We have now begun administering questionnaires and collecting data. I put the word beginning in quotation marks because, in reality, this study began long ago during brainstorming and conceptualization, but something about these past weeks feels like a real beginning. Our discussion, organization and planning are finally being put to use and the lab members and I are watching our hard work turn into the beginnings of results.

Unfortunately we had no success recruiting participants through the school system and turned instead to contact databases from older studies to reach out to families. It was hard for us to believe that we didn’t get a response from a single one of our 1,000 invitations but I imagine school systems and classrooms are flooded with requests, solicitations and forms to fill out, and I’ll have to just let that mystery go for now. If nothing else, our effort was fruitful in terms of experience; I now know the risk of using a large public school system to recruit participants, and will be mindful to explore other avenues in the future.

Having organized and dug out old files to find contact information for kids in the right age range, we began to send out letters, emails, and eventually phone calls asking people to help, and then asking again. Slowly but surely, the lab calendar began to fill.┬áThe experience of administering the questionnaires itself has been fun, as we get out of the lab room (and our own minds) and into the homes of different Williamsburg families. We oftentimes spend time observing familial interactions before and after the questionnaires and during the discussion task, and it has been interesting to compare various home atmospheres. In the same day we can interview a pair of kids who are calm, sweet, and well behaved and a pair of kids, the same age, who make me thank my stars not to be in middle school anymore. Oftentimes mothers struggle to answer questions on their questionnaires regarding emotional expression and behavior in the home and the types of conundrums different mothers have often seem reflective of their children’s behavior or demeanor, or even just the feeling of the house. In a sense, interacting with the mothers and children has reinforced my desire to go into clinical work; it has reminded me how interesting it is to analyze and observe behavior and how refreshing it can be to work with other people. Attending to another person’s feelings (even if only through pre-written questions) has the ability to pull me out of myself and put my own stresses and burdens in perspective.

Perhaps a collaboration between research and clinical work is in my future…


  1. I love this post! The psych lab I am a part of works with 8-12 year old children and their parents, so I can empathize with the unique stresses of working with children. They are all at different maturity levels, have different abilities to focus, and communicate differently. Although this can make working with children challenging, it’s also very rewarding, because they’re almost always sweet and friendly, regardless of their initial differences. I find it interesting that you go to people’s homes to conduct the interviews and observations, because we invite the families in to our lab on campus. I suppose it makes sense for your project to observe them in that setting though. I suggest that you try to contact the schools again in September if you’re still running your study then. I don’t know which schools you’re contacting, but I know that some psych labs have had some success with that in the past. Good luck with your research!