This is an archived article.

February 19, 2002

200 Puget Sound families needed for free study exploring relationships, communication in children’s transition to adolescence

University of Washington researchers interested in building and maintaining healthier family relationships are looking for 200 Puget Sound families with a child 8 years of age to participate in a five-year study.

The study is funded by a $3.1 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, and is designed to examine the stresses affecting families as their children make the transition from childhood to adolescence and to develop interventions to ease this sometimes difficult period.

The study will be headed by Sybil Carr?, research assistant professor of family and child nursing, and John Gottman, UW professor of psychology and author of the best-selling book “The Heart of Parenting, How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child.”

The researchers are looking for married couples of all racial and ethnic backgrounds with children to participate. Families may have several children, but one must be 8 years old at the start of the study. Families who are selected to participate can earn up to $1,280 at the end of the five-year study.

“This study looks at how parenting influences children’s emotional development or what researchers call emotional IQ,” said Carr?. “Puberty is a time when we see a lot of emotional turmoil and mental health problems in children. We see increases in depression among girls and increases in physical aggression and conduct disorders among boys.”

In previous and on-going studies, Carr? and Gottman have examined the impacts of infants and 4- to 6-year olds on marriage and the new study is the next step in looking at how emotionally intelligent families evolve.

In addition to looking at how parents help shape the emotional health of children, the study also will examine the impacts children going through puberty have on their parents’ relationship.

Families in the study will be asked to participate in three sets of visits to a UW laboratory and allow researchers to make three sets of home visits. During these sessions, parents and children will be asked to fill out questionnaires separately. Parents also will be interviewed about the history of their relationship and their philosophy of marriage, as well discuss areas of continuing disagreement. Parents also will be asked to teach their child how to play a video game, and engage in a problem-solving task together.

Physiological data will be collected during several of these sessions, some of which also will be videotaped. In addition, each child’s teacher will be asked to fill out an evaluation of the child’s school behavior.

“My sense is most families anticipate their children becoming teen-agers with some dread. They have heard all the horror stories,” said Carr?. “Hopefully, we can learn from the families in our studies and help them and other families to enjoy the transition to adolescence rather than worrying about it. We want our 200 families to come through this experience together as families.”

Couples who are interested in volunteering for the study or who have questions should call the Family Heath Project’s message line at (206) 543-8089 or check the project Web site at http://depts.washington.edu/uwfamily/.

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For more information, contact Carr? at (206) 543-2968 or carrere@u.washington.edu