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  1. Abstract

    Social scientists increasingly are using experiments to examine causal processes and mechanisms in their research. Yet, experiments work much better for some research aims than others. Some goals that are of great interest to family scholars, such as testing theoretical arguments, are well‐suited to experimental approaches; other goals, such as documenting real‐world experiences, may be best served by another research design. Our aim in this article is to discuss the power and limits of experimental methods for the study of family, with an emphasis on describing the types of topics and approaches that work best in an experimental framework. We begin by briefly reviewing the current state of the literature and the types of experiments that are commonly used to study families and intimate relationships. We discuss recent examples and “best practices” to illustrate the potential strengths of experiments for the study of family. After walking through an in‐depth example of an experimental research design, we describe some unresolved theoretical puzzles in the family literature from the previous mid‐decade review that seem ripe for experimental study. In doing so, we demonstrate that experiments, when used appropriately, can provide powerful evidence of causal mechanisms that resonate with scholarly audiences and the public.

     
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  2. Time diaries can record precise measures of daily activities but few such diaries have been developed for use via the internet, which limits our knowledge of how social, economic, and demographic factors affect daily life and our ability to investigate trends over time. We have developed, refined, and deployed an original online time diary, mytimeuse.com, to study daily life in a longitudinal sample of graduate students and a longitudinal sample of U.S. residents recruited online. This article overviews the features we implemented to increase data quality and response rates. The diary is based on the day-reconstruction method, which has participants report on each primary activity in a selected day, then records further contextual information about the activity, such as social engagement, multitasking, and emotions. We recruited online participants to complete three time diaries and report their evaluations of our platform. Feedback indicates most participants found the diary to be intuitive and easy to use, and most who made an account with the diary platform fully participated in our study. 
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  3. Evidence from victim service providers suggests the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in family violence. However, empirical evidence has been limited. This study uses novel survey data to investigate the occurrence of family violence during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Data come from the second wave of the Assessing the Social Consequences of COVID-19 study, an online non-probability sample collected in April and May 2020. Family violence is measured using four variables: any violence, physical violence, verbal abuse, and restricted access. The authors use logistic regression and KHB decomposition to examine the prevalence of family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that sexual minorities, in particular bisexual people, experienced higher rates of family violence than heterosexual respondents. Women were the only group to report an increase in the frequency of family violence. Household income loss is associated with the incidence of verbal violence. Our findings demonstrate the importance of expanding victim services to address the additional barriers victims face within the pandemic context and beyond, including broad contexts of social isolation and financial precarity experienced by individuals at risk of family violence. 
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  4. Abstract Although tie strength is a significant theoretical concept in the field, recent work suggests that other dimensions of social ties may be important to consider. We build on this body of work to propose that situational forms of engagement with various interaction partners play a vital role in shaping feelings of loneliness. We anticipate that when engaging in direct forms of engagement (active engagement), the association between different types of social ties and loneliness will be minimal. In contrast, while engaging in less direct forms of engagement (passive engagement), the type of social tie may matter more in reducing loneliness. We test these expectations using original time-diary data capturing daily interactions and momentary feelings of loneliness. Results show that active engagement associates with reduced feelings of loneliness relative to passive engagement. We find that the benefit of active engagement over passive engagement is greatest among acquaintances and family members. We interpret this as indicating that active engagement is beneficial for establishing a sense of connection among some social ties that already exists for other social ties. These findings indicate that how we engage with others and the kinds of people we engage with jointly shape the benefits of social interaction. 
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  5. Using primary data from the Assessing the Social Consequences of COVID-19 study, the authors examined how the pandemic affected the stress levels of women with and without coresiding minor children (mothers vs. nonmothers), paying special attention to the moderating role of employment status. The ordinary least squares regression results show that following the pandemic outbreak, among full-time working women, mothers reported smaller stress increases than nonmothers. In contrast, among part-time and nonemployed women, mothers and nonmothers experienced similar stress increases. Also, full-time working mothers reported smaller stress increases than women with most other mothering and employment statuses. Changes in women’s employment status, following pandemic onset, had limited impacts on the patterns of stress change. This study contributes to research on parenting and health by showing that during times of crisis, full-time employment may be protective of mothers’ mental health but may not buffer the mental health deterioration of women not raising children. 
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  6. null (Ed.)