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The Family Life Project

The Family Life Project is being conducted by researchers at Penn State and the University of North Carolina. The goal of the project is to understand the development of young children by following them from infancy through their first three years of life. The study focuses on 1200 European American and African American children and their families living in the rural areas, small towns and small cities of three predominantly rural, low income counties in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Specifically, the goal of the study is to understand how community, employment, family economic resources, family contexts, parent-child relationships and individual differences in children interact over time to shape children's cognitive, emotional and physical development.

The sample is being drawn by recruiting mothers at hospitals following the birth of their infants. Home visits will be conducted when the infants are 6, 15, 24, and 36 months old, during which mother and father (or other co-resident caregiver such as the mother's cohabiting partner or the infant's grandmother) will complete questionnaires about their work, personal characteristics, family relationships, and their child's psychosocial functioning, and home observations will be conducted of parent-child and adults' interactions.

The study encompasses five projects being conducted by 23 investigators representing more than 10 disciplines, including education, psychology, human development, sociology, medicine and geography. In addition to Penn State and UNC-Chapel Hill investigators, the study includes researchers from Duke University and the University of Virginia. The five projects will assess various aspects of children's family context, family relationships and their cognitive and social development. Project I, led by Dr. Mark Greenberg of Penn State focuses on temperament, psychobiology, and cognitive predictors of Competence among children. Project II, led by Dr. Lynn Vernon-Feagans from UNC-Chapel Hill will focus on the precursors of school readiness and competence among children. Dr. Martha Cox from UNC-Chapel Hill will lead the project addressing family processes and development of children. Drs. Ann Crouter and Stacy Rogers, both of Penn State, lead the project investigating parents' work conditions and the development of children, and Dr. Linda Burton, also of Penn State, will lead the project which focuses on an ethnography of these non-urban communities, families and their children.

The project led by Drs. Crouter and Rogers will focus on all parents who are employed at least part-time with an emphasis on understanding how occupational conditions such as wages and benefits, work time and scheduling, opportunities for self-direction, and work stress influence parents' well-being, their parenting and ultimately children's psychosocial functioning. Analyses will include attention to selection effects into work and the processes the mediate and moderate the connections between parents' work, family relationships, and children's development. Longitudinal analyses will focuson how changes in parents' occupational circumstances are linked to longitudinal trajectories of parenting and children's psychosocial functioning. Analyses focused on dual earner families will take a dyadic approach, examining the contributions of parents' jobs individually and in combination. The study will also examine whether the associations of interest vary as a function of community context, defined in terms the extent of rurality and the extent of poverty.

For more information please contact us:
Dr. Ann Crouter via e mail at
Dr. Stacy Rogers via email at


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