About Our Research > A Typical Visit

The Child Development Laboratories maintains a database of families in the Charlottesville area who have expressed an interest in learning about or participating in our research. You can register your family by using our on-line registration form, or by phoning or emailing us.

Once you have registered, when a study comes up that your child is the correct age for, we give you a call or send you an email, describe the particular study in detail, and see if you might be interested in scheduling an appointment. Appointments generally last 30 minutes to 1 hour. We schedule appointments at your convenience, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., and weekend appointments are also possible. Siblings of any age are welcome to come along. If your schedule is full at that point, we ask whether we can contact you again later.

Your appointment will take place at Gilmer Hall on UVa grounds near the stadium. Free parking is available..

When you arrive at your appointment, a friendly research assistant will meet you outside of the building. Inside, your child will find toys, puzzles, crayons, and other activities to allow him or her to become comfortable with the surroundings and with the researcher. We take special care to ensure that both parent and child are comfortable before beginning the study. While your child is getting comfortable, the research assistant explains the study to you in detail and provides a consent form for you to read and sign. You will also receive a copy of the consent form for your records.

None of our studies involves medical procedures of any kind, and all have been explicitly approved by the University of Virginia’s Institutional Review Board, a panel of University and community members who are charged with ensuring that research involving human participants at the University is ethical.

When you feel like your child is comfortable, we move to a nearby room, where the study takes place. Parents can remain with their children at all times. The exact details of each study vary, but all are designed to involve fun, game-like activities. For example, your child might play with or look at some toys or objects while interacting with a trained researcher. The researcher might name an object, and then later play a "finding" game that asks the child to pick out all of the objects that can be called by that name.

We videotape most of our studies to allow us to keep track of which objects your child selects or what she or he says during the game. This videotape, like all of the data we collect, is kept completely confidential; your child's name will never be associated with it. Furthermore, unless we have your explicit permission, this videotape will be viewed only by the researchers.

At the end of the study, we answer any questions, thank you for coming, and escort you back to your car. We work very hard to make each visit an enjoyable experience for the child and parent, and many families choose to participate in numerous studies. Finally, from time to time, we will send you a newsletter, describing the results of our studies. Additionally, we update our website regularly to reflect reports of our research that have appeared in the media or been published in scientific journals. We are happy to provide copies of these reports on request.

If your family would like to participate, please register your 0- to 12-year-old (currently, our studies extend only through the elementary age). You can use our registration link below, or email or call us. If you have questions or would like more details, check out our FAQ or feel free to continue browsing or to contact us directly.


The Labs | A Typical Visit | FAQ | Register


An important note: The labs that make up the Child Development Laboratories conduct basic research in cognitive development, and we do not evaluate individual performance. Rather, we are interested in the performance of children as a group. If you have specific concerns about your child's development, please consult with your pediatrician. Additional resources on child development can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.