Weeks 1 & 2 – The Healthy Beginning’s Lab: The Glass Task

While I am only a few weeks into the summer, the Heathy Beginnings Lab and I are already fully immersed in finishing out our Glass Task study. This study, that was begun last May, lays the groundwork for our lab’s investigation further into communication between mothers and children, and how to improve it among all families, but with potential implications for those with an incarcerated parent. The Glass Task experiment involves a discussion task between the mother and child age 4-6, and examines whether or not the presence of a Plexiglas barrier between the two impacts the quality of their communication. Our lab will augment the Glass Task with a video task condition, which would look at the impact that video chat has on communication between mothers and their children in contrast with an in-person, observed interaction.

In my first weeks here at the college to research, nearly all of my time has been spent on recruitment efforts, scheduling for the Glass Task, and writing about my task for the IRB form. Recruitment in particular requires a level of organization that I am glad to be honing. With my fellow students, I research venues at which to advertise our study to mothers of young kids and contact summer activities in the Williamsburg area in order to flyer around town. It is necessary to think outside the box when recruiting, so that we can cast a wider net and provide an opportunity to participate at a wider variety of locations. This summer, the recruitment efforts that I am heading have focused on community pools, library programming, various Vacation Bible School programs, daycares and rec centers. This week, we are looking forward to a recruitment event at a local library during one of their summer programs.

I have been working to design specific protocol for the video task condition as well. While it is a third condition to the Glass Task experiment, it differs slightly procedurally. The Glass Task examines communication between mothers and children, as well as home environment, parenting practices, as well as the child’s attachment security using a family drawing task. The family drawing task is a feature of this experiment worth noting. In the family drawing task, the child is asked to draw a picture of his or her family on a blank piece of paper using a particular number of colored pencils. The drawing is then coded for variables such as creativity, vulnerability, and family pride and happiness (Fury, Carlson, Sroufe 1997). Family drawings have been shown to be a potentially useful and robust method of measuring a child’s attachment representations—in the case of the Glass Task and video condition, the mother (Fury, Carlson, Sroufe 1997). In the Glass Task, the child completes the family drawing prior to the discussion task, while in the video task condition the family drawing will be completed after the video chat or in-person interaction, in order to assess the impact of these interactions on the child’s attachment security rather than the child’s attachment security prior to the task. Attachment representations and family drawings are an important aspect of this experiment, and my work this summer uses them to learn more about how the children participating in these studies view themselves in relation to their families. Changing the placement of the family drawing task in the video task condition may provide more insight into the family relationships involved in the communication patterns we hope to improve. More work is needed to fully develop this protocol and decide how best to test our hypothesis.