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Retention Strategies in Longitudinal Studies With Emerging Adults

Hanna, Kathleen M. PhD, RN; Scott, Linda L. MA, MS; Schmidt, Karen K. MSN, RN, CCRP

doi: 10.1097/NUR.0000000000000020
Feature Article

Purpose/Objectives: The purpose of this report was to describe retention strategies that were useful and those that were not in a longitudinal study of emerging adults.

Background: A longitudinal study examining the transition to young adulthood among emerging adults with type 1 diabetes, which had success in retention, provided the context for describing retention strategies.

Rationale: A challenge in longitudinally designed studies is retention of participants because the loss decreases power for statistical analysis. Given that emerging adulthood is a period of instability, retention is particularly challenging among this population. However, longitudinal studies are the best way to understand developmental changes, and it is also important to increase our knowledge of health outcomes during emerging adulthood.

Description: Retention strategies used in the study are described, including promoting a positive relationship with participants, maintaining contact with participants, having a study staff with good interpersonal skills, using incentives, conveying respect for participants, and using user-friendly data collection.

Outcomes: Useful strategies to promote a positive relationship included sending cards and newsletters to participants, maintaining consistency of contact person, and expressing appreciation for participant’s time and effort. Useful strategies for maintaining contact with participants included obtaining contact information at every data collection point, maintaining birth dates and chart numbers in tracking databases, monitoring returned mail, and using Web search engines. Other useful strategies were providing incentives to participants, employing staff with good interpersonal skills, providing participants with choices when appropriate, and using user-friendly data collection. One strategy, using contests, was not found useful.

Conclusions: Despite the challenges of conducting longitudinally designed studies with emerging adults, multiple retention strategies can be used that are useful to retention.

Implications: It is feasible to conduct longitudinal studies with emerging adults despite the challenges.

Author Affiliations: Professor of Nursing (Dr Hanna) and Project Managers (Mss Scott and Schmidt), School of Nursing, Indiana University, Indianapolis.

The project was supported by R01NR009810 (to principal investigator K.M.H.) from the National Institute of Nursing Research.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Nursing Research or the National Institutes of Health.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: Kathleen M. Hanna, PhD, RN, School of Nursing, Indiana University, 1111 Middle Dr, NU 411E, Indianapolis, IN 46202 (

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins