Interviews are well under way for our first study, focusing on first time parents. This study will track a group of South Australian heterosexual couples planning for a first child, beginning with their journey to becoming pregnant, their experiences of pregnancy, and their experiences after the birth of their child.
Going into this study, we had presumed that there would be many people interested in participating. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that over 20, 000 children are born in South Australia each year. Whilst not all births each year are a first child, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data indicate that a little over 40% of all births each year are first time births.
As we came to advertise the study, we realised that many of the outlets that target families with children focus on people who already have children. Our challenge, then, was to try and reach people who were planning to have children, but had not yet become pregnant. We advertised in local media, community newspapers, on Facebook, Twitter, and on a range of forums that focus on parents and babies.
What was surprising to us was that over 2000 people visited our website in the space of a month, but far fewer made contact to participate in the research (which was probably a good thing, as interviewing 2000 people might have taken us a long time!). We have spent a lot of time talking about what the barriers might be to people actually making contact with us and participating in the study.
One barrier might be that people in the planning stage might be concerned about what lies ahead, and might not want to jinx things by talking to us before they are pregnant. Another barrier might be that the people who have seen our ads and visited our website are not eligible (given we are looking for people who are not yet pregnant).
All in all, we have been very happy with the response we have had, though we are happy to hear from any additional people looking to participate. It has been a great learning exercise for us in terms of recruitment. We went into it buoyed by the figures above and believed that, in focusing on a majority population (i.e., heterosexual couples), we would very quickly reach our quota.
Having to think outside the box in terms of widening our search parameters and exploring new ways to reach potential participants has, if anything, increased our commitment to the study and encouraged us to continue to reflect on the assumptions we bring to participant recruitment.