Here’s a funny little post for you! Beginning when June was about 9 months old, we’ve participated in research studies at our local universities several times a year. When I mention this to friends, I’m often met with both interest and confusion, so I thought I’d share a bit about it today! Let’s do a little Q&A…
No photos of the studies, so here’s baby June at her first Duke game!
What do you mean by research studies? We happen to live by three major research universities (UNC, Duke, and NC State) and all have thriving research labs with ongoing studies that need an ongoing stream of participants. The studies we’ve participated in have focused on infant and child development – things like social and emotional development and language acquisition.
What is it like to participate? In our experience, it has involved a child and parent pair visiting a research lab and completing a cognitive or behavioral assessment. The labs are very family-friendly (waiting rooms with lots of toys!) and the students have also been very friendly (and grateful for our participation). The whole experience usually takes about half an hour.
We start by filling out some demographic paperwork before moving onto the study itself, which usually takes no longer than 15 minutes. As an example, the latest study June participated in was investigating how young children understand and use the word “we,” so she was shown various groups of kids on a screen and asked questions about them. In the COVID era, we’ve even participated in studies via Zoom!
What else do I need to know? Most labs are looking for kids ages 6 months to 18 years, though individual studies will have narrower required age ranges. In our experience, the scheduling has been very flexible – they usually have slots from 9-6 or so, including Saturdays. We’ve been paid either a small gas allowance or something like a $10 Amazon gift card as a thank you, and the kids have gotten a “junior scientist” certificate and their choice of a small prize. June has always found it to be fun!
How can I participate? Shortly after our kids were born, we received information in the mail about joining the research registries of UNC and Duke, which is how we first got connected. Most of our studies have been through the Duke Child Studies Lab, so if you’re in the Triangle, you can learn more and sign up here! Otherwise, I’d Google the name of your nearest university and “child studies” or “research studies” and see what you can find!
Why bother? Great question! Research studies first came on my radar years ago when a dear friend, working in a research lab as a Yale graduate student, connected with my mom (a preschool director), to recruit kiddos for her lab’s studies. I remember her saying how tough it was to find people to participate, and thought it was neat that they could work together. When I heard about similar studies in our area, I remembered that conversation and liked the idea of being able to help.
In a larger sense, y’all know I love my parenting books – and my favorite ones are chock full of anecdotes and findings from studies just like the ones we’ve participated in. Our individual 15-minute bit might seem small in the grand scheme of things, but it’s part of building a better understanding of behavior and development. Just like democracy, it turns out we all have a role to play in the scientific process! :)
Also, though my kids have only a limited understanding of what they’re doing at the moment, I think these visits will be a neat vehicle to talk to them about research, science, college, our brains, careers, etc. as they get older.
I’d love to hear: have you ever participated in a research study? As the researcher or participant, by yourself or with your child? Have I inspired you to look into options in your area? :)