From the definition given above, dichotomous variables take only one of the possible two values. The binary nature of dichotomous variables results from the fact that they indicate either the presence or absence of a trait (Holly and Saimbert, 2012). Tappen (2011) explains that dichotomous variables may or may not require coding during their recording. For instance, gender does not require any coding as it comprises of male or female. However, the case of ethnicity variable will necessitate coding whereby the variable is recorded into a set of dichotomous variables such as African American or not African American.

There are various dichotomous variables encountered in nursing. One such variable that is critical in clinical follow up is on whether a patient had any admission in a hospital. Such variable is critical in deciphering the medical history of a patient. Moreover, another variable that is essential in family care is the question of whether a patient has limitations on daily living activities. These activities include eating, dressing, bathing and toileting. This variable is essential in determining whether a patient should be allocated a caregiver or whether he/she will be placed under an elderly care for the old. Enrollment in Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is also critical in determining services one is entitled to and any exception.

Dichotomous variables can be summarized using likelihood ratios. According to Holly and Saimbert (2012), dichotomous variables can be considered in terms of odds ratio, as would be the case in a case-control or relative risk in a cohort study. These likelihood ratios help to give the chance of an event occurring in one group as compared to the same event occurring in another group.




Holly, C., Salmond, S. W., & Saimbert, M. K. (2012). Comprehensive systematic review for advanced nursing practice. New York: Springer Pub.

Polit, D. F., & Beck, C. T. (2004). Nursing research: Principles and methods. Philadelphia, Penns: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Tappen, R. M. (2011). Advanced nursing research: From theory to practice. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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