News Release: Finance and Economics, Research

Feb. 20,  2009

Family Life Journal to Explore Economy's Effects

A new online journal at Emory University is set to explore how families are adjusting to the sputtering economy. Journal of Family Life seeks first-person family stories and individual narratives that illustrate the impact of the global economic downturn on family life.

"We want positive and negative stories," says Marshall Duke, journal editor and professor of psychology at Emory. "Some families might actually be spending more time together, for instance."

The journal accepts research papers, essays, poetry and audio/video essays. Each submission is reviewed by scholars with expertise in the subject before editors decide whether to publish it. The journal is only available online and is free to the public. Contributors include professors, students, parents and observers, such as child care providers, teachers and doctors.

Duke says journal editors want to tap into how American families are changing in light of economic turmoil. "We are interested in stories, rather than statistics, about family budgets, unemployment, searching for work, and paying bills and the mortgage," Duke says. "We want the Journal of Family Life to be a forum for how family life has changed because of the economy."

Duke is a child psychologist and expert on adolescent resilience. His recent research with Robyn Fivush, also an Emory psychologist, focuses on the value of sharing family meals. Their Family Narratives Project is funded by the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL). They found that families who regularly share meals together have children who know more about their family history and tend to have higher self-esteem, interact better with their peers and show higher resilience in the face of adversity. Families who openly discuss emotions associated with negative events—such as the death of a relative or a pet—have children with higher self-esteem and sense of control.

Losing a job has to affect a family’s rhythms and routines, and the journal would like to explore those changes as they occur. Duke says journal editors would like to know whether the holidays were different this year, in light of more limited budgets. Do families eat at home together more, because they cannot afford to eat out as much? Are kids doing fewer extracurricular activities because money is tight? How do families deal with anxiety and depression?

Journal editors also are interested in historical research on what family life was like during the Depression, and what it looks like now, including how the government responds. Will President Obama be the next FDR, with public works projects that put Americans back to work, while building the U.S. infrastructure? How will President Obama communicate with the American public to calm jitters, yet be realistic about where we are and what sacrifices must be made?

Scholars at MARIAL began developing the Journal of Family Life a year ago. MARIAL is one of five Sloan Centers on Working Families, supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The launch and publication of the journal is made possible by the generosity of the Sloan Foundation and Emory.

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