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Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Psychology

Psychology Matters

Research Matters

watamuraBy Angela Narayan, PhD
Assistant Professor

 

 

The PROTECT Lab (Promoting Resilience in Offspring and Targeting Early Childhood Trajectories), directed by Dr. Angela Narayan in the Department of Psychology, is learning that conducting research can be therapeutically meaningful for participants, even if the research itself does not include a formal intervention. Dr. Narayan and her team of students are currently conducting a longitudinal study of low-income pregnant women and fathers-to-be on life experiences, relationships, mental health, parenting, and plans for the new baby. These interviews are often lengthy, running from two to four hours. A critical component is that they also emphasize helping parents-to-be to recall and reflect on positive experiences, relationships, and resources with the intention to draw upon existing strengths and assets to help expecting parents steel against the effects of poverty, stress, and trauma.

The team of interviewers, which consists of graduate students Vicky Atzl, Jill Merrick, and Laura River, and undergraduate students, Nina Lillehei and Maddie Schmidt, is finding that in addition to collecting compelling, complicated research data, that also includes audio- and video-recordings of participants interacting with their partners, the study is enabling participants to learn about and build insights about themselves.

Examples of participant reflections following completion of the first phase of the study have included,

"I feel happy that I got a chance to talk to someone about my experiences. My experience [in this study] was amazing and it actually helped me figure out what proactive steps I should take from here on out," and "I feel like my husband and I may have a better understanding of each other than I thought," and "My experience with this study was great. I felt like I let a lot out that had to come out and that I learned something new about myself."

A big test of whether participants truly find this research to be meaningful is whether they are interested and willing to come back! The interviewers are beginning to re-contact families who have given birth to invite them back for their second interview and are very encouraged that several participants have already initiated contact to share news of the baby and inquire when the next interview will take place. The team plans to continue to track participant reflections to understand how basic clinical research can be therapeutic for mother and fathers – as well as catalytic for new insights and positive change – as parents welcome and care for a new baby.