For Families: Frequently Asked Questions

What is a research project?  [Back to top]

A research project typically includes collecting information (data) from a specific group of individuals to answer a scientific question. The projects at the Center for Family Research are designed to learn about the life experiences of individuals and families across the life span. We learn about challenges related to raising children, discrimination and racism, economic hardship, stress and health challenges, and community and family environments. We also learn about the ways in which individuals and families thrive despite the challenges they experience.

What is the process to start a research project?  [Back to top]

Each project starts with a proposal that is sent to a funding agency, such as the National Institutes of Health. This proposal states very specifically the questions we are interested in studying and how we propose to study them. Our approach to research focuses on understanding what families do right. For example, in some projects we study young people who do well – those who stay in school, avoid using alcohol and other drugs, and plan for the future – and look at what parents, teachers, and community members have done to support those behaviors. In some of our studies, we explore ways in which we can support new parents as they care for their infants and very young children. We also develop and test programs that are designed to help families prevent problems before they start.
In our more recent studies, we have begun to explore how stress gets “under the skin.” Stress is a normal part of life, but when it is chronic, it may begin to take a toll on the body. We have begun to conduct research on the connection between life experiences and health by measuring a variety of biological factors, including glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol. We have also begun to examine how stress impacts on the brain and in turn may affect decision-making and planning.

Who can participate in a research project?  [Back to top]

Each research project at the Center is designed with specific criteria (e.g., specific age, county of residence). To participate in a project, the participant must meet the specific eligibility criteria for that project.

What will I be asked to do if I agree to participate? [Back to top]

Each project at the Center is different. If you agree to take part in one of our projects, usually you will be asked to set up a time to do a research visit in your home or a convenient location within your community. You will meet with a trained data collector who will ask you to complete a computerized questionnaire. In some projects, the questionnaires are collected by phone call or on the internet. Some studies involve the collection of blood, saliva, and/or urine samples.

What happens to my information when it get backs to the Center? [Back to top]

All information that participants give us is kept private. Every participant is assigned a code number and the information you provide is stored with that code, not your name. Researchers carefully follow guidelines to make sure that your information is kept confidential. We do not study any one participant’s answers – we combine all the information from all participants in the study and only examine the group’s answers. For federally-funded projects, with your permission, we will share data from our studies for other scientists to use, after it has been anonymized. By “anonymized,” we mean that we remove all identifiers (even the numeric study ID) so that there is no way that the data could be linked to an individual.

Why does the Center focus their research on African American families? [Back to top]

At the Center for Family Research we are committed to learning about African American family life through research studies. We recognized the lack of useful information about rural African American families’ strengths and challenges and decided to direct our efforts toward this research. Because federal and state policymakers use the information gained via family research studies to decide how to spend tax money, it is very important that they have accurate information about all of Georgia’s families.