Analyzing the modern family dynamic

The University is home to the nation’s only center for research on marriage and family.

With its offices located in Williams Hall, the National Center for Marriage Research began with a $4.5 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2007.

Since its creation, the center has focused on several key questions on family: how adolescents transition into adult marriage, family formation outside of marriage, the relationship between family structure and family processes and the well-being of adults and children.

The center has a three-fold mission, said Susan Brown, one of the center’s co-directors and a sociology professor. They attempt to research marriages, train the next generation of family scholars and disseminate the research to the broader audience, notably scholars and public policymakers.

Wendy Manning, the center’s co-director and a sociology professor, said some of their research is showing how complicated even two-parent families can be.

‘We’ve used this concept of ‘family boundary’ ambiguously to see how people define families and how they’re perceived by family members.’ Manning said.

Since its inception, the center has produced numerous papers on a host of issues surrounding family and marriage. Most recently, they published a report on changing attitudes about cohabitation among young adults.

Krista Payne, a graduate research assistant with the center, said she finds her work with the center fulfilling because of its focus.

‘I’m in family studies, so to work for the nation’s only center specifically on my topic is really rewarding,’ she said.

Payne said as a soon-to-be graduate, her work with the center has improved her research skills.

‘It’s a honing of skills,’ Payne said. ‘I’m graduating and going out into the labor market and I think the center has given me a good idea of my research skills, my literature review and my ability to do data analysis.’

As the center continues iresearching, its findings may help federal policymakers develop and implement new policies aimed at aiding families in the U.S., Brown said.

The National Center for Marriage Research will present its findings to the University Board of Trustees tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. in room 308 of the Union.