Robin Jarrett, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, shared her findings and encouraged continuing such research in her lecture, "In Their Own Words: The Lives of Inner-City African-American Women and Their Families."
Her research arose out of the desire to explain how some families prosper in inner-city neighborhoods, unlike other research that has focused on the negative outcomes, Jarrett said. "There is something missing in these models," she said. "They do not tell us about the families that are doing well in these neighborhoods."
This oversight prompted Jarrett to do an in-depth study of inner-city families. She said her research was a hands-on project that included interviews and casual time spent with the families. "This kind of research reminds me of the humanity of people when they are otherwise statistics that we see on the nightly news."
Jarrett said she found successful inner-city families had common ways of coping, including in-home learning, resource seeking, parental monitoring, role models and an emphasis on education.
She explained each living practice and then added that one underlying theme of all studies on inner-city families is looking at family coping strategies.
Jarrett challenged the audience to continue hands-on research in inner-city areas and to think of ways to help the families that are struggling in areas of poverty. She posed the question, "How do we get these successful families more involved in the neighborhood?"
After the lecture, Jarrett presented the audience with a slide show documenting her experiences in Chicago. Audience members' responses varied from laughter to tears as they viewed personal pictures of the families and the homes.
Gitangali Saluja, a post-doctorate student at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, said she attended the lecture because she had heard positive things about Jarrett's research.
"I thought she really showed us the side we don't see in the newspaper or on the nightly news about single inner-city African-American women."