Celebrate Reformers at the Dead Reformers’ Debate

Five hundred years after Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of a church, he is known as the leader of the Reformation. John Calvin was a Protestant reformer whose doctrines gave birth to Calvinism.  St. Teresa of Ávila was a Spanish nun who pushed for Carmelite reform and eventually founded and oversaw seventeen convents in her native country. All three have taken their places in history as reformers who changed the direction of their societies, the ripple effects of which are still felt today. On October 30, our History Department will feature their “reincarnations,” as well as that of William Tyndale, in its third annual Debate of the Dead: the Dead Reformers’ Debate.

We hope that people will gain a sense of the historical Reformation, some doctrine, but also have some laughs,” said Professor Ed Stratford, who will serve as moderator of the debate. The event will celebrate the Reformation, and take place on the day before Luther put his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church. Though the particular day was far less dramatic than it has come to be remembered, we’ll have some fun with it.”

The Reformers

For Martin Luther’s role in the Protestant Reformation, he was dubbed “one of the most influential figures in the history of Christianity” by Britannica Academic. In 1517, he wrote the Ninety-Five Theses, which proposed a debate on certain religious practices. The theses were disseminated throughout Germany, resulting in a massive religious upheaval and reformation. Professor Stratford called him “an obvious choice” for inclusion in the debate.

william Tyndale
William Tyndale

William Tyndale was an English scholar who, in 1525, completed an English language translation of the New Testament. He was executed before he could finish translating the Old Testament. John Calvin was highly esteemed by the puritans of his time, who brought his teachings with them to America. St. Teresa of Ávila was the author of many spiritual works in the late 1500’s. She was elevated to the position of Doctor of the Church and considered to be a powerful Roman Catholic mystic. She pushed for Carmelite reform and eventually founded and oversaw seventeen convents in her native country. 

Previous Debates

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John Calvin

The previous debates—the Dead Presidents and the Dead Queensfocused on modern political and gender issues respectively. In the former, which took place prior to the 2016 presidential election, Presidents Jackson, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, and Lincoln debated Trump’s and Clinton’s stances regarding foreign and immigration policies, what their strengths were, and whether or not Trump was justified in having hurt feelings.

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St. Teresa of Ávila

The queens at the latter debate were Joan of Arc, Empress Cixi, Martha Ballard, and Hurrem Sultan. They discussed women’s role in the politics, the workforce, and whether or not women were better off in modern society. At the conclusion of the debate, the women offered advice: “Joan admonished that it is ‘important to listen to what God wants you to do.’ Hurrem said to overcome obstacles and ‘believe in yourself.’ Martha encouraged women to keep journals, and Cixi offered sage advice about addiction: “[It] is bad. Pursue your education.’”

The Dead Reformers’ Debate will be held on October 30th in the Varsity Theater at 4pm.

Photo credits: Martin Luther, St. Teresa of Ávila, William Tyndale, and John Calvin.

In a Stepfamily? Come to this Lecture!

“When you have a blended family,” said stepparent Isabella, in a recent Connections article, “you have the chance to learn how charity works. Having a blended family has been a blessing to us because we had the opportunity to become an eternal family.”  While stepfamilies are becoming more common in modern society, blending them is still a challenge, according to Patricia Papernow, an expert in the study of stepfamilies and a speaker at our 2016 Social Work Conference. “It’s like Italians eating with chopsticks.” At an upcoming presentation, School of Family Life professors Jeff and Tammy Hill will share some useful tips for members of blended families both on- and off-campus.

In particular, they’ll:

  • share their own personal experience of blending their 12-kid family,
  • provide the most current research on blended families and what actually works.
  • tackle counterproductive myths about blended families,
  • equip attendees with research and gospel-oriented principles to assist them

The lecture will be held on November 8th and 7pm in room 2265 of the BYU Conference Center. Overflow will be in room 2267. It is offered as part of the Families at Risk lecture series, which provides family with techniques, perspective, and hope to take on today’s threats to family. Registration is required beforehand here, and the cost is $25.

The stress associated with numerous family transitions can pile up, the consequences of which may persist into emerging adulthood.,” said Drs. Erin Holmes, Kevin Shafer, and Todd Jensen in a 2016 study. It is imperative that people who are in stepfamilies or who know people in stepfamilies understand the importance of successful blending and the best ways to do so. Each widowed and remarried, Tammy and Jeff Hill are eager to share their experiences with others.

 

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Why BYU Students Should Read Fiction and Nonfiction… For Fun

“Books are a uniquely portable magic,” Stephen King said. But the problem is that most people don’t read for fun, and that means that they’re missing out on literary magic. A recent survey by the National Endowment for the Arts suggested that only 43 percent of adults read a work of literature in 2015. The survey excluded assigned reading to focus on people who read for fun, and the results revealed the lowest percentage of adult readers since the NEA began tracking reader data in 1982.

BYU students are no exception. Between their classes, homework, part-time jobs, and social lives, few students pick up books to read for pleasure. One article published by The Daily Universe suggested that students prefer reading during the summer, when they have much lighter loads. But what are the benefits of reading fiction, and why should you do it as often as possible? New psychological research suggests that readers are more empathetic than other people are, probably because reading trains the mind to put itself in other people’s shoes. Those findings have been replicated by many studies in the past few years.

FHSS has a reading list on its website, and we’re going to suggest two of our recent favorites to our readers. These are works of non-fiction written by our own professors, but they provide food for thought and fun.

  • A World Ablaze, by history professor Craig Harline. This book tells Martin Luther’s story, but it’s no history textbook. A World Ablaze reads like a work of fiction, and Harline’s storytelling will keep you flipping pages all the way to the end. Keep checking our blog for more information; we’ll publish a detailed post about the book next week.
  • Friends are fun, and psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad wrote a chapter in a recent book about the psychology of friendship, about what it means to be a friend and how we can befriend those across the race, ethnicity, gender, and orientation spectrums. This chapter also addresses what happens when a friendship turns sour, the effect of friendship on our mental health.

One of the most valuable things college students can learn is how to find books that interest them. Luckily, the Harold B. Lee Library ranks among the best college libraries in the nation, so you can find thousands of titles right on campus. You could also check out Pioneer Book on Center Street or purchase books through Amazon. If you don’t know what kind of books you yourself might be interested in, you might want to ask your roommates or favorite professors what they’re currently reading. For book recommendations, search #bookreviews, #amreading, #booknerd, or #bookstagram on Instagram.

What’s your favorite recent read?

Let us know in the comments section!

Cutler Lecture: Breaking the Silence: Proactive Parent-Child Communication about Healthy Sexuality

It’s almost time for the 2017 Virginia F. Cutler Lecture, one of the college‘s most prestigious annual lectures. This year’s speaker is Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker, a School of Family Life professor who studies parenting and media influences during adolescence and emerging adulthood.

Dr. Padilla-Walker’s lecture is titled “Breaking the Silence: Proactive Parent-Child Communication about Healthy Sexuality.” She will present current research findings on parent-child communication about sexuality and will focus on primary stumbling blocks to quality communication. The lecture will also compare LDS and non-LDS families on communication about sexuality using both quantitative and qualitative data. Suggestions for how to improve communication and promote healthy sexuality will be highlighted. Light refreshments will follow the lecture.

The lecture series is named after Virginia F. Cutler, former dean of the College of Family Living (now the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences). Dr. Cutler cared deeply about women and people in other nations, and her career took her across the globe as she served people in Thailand, Indonesia and Ghana.

 

 

 

Larry Eastland, Honored Alum, on Deciding, Leading, and Living Joyfully

Dr. Larry Eastland, an alum of our political science department and this year’s college Honored Alumni, believes in young adults, particularly those at BYU, because they have the opportunities and resources to change the world. Though he’s had a storied and impactful life since his graduation, he credits the decisions he made between the ages of 18 and 30 with the most importance in his life because they were ones that have allowed him to impact and change the world. Last week, he spoke to a group of current students about the five major decisions that he has made, and that all individuals within these years usually have to make, and how best to make them:

The Top Five Decisions of a Lifetime

  • the-climate-reality-project-349094Education. Each individual must choose to continue their learning in some form or another even after organized education. People must ask themselves what is worthwhile for them to spend their time on.
  • Develop and nurture your testimony. When life is easy, you have to decide if you will stick with the gospel when things get tough. When Dr. Eastland was going through Marine Corps. training and was ridiculed and punished for being a Mormon, he stayed firm in his testimony and succeeded in difficult situations because he had already decided to be true to his testimony. “Testimony is an everyday thing,” he said, “and you must make the daily decision to strengthen, believe, and live it or not.”
  • brooke-cagle-170053Protect your marriage. First, make the decision to marry and then to marry someone who will challenge you to do your best every day. The blessings and happiness from this decision will bless your family for generations to come. Then, protect your marriage at all costs.
  • Live worthy of your family. Be worthy of your spouse, your children, and what and how they are doing—protect them at all costs.
  • Profession. Be prepared with the knowledge and skills to get the job you want and make your knowledge and skills transferable. Most individuals will have numerous occupations throughout the career so make sure that what you choose to study and the skills you choose to develop can be applicable and helpful in multiple fields.

Decisions are Not Necessarily About Their End Results

Decisions need to be made so that we can continue progressing in our lives, but as Dr. Eastland shared, we make certain decisions in life not because of their end results, but because those decisions will give us the experiences we need to to find joy in this life and to fulfill our Heavenly Father’s goals. When Dr. Eastland worked in Washington D.C., he didn’t realize until later in his career that he had been placed there so that one day he could stand as a witness of the church and make sure that the Missouri Extermination Order was not expunged from national history but that it was preserved and brought to light. Likewise, when Dr. Eastland was impressed to move his family from Washington to Idaho to pursue an experience that did not succeed, he learned that experiences often lead us to more experiences that allow us to gain the necessary perspective to make the world a better place.

Adobe Spark (10)Eleven Rules for Great Leadership Decisions

The path we follow in life is always of our own choosing. The decisions we make when we are between the ages of 18-30 will dramatically determine this path and the joy we experience. If we make them well, chances are that we will be chosen to lead others at some point in our lives. Dr. Eastland shared 11 rules that will help us become great leaders through the decisions we make:

  • Officers eat last. Know that the privilege of command and leadership is that you take care of your people first.
  • Never expect of those around you that which you are not willing to do yourself. 
  • If you don’t set concrete, measurable, achievable goals, you will never achieve them. Know your goals so that when you have to change your plans you know why you did so.
  • You are only as good as the people with whom you surround yourself with. Remember that first class people will always find ways to make an idea first class, so work with first class people.
  • If your people have no part in the process, they will have no stake in the outcome. Involve others in what you are doing so that they feel ownership and responsibility for what is being done.
  • Praise in public, punish in private.
  • To get people to work with you, you need to be able to say three things and mean them: I need your help. I won’t forget. Thank you very much.
  • Trust– but verify. 
  • Never take “title” to someone else’s problem or assignment.
  • When someone brings you a good idea, ask them to put a plan together to implement it. Allow others to be a part of what you are doing.
  • Email is for information. Personal contact is for inspiration. Create a relationship, serve, and people will listen to you.

To view the whole lecture, click here.

What decisions do you need to make in your life to gain  experiences you need to continue progressing? Are your decisions helping you to serve and lead others?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Faculty Spotlight: Rebekka Matheson

Matheson RebekkaFor Rebekka Matheson, one of the College of Family, Home, and Social Science’s newest faculty members, teaching is about helping students expand their world. As an assistant professor of cognitive and behavioral neuroscience in the psychology department, Matheson is able to witness students’ worlds expanding to embrace more truth and knowledge every time she teaches. “There’s a very specific facial micro-expression when a student makes a connection, gets excited about new material, sees old material in a new way, or is able to see the beauty in something,” shares Matheson. “It’s like their eyes widen and fill with light for a moment. I love that moment.”

A graduate of BYU herself, Professor Matheson notes that “there was a very powerful feeling of being among some really remarkable people every day [during my undergraduate education at BYU]. Now, as I interact with my students, I get that same feeling. BYU Neuroscience students really are the best and brightest the world has to offer, and even better than that, they are focused on applying their education in Christ-like ways.” From her impactful BYU education, Professor Matheson learned that “truth is never irrelevant,” regardless of the field it comes from. When you find how truth and knowledge relate to your field, you “will have an enriched understanding and deeper appreciation for the truth [you] already had.” As Professor Matheson says, “ I rarely ‘know‘ anything.… I just have a scaffolding to keep building on. I chose neuroscience and medicine as my scaffolding.”

CaptureProfessor Matheson currently teaches neurobiology, behavioral neuroscience, and sensation and perception. To those both in the neuroscience department and in different majors, Matheson offers this advice: “Brains learn what they find beautiful. If you’re struggling with material, don’t automatically go deeper in the trenches of its minutiae. Ask for help finding its beauty. Your professors will love helping with that, and your brain will thank you.”

Within the field of neuroscience, Matheson is interested in the neuroanatomy of reward and its implications in psychiatric illness and addiction. More specifically, she is interested in anatomy-focused, deep brain stimulation treatment of psychiatric and behavioral illness.

Welcome back to BYU, Professor Matheson!

Moms Monitoring Media: Does it Help?

Parents naturally want to protect their children from harm. When that harm comes in the form of cell phones, computers, video games, or any form of media, however, due to media’s ubiquitous nature, protecting your children may become a full time job.  BYU School of Family Life professors Dr. Sarah Coyne and Laura M. Padilla-Walker delved into the role and effect of protective maternal media monitoring in a recent study. In particular, the study looked to see if mothers’ media monitoring styles either helped to reduce media use or increased the association between aggressive media use and adolescents’ prosocial behavior, aggression, [or] delinquency.” Media monitoring strategies that consisted of active monitoring, engaging, and conversing about media to connect with one’s children was associated with less media use, although it did not completely deter adolescents from aggressive media.

Two players playing video games on TV at home

The Study

At two different point of time, roughly at the ages of 13 and 15, 681 adolescents and their mothers, all participants of BYU’s Flourishing Families Project, reported their media monitoring and media use. Parental media monitoring in this case was defined as “parental efforts directed toward supervising and discussing their child’s media use.” Monitoring styles were generally categorized into:

  1. Active monitoring which entails promoting “education and critical thinking” about media.
  2. Restrictive monitoring or setting restrictions and rules on time spent on media and media content.
  3. Co-Use, when parents and children “experience the media together”.

When these monitoring styles merged together, a “family climate” was created that related to the effectiveness of parenting practices and the way media was seen in the home. After modeling and analysis of participant responses, results showed that mothers generally used four media monitoring strategies, all of which yielded different results in regards to adolescent media usage.

High Active Connection (18% of mothers)

High active connection monitoring consisted of very high levels of active monitoring and connective co-use. These mothers were slightly more involved in the monitoring of their children’s media in comparison with other mothers. Adolescents who were monitored in this way still reported moderate use of aggressive media, but had the lowest overall media time and had equally low levels of media use in the bedroom as adolescents moderated by moderate active connection.

Moderate Active Connection (30% of mothers)

This monitoring style included high levels of active monitoring and connective co-use. Like high active connection monitoring, there was still a moderate use of aggressive media among adolescents and had the lowest levels of media use in the bedroom.

Restrictive Co-Use (11% of mothers)

Restrictive co-use was primarily characterized by restrictive monitoring of adolescent media.

Restrictive Connections (36% of mothers)

Restrictive connections showed an equal level of restrictive monitoring and connective co-use in media monitoring styles.

While connective co-use was the most commonly used across the four monitoring styles, no singular style was comprised of only one parenting strategy; all parenting strategies were used by every monitoring style group to some degree. But there were certain adolescent media use and behavioral outcomes that related to more specific parenting strategies within maternal media monitoring styles. Media monitoring strategies that consisted of active monitoring and connective co-use (i.e., when parents engaged and conversed about media to connect with their children) were associated with less media use. Discussing media with children

Concerning restrictive media monitoring, reports show that restrictive approaches are generally less effective during adolescence due to teens’ “increased desires for autonomy as they approach mid adolescence.” In fact, this also extends to the promotion of pro-social behavior (voluntary behavior that benefits others), suggesting that protecting children from negative behaviors requires different forms of monitoring than promoting pro-social behaviors.

Even after maternal media monitoring, aggressive media still took its toll, the study showed. Aggressive media content and time were positively related to aggression and delinquency. It also negatively affected pro-social behavior.

Implications

There have already been a number of studies of the effects of monitoring on teen media use. This study was different in that it tested the direct effects of media moderation considering dynamic, personal media monitoring styles. More than half of all media exposure occurs in the home and parents should be aware of how their monitoring of that media influences their children and family. There are real differences between media time and media content and there are real differences in the way a parent monitors their children and the positive and negative effect it can have on their behaviors and relationships.

Why Does this Matter?

Parents need to be aware of the effects their media monitoring has on their children and home. Moderating an adolescent’s media time and usage can be frustrating and tiring, but when done right, can benefit people and relationships. “We encourage parents to especially try to create a media monitoring climate that includes high levels of active monitoring and connective co-use, with relatively lower levels of restrictive monitoring,” says Padilla-Walker et al. Adolescents are in school learning new knowledge and skills, and parents likewise need to be learning more skills in regards to monitoring so that they can be prepared and confident to parent in the “increasingly digital world.” Future parents also should heed this information so that they can be ready to teach and protect their children when their time to monitor media and protect their children arrives.

 

What kind of media monitoring styles do you engage in in your home? Could you be doing it better?

Looking Back and Moving Forward: How Gorsuch Will Influence the Supreme Court

People may have forgotten about the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch that occurred only months ago, but they will probably not be able to forget his influence on the Court years from now, according to experts at a Constitution Day Panel discussion in September. Gorsuch, one of the youngest appointed Supreme Court justices at the age of 49, was the primary focus of the event, which was hosted by BYU’s Law School as part of events around the country held to commemorate the signing of the Constitution of the United States in 1787. At the panel, undergraduates, law students, and experienced lawyers and attorneys alike came together to hear BYU professors discuss Justice Gorsuch’s past influences and opinions and how they might affect his decisions as a Supreme Court Justice.

Courtesy of Senator Claire McCaskill.

With the change of a Supreme Court Justice comes changes in the cases seen, the written product, and the discussions had within the court. Previous Justice Antonin Scalia was a strong voice within the court, often writing his opinions separately and influencing an entire generation of lawyers, including Justice Gorsuch. In his new position, Justice Gorsuch’s stand as a textualist, originalist, and believer in natural law will all influence his voice concerning these court actions. Specifically, as discussed in the panel, Gorsuch and his past experience will influence his actions on the following topics:

Property Rights

In the panel, Professor John Fee stated that he would expect Justice Gorsuch to act similarly to Justice Scalia in regards to property rights. Based at Gorsuch’s comments in an email concerning the Kilo v. New London case in 2005, in which the Court held that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified private redevelopment plans as a permissible “public use,” the Justice is a strong defendant of property rights and holds true to his value of the plain, textual meaning of the Constitution.

Administrative Law and Division of Powers

Professor Aaron Nielson noted that looking back on Chief Justice Roger’s strong dissension in Arlington v. FCC, future Supreme Court action will likely occur regarding administrative law.

Federal Indian Law and Public Lands

As a Westerner and a past judge in the US Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, Gorsuch has a very diverse cultural perspective and familiarity with Indian law. While he has not participated in all aspects of Indian law, the 10th Circuit oversees a region with a large number of tribes and Gorsuch has written ten opinions on cases regarding these matters. These opinions include a mix of winning and losing opinions, but the National Congress of American Indians openly supported Gorsuch’s nomination. Gorsuch has a clear understanding of the legal status of tribes and the need to define Indian country, an understanding that will shape his court decisions.

Religious law

While Professor Elizabeth Clark emphasized that religious law is a very case-by-case field, we have a general understanding for Justice Gorsuch’s approach to religious law through his experience and case judgments in the 10th Circuit. Gorsuch tends to look to history for interpretations regarding religious law. In the past, he has also tended to be more comfortable with public religious expression. In concerns to statutory protections of religious freedom, he tends to look at both the spirit and the letter of the law, a value he’s shown through his review of prisoner cases and allowing prisoners to keep their religious rights. Gorsuch also recognizes sincere religious beliefs and strives to be a consensus builder within the court.

 

Justice Gorsuch has the potential for a very long Supreme Court record. While BYU professors have given their best predictions on his Supreme Court action, only time will tell the impact Neil Gorsuch will have on the Supreme Court and national law. The good thing is that while Gorsuch may not write with Justice Scalia’s humor, he explains situations and writes his opinions in a very understandable and accessible way, facilitating the process of understanding Constitutional rights for all United States citizens.

 

 

 

Student News: The BYU Farmers’ Market and How it Creates Community

Autumn is well under way, but there are still a few weeks left in BYU’s own farmers’ market. While students might not necessarily think of that market as important to their experience here, it can in fact provide them with multiple benefits, not the least of which is a greater sense of community. Research is beginning to show that that sense has started to erode with the explosion in popularity of online shopping, and is something that many scholars, including Professor Michael R. Cope, in our department of sociology, have studied. In that sense, farmers’ markets in general could be seen not only as a boon to students, but also a solution to societal problems.

Benefits to Students of Farmers’ Markets

  • connecting with your local community: You see other students on campus every single day, but you might not often get the chance to interact with local families and businesses. This is one way to immerse yourself in the experience of college life, a period most often experienced only once in a lifetime.
  • getting access to fresh produce: Now that you’ve been back at BYU for a month, you’re probably ready to eat something besides ramen or spaghetti. Give your physical health a boost by adding fresh produce to your diet.
  • experiencing local culture: In addition to offering produce, the farmers’ market includes booths for baked goods and arts and crafts. There are often live music performers present, so you can also become more familiar with the local music scene. It’s a way to “live in the experience,” as Michael Featherstone, an alum of our Economics department, said in their most recent magazine.
  • making grocery shopping fun
  • making a difference in the community

BYU’s Farmers Market takes place every Thursday afternoon through October 26 in the south parking lot of the LaVell Edwards stadium.

What other value do farmers’ markets provide?

The Sociology Behind Farmers’ Markets

“As our local communities increasingly shed their traditional production and consumption functions,” said Professor Cope in a 2016 study, “they may also increasingly fail to imbue their residents with identity and connections to larger social realities.” In other words, the less goods a community produces and the fewer goods bought within that community, the higher the likelihood that its residents will feel “hyper-individualized.” The good news is that research strongly suggests that farmers’ markets tie communities together as civic-minded people converge. The Local Food Movement (LFM) is a project that champions that cause and backs many of the 8,000 farmers’ markets around the country. It aims to help communities develop more self-reliant and resilient food networks, improve local economies; and have an impact on the health, environment, community, or society of a particular place.

From a sociological standpoint, their objectives are admirable, possibly even necessary. The bad news: despite that, farmers’ markets aren’t always inclusive. The number of female shoppers is significantly higher than the number of male shoppers, and shoppers are disproportionately white and highly educated. But it’s important not to view the LFM as an egalitarian movement taking on the Goliath of agribusiness. Instead, Wheaton College sociologist Justin L. Schupp suggests that “the more interesting prospective framing of the LFM could have the movement admitting its potential for intra-group stratification while working further toward its stated goals of the democratization of food access.”

Vendors and shoppers at farmers’ markets have the right idea, but they would increase their community impact if they operated in more low-income neighborhoods and attracted a wider variety of people.

The Geography Behind Farmers’ Markets

Common sense tells us that farmers’ markets bring communities together, but it doesn’t fully explain how or why that happens. Interacting with other people fosters a sense of community, but can geography teach us something about farmers’ markets as well, their benefits to students, and their role in creating more unified communities? While shoppers can find farmers’ markets all across the United States, there is geographic disparity in their distribution. There are higher percentages of farmers’ markets in communities in California, New York, and Midwestern states than in southern states; farmers’ markets are also more common in urban areas than in rural areas. Are those communities more tight-knit or egalitarian? Do many students shop at farmers’ markets?

While research doesn’t yet point to direct answers to those questions, it does show that those who do shop at those markets tend to not visit the markets nearest to their own homes, and that the LFM has a ways to go in terms of helping to establish farmers’ markets in more low-income and ethnically-diverse neighborhoods (Schupp, 2016).

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The Status Quo of Farmers’ Markets

Be that as it may, farmers’ markets continue to grow not only in number but in symbolic value. From 1984 to 2001, farmers sold goods in a large market at the base of the World Trade Center, but the morning of 9/11 was the market’s last day of operation — until June 20, 2017. The newly reopened market is located next to the Oculus. Security is tighter than you’d find at another farmers’ market, but vendors are fairly optimistic about its future.

In fact, the entire future of American farmers’ markets is bright. The number of markets has boomed since the 1970s, and it doesn’t look like they’re going out of style anytime soon.

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How Texting Affects Adolescent Behavior: A New Study By Sarah Coyne

For many of us, we knew we were officially teenagers when we got our first cell phones. Instead of a license to drive, it was a license to social life, friendship, different forms of entertainment, and privacy from parents. But is this necessarily a good thing? Over the past decade, professors, researchers, and parents alike have asked how this new connection to and “need” for technology, or cell phones in particular, is impacting the younger generation.

A 2012 study done by Professors Sarah Coyne and Laura Padilla-Walker in our School of Family Life  showed, among other things, that greater amounts of family cell phone use was associated with higher levels of family connection. A May 2017 study done by the same team with co-author Hailey G. Holmgren, focused on cell phone usage rates during adolescence, and the effects of that usage, as opposed to the effects of other media use, over time on adolescent relationships.

The Study: Who and What?

The texting and media habits of 425 Washington state youth were monitored throughout a six-year period from the ages of 13-18. While patterns of social networking, watching television, playing video games, and texting were all reported, researchers focused primarily on the frequency that youth texted throughout the six years. This data was then analyzed and correlated with reported depression, aggression, anxiety rates, as well as self-reported measurements of relationship health between the child and their father to find insightful correlations.

people-hand-iphone-smartphone

At the end of the six years, researchers found that both texting and social media use among teenagers tended to exist at “moderate levels during early adolescence, increased [levels] during mid-adolescence, peak around age 16-17, and then decrease slightly as individuals grew into adulthood.” These two forms of media most likely better serve the needs of youth to enhance their social activities and monitor social interactions. Coyne et al. found that, concerning texting, teenagers could be grouped into four distinct categories according to their texting trajectories throughout the six years: Moderates, Perpetuals, Increasers, and Decreasers.

     Moderates

The majority of adolescents (67%) showed moderate levels of texting throughout their youth that increased slightly over the course of their adolescence. These individuals had fewer reportings of negative behavioral outcomes. From this, we learn that the early development of self-regulation could be important in predicting stable, moderate patterns of texting among youth.

     Perpetuals

A smaller group of adolescents (14%) showed  high levels of texting during their early adolescence that slightly decreased over time. Individuals in this group tended to be depressed, male, and coming from single-parent homes. Of the four groups,”perpetuals” experienced the most negative outcomes with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and aggression. Coyne and her colleagues concluded that sustained high levels of texting “may interfere with the formation of face-to-face relationships” resulting in negative behaviors and an adolescent’s poor relationship with his or her father. On a more positive note, “perpetuals” tended to have the strongest relationships with their best friends, suggesting that texting can strengthen particular relationships.

texting 2

     Decreasers

Seven percent of adolescents in the study had high levels of texting during early adolescence and a sharp decrease in texting throughout their adolescent years. These individuals were able to control their texting habits and ultimately showed the lowest levels of depression and the highest relationship quality with their fathers.

     Increasers

“Increasers” showed low levels of texting during their early adolescents, rapidly increased their texting during mid-adolescence and then slowed down during their transition to adulthood. This group appeared to be relatively healthy in terms of behavior and relationship outcomes despite their increase in texting during their mid-adolescence.

Why is This Study Important?

Teenagers and young adults should be aware that this research shows a strong correlation between high patterns of texting over the adolescent years and impaired relationships. Parents of teenagers should be aware that “it is likely that both of these forms of media (texting and social media) represent a particularly salient way of communicating and connecting with others that is unique from other forms of media,” say Coyne et al. “This may be especially salient during adolescence, which is characterized by numerous emotional and social transitions (Steinberg, 2010). Both texting and social media have the potential to enhance a number of social transitions that are important during this age, including having more friends of the opposite sex and entering into romantic and sexual relationships. Additionally, social status is very important, and adolescents may use both texting and social media as ways to participate in and monitor their social world.”

What are its Implications?

“Overall,” continued Coyne, “this study revealed a pattern of texting across adolescence that is similar to some media types (i.e., social media) but not others (television and video games).  The majority of adolescents were able to utilize texting in a moderate fashion that did not appear to impede or hinder their relationships with others. However, high and fairly stable texting early in adolescence appeared to be related to a host of negative behavioral and relationship outcomes 6 years later. I hope this helps families recognize that early and sustained high level of texting might be problematic for adolescents. I hope families can have conversations about healthy media use through childhood and adolescence.”