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Stephen Hinshaw

Not for the Faint of Heart

Posted on July 20, 2006

Stephen Hinshaw (bio) shares lessons he has learned while conducting longitudinal research.


Q: What are some of the issues that early researchers should consider when thinking about doing longitudinal research?
A: Longitudinal research is not for the faint of heart. Many people who end up deciding to do longitudinal research somehow discover at some point in doing the study that it would be a good idea to follow these people over time. But if you haven't pre-planned that, if you haven't set in your own mind and in your research team's mind and in the sample's mind that you mean business for the long haul, it's going to be difficult to track your subjects.

I've learned some lessons over the years. First, plan well for the baseline data; either the treatment trial or the initial data collection. Have a really solid base in childhood data. Second, announce to families at the time of initial recruitment, "Welcome to what we hope to be a study for the rest of your lives." When we bring them back in for another round of data collection, families still say, "I remember, Dr. Hinshaw, when you said you were going to be with us for a while; and that stuck with us." And in fact families will call ahead of the time of our planned follow-up asking when the next assessment is going to be.

Longitudinal work takes all sorts of pre-planning. If you instill in yourself and in your team and in the families the idea that, although we can only get five years of funding at a time, we have the goal of following you up through childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and beyond, in whatever way we can, then the impression is created that this is going to be a lifelong study and it's then easier to go back to the families because the expectation is in everybody's mind.



Based on interview with researcher in March 2006.


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