This article was based on the project Whats and Hows of Family Financial Socialization[i], a study that spanned over 3 years. Interviewing university students and their parents and grandparents, researchers sought to learn how family finance is taught and passed down through generations.
Since this was a qualitative study (meaning that the data was words, not numbers), it began with open-ended interview questions. All interviews - a sample size of 153 respondents - began with the same two questions: (a) “What did your parents teach you about money?” and (b) “How did they teach you those things”?
Qualitative research provides an opportunity to explore research questions in a different light. With open-ended type of questions, a broader range of data is able to be collected, which can provide a different way of answering questions. This particular study coded eight core themes from the interviews. These interviews have now led to 10 scholarly papers about family finance, with more to potentially come.
In a study this large, there are many moving parts, requiring a large team to cover everything. This particular team consisted of two professors, one graduate student, and 10 undergraduate students over the three years it was conducted. Undergraduate research assistants played a key role in publication. Participating on a research team allows undergraduate students the opportunity to get research experience in a mentored environment, while also having the opportunity to explore their interest in research. These students then have the opportunity to gather skills needed to become future leaders in the field—a positive feedback loop.
- Parents, encourage your college-attending children to get involved with research and get to know their professors. Sometimes we miss opportunities simply because we don’t know that they’re there. Encourage your college kids to ask about research opportunities from their professors. There is always some kind of research going on at a university!
- Emerging adults, apply for and take advantage of any research opportunities that present themselves and pique your interest. Sometimes, there are lists of opportunities for students within a given major to help professors in their research. Search online or talk to your professors about topics you’re passionate about. If you aren’t sure what you want to research, find the class that you currently find the most interesting and ask the professor what they study! This is a great way to learn about different fields of study and find what you’re interested in.
- Use this knowledge of qualitative research in your everyday life! Reading research articles can teach you a lot about the world around you. Social science research articles focus on what we’ve learned about humans. Qualitative research articles use tools such as interviews to understand human beings and, in this case, what are effective practices for teaching your family about finances. As individuals, we too can be researchers as we talk with those in our everyday life about how they teach finances to their children, and/or how they learned about finances from their parents. In the words of Bill Nye, an unparalleled scientist, “Everyone you will ever meet, knows something that you don’t.” So be a qualitative researcher—go out and learn from those around you.
As an undergraduate student currently working as a research assistant to Dr. LeBaron-Black, I have experienced the value of being part of an academic research team. It is one thing to learn the theoretical framework of family finance and how it affects individuals, but it is a completely different experience to see that knowledge applied in a research setting. Being exposed to academic research in the field of family finance has not only enhanced my knowledge of the importance of healthy management of finances in relationships, but will be extremely beneficial in both my personal life and future professional life as a marriage and family therapist. Taking advantage of research opportunities with professors at my university has been an invaluable element of my education in family studies and life.
[i] Marks, L. D., Rosa, C. M., LeBaron, A. B., & Hill, E. J. (2019). “It takes a village to raise a rigorous qualitative project”: Studying family financial socialization using team-based qualitative methods. SAGE Research Methods Cases. London: SAGE. https://doi.org/10.4135/ 9781526474773