Maintaining Participation and Momentum in Longitudinal Research Involving High-Risk Families

Ann L. Graziotti, Jane Hammond, Daniel S. Messinger, Carla M. Bann, Cynthia Miller-Loncar, Jean E. Twomey, Charlotte Bursi, Eunice Woldt, Jay Ann Nelson, Debra Fleischmann, Barbara Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of the current study was to identify and describe strategies available to optimize retention of a high-risk research cohort and assist in the recovery of study participants following participant dropout. Design and Methods: The Maternal Lifestyle Study (MLS), which investigated the effects of prenatal substance exposure (cocaine or opiates) on child outcome, is a prospective longitudinal follow-up study that extended from birth through 15 years of age. Retention strategies to maximize participation and factors that might negatively impact compliance were examined over the course of five follow-up phases. Findings: At the conclusion of the 15-year visits, MLS had successfully maintained compliance at 76%. Retention rates did not differ by exposure group. Conclusions: Maintaining ongoing participation of enrolled study subjects is a critical element of any successful longitudinal study. Strategies that can be used to reengage and maintain participants in longitudinal research include persistence, flexibility with scheduling, home visits, long-distance trips, increased incentives, and development of a computerized tracking system. Establishing rapport with families and ensuring confidentiality contributed to overall participant retention. The use of multiple tracking techniques is essential. Clinical Relevance: Researchers are challenged to maintain participants in longitudinal studies to ensure the integrity of their research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-126
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nursing Scholarship
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Compliance
  • Longitudinal research
  • Participant retention
  • Tracking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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