This application requests an additional five years of support for the Penn State Family Issues Symposium, an annual interdisciplinary conference designed to focus attention on understudied issues that are important for understanding family structure and function and their impact on the behavior, health and development of family members, particularly children and youth. Our application is responsive to the 2012 NICHD "Scientific Vision" report, which identified population dynamics as one of seven priority research areas and argued that advances in knowledge in this area "starts with understanding the rapid and profound changes shaping families in the United States and around the world. This includes understanding how biological, social, and other environmental factors, in concert with population dynamics, influence the health and well-being of mothers, fathers, children, families, communities, and societies" (p. 19). The proposal builds on a 21 year tradition of annual symposia that have been co-organized by faculty members from the departments of Sociology and Human Development and Family Studies, and with financial support from Penn State's Population Research Institute and Social Science Research Institute as well as numerous other Penn State departments and centers, as relevant for particular symposium topics, and the NICHD.
Aims of this application are: (1) to promote dialogue that stimulates and advances novel interdisciplinary and translational research on family issues;(2) to promote scholarly excellence in basic and translational research on families;and (3) to identify and address significant, emerging issues in the field of family studies that have not yet received substantial attention by scholars or been the focus of other conferences and meetings and wherein knowledge can be advanced by interdisciplinary and translational research. To address these aims, the symposium series is designed to foster discussion among scholars whose work ranges from more basic to more applied and who might not otherwise find opportunities for exchange, to produce a book series for broad dissemination of the symposium's knowledge contributions, and to engage junior scholars--the next generation of family researchers.
In recent decades, families have experienced dramatic changes that have had and will continue to have extraordinary consequences for families and family members. Understanding these changes and developing possible policies and programs that may be effective, particularly in supporting the health and development of children and youth, requires the best minds in the country. Although much work is being done, the promise of translating basic knowledge from a range of disciplinary perspectives into evidence-based practices and policies for addressing family issues will not be fully realized without the kind of forum for discussion and intellectual exchange that the Family Symposium series aims to provide.