M-TEENS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Families

What is M-TEENS?

M-TEENS, which stands for the Military Teenagers' Environments, Exercise, and Nutrition Study, is a joint initiative between USC and RAND Corporation that examines how the food and physical activity environments in military children's schools and neighborhoods influence their diet, physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and body weight. While there is a considerable research examining relationships among civilians, very little is known about these relationships among military children. M-TEENS will help policymakers understand how food and physical activity environments can be modified to promote healthy behaviors and reduce childhood obesity in military families. M-TEENS is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

What is USC?

The University of Southern California (USC) is a private research university located in Los Angeles, California. Since the institution was founded in 1880 it has become a renowned center for academics and interdisciplinary research with over 50 research centers specializing in subjects which include health and medicine, social sciences, engineering, and technology.

What is RAND?

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. RAND began in 1946 as a research project (Project Rand) backed by a single client, the U.S. Army Air Forces. The project was developed at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, California. In 1948, with Ford Foundation support, RAND became an independent, nonprofit research institution committed to exploring the most complex and consequential problems facing our society.

Why is this study being conducted?

The study is being conducted in order to better understand how the food and physical activity environments where children spend their time influence their activity, diet and body composition. The goal of the study is to help policymakers understand how food and physical activity environments can be modified to promote healthy behaviors and reduce childhood obesity in military families.

Who is funding the study?

The study is being funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. This study is also being funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), grant number 1R01DK111169-01A1.

Does the Army support the study?

Yes, the study has the full support of the Army. Senior Army officials have approved and endorsed this study.

Who can participate in M-TEENS?

In 2013 and 2014, a sample of Army families with at least one child who was born between April 1, 1999 and March 31, 2001 were selected to participate. These families were asked to complete an online parent and child survey, as well as the child body composition measurements. This year we will be following-up with families that previously participated in 2013-2015. Therefore, if your family has completed a M-TEENS parent or child survey during that time, you can participate in M-TEENS 2017.

How do I know if my family has been selected to participate?

If your family was selected in 2013/2014, the Army enlisted parent received an email in their AKO email with details about how to confirm your family's eligibility. This year, emails will be sent to the enlisted parent's AKO email as well as the preferred email address each family provided.

What does participation involve?

Participation is simple. There are two short web-based surveys: one for you as the parent/guardian and one for your 16- or 17-year-old child. Please ensure that the child completing this year's survey is the same child that previously participated in 2013-2015. Each survey will take about 30 minutes to complete. 

In addition, you and your child will be asked to participate in self-body composition measurements through videoconference with one of our staff members as they guide you through the process of measuring you and your child's height, weight, percent body fat, and waist circumference. The videoconference measurement will take about 30 minutes.  

What kind of information will you be collecting?

We will ask one parent/guardian and one child from each family questions about themselves, their families, diet, and activities. We are particularly interested in how families respond to the various aspects of their food and physical activity environments. Remember, your participation in this study is completely confidential and entirely voluntary; you can refuse any question at any time, for any reason.

How can I be sure that my answers will remain confidential?

Your privacy and confidentiality are important to us, and we take a number of steps to make sure your answers remain confidential:

  • Outside your family, only a select number of people working on this study will know whether you agree or refuse to participate. USC and RAND will use the information you provide for research purposes only and will not disclose your identity or information that identifies you to anyone outside of the project team. While the study has the support of the Army, the research team does not include any Army or DoD staff.
  • We do need your name and contact information so we can reach you for the next interview, but your name and contact information are always kept separate from your survey responses.
  • In our report, we will only show group responses and will not report information from any individual alone.
  • After the study (about a year after the final interview), your name and other personal data will be destroyed, so there will be no chance of anyone linking you to your answers or to the study.

How long will the survey and assessments take?

Both the parent/guardian survey and the child survey should take 30 minutes to complete. You and your child may complete the survey online or you may complete it on a paper copy and mail it back using a self-addressed stamped envelope provided by the study. The body composition measurements will take 30 minutes.

Are there any benefits to participating in M-TEENS?

There are many reasons to participate in M-TEENS:

  • In recognition of your family's time and participation, your family will receive between $103 and $159 in e-gift cards. Parents will receive $5 for providing updated contact information and consenting, and an additional $30 for completing the parent survey. Children will receive $20 for completing the child survey. Depending on the choices made in the survey, both parent and teen have the chance to earn an additional $18-37 each. Your family will also receive $30 for the body composition measurements. 
  • Every family has a unique experience and faces unique challenges. This is an opportunity to have your thoughts and opinions added to the collective voice. No one knows better than you about how environments to which military families are exposed as a result of Permanent Change of Station moves influence your family's health and well-being.
  • This study represents an important opportunity to improve our understanding of how food and physical activity environments influence children's health and well-being, particularly among military children. Our study will help policymakers understand how food and physical activity environments can be modified to promote healthy behaviors and reduce childhood overweight and obesity in military families.

We don't have a computer; can we still be in the study?

It isn't necessary to have your own computer in order to be in M-TEENS. Participants will be able to log in using any computer that has Internet access, like one at your public library, using the PIN we assign to you. If you aren't comfortable using a computer, you may complete a hard copy version of the survey and mail it back to us.

What if you ask me questions that I just don't want to answer?

You are free to refuse or skip any questions you don't want to answer. You can do this at any time, for any reason, and without any penalty.

Why is it important to collect all three measurements?

The three measurements (height, weight, and waist circumference) capture different aspects of body composition. Height and weight will be used to calculate each child's BMI. While very commonly used, body mass index is not always the most reliable indicator of healthy weight. For example, it makes no allowance for the relative proportions of bone, muscle and fat in the body. Because each measurement has its own strengths and weaknesses, the combination of BMI and waist circumference provides a more comprehensive assessment of body composition.

What should my child wear to be measured?

Ideally, children should wear lightweight, loose fitting clothing for the measurements. We suggest that children empty their pockets and remove hats, belts and heavy jewelry for the weight measurement. We also suggest that shoes be removed for the weight and height measurements. Hair accessories and coverings should also be removed if they interfere with measurements. These guidelines ensure standardized measurements, however, children may opt to keep these items on during measurement.

What if I am not comfortable with a particular body measurement?

If you are not comfortable with a particular measurement, you have the right to refuse the measurement at any time. If you have any questions about a specific measurement or procedure, we encourage you to ask us by sending us an email at mteenshelp@usc.edu. Refusing a particular measurement will not affect your participation in the study or eligibility for incentives.

What does my child's BMI mean?

BMI is not interpreted the same way for children and teens as it is for adults. BMI age- and sex-specific percentiles are used for children and teens because the amount of body fat changes with age and the amount of body fat differs between girls and boys. Therefore, the interpretation of BMI for children and teens is both age- and sex-specific. The CDC BMI-for-age growth charts take into account these differences and translate a BMI number into a percentile for a child's sex and age.

If I decide to quit the study, is someone going to start calling me all the time to get me to re-enroll?

If we are unable to reach you for the follow-up survey, we will try to contact you by phone, email, or letter to give you the opportunity to continue in the study if you wish to do so. We will respect whatever decision you make about participating, and you can change your mind at any time.

Who can I contact with questions about the study?

If you have any questions about the study, please visit our contact page.