ers from these fields use case studies, ethnographies, longitudinal studies, diary and time-use records, assessments, administrative records, biological and genetic assessments, and many other methodologies. The results are theories and hypotheses that reflect many different disciplinary perspectives. Sometimes the conclusions from this research mesh, and sometimes they conflict.

The multiplicity of approaches used to study the family offers an opportunity for new scientific breakthroughs. Studies that combine multiple approaches can reveal fundamental relationships or interactions and create opportunities to bridge boundaries between disciplines and methods. But this multiplicity of approaches also creates challenges. Investigators can disagree on definitional issues, the best way to study families, the most productive research topics, or even the language used to discuss families.

The purpose of The Science of Research on Families: A Workshop, held in Washington, DC, on July 13-14, 2010, was to examine the broad array of methodologies used to understand the impact of families on children’s health and development. It sought to explore individual disciplinary contributions and the ways in which different methodologies and disciplinary perspectives could be combined in the study of families. Specifically, the workshop was designed to investigate:

  1. Recent research studies that offer significant contributions to understanding the social determinants of child health and developmental outcomes and health disparities.
  2. Illustrations of quantitative and qualitative methods and approaches associated with research on the diverse structure and dynamic qualities of family environments.
  3. The relative contributions of selected study approaches and methodologies, including studies of marriage and family structure; life-course research studies; studies of human development; methodological research involving experimental, quasi-experimental, longitudinal, observational, survey, and time-use studies; and studies of selected cultural, ethnic, or immigrant populations.
  4. Opportunities for collaboration among federal agencies to improve the quality of research and training in this field and the application of this knowledge base to understanding interactions among family environments and children’s health outcomes.

The workshop brought together about 70 researchers, funders, and users of research results on families for a day and a half of presentations and intensive discussions. A major subject of the workshop—and the organizing principle behind this summary of the workshop’s presen-

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