Current Collaborative Studies

These are the collaborative studies currently underway.

Epigenetic Mediation of Adverse Social Context on Stress Response, Socioemotional Development, and Health in a Population-Based Study of Minority and Low SES Children and Adolescents

Principal Investigator: Colter Mitchell

Funder:  National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

This grant will 1) assemble epigenome-wide data on 2,000 children at two points in time, 2) describe methylation patterns in 3 race/ethnic groups and across SES levels, and 3) explicate epigenetic associations with social adversity, biological processes, and socioemotional development. The expected results will be to provide estimates of: 1) population-based epigenome-wide DNA methylation measures for 3 race/ethnic groups in childhood and adolescence, 2) associations of social adversity across development (from in utero to age 15) with DNA methylation, 3) associations between DNA methylation and biological measures of stress response (i.e. telomere length and attrition, cortisol response, and DHEA levels), 4) associations between development of stress response behaviors and methylation profiles, and 5) comparisons of all these relationships in 3 race/ethnic groups and across a wide range of SES. 

The Fragile Families Challenge Machine Learning, Qualitative Interviews, and Causal Inference

Principal Investigators: Kathryn Edin, Timothy J. Nelson, Ian Lundberg, Barbara E. Engelhardt, Sara S. McLanahan, and Matthew J. Salganik

Funder: The Overdeck Family Foundation

What unmeasured factors influence adolescent experiences? We plan to interview adolescents with similar predicted outcomes but different observed outcomes to discover some of the “dark matter” that leads to unexpected outcomes. Focusing on two adolescent outcomes (GPA and the experience of material hardship), we will conduct in-depth, semi-structured interviews with approximately 50 sets of teens and primary caregivers in three of the FFCWS sample cities. By learning the unmeasured factors behind unexpected adolescent experiences, we will better understand the chain of events that lead to unexpected academic outcomes and family poverty.

Appending Educational Records to the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study

Principal Investigators:  Sara S. McLanahan, Lisa Pithers, Christopher Nielson, Louis Donnelly

Funder: The Overdeck Family Foundation

The goals of this project are both 1) to enhance the FFCWS data for improved analysis of our participants’ educational achievements and 2) to establish and document procedures for collecting education records data for amendment to large-scale surveys such as FFCWS, for the benefit of other researchers who are interested in similar work.


Principal Investigators: Rachel Goldberg and Marta Tienda

Funder: The Center for Health and Wellbeing, Princeton University

The mDiary study follows a subsample of teens who have completed core surveys in the Year 15 follow-up of FFCWS.  Teens use a smart phone application or a web browser to complete bi-weekly surveys, which ask about family, peer group, and romantic relationships. There are also questions about the teen’s mood, school experiences, substance and time use, and expectations for the future.

Biopsychosocial Determinants of Sleep and Wellbeing for Teens in FFCWS

Principal Investigators: Lauren Hale and Orfeu Buxton

Funder: National Institutes of Health (5R01HD073352)

Approximately 1,000 teens completing phone surveys during the Year 15 follow-up wave of FFCWS will wear wrist and hip actigraphs for a one-week period following the home visit.  This actigraphic data will allow researchers to directly monitor sleep timing, duration, and quality in addition to physical activity. During this same week, participants will provide a one-week multimedia exposure diary. Together, these measures will allow researchers to study the biopsychosocial (e.g., socioeconomic status, neighborhood factors, genetic) determinants of adolescent sleep patterns and their associations with biological (i.e., obesity) and psychological (i.e., depression) outcomes.  Researchers will also be using this data to study the direct and indirect effects of physical activity and screen time exposure on adolescent sleep, health, and wellbeing. 

Adolescent Wellbeing and Brain Development

Principal Investigators: Colter Mitchell, Christopher Monk, and Luke Hyde

Funder: National Institutes of Health (5R01MH103761)

Following the completion of the Year 15 core home visit activities, teens in the FFCWS sample cities of Detroit and Toledo are being asked to participate in a ½ day session of additional activities at the University of Michigan, including brain scan, measurement of cortisol reactivity, collection of hair, blood spots, and saliva, as well as clinical interviews and videotaping.  Researchers are studying the relationship between poverty-related stress and affective function at four levels of analysis: brain, physiological, behavioral, and self/parent report measures.  A major aim of this research is better characterize mental health conditions that result from poverty-related stress -- by identifying the mechanisms through which this stress alters brain and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function. 

Adolescents underwent 1) functional MRI to assess activation and connectivity during an emotional faces task, a monetary reward task, and rest, and 2) diffusion MRI to measure structural connectivity. For the emotional faces task, participants viewed angry, fearful, happy, sad, and neutral faces and indicated the gender of the face while pressing a button. For the monetary reward task, participants quickly responded to a visual stimulus to gain or avoid losing money, allowing measurement of anticipation, response, and outcome to monetary incentive. This data can be accessed through the NIMH Data Archive.  

Reciprocal Genetic-Environmental Interactions

Principal Investigator: Daniel Notterman

Funder: National Institutes of Health (5R01HD076592)

This study is examining levels of and changes in telomere length (TL) and DNA methylation (DM) among child and teen participants in FFCWS and is identifying early social environmental predictors of these variable genetic characteristics. This study will assay TL and DM for children from saliva collected at Year 9 and Year 15. Researchers are examining the interaction between the social environment from infancy through early adolescence and: (a) telomere length and changes in telomere length between ages 9 and 15, (b) DNA methylation and changes in DNA methylation between ages 9 and 15, and (c) fixed genetic variants (i.e. SNPs).  They are also investigating the influence of the interaction of children’s measured genetic differential sensitivity and their social environment on telomere length and DNA methylation.