UT Researchers Study Family’s Effect on Adolescents

KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee project to discover how family life affects adolescents has received almost $2 million from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Drs. Cheryl Buehler and John Orme will study 400 sixth-graders and their two-parent families for five years under the $1.86 million grant. Buehler teaches in UT’s child and family studies department and Orme is on the College of Social Work faculty.

“We’ll be looking at how parents get along and the children’s relationships with their friends,” said Buehler. “We want to know how it all fits together as children move into adolescence, how family interactions affect their academic performance and their social adjustment.”

The researchers will investigate factors like marital relations, parenting approaches and parents’ emotional well-being to determine how they affect the social and emotional balance of early adolescents. Buehler and Orme will administer questionnaires to the participants and also visit their homes to hold semi-structured interactions. The interactions will be videotaped and evaluated by the researchers.

The families with children in Knox County schools will be invited to participate and will be paid to participate, Buehler said.

“Families are willing to participate because they think it’s important and they’re interested in how families work,” she said.