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Project Overview

The Family Communication Project (FCP) researchers study how family communication can help to improve child health and well-being. The FCP’s long-term goal is to understand how parent-child communication operates differently across different types of families. Almost everything we know about family communication comes from studies of traditional families that have children who are genetically related to their parents and to their siblings. However, today’s families are increasingly formed through adoption, ART, or remarriage. In these families, children might not be genetically related to their parents or to their siblings.

Our earliest FCP research studied family communication and child well-being in traditional and adoptive families. Our current work includes families formed through ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). ART has become an increasingly popular means for building a family, but it is still relatively new and the particular strengths and challenges of ART families are not well understood. This is especially true for ART families with children older than 5 years of age. Few, if any, research studies of U.S. ART families are working to understand the unique characteristics of ART families with older children and how those characteristics help to promote their children’s well-being.

Our research is based on a theory called Family Communication Patterns Theory. This theory explains why family communication is important to child well-being. The theory proposes that families operate best when everyone in the family agrees on and understands one another’s view of a topic. To understand and agree on a topic, our theory suggests that some families will talk about the topic quite a bit. Other families will talk very little and instead look to a family member, typically a parent, for guidance on the topic. Either approach can be effective, and through our research we are discovering which approach works best in different types of families. To read more about Family Communication Patterns Theory, please visit the Resources section of our web site.