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Theories & Approaches

All Theories & Approaches

Sample Focus Group Protocol for: PARENTS

Overall Research Questions

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

Materials Needed

  • Approximately 15 chairs arranged in a circle
  • Table to arrange snacks
  • Snacks for about 15 people (remember ice, utensils, cups, napkins, plates)
  • Drinking water for facilitators
  • About 15 nametags
  • Thick black magic markers to write on name tags
  • Focus group tape recording equipment
  • Tapes for tape recorder
  • 12 $45 gift certificates
  • 24 Participant Assent Forms (one to be signed and collected, the other to leave with participant)
  • 12 pens
  • 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
  • 1 roll masking tape
  • 2 clipboards

Focus Group Site Preparation

(30 minutes)

  1. Arrange chairs in circular formation for at least 12 participants, one facilitator and one notetaker.
  2. Setup snacks for at least 12 people.
  3. Have name tags and thick black magic markers available for people to write their first names only.
  4. Have assent forms and pens ready.
  5. Test tape recording equipment and place in center of the circle.
  6. Warmly greet focus group participants as they enter the room. Encourage them to take some snacks.
  7. Give each person two copies of an assent form to read over. Ask them to sign one copy of the form before the discussion begins and to keep the other one to take home with them. This form has focus group study contact information should they need it in the future. Make yourself available to summarize/read the form to parents 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.



(3-4 minutes)

  1. Welcome and Facilitator Introduction
    "Good morning/afternoon/evening and welcome to our discussion. I want to thank you for taking the time to join us to talk about parent relationships with teen children. 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 by 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. 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 $45 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

(6-7 minutes)

  1. No "Right" or "Wrong" Answers and Participation
    "I will be asking you several questions about parent-child relationships over the next hour or so. I want to assure you that there are no "right" or "wrong" answers but rather different points of view. Please feel free to share your point of view, even if it is different from what others have said."

    "In fact, it's really important for us to hear all the different points of view in the room. If you want to follow-up on something someone said, or if you want to agree or disagree, or give an example, feel free to do that. Don't feel like you have to respond to me all the time. Feel free to have a conversation with one another about these questions. We want everyone 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 recoding 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 we will be on a first name basis today, we will not use your real 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."

    "Also you do not have to answer any question that makes you feel uncomfortable. I would also like to ask that if you talk about your focus group experience with family or friends, do not attach anyone's name here with the stories they share. Can I get everyone to agree to that by nodding their heads?" Make eye contact with each person in the group and wait for him/her to nod affirmatively.
  3. Assent Forms
    "At this point, I would like to collect everyone's signed assent forms. Does anyone have any questions about these forms before we collect them?"

    After you have collected the assent forms, tell the group that you will be starting the tape recorder and do so.
  4. Timing and Gift Certificates
    "We expect to be here until ______. We appreciate you taking this time with us so we want to make sure we end on time. Lori will be watching the clock and may need to break off the discussion at times to be sure we have time to discuss all topics. Lori may also ask you some questions or remind me of something I missed."

    "At about ______ (5 minutes before the end of our time together), we will end the focus group. Then we will distribute to each of you a $45 gift certificate to (name of store) as a token of our appreciation for your time and participation."



(5 minutes)

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

Focus Group Questions

(80 minutes)

Opening Question

  1. As you know, our team is trying to learn more about parent relationships with their teen children. Think about the last year. What are some positive things about your relationship with your teenager that you can remember over the past year?

Main Questions

  1. Parents find different ways to develop close relationships with their children. What kinds of things do you do or say to try to feel close with your teen?
    1. How do your teens respond when you try to do things to create closeness?
    2. If there are grandparents in the group, consider asking: How do grandparents develop close relationships with their grandchildren?
    3. Possible father question: Do you think fathers and mothers connect differently with their children? If so, how?
  1. Not all parents feel close to their teenage daughters or sons. What makes it hard, or what gets in the way, for some parents to create closeness with their teens?
    1. Do any of you experience these difficulties? What have these experiences been like for you?
    2. What do you do to overcome these difficulties?
  1. In what ways do you think family closeness affects the lives of teenagers?
  1. Eventually, ETR will want to develop a program to support parents and their teenaged children. We want to learn from you about the type of programs or activities you think parents and teens would like. Imagine that someone from the community like a school teacher, pastor, or (local focus group coordination organization) wanted to help parents and teens who were having trouble with their relationship. What would you advise them to do to help?
    1. Who in your community would these parents and teens want to receive help from?
    2. Would you actually attend/participate in this program/activity?
    3. What words/ideas should be used in a program title/description to appeal to parents? (optional question)

Wrap Up Questions
  1. Give each parent an index card and a pen. Ask each parent to write the three most important things needed for creating closeness between parents and their teen children. Give them a minute or so to do so and then ask the parents to share their responses out loud. Ask for clarification if needed.
    1. How do you think your child would respond to this question?
  1. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about parent-teen relationships?


Gift Certificates

(2-5 minutes)

  1. Give each parent a gift certificate.