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Communication Studies Faculty Found Family Communication & Relationships Lab

Thursday, Apr. 07, 2016


a photograph of a family walking in a field

Faculty and students in USU's College of Humanities and Social Sciences and its Department of Languages, Philosophy and Communication Studies are involved in research at the Family Communication Lab.

College of Humanities and Social Sciences assistant professors Elizabeth Dorrance Hall and Kristina Scharp announced the founding of the Family Communication and Relationships Lab at Utah State University.

The Family Communication and Relationships lab is a social science lab that houses a collection of researchers and students interested in understanding the complex dynamics of family communication in a variety of contexts.

“Family communication research is important because, for many of us, families are at the center of our lives and have the capacity to provide support and acceptance during challenging times and major transitions” said the lab’s co-founder Dorrance Hall. “Because family members are so central, they can also be sources of frustration and stress. Our research aims to illuminate the ways families can play both roles so we can help foster healthy family relationships and facilitate change in those that are less healthy.”

To meet these aims, directors Dorrance Hall and Scharp bring expertise in interpersonal, family, health and organizational communication. Current projects cover topics that include adoptive families, family estrangement and marginalization, undergraduate student parents and overparenting, as well as processes such as seeking supportive communication and giving advice.

The lab does more than help families, according to Scharp.

“The lab is also an opportunity to support Utah State University’s long tradition of providing research opportunities to undergraduate students.” She said.

Indeed, the lab’s website (familycommlab.com) features 12 undergraduate and graduate students who are currently engaged in research projects.

“We are amazed at the caliber of USU’s undergraduate students, especially those majoring in Communication Studies” said Scharp. “They are curious, hard-working and interested in the process of seeking answers to important questions.”

To date, research from the Family Communication Lab has been featured in popular media outlets including the Wall Street Journal and in top-tier journals Communication Research, Human Communication Research, and the Journal of Family Communication. Undergraduate and Graduate students interested in participating in family research can contact the lab directors through the website.

Undergraduate students in Dorrance Hall’s and Scharp’s classes will present on research projects central to the Family Communication Lab’s mission at a poster session Monday, April 25, from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Taggart Student Center Sunburst Lounge. The event is free and open to the public. Research topics range from how student parents balance academics and parenthood to how advice from social network members can influence personal relationships.

Related links:

Contact: Elizabeth Dorrance Hall, edh@usu.edu





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