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Theories & Approaches

All Theories & Approaches

Sample Focus Group Protocol for: TEENS

Overall Research Questions

  1. What does "parent-child connectedness" (PCC) mean to teens?
  2. What kind of intervention would teens see as helpful to creating PCC in their families?

Materials Needed

  • Approximately 15 chairs arranged in a circle
  • Table to arrange snacks
  • Snacks for ~15 people (remember ice, utensils, cups, napkins, plates)
  • Drinking water for facilitators
  • Boombox and CDs (to play while teens are arriving)
  • About 15 nametags
  • Thick black magic markers to write on name tags
  • Focus group tape recording equipment
  • Tapes for tape recorder
  • 24 Teen Assent Forms (Word document)
  • 12 $15 gift certificates
  • 12 pens
  • 12 Participant Questionnaires (Word document)
  • Large envelope to collect questionnaires
  • Pad and pen for notetaker
  • Small alarm clock (digital) for facilitator to glance at
  • Focus Group Guidelines on flipchart
  • Introduction/Icebreaker Questions on flipchart
  • About 15 index cards
  • Masking tape
  • 2 clipboards


Focus Group Site Preparation

(30 minutes)

  1. Be sure that parent permission forms are distributed, signed and collected.
  2. Arrange chairs in circular formation for at least 12 participants, one facilitator and one notetaker.
  3. Setup snacks for at least 12 people.
  4. Have name tags and thick black magic markers available for youth to write their first names only.
  5. Test tape recording equipment and place in center of the circle.
  6. Warmly greet youth as they enter the room. Encourage them to take some snacks.
  7. Give each teen two assent forms to read over. Ask them to sign the form before we begin the discussion. Make sure each teen receives two copies of the assent form — one to sign and one to take home with them with focus group study contact information. Make yourself available to summarize/read the form to those who need help.
  8. Ask participants to turn off cell phones.
  9. Inform participants where bathrooms are and encourage their use before focus group gets started.



(5 minutes)

  1. Welcome and Facilitator Introduction
    "Good morning/afternoon/evening and welcome to our discussion. Thanks for taking the time to join us to talk about teens' relationships with their parents. My name is Steve and assisting me is my co-worker, Lori. We both work for a health education organization in Santa Cruz, CA called ETR Associates."
  2. Background on PCC Bridge Project and Purpose of Focus Group
    "I'm going to tell you a little bit about our project and what you can expect today. For the last year and half, ETR has been studying parent-teen relationships mostly through reading reports and talking with parenting experts. We now want to talk to the real experts — parents and teenagers — to find out what they think is important for developing healthy parent-teen relationships. We are going to use what we learn from you today and from other discussions we have with parents and teens to design future programs for parents and their teen children."

    "Our focus group discussion is going to last about an hour and half. Focus groups are different from workshops or classes at school. Once we get started, I am going to ask you questions and you are going to share your thoughts and opinions. You will do most of the talking. I will be doing a lot of listening. Remember we want to learn from you. We are not going to necessarily "teach" you anything today."
  3. Appreciation
    "To show our appreciation for what you teach us and for your time, we have $15 gift certificates to (name of store) that we will give to each of you at the end of the session."


How Today's Focus Group will Work

(5-10 minutes)

  1. No "Right" or "Wrong" Answers and Participation
    "I'll be asking you several questions about teens' relationships with their parents over the next hour or so. I want you to know that there are no "right" or "wrong" answers, and it's okay to have a different opinion from other people in the group. It's really important for us to hear all the different points of view in the room. I want you to share your point of view, even if it is different from what others are saying, and I want you all to respect each others' opinions. Please don't make fun of what other people say or argue with them."

    "I also don't want you to feel like you have to respond to me all the time. Feel free to talk to each other when discussing my questions. If you want to respond to something someone said, or if you want to agree or disagree, or give an example, you can do that, just be respectful. We want all people to have a chance to share ideas. We may need to interrupt or call on people to make sure this happens. Please do not feel offended if we do this."
  2. Tape Recording and Confidentiality
    "Before we get started, I want to remind you that we will be tape recording the session because we don't want to miss any of your comments. People often say things in these sessions, and we can't write fast enough to write them all down."

    "Although will use each other's first names today, we will not use any names in our report. You can be assured of complete confidentiality. No one will be able to link your name back to what you said and only project staff like myself and Lori will listen to that tape. I am also going to ask all of you to keep what is said here confidential, so that everybody feels comfortable talking and knows what they say will not be repeated. Can you all do that?" (Make eye contact with each person in the group and wait for him/her to nod affirmatively.)

    "You do not have to answer any question that makes you feel uncomfortable."
  3. Timing, Survey and Gift Certificates
    "We expect to be here until ______. We appreciate you giving us your time, and we want to make sure we end on time. Lori will be watching the clock and may need to interrupt the discussion at times and move us on to another question to be sure we have time to discuss all topics. Lori may also ask you some questions, give a summary or remind me of something I missed."

    "At about ______ (10 minutes before the end of our time together), we will end the focus group and ask you to complete a very short questionnaire. After you complete the questionnaire, we will distribute a $15 gift certificate to each of you from (name of store) as a token of our appreciation for your time and participation."

    Tell the group that you will be starting the tape recorder and do so.



(5 minutes)

  1. Let's begin. We have asked you to wear a name tag to help us remember each others' names. Let's go around the room and introduce ourselves. Please give us your first name and age, explain who lives with you in your home, and just for fun, tell us what your favorite TV show is. I'll start …

Focus Group Questions

(60 minutes)

Introduction Question

  1. Since we are going to talk about families today, let's start our discussion by naming a movie or TV show that has a family in it. Tell me what movie or TV show you are thinking about and then tell me if you think the family is happy or unhappy and why.

Transition Question
  1. Let's keep thinking about families, but now let's think about our own families. Think about the relationship you have with your parents. How are you and your parents alike or different from the TV or movie family you were thinking about?

Main Questions
  1. Our team wants to find out what teenagers and parents do that make them feel close. So think back over the last few months and tell us about something you did with your parents that made you feel close to them.
    1. What could your parents do more often that would make you feel closer to them?
    2. What do you think gets in the way of doing these things?
    3. Let's say your parent wanted to get spend time with you, but didn't know how to tell you, how should he or she let you know?
  1. What kinds of things do your parents do or say that you don't like? Give us an example.
    1. Why do you think your parents do or say these things?
    2. How would you like them to say or do these things differently?
  1. Not all teenagers feel close to their parents. What do you think makes it hard for some teens to feel close to their parents?
    1. What do you think makes it hard for parents to feel close to their teens?
  1. Keep thinking about teens and parents who do not feel close. Imagine that there are people in the community, like teachers or pastors or people at (name of local coordinating organization) who want to help those teens and parents feel closer to one another. What advice would you give to those people in the community?
    1. Who in your community do you think could help these families? Why did you pick them?
    2. What kinds of things could they do to help?

Wrap Up Questions
  1. Give each youth an index card and a pen. Ask each youth to write the three most important things that parents should do to feel closer to their teenage children on the card. Give them a minute or so to do so and then ask the youth to share their responses out loud. Ask for clarification if needed.
    1. What is the most important thing a teenager should do to feel closer to his/her parent?
  1. Is there anything else you want to tell us about teens and their parents?



(5-10 minutes)

  1. "Before we end today, we would like you to complete this short questionnaire. Please do NOT put your name on the questionnaire. We want to keep this information anonymous."
  2. Give each youth a questionnaire and ask the group to put the completed questionnaires in the envelope placed on the table.
  3. Tell the group that you are very grateful for their willingness to participate in the focus group today and that you really enjoyed learning from them. Tell them that a report will be written at the end of the year about all the parent and teens discussions that you complete. If they are interested in reading the report, they should contact the people listed on their parent permission forms.
  4. Once they have completed the questionnaire, ask them to see Lori for their gift certificates.

Gift Certificates

(2-5 minutes)

  1. Give each youth a gift certificate.