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November 26, 2012

Did You Know?: Center for Families

Center for Families

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, director of Purdue's Center for Families. (Photo provided)
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Since 1994, Purdue's Center for Families has been providing educators, human service professionals, employers and policy makers with research to help them best serve Indiana's families.

One of the center's broad-based goals involves providing decision makers with clear, nonpartisan information about how the policies they create will affect Hoosier families and family life, says Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, the center's director.

"When we work with legislators, our goal is to bring policy-relevant research to them as they're considering making laws that affect families," MacDermid Wadsworth says. "We want them to have access to experts and evidence not driven by lobbyists or special interests."

Each fall in Indianapolis, the center conducts a Family Impact Seminar for legislators. Each seminar -- which is just one of the center's many annual activities -- typically addresses one timely topic, which a panel of legislators chooses beforehand.

For example, on Nov. 19, this year's seminar explored how the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will affect Indiana families. Although the topic hinged on federal law already in place, the seminar was timely, MacDermid Wadsworth says, because Indiana's upcoming legislative session likely will make decisions about how the law is implemented in the state.

Another of the center's primary activities is awarding the annual Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Research on Work and Family. The center operates this international competition with its partner, Boston College's Center for Work and Family. Each year, the winning researcher or team speaks to corporate audiences about their findings, which are relevant to global companies and their employee policies.

Additionally, every few years the center offers a fellowship to Purdue graduate students who conduct research that has implications for families and family life. Across campus, the center also has a network of faculty partners who are working on research related to family issues, MacDermid Wadsworth says.

Research to which the center has been connected or which it has promoted includes a study that found that, in contrast to mothers, fathers earn more after their children are born; a study examining the strategies workers use to maintain boundaries between work and home; and a study that looks at the role of family meals in daily life.

"The center addresses some things that I think are really fundamental to our society," MacDermid Wadsworth says.

"We want key decision makers in our state to know that they don't have to make crucial, family-affecting decisions based only on their personal experiences -- there is helpful, impactful science they can rely on to help them make their policies. We take pride in our role in making Indiana a better, more welcoming place to families."

Writer: Amanda Hamon, 29-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu