Information about the Institute for Social and Behavioral Research

July 10th, 2002

Institute for Social and Behavioral Research information
The Institute for Social and Behavior Research was formed in response to health problems that evolved from the farm crisis in the 1980s. Its original name was the Social and Behavioral Research Center for Rural Health, and its work began in 1988. In response to its expanding mission and scope, the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, approved a name change in 1997.

The institute is located in the Iowa State University Research Park in Ames. Ron Simons has been the director for the institute since August 2000. Currently, 24 researchers and 250 professional employees and hourly staff work on the institute's projects. The institute routinely collaborates with other institutions.

Research began in two complementary areas: preventive interventions and economic and family factors influencing behavioral and mental health outcomes.

Early work on preventive interventions was funded by Iowa Methodist Medical Center and the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation. This line of applied work resulted in a large-scale program of prevention research called Project Family. Project Family includes six studies examining the outcomes of a number of preventive interventions for families and youth, among which is a longitudinal study that is now in its twelfth year. It also involves a number of studies evaluating intervention needs among Iowa residents, factors influencing family and youth participation in interventions, and school-community-university intervention partnerships. The majority of funding for Project Family has come from the National Institutes of Health.

Another early project central to work at the institute was the Iowa Youth and Families Project, which began with a study of 451 rural families. The National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse fund the project, which is now called Critical Transitions in Rural Families at Risk. The project centers on the health consequences of economic hardship and on how families and children respond to economic stress. The study continues today and has followed the original seventh-grade children into adulthood.

The Iowa Youth and Families Project has helped to develop many of the methodological tools that have assisted institute research during the past decade. For example, the methods for observing and scoring family interactions were developed as well as methods for recruiting and interviewing families. These tools have been important both for basic research projects and for prevention studies.

For more information:

Check the Web at or call (515) 294-4518.