Brian J Willoughby and Spencer L James, Family Life
This project had mentored goals related to student involvement with conducting a research project and collecting data, student independent research projects with data, and general student learning. Below we outline these goals and discuss how each goals was met.
Overview of Project Findings
We successfully contacted and recruited 160 emerging adults at wave 2. These emerging adults were directed to take an online survey about their marital beliefs, dating behavior, and personal life. These data were then cleaned and examined to better understand how marital beliefs among emerging adults change and shift over time. Some of the highlights from this data including the following:
- One of the most consistent research statistics related to marriage and marital beliefs is the idea that the age 25 is the most ideal age to get married. Our own research shows that the ages between 24 and 28 are the most ideal ages to get married. Among the young adults who do believe there is an ideal age, over 60% reported that ideal as being between the age of 24 and 28. Interestingly, this is a few years younger than when most young adults will actually marry.
- Many young adults have fears and anxieties about marriage and many of these fears center on if one is “ready.” The data suggested about a 60/40 split among our sample where a little less than half felt ready to get married while more than half did not. There could be many reasons for these results. Overall, these results suggest that many young adults feel unprepared to marry.
- Of course, opinions and beliefs about marriage change over time. We documented significant changes in several marital beliefs over time. These changes over time may have come from new beliefs about marriage due to maturation, relationship changes, or a number of other variables. Whatever the reason, it is evident that the opinions of all those surveyed have changed over time in varied ways. This finding has formed the backbone of several publications coming out of the project.
- In each relationship, there are certain landmarks that you reach as a couple. While many young adults now live together at least once prior to marriage, our results suggest little agreement on if this is a needed step before marriage. Likewise, although most young adults will have engaged in premarital sex prior to marriage, there was again disagreement regarding if such behavior was important prior to marriage. Overall, it looks like the majority of our participants more strongly desired their partners to have reached the relationship landmarks of living together before marriage and to have had sex with their partner before marriage as more time had passed.
Project Goals for Mentoring
Outcomes related to student involvement with conducting project and collecting data:
Outcome 1: Mentored students will understand the purpose of the IRB and how to submit IRB forms for approval in connection to research with human subjects
Throughout the process, undergraduate students wrote the IRB submission forms and were assigned primary responsibility, under our supervision, for producing documents for IRB review. In every case, the students’ submissions were successful, giving the students a sense of accomplishment.
Outcome 2: Mentored students will learn how to conduct longitudinal follow-up studies including best practices in regard to contact and recruitment of participants.
Undergraduate students had primary responsibility for collecting and retaining our sample. They crafted the emails, created and maintained the database with respondents’ personal information, and kept in contact with the respondents by answering questions, following up when respondents did not take the survey, and even made phone calls to answer questions. When the process began, we spent several weeks teaching them correct protocol for contacting and recruiting participants. This training included readings and discussions with faculty over the course of more than a month.
Outcome 3: Mentored students will understand the importance of data cleaning and how to conduct such cleaning
Training on data cleaning was a hands-on experience with faculty as we showed students tools professionals use to identify problematic or uncharacteristic response patterns by conducting group training sessions every week as well as sitting down with students one on one. Students expressed surprise at their ability to clean data and satisfaction that this skill would be transferable to the job market.
Outcomes related to student independent research projects with data
Outcome 1: Mentored students will learn how to create a viable research question and search for research literature associated with that research question.
Students were encouraged to come up with a viable research question on which to write a paper. This process occurred over the course of an entire semester as we taught the students about what makes a research question viable and what constitutes a contribution to the literature. We then assigned them to conduct a literature review on that topic and we then used that initial literature review as the start of their research paper.
Outcome 2: Mentored students will learn how to conduct basic statistical analyses utilizing SPSS computer software.
Students involved in the project were also part of the SFL Academy, a small group of SFL students who take intensive, graduate level coursework in statistics, among other topics. The course, which focused heavily on the use of SPSS, focus on basic analyses using SPSS, which in turn opened up opportunities for us to instruct the students in more advanced techniques, that they then employed in their research papers. As with many elements of the project, this process involved one-on-one mentoring with faculty as the students utilized SPSS to work on their independent projects.
Outcome 3: Mentored students will learn how to report and present their research to an academic audience.
In November 2013, the undergraduate students presented their research papers at an academic conference, The Annual Meeting of the National Council on Family Relations held at San Antonio, during a symposium dedicated to the topic of shifting attitudes toward marriage. We prepared them for this opportunity by staging several mock conference presentations in the weeks leading up to the conference and provided feedback on their presentations. They were among the only undergraduates at the entire conference to present papers.
Outcomes related to general student learning
Outcome 1: Mentored students will gain a better appreciation for the research process.
Because of their intense, daily involvement in the research process, from conceptualizing research questions, obtaining and maintaining respondents, to producing research manuscripts (1 manuscript has been accepted at Emerging Adulthood while another is currently under revision at the Journal of Psychology, both of which were authored by the students), the students have gained valuable experience in how to do research and how the research process works. They have acquired skills that have served them well in their pursuits since leaving the project, which include graduate school and working at a job that draws on the research experience gained here.
Outcome 2: Mentored students will develop stronger interpersonal, teamwork and presentation skills.
Because we held weekly meetings, where students were held accountable for the high expectations we placed on them, the experience required the students to work together and develop teamwork to accomplish the task. The students quickly became good friends, friendships that have lasted to this day.
Outcome 3: Mentored students will improve the both the quality and sophistication of their academic writing.
The faculty involved in the project encouraged the students to write a variety of documents, including emails and letters to the respondents, project notes and documents, literature reviews, IRB submissions, and research manuscripts. Through the process, faculty supervised and provided feedback. In particular, faculty spent a great deal of time providing feedback on how to conceptualize and write up research findings, including how to write about theory, methodological approaches, and statistical results.
List of Students Mentored and Deliverables
Funding helped support six mentored students. Two students (Kyle and Melissa) were supported for the duration of the grant:
- Kyle Bartholomew: helped with IRB preparation, participant recruitment and retention, data collection, data cleaning, and data analysis.
- SFL Academy Acceptance
- 1st authored NCFR paper presentation
- Graduate School Acceptance (Human Development and Family Studies –Ohio State (Ph.d.))
- Co-authored publication (Emerging Adulthood)
- 1st authored publication currently in revision (Journal of Psychology)
- Melissa Medaris: helped with IRB preparation, participant recruitment and retention, data collection, data cleaning, and data analysis.
- SFL Academy Acceptance
- 1st authored NCFR paper presentation
- 1st authored publication (Emerging Adulthood)
- co-authored publication currently in revision (Journal of Psychology)
- Lora Tomlinson: helped with IRB preparation, participant recruitment and retention, data collection, data cleaning, and data analysis.
- Graduate School Acceptance (Marriage and Family Therapy – Seattle Pacific University)
- McKenzie Vance: helped with IRB preparation, participant recruitment and retention, and data collection. McKenzie helped for one semester before leaving on a mission.
- Miranda Marsee: helped with data cleaning and data analysis. Currently working with project.
- Amanda Terry: helped with data cleaning and data analysis. Currently working with project.
Expenditures from the project were in line with those outlined in the original MEG application. Although other costs, such as participant compensation, were less than hoped, the MEG application monies were for student wages and travel to NCFR for two students. These expenditures occurred as expected.
|Funding Source||Budget Need/Breakdown||Total Requested||Funding Status|
|Mentored Environment Grant||Student Wages for 4 students (Winter 2013)||4 x $1000 = $4000||As Expected|
|Mentored Environment Grant||Student Wages for 2 students (Summer 2013)||2 x $1000 = $2000||As Expected|
|Mentored Environment Grant||Travel to NCFR for 2 students (Fall 2013)||2 x $1000 = $2000||As Expected|
Total Expenditures: $8,000