Faculty Members and Students Study Healthy Families

By Robert Bastone , Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

Healthy Families Project Research TeamIn order to acquire a better understanding of how children develop their health beliefs and behaviors, a team of faculty members, graduate, and undergraduate students are currently in the process of conducting a longitudinal study. The endeavor, known as the Healthy Families Project, is being conducted and overseen by Professor Barbara J. Tinsley from the Psychology department.

The study focuses primarily on gaining an understanding of how children are taught their beliefs about health - related issues. The main focus is to discover the relationship between the children's parental involvement and their social and cultural environment, and how that affects their beliefs about health. The study focuses primarily on two ethnic groups. Specifically, families of Mexican origin and non-Latino white families are being studied. Families and students in the fourth grade were recruited through many elementary schools in the Riverside Unified School District.

Research was conducted and data compiled over a period of four years using a longitudinal method in which the same group of students and families were studied in a laboratory setting. Each group was individually interviewed and asked to complete questionnaires about their "understanding of how people within their cultures behave in ways that maintain or threaten their health, focusing on behaviors related to obesity, such as exercise and food consumption."

Families were asked to participate in activities with each other. These were then taped and analyzed in order to determine patterns and characteristics of certain behaviors relating to health. The children were also observed while in school for the purpose of creating a much clearer and complete depiction of their environment. The data was then fully compiled and will be analyzed as a whole in order for conclusions to be made.

Funding for the project was initially provided by a grant from the National Institute of Health over the course of the first five years of the study until data collection was completed. Currently, the Healthy Families Team has completed compiling the data, and is in the process of analysis. The project began in 1997 and is currently in its seventh year. Data collection was completed two years ago, but analysis of data will not be completed for quite some time, due to the large amount of data collected.

The Healthy Families Project team is comprised of Professor Barbara J. Tinsley of the Psychology department, as well as four well-qualified graduate assistants, and thirteen undergraduate research assistants from a variety of majors. The project is based out of UCR with offices in the Psychology department at Olmsted Hall.

Professor Tinsley has taught and researched in CHASS for several years. She received her Bachelors of Science in Child Development, and her MA and PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana.

Dr. Tinsley has been honored with numerous fellowships, honors, and awards, and has served as an editor and consultant for numerous well-respected publications in her field.

If you would like to learn more about the Healthy Families Project please visit the Healthy Families Website.

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