Research Says that Marriage Makes You Live Longer

This post is sixteenth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

What’s the secret to living longer? According to Dr. Linda Waite, it’s marriage. In a 2010 Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture, Waite shared her research showing this. She studied 100 American couples over eighteen years, charting their marriages, divorces and, deaths. She found that women who were married lived longer than women who never married, were divorced, or widowed: “Marriage keeps women alive,” she said, and the same was true for men, to an even greater extent, all else being equal. “When you look at the most basic, most fundamental health indicator,” she said, “it’s very clear that married people are advantaged.”

Dr. Waite graduated with a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Michigan in 1976. She is the Lucy Flower Professor in Urban Psychology at the University of Chicago.. She researches social demography, aging, the family, health, working families, and the link between biology, psychology, and the social world. The Marjorie Pay Hinckley Chair, which sponsored Waite’s lecture, was created to strengthen, understand, and research families as well as create strategies to bolster families through challenges such as learning disabilities, “social development,” and single parenting.

Kids Learn Financial Responsibility Best Through Real-World Experience, Fulton Student Finds

pexels-photo-325154How can parents best teach their young adult children to manage their money well? Sam Runyan, a BYU School of Family Life student found that “practice makes perfect.” He interviewed 90 undergraduate students from various American universities, and found that, by enlarge, parents use dexperiential teaching to teach their children how to manage and spend money, how to work hard for their money, and how to become independent and self-reliant. He presented the results of his study at our college’s annual Fulton Conference,  where he and his co-authors won first place for their department.

Specifically, their study found that parents taught their young adults beginning when they were young, by doing the following:

  • Opening a bank account for their children
  • Giving them an allowance
  • Helping them understand smart spending
  • Giving them opportunities to work


Sam has seen the benefits of these teachings in his own life: “My parents taught me to work hard to earn money through chores around the house and different jobs, and they taught me how to spend and manage my money once I earned it.  They ultimately taught me to become an independent person, and as I got older they gave me more opportunities to do things on my own.  I think that because they taught me in that way, I was able to financially support myself when I went to college.”

He further described its universal importance :“Today, the millennial generation struggles to manage money as wisely as past generations.  In our day, it can be easy to make foolish mistakes with our money.  I believe it is important for people to learn how to avoid those mistakes so that they can financially take care of themselves and improve the lives of those around them.” He hopes that researchers, educators, and future parents will take his study’s results and and implement them in teaching their children about financial responsibility.

sfl first place

Where Next?

Sam’s project was part of a larger study examining the financial practices of emerging adults, something about which relatively little research has been conducted. More quantitative (i.e., numerical) data will now be gathered to supplement the qualitative (i.e., verbal). He says: “Our study gives us an accurate picture about the ways parents are teaching their children today, and the next step would be to find the most effective ways parents can help their children learn.”

The Fulton Conference

About the Fulton Conference, he said: “[It] was a really good experience.  It was great to be able to present our research and see all the work that other students have done this year.  I loved the opportunity to talk with other students and professors to share research with each other.  Seeing everyone’s posters and the hard work they put in helped me appreciate the opportunities we have at BYU.  It was also a great opportunity to work with such an amazing research team.  Dr. Hill, Dr. Marks, and all the wonderful students I worked with have made an impact in my life.  I was able to participate in a great study and at the same time make a lot of amazing friends.  Overall, the Fulton Conference was a wonderful experience, and I loved the opportunity to celebrate the great accomplishments of so many students.”

How did your parents teach you financial responsibility?

Do Military Children Struggle with Reintegration When a Deployed Parent Comes Home?

It should come as no surprise to learn that being a child in a military family can be challenging. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, infants, 18 year olds, and all the ages in between can be negatively impacted by a parent’s deployment. They can suffer from sleep problems, aggression, and alcohol/drug abuse. Because of these difficulties stemming from a parent being away, one would assume that their return home would end these issues and allow the children to move past them. However, one would be wrong.

In a recent study, School of Family Life professor Jeremy Yorgason found that, for some children, the transition was quite difficult: “Parents reported relatively low levels of military children’s reintegration difficulty overall… but…parents who experienced depressive symptoms…relationship uncertainty…and interference from a partner…indicated that their children had more difficulty with reintegration.” These difficulties were stable over the three months that the study was conducted.  Dr. Yorgason believes that understanding the results of this study will help military families: “Helping military couples lower depression, strengthen their relationship, and be more harmonious in their parenting and family interactions would seem to help military children with the post-deployment reintegration process.”  He further hopes that: “military family policy and programming will benefit from a better understanding of the relationship dynamics of the post-deployment transition so that military families can be better supported during this challenging time.”

Dr. Yorgason and his colleagues will continue their research, this time with more families over a longer period of time. They will focus on “…the marital processes that occur during the post-deployment phase, and…how reintegration difficulties fluctuate across the transition.” Dr. Yorgason’s elucidation of the problems faced by children in a recently reunited military family will no doubt prove valuable for both further research and the military.

What do you think of this?

The Gulag and its Relationship to Us

Photo courtesy of goodreads

 BYU History professor Jeff Hardy recently published a book on a penal system of the former Soviet Union. Called The Gulag After Stalin, the book explains how punishment was meted out from the 1920’s to the mid-1950s in the Gulag, which was “…the system of…labour camps and accompanying detention and transit camps and prisons that…housed the political prisoners and criminals of the Soviet Union.” At the height of its existence, the Gulag housed 10 million people who felled timber, laboured on general construction projects (such as the building of canals and railroads), or worked in mines under the threat of starvation or execution if they refused. It is estimated that the combination of very long working hours, harsh climatic and other working conditions, inadequate food, and summary executions killed off at least 10 percent of the Gulag’s total prisoner population each year.

But why should this matter to us? How does a defunct Russian prison system from the mid 1900’s relate to our lives in 2017? Hardy points out that no one can decry the Gulag because, like them, we have never been able to eliminate incarceration as our primary form of punishment. When one examines the Soviet Union’s penal system, similarities within our own prison system become apparent.

Gulag American Penal System
Prisoners- with a few exceptions- were incarcerated. Prisoners are incarcerated and, in some cases, are locked in solitary confinement
Prisoners labored to industrialize their country. Prisoners labor, ex: chain gangs
Human rights abuses occurred, ex: work days exceeding 8 hours Human rights abuses occur, Ex: perp walks

Are there ways in which we can improve our own penal system? According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, we should institute various reforms regarding prison management and social integration. They recommend improving communication between the prisons and courts, creating new training curriculums for prison managers, instituting corrective measures inside prison communities, and formulating a health plan within the prisons, to name only a few. pexels-photo-143580

There is one issue, however, that the Gulag handled far better than we do: solitary confinement. According to Dr. Hardy, the Russian system valued communalism: “Whereas cellular confinement with one or two inmates per cell was typical of prison systems in the West…the Soviet Union preferred barracks that housed dozens of prisoners in common quarters. Inmates worked together, ate together, and generally moved freely within the confines of the camps, they were also organized into communal work brigades…This communal life in the Gulag was both a function of ideology and exigency.”

This is not how the U.S. penal system functions. Prisoners are typically two to a cell and solitary confinement is utilized as a punishment for acting out in prison. A recent Frontline piece relates the story of former inmate Kenny More, who ripped the hair out of his body, heard voices, and wrote messages on the wall of his cell with his own blood while spending five-and-a-half years in solitary confinement and nearly 20 years in and out of prison. In 2006, former Harvard Medical School faculty member Stuart Grassian conducted a study on the effects of solitary confinement. According to his report: “Of the forty-nine inmates I evaluated, at least seventeen were actively psychotic and/or acutely suicidal and urgently in need of acute hospital treatment, and twenty-three others suffered serious psychopathological reactions to solitary confinement, including (in several cases) periods of psychotic disorganization.” pexels-photo-27967

Moreover, prisoners who were in solitary confinement were more likely to commit crimes once they were released. Former University of Washington professor David Lowell conducted a 2007 study that looked at recidivism rates for inmates held in supermax prisons– facilities where all inmates are in solitary confinement. He learned that “these offenders committed new felonies sooner and at higher rates than otherwise comparable nonsupermax offenders. Furthermore, they re-offended more quickly than otherwise comparable supermax offenders who weren’t released to the community directly from supermax.”

The Gulag was disbanded in 1957; evidence,  perhaps, of its ineffectiveness. Evidence shows that solitary confinement may not be the most effective option for the American penal system. While the Gulag was in need of critical reforms and is no longer present in our modern society we can still learn from it: how to better our own penal system and the lives of those in it.

Have you read Doctor Hardy’s book?

Do Superheroes Make Children Better Defenders? Dr. Coyne’s Study Says No.

Who’s your favorite superhero? Batman? Thor? Wonder Woman? In our modern society, we have a variety of caped crusaders to root for, all with varying powers and abilities. However, they do have one trait in common: they are defenders. Our media is inundated with images of these heroes saving people, cities, and countries. Through them, we’re learning to be better defenders, right? A recent study done by School of Family Life professor Dr. Sarah Coyne found that the opposite was true- children who were exposed to superhero media were more likely to become aggressive rather than prosocial.

batman The Study

The study, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology in January 2017, consisted of two interviews each of 240 children ages 3-6.5 and their parents, once at the beginning of the study and another a year later.  Parents were shown images of common superheroes (e.g., Spiderman, Batman, Captain America, X-men) and asked to choose the superhero that their child most identified with and then to rate how much their child identified with that superhero. They were also asked questions regarding their children’s viewing behaviors, and then asked to rate how aggressive their child was. The children were each given a poster with 10 popular male and female superheroes (e.g., Spiderman, Ironman, Captain America, Thor, Superman, Storm) and were asked to identity their favorite superhero. They were then asked to explain why they liked this particular superhero the best. Children could also identify a superhero not on the poster if they liked. The children were also observed in a lab session.

Of the parents surveyed, only 28% responded that superheroes positively influenced their children. One mother backed up her belief by stating “They can be good role models because they are defending the right and the defenseless.” Contrast this with a different mother who said: “I am not a fan of superheroes because although they are supposed to support and defend ‘good,’ they tend to promote fighting and violence . . . I don’t want to promote superhero or superhero play at home because it tends to lead my children to violence. I don’t want them to act out violence and aggression as a way to entertain themselves.” She was part of the 12% of parents who believed that superheroes negatively influenced their kids. Of this group, 66% cited violence as their paramount concern. The largest group of parents, 60%, had largely indifferent or mixed thoughts on superhero media, one mother saying: “I like the positive aspects of superheroes, helping people, etc., but think they are depicted too violently for children.”

Of the children, 20% of them cited violent action as the admired trait. A five-year-old boy said: “He’s big and can punch.” A four-year-old boy selected Captain America as his favorite superhero “because he can kill.”

The Results 7UAS9TK8AF

“Preschoolers who were highly engaged with superheroes were more likely to be physically and relationally aggressive 1 year later,” said Dr. Coyne, “even after controlling for initial levels of physical and relational aggression and their exposure to other aggressive media. Although superhero programs contain high amounts of prosocial behavior and defending behaviors, preschool boys’ and girls’ engagement with superheroes was not related to increased frequency of these behaviors across time.” Her findings corroborate past research on the subject.

She says: “I hope parents [will] be interested in these results. Many parents specifically said they liked the superhero culture because it taught their children to be better defenders….but this wasn’t the case in our study. They were actually more aggressive!” The researcher hopes that parents will limit their preschoolers’ exposure to superhero media and that they will discuss the characters with their children.

This year, Dr. Coyne will conduct a follow up study with the same children, now nearly ten years old. She will be researching “things like the effect of the superhero culture on the development of the muscular ideal.”

Do you think superheroes are a good influence?

Fulton Anthropology 1st Place Winner: Telisha Pantelakis Researches Hmong People

There is a group of people, the Hmong, originally from southeast Asia and China, that found themselves somewhat like the Syrian refugees of today, spread all over the world. Persecution, cultural traditions, shifting agricultural practices, and political strife drove them to migrate to America, China, French Guiana, Laos, Australia, Vietnam, France, Thailand, Argentina, and Canada, in what is called the Hmong Diaspora. Those few Hmong that stayed in China were classified for years as “miao,” a vague census category used to classify all strange and backward looking non-Han people in southern China.” Today, Hmong in countries other than their own “see double,” as American-born Hmong Mai Der Vang said in a 2011 Washington Post editorial: “Somewhere in my American identity, in my fluent

Picture courtesy of Luis Mata on Flickr.

English and Western clothing, in my reliance on technology and my college degree, the exile lives in me, too.  Writer Andre Aciman says, ‘Exiles see double, feel double, are double. When exiles see one place, they’re also seeing – or looking for – another behind it.’” Brigham Young University Anthropology student Telisha Pantelakis presented anthropological research she had completed about the Hmong population in France, and the ways in which they “saw double” medically speaking, at our recent Fulton Conference. Her poster won first place at the conference in the Anthropology category.

Medicine and the Hmong

“Current U.S. literature has attributed Hmong difficulties adapting to Western culture, specifically health care from shamanic practices,” said Pantelakis and her co-author Madison Harmer. “[That literature] claims that traditional and western healing practices are incompatible. While living in a small town in central France, we conducted an ethnographic study observing Hmong refugees and their interactions and beliefs between traditional healing practices and Western medicine to explore this claim.” Why did Pantelakis and Harmer choose this topic? She says: “…It was interesting to me how a South East Asian migration group ended up in France. I did some research, and was captivated by Hmong history. They are a people without a country, yet have been able to keep their culture thriving wherever they go. I wanted to learn more, especially about their traditional healing methods and shamanism.”

Her Research

Telisha got her wish. Through her research she discovered that there was no disparity between the traditional and modern medicines. Hmong healer and shaman VanMeej Thoj said: “You must take medicine first. You must be somewhat well, then you can go see a shaman and he can see why you’re sick.” This attitude is in direct contrast to previous reports on the Asian clan’s culture.  Before beginning her study, she had to read a plethora of research on the Hmong people and their relationship with contemporary medical practices. She says, “I went to France and saw that not only were Hmong ‘model minorities’, but that they utilized the medical system without issues.”

Her poster was titled “Collision or Cohesion? Hmong Shamanism and Ontological Holism in France.” Mentored by Professor Jacob Hickman, she, along with her co-author Madison Harmer studied how the Hmong culture meshed their traditional medicinal practices with modern ones.

anthro 1st place


When asked what she hoped would happen as a result of her research, Telisha replied: “I really think it is a unique opportunity to add to the literature pool on a [lesser]-known population. Dr. Hickman is hoping eventually to compile all his research into a website of sorts in order to make information available to Hmong individuals as well. To Hmong individuals whom I lived with last summer, it would be exciting for them to see that their history is being recorded through academic articles as well. They were so willing to share their stories with us, because in their French community they had never had people come to study their culture before. They want to share their culture with everyone.”

What’s Next?

What’s next for Telisha and her research? She and Harmer presented their research at a national conference in New Mexico in March of 2017, and are preparing to present again at the American Anthropological Association national conference in Washington D.C. this Fall. Currently, she and professor Jacob Hickman are writing a paper based on her findings which they hope to have in the process of publication by the year’s end.

The Fulton Conference

The Fulton Conference was an invaluable experience for the Anthropology student. She described her experience in the following words: “I loved it! I’m so glad our professors let us know of the opportunity. It gave us a chance to gain some experience with poster presentations, as I have only ever given oral presentations at conferences previously. I am grateful to the Fultons for providing this opportunity for students to share their research while getting to network with students from other majors and enjoying a delicious meal. I will definitely do it again next year.”

Did you or will you participate in the Fulton Conference?

Christina Riley: Fulbright Scholarship Recipient

Christina Riley, a recent BYU Applied Social Psychology doctoral candidate, has recently been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. With it, she intends to work in India, studying the likelihood of physical abuse in that country.  Her interest in helping resolve social justice issues like domestic violence effectively through prevention efforts is what drove her to apply for the scholarship, and what drives her research. She’s published five papers examining effective domestic violence prevention programs cross-culturally, as well as the social factors that contribute to domestic violence perpetration, as well as gender roles and obesity.

Who is Christina Riley?

Riley is a graduate of Baylor University with a degree in psychology and two minors in English and World Affairs. She came to BYU to pursue a PhD in psychology. While here, Riley has taught the online version of Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology: Lifespan, and a Peer Mentoring Capstone. She plans on going into “…into academia for research and teaching…[and]…to collaborate with international research agencies and NGOs focused on ending violence against women.”

What is a Fulbright Scholarship?

The scholarship that will be the catalyst for her dynamic research is one of many awarded by the J. Williams Fulbright Scholarship Board, whose members are all appointed by U.S. presidents. Each year, it gives around 1,900 grants and works in over 140 countries. It is administered overseas by bi-national commissions and U.S. embassies, who all work to increase mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and of other countries through exchange. In a time when both the physical and virtual worlds are more accessible that they have ever been, such increased, mutual understanding, acquired by as many students as possible, is perhaps more important than it has ever been. BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is not only proud of Christina, but interested in making sure that other students know about this great opportunity. To that end, the college hosted events in March to increase awareness and facilitate application preparations.

At that meeting on campus, Lee Rivers, an outreach specialist for the U.S. Student Fulbright Program and other international scholarship programs, encouraged students to consider applying for the next round of Fulbright scholarships, as the next deadline for applications will be in October 2017.  During their grants, Rivers said, Fulbrighters will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences.  “The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Through engagement in the community, the individual will interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.”

Other Students Are Encouraged to Apply

All of the following are encouraged to apply to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program:

  • graduating seniors and recent bachelor’s-degree recipients that have some undergraduate preparation and/or direct work or internship experience related to the project.
  • master’s and doctoral candidates who can demonstrate the capacity for independent study or research, together with a general knowledge of the history, culture, and current events of the countries to which they would like to apply
  • Young professionals, including writers, creative and performing artists, journalists, and those in law, business, and other professional fields   Competitive candidates who have up to 5 years of professional study and/or experience in the field in which they would like to apply will be considered. Those with more than 5 years of experience should apply to the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

More information on the scholarship program can be found at This programprovides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs.” The research will take place outside of the United States. Applications can be found here.

The Fulbright Scholarship

The Fulbright Scholarship was proposed in 1945 and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in 1946. A student does not need to be currently enrolled in an institute of higher education to apply. They can apply for two kinds of grants, based on their desire to do independent research or study abroad, or to teach English abroad. Each grant funds 8 to 10 months of work. The grant funds round-trip airfare and provides a monthly stipend, as well as accident and sickness insurance and other possible benefits.


Featured image courtesy of Flickr.




One Way to Validate Children in Stepfamilies

This post is fifteenth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

It can be difficult to adjust to living with a step-parent, especially for children and teens. According to stepfamily expert Dr. Patricia Papernow, the best thing a parent can do to ease that adjustment is to listen to what their children are saying. In order for the blended family to be successful, the youth need to feel validated. Papernow said, in a 2017 BYU Social Work Conference, “[It] turns out people have really big hearts.” If parents listen to and acknowledge their children’s possibly negative feelings, the transition to a blended family will be smoother. This two-minute video highlights how:

BYU’s Social Work Conference is held annually for clinicians and members of the public. Papernow is a psychologist in private practice in Hudson, Ma, and Director of the Institute for Stepfamily Education. The Marjorie Pay Hinckley Chair, which sponsors the conference, was created to strengthen, understand, and research families as well as create strategies to bolster families through challenges such as learning disabilities, social development, and single parenting.

Clinical Psychology PhD Receive Prestigious Post Docs in Pediatric Neuropsychology

Two BYU clinical psychology PhD graduates,  Ashley Levan and Ann Clawson, received prestigious post docs in pediatric neuropsychology.

Ashley Levan

Capturelkj;lkj;lkjLevan received her PhD in clinical psychology from BYU in 2016. Her dissertation research studied children with epileptic and non-epileptic seizures and learned how their social and executive functioning skills were affected by those seizures. Levan also researched social and cognitive functioning following traumatic brain injury in children.

Levan has practiced and researched at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Children’s National is a leading clinical and research institution, ranked best in the nation for children, and has been around since 1870.  Dr. Levan was accepted into the Pediatric Neuropsychology concussion and mild traumatic brain injury track.

As a postdoctoral fellow at Children’s National Medical Center, Levan’s clinical work focused on completing neuropsychological evaluations with children and adolescents with concussion, autism spectrum disorders, and additional neurodevelopmental and acquired conditions, according to Leesa Scott of the psychology department.  Levan also examines academic outcomes in pediatric concussion populations.

Ann Clawson


At BYU, Clawson graduated in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral program with an emphasis in neuropsychology. She continues her training as a postdoctoral fellow in pediatric neuropsychology at Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Kennedy Krieger Institute is an internationally recognized facility dedicated to improving the lives of children and adolescents with pediatric developmental disabilities through patient care, special education, research and professional training.

In her post doc program, Clawson is developing skills and knowledge through working with a variety of children and youth in the oncology, genetic/congenital, and epilepsy clinics. Clawson is receiving specialized training in autism spectrum disorder. She continues her research in autism and am currently involved in a project examining neuropsychological outcomes in autism.

“I am incredibly grateful for my current opportunities, and for all those at BYU whose guidance and support have helped me succeed,” Clawson said.


We’re proud of the great work Doctors Levan and Clawson are doing to expand knowledge of pediatric psychology and development!

Intermountain Histories: a History of Us

On Sixth South in Provo, there is an old, old building that used to house the Startup candy company. Interestingly, today, it houses several small startup companies instead of the candy company. The story of the Startup building is one of many told on Intermountain, a digital public history project that provides scholarly information and interpretive stories of historic sites and events around the Intermountain West regions of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. The project is managed by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University. In collaboration with professors and students from universities across the Intermountain West, new content is created each semester in classroom settings. Those stories are then edited and revised by the Redd Center and published on the site for the public.

Using an interactive GPS-enabled map, you can take virtual or physical walking tours of historic sites. As your personal tour guide, Intermountain Histories provides historical information, photographs and images, documentary videos, audio interviews, oral histories, bibliographic citations, and other resources for you to explore. Though created in academic settings, the content is meant to be used by the general public.

The first batch of stories is small, created by a “guinea pig” group of professors and students. In the upcoming weeks, additional stories currently being edited will be published as well. Moving forward, new batches will periodically publish as collaborating professors, students, and interns at the Redd Center research, write, and edit new stories. Intermountain Histories is available for free in iTunes, Google Play, and online at To receive notifications when new stories are published, follow the project on Facebook or Twitter.

“Though small at our current launch,” said Dr. Brenden Rensink, co-director, “this project will grow and fill the map with countless pins and stories.”