The Center for Family Research is involved in a number of projects that help us learn how families, schools and communities can best support challenges that families face. Each project starts with a proposal that is sent to an agency, such as the National Institutes of Health. This proposal states very specifically what we are interested in studying. Our approach 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 help all families support their children so that they develop into strong and healthy adults. We also test programs that are designed to help families prevent problems before they start. In these studies, one group of families participates in the program and another group of families does not participate. We then compare the two groups to see if the families who took part in the program experienced the benefits that the program was designed to provide.
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 a body. We have begun to look at the connection between life experiences and health by measuring a variety of biological factors, including glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol. We’ve also began to examine stress impacts on the brain and have conducted functional brain scans on more than 100 CFR study participants.
We are not an agency that provides services to families. Rather, we study families to try to develop better solutions to problems that they face. Families often already have the answers – we try to discover those answers and share them with other families.