Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the participation rates and factors associated with nonparticipation among mothers living in low-income households who were invited to join a parent-education and -support research program delivered via the Internet with professional support.

Methods: Four hundred and seventy-seven mothers of infants were contacted via a variety of recruitment methods, including presentations at clinics/classes, direct mailings, print advertisement, and Internet posts. Research staff attempted to contact these mothers by phone, to assess their eligibility, and interest in participation. For those who were eligible but declined participation, we assessed reasons for declining and collected demographic information.

Results: Seventy-four percent of those eligible agreed to participate in the program. Statistical tests comparing participants and decliners on demographic variables found no significant differences on mother’s age and marital status. There was a significant difference on baby’s age due to many decliners in the prenatal period. Mothers were an average age of 28 years and most were married (65.6%). Our sample of low-income participants was diverse with a large number of Latina mothers. Approximately half had a high-school diploma or less but 84% reported being moderately or very comfortable using a computer and half had a computer at home.

Key Take Away Points

  • The majority of mothers of infants living in low-income households will take part in an Internet-based parent-support research program.
  • Low-income mothers of infants are comfortable with technology and computer-based interventions.
  • These results dispel common misconceptions about diverse low-income populations and their reticence to participate in innovative research studies.

Author Biography

Dr. Edward G. Feil, an educational psychologist and ORI Senior Research Scientist, has been a member of the ORI research community since 1993. He has authored papers on early intervention assessment methodology, interactive Internet interventions, and early child psychopathology. He is co-author of the Early Screening Project and First Step to Success, assessment and interventions for young children at risk for the development of conduct disorders. Dr. Feil has been Principal Investigator of several federally supported research grants on computer-assisted observations and parenting interventions. His research has focused on early childhood and incorporating Internet technology into the delivery of evidence-based interventions to hard to reach populations.

Dr. Kathleen Baggett is an Associate Research Professor at Juniper Gardens Children’s Project within the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies at the University of Kansas. Her research is on early childhood social-emotional health promotion, nurturing caregiving, and child maltreatment prevention. Dr. Baggett holds courtesy Associate Professor appointments in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Kansas Medical Center and in the Department of Psychology at KU. She is a licensed psychologist health service provider and clinical professional counselor. She directs federal research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau; Health Resources and Services Administration. One focus of her research is the development and testing of evidence based interventions adapted for community uptake. Of particular interest are inter-related processes of broad uptake, adoption, and maintenance of treatment integrity of interventions for preventing child maltreatment, increasing nurturing caregiving and promoting social-emotional competencies of young children. Another focus of research is the development and efficacy testing of parenting interventions to improve social-emotional and communication outcomes of young children with disabilities and those at risk for disability due to biological and environmental risks.

Betsy Davis, PhD, is an Associate Scientist at Oregon Research Institute and a member of the Willamette Tsa-La-Gi Community, the NAACP, and the United Coalition of Color. Dr. Davis received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology in 1992 from the University of Oregon, focusing her studies primarily on statistics and research methodology. Her research interests include cultural sensitivity in intervention within Indigenous communities and decolonization of research methods through acknowledgment and understanding of societal blindness. She served as Principal Investigator on three recently-ended NIDA grants serving American Indian and First Nations communities and currently serves as Co-Investigator on five mainstream projects funded through the NIMH, NICHD, IES, and CDC. Her role as a co-investigator involves bringing the community’s voice to intervention development and recruitment of representative samples.

Mr. Craig Leve has been the lead data analyst on multiple NIH-funded studies at Oregon Research Institute over the past 14 years, including several large-scale intervention projects, two large-scale longitudinal evaluations of family processes related to child and adolescent adjustment, as well as several projects involving the delivery of intervention content or training through the internet. He has expertise in conducting a wide range of analytic procedures, including procedures for examining trajectories of change across time, imputation methods to address issues related to missing data, and analysis of observational data including the analysis of sequential data.

Dr. Susan Landry, a nationally recognized expert in early childhood education, is the Founder and Director of the Children's Learning Institute at the University of Texas Houston Health Science Center. Dr. Landry's research into environmental factors that promote early cognitive and social development led to her development of the framework for the Center for Improving the Readiness of Children for Learning and Education (CIRCLE), which led to the implementation of the Texas Early Education Model (TEEM) in pre-kindergarten classrooms across Texas. Dr. Landry conducts numerous research projects and training activities promoting quality learning environments with parents, teachers, and childcare staff for young children. Her numerous research programs have generated a large research database on early childhood. More than 120 peer-reviewed publications and over two dozen chapters describe the findings of these research studies. She is currently involved in using the knowledge gained from years of studying young children to help promote the national goals of early childhood literacy and language initiatives.

Lisa Sheeber is a Senior Research Scientist at Oregon Research Institute (ORI) and has been with the organization since 1995. Her research interests include the development of internet-facilitated interventions to improve access to interventions to improve parenting and reduce depression. She is also interested in examining family processes associated with maternal and adolescent depression. She has been the recipient of 5 grants from the National Institutes of Health in support of her work.


The authors would like to acknowledge the support of this research by Grant #R01HD064870 from the National Institute of Child Health and Development.