Can marriage improve your health? According to Linda J. Waite who presented her findings at the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture in 2010, married men are healthier than single men not only mentally and emotionally, but physically as well. Here are seven reasons why:
“Marriage connects people to an intimate other. And that’s probably the most important connection,” says Waite. “But marriage also connects people to a network of family, friends, and social institutions. Those social connections are extremely important and really change, especially for men, the way they live their lives.” Because of these social connections, men find a purpose higher than themselves, improving mental and emotional health.
“I would say one of the biggest ways to be healthy is to not die,” says Waite. And married men, on average, have a longer life-span than bachelors.
Married men, on average, are physically healthier than single ones.
It’s true. According to the Washington Post, “Men who are married work about 400 hours more per year than their single peers with equivalent backgrounds.” They also work smarter.
Research Shows that Marriage is a Beneficial Institution
These are just a small few of the many benefits of marriage. Men, women, and children benefit extensively from good couples who make a public promise to love and support one another for their entire lives, as has also been noted by research done by scholars in our School of Family Life.
“I think if people know that marriage is an institution which benefits them,” says Waite, “then in the long-run, attitudes toward marriage will change to be more supportive [and] protective [of the institution of marriage.]”
Kara has found her graduate experience at BYU to be very rewarding. She explains, “I chose BYU because, when it came time to make a decision, I knew I was compatible with the people here.”
However, more than experiencing the notoriously positive and uplifting culture and atmosphere at BYU, Kara has also found great possibilities academically. Speaking of her decision to attend BYU for graduate school, Kara says, “I knew the incredible research that was going on. For me, it was a no-brainer. I just knew I wanted to come here and continue the research I had already been working on.”
Since enrolling in her doctoral program, Kara has had the opportunity to work with Dr. Chad Jensen in researching childhood obesity. In one of their most recent studies, they were able to explore how diet and physical reactions to food are affected by sleep deprivation.
The work that this research team has done in the labs could have a large impact on future practices for decreasing childhood obesity. Kara explains that these studies have shown that “when we’re sleep deprived, we make unhealthy dietary decisions [and] we have a harder time controlling our impulses around high-calorie foods.” The research group plans on tailoring their future interventions for helping kids lose weight to include more sleep recommendations because of these findings.
For Kara, the research that she has been able to do through the clinical psychology program has been very impactful.
Many other graduate students have also found BYU programs to offer an enriching and fulfilling experience for their graduate studies. BYU Graduate Studies explains the unique opportunity that BYU holds for potential graduate students:
“We offer world class instruction from faculty mentors who genuinely care about both your professional and personal development as they challenge and expand your academic intellect using cutting edge pedagogical practices and technologies. Share your unique perspectives and engage in diverse dialogue with our faculty, university administration, and our student population who are represented from all across the nation and from all over the globe from more than 160 countries.”
Reflecting on her decision to attend BYU for graduate school, Kara concludes, “I haven’t regretted [the] decision.”
How do you think childhood has changed in the last fifty years? Over the total course of U.S. history?
A new course that will be offered this fall, Growing Up in America: A History of Childhood and Youth, will answer that question as well as several others, including:
What political, cultural, and economic forces have changed the way we see childhood and its purpose?
How have children, in turn, influenced society and been agents of change?
What have been the experiences of young people growing up in America?
How do childhood and age function as categories of analysis?
Professor Rebecca DeSchweinitz will teach the course. She says: “The history of childhood is a new and exciting interdisciplinary field of study. In this seminar-style course, we’ll explore the above questions and many more as we examine a range of primary and secondary sources that testify to the importance of children as subjects and actors in America’s past and present.”
Hist 390R sec. 3
2:00 – 2:50
DeSchweinitz is the author of several books and chapters on the history of childhood and related fields. They include:
The diagnoses of autism and anxiety by psychological clinicians may have a critical problem.
BYU students AnnaLisa Ward, Kevin Stephenson and Max Maisel have spotted a potential weakness in the measurement of autistic symptoms. Analyzing a common autism diagnostic test, the Social Responsive Scale (SRS), they found that it may misidentify symptoms of anxiety as indicators of autism. Their findings were presented at a recent research conference at BYU.
The SRS is a survey given to psychiatric patients to differentiate symptoms of autism from symptoms of other disorders. Since people who live with autism often live with anxiety as well, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the two. But a diagnosis of anxiety does not necessarily mean a diagnosis of autism. Yet this study found that among people with high symptoms of anxiety, fifty percent of them actually score high enough on the SRSto be diagnosed with autism. Some even scored high enough to be categorized as “severely” autistic – even though they did not have autism. Their anxious symptoms could have been mistakenly accepted as indicators of autism.
“So we see that there is likely a problem with the measure that we are using,” says Kevin Stephenson, a doctoral student in clinical psychology. “When using this test, clinicians may need to take a step back and ask, ‘Is this really autism or is this just anxiety?’ And the data we have provided will most likely lead to improvements on the diagnostic measurements.” The study is being prepared for publication.
What Can WE Do to understand Mental Disorders?
Studies like this can inform a “measure twice, cut once” mentality regarding the diagnosis of autism. The better the diagnostic tool for a mental issue, the higher the likelihood of a correct diagnosis, and the more effective the treatment for the afflicted person. Conversely, if the tool is not as finely tuned as it could be, then diagnoses might be difficult or faulty.
Similarly, each of us need to develop a “measure twice, cut once” attitude in our associations with the mentally disabled. When we learn that someone has autism, anxiety, or depression, do we take the time to know what they experience before we jump to conclusions about how to help or associate with them?
People with autism often do not feel understood by those around them. Yet one in 100 people have autism. So you likely have people in your life who experience it. Do you know them? Are you aware of what they may go through? Perhaps we need a little exposure to what autism is:
Being informed on these kind of mental issues, and how to best associate with people who have them, is essential to removing stigmas and improving the lives of effected individuals and their families. There are resources available in your community and all across the web. For more information on autism, visit AutismSpeaks.org or BYU’s: Autism Connect.
The details of Ward, Stephenson, and Maisel’s study are portrayed in their winning poster below:
Do you know someone with autism or anxiety disorder? How has that effected your understanding?
Part of the purpose of ourSchool of Family Life is to explore the current societal perceptions of marriage and divorce, and ways that strong marriages can be encouraged and protected. Through the offering of three undergraduate degrees in human development, family studies, and consumer sciences, various graduate and doctoral degrees in marriage and family therapy, and numerous research projects exploring the various challenges to and facilitators of successful family life, faculty in that department strive to enhance the quality of life of individuals and families within the home and communities worldwide.
A Successful Marriage is Based on a Sound Foundation
In explaining the importance of premarital decisions, professors Dean Busby, Jason Carroll, Alan Hawkins, and Brian Willoughby point out that “when the bricks that build families are placed awkwardly, the structure is rickety.”
“We can do more to teach young people,” says Busby and his co-authors, “to give them the knowledge and skills and motivations needed to form a healthy marriage. This teaching needs to start in adolescence when ineffective relationship skills and patterns are already forming. And it needs to continue in young adulthood, when risky relationship trajectories often are set.
Pre-engagement cohabitation can cause those marital bricks to be placed awkwardly, according to Busby et-al’s research, as it “appears to be a risk factor for future marital problems.”
When couples commit to marriage, we can provide better premarital education to build a stronger foundation for a healthy, enduring marriage (or help a couple realize they are about to make a mistake). The reality is that the relational seeds of most divorces are present even before the marriage begins,39 so we need to improve couples’ skills at dealing with those issues from the start. Once couples marry, more educational services could help them fight off the inevitable forces of marital entropy and keep their relationships vital.
Overall, we can build a smart marriage culture, with a strong understanding that healthy, stable marriages are built on a known foundation of correct knowledge and motivations, as well as a set of effective skills that can be learned, practiced, and improved.
A Long-Term Mindset Makes All the Difference
While it may sound cliche, the importance of positive mindsets in successful marriages cannot be understated. Couples have to choose to not make divorce an option. Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development at Cornell University, says that couples avoided divorce when they “really had the mind-set they wanted to stay married.”
Busby states: “couples can approach a marriage like seasoned, long-term investors who ride out the frequent market undulations knowing the likelihood that a good investment will pay off in the long run. Marriage, like financial markets, is no place for the short-sighted or impatient.”
It may easily be argued that today’s individualistic society often corrupts the principle that marriage is the unification of two individuals. Interestingly, research conducted by Busby and other School of Family Life faculty states that
The capstone model of marriage emphasizes achieving certain milestones and getting your life together before making the big commitment to a life-long union. But what about those who struggle to get it all together? Among the educated and well off, marriage rates are high and divorce rates are low. But this is not the case among the disadvantaged.11 Nearly 25% of U.S. men and 20% of U.S. women ages 40–44 have never married. Thirty percent of men and nearly 25% of women with just a high school diploma have never married by the time they reach their 40s. And more than a third of Black men and women have never married by age 44.12 One research organization projects that 25% of today’s young adults will never marry by about age 50.13
Conversely, the “cornerstone” model of marriage emphasizes “a mutual growing together beginning in the more formative, soft-clay years. A cornerstone model of marriage emphasizes molding a “we-dentity” rather than connecting “I-dentities.” In mathematical terms, a cornerstone model of marriage is closer to 2 ÷ 2 = 1 than 1 + 1 = 2.”
Anything that is worthwhile requires effort. Busby says: “soul mates are created more than they are found.”
Another School of Family Life research project, American Families of Faith, demonstrates that “marriage benefits not merely from sharing the same faith, but from sharing similar levels of involvement and commitment.” Through various presentations and publications, the project endeavors to teach families of all faith how to:
avoid and resolve marital conflict
have meaningful conversations about religion
learn from (and emulate) other faiths
balance faith and family
The Benefits are Plentiful
Marriage, while entailing much effort, also provides great benefits, not the least of which are better health, wealth, according to Liscombe. Greater still, though, are the emotional and spiritual benefits: a happier life with greater hope for the future.
A new study reveals that the media may not only be portraying fathers negatively, but actually teaching youth to disrespect and disregard their dads. In an era where the role of dads is coming into question, these findings shed light on a possible widespread problem.
Tweens Respond to Dad
Savannah Keenan, recent winner of the college’sFulton Conference in the category of Family Life at BYU, found that almost 40 percent of fatherly behavior on popular tween television shows like the Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie could be considered ridiculous or buffoonery. But what is truly eye opening is the on-screen response of children to their fathers. Fifty percent of it is negative.
Child actors on television programs were often seen doing things such as:
making fun of father
verbally and non-verbally criticizing
Does it Affect our Youth?
Children tend to model behavior they see on the TV screen. The National Institutes of Health have documented this. So when a child sees this kind of anti-dad behavior on their favorite TV show, they may pick up cues from their child-actor counterparts, and eventually exhibit similar behavior. Further, their attitude toward the importance of dads may eventually turn sour as they learn from the television that it is okay to disrespect their father.
“We know that dads are often portrayed negatively in the media,” says Keenan. “But not a lot of research has been done that shows how the father portrayals in the media actually affect real-life behavior and attitudes of children. I think the most important thing we need to know now is: how is this affecting our kids? If these television shows are portraying dads as incompetent— especially when they’re directed toward such a sensitive age group as tweens—what are these kids going to think about their own dads?”
Positive Change in the Media
Many people in the media actually admit that the portrayal of fatherhood is inaccurate and possibly damaging. And they are beginning to respond. Dove’s #RealDadMoments campaign is a fine example:
Studies like those done by Keenan can inform the media of the negative consequences of portraying fathers in a negative light. And hopefully, future findings will encourage the media to produce even more positive content for youth and families.
Keenan’s findings are portrayed in her winning poster, below (also on display on the ninth floor of the SWKT):
How does the media in YOUR home portray Fathers? How do your kids react?
“Bullying” is a term usually applied to older children and teenagers, but it can apply to younger ones as well. While preschoolers are known to have their occasional tantrums, for some, it can become a behavioral pattern. Some researchers have assumed that those who do tend to bully or act out are socially neglected. Some have also theorized that such tendencies are a predominantly Western trait. However, a recent study completed by three BYU School of Family Life professors found that children that often acted out aggressively were as much liked by their peers as disliked.
Doctors David Nelson, Sarah Coyne, and Clyde Robinson, recently published a study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, in which they examined the patterns of behavior of 221 Russian preschoolers. Those that were identified as “controversial” by their teachers and peers did not necessarily do so out of reaction to perceived neglect. They were, in fact, more likely to be the targets of aggressive acts themselves. And they were more like American and Italian children than previously realized.
“The purpose of the current study,” explained Nelson, “is to assess…[current findings] in Russian preschoolers. A key question driving such research is whether the behavioral reputation of the controversial child is unique to Western samples.”
Because of Russia’s history with the promotion of values consistent with citizenship in a totalitarian socialist society (such as conformity, group-mindedness, and unquestioning obedience to authority), researchers were interested to see whether or not their findings would be “consistent with the individualism that predominates many Western cultures.”
For this study, researchers polled 15 classes. Students and teachers were asked a series of questions regarding sociability and physical/relational aggression among students in their class.
The questions divided children into one of five groups (sociometric statuses). Depending on how much the child was liked/disliked and how well known the child was in the peer group, each child was categorized as either: popular, rejected, controversial, neglected, or average.
The findings for this study were very similar to those in another study conducted several years ago. The results were as follows:
Popular children: social, cooperative, engage in pleasurable peer interactions
Neglected children: withdrawn, unsociable
Rejected children: aggressive, disruptive, few appropriate social overtures
Controversial children: usually as sociable as popular children; equally or more aggressive than rejected children, particularly with relational aggression
Nelson explains, “In regard to the findings, the Russian preschoolers generally paralleled the findings of earlier studies with [Western] preschoolers. Of particular interest is the pattern of findings for controversial status children, who are generally perceived as adequately sociable yet highly aggressive, particularly in regard to relational aggression.”
Why it Matters
This study can provide further illumination on a pattern of reaction and behavior that can cause some children to develop into socially marginalized people who might act out more violently, causing more damage. Says David Nelson, primary author of the study: “victimization likely leads to greater withdrawal from social interactions. Accordingly, interventions that involve social skills training may be useful in helping victimized peers to be more demonstrative in social situations and build confidence to engage positively with others and to avoid social isolation.”
Nelson concludes, “Addressing these issues early in the preschool years is particularly important as these are the years of greatest neurological and psychological malleability. This may lead to welcome change and better peer opportunities for all children.”
An estimated 225 million women today would choose to stop or delay childbearing, but are not using contraceptives. Why is this the case? Is it because they do not have access to them? Or because they are not allowed to make childbearing decisions for themselves? Answers to these question are essential to improving women’s autonomy and health across the globe. And a new study of Nepalese women shows that a more important factor than access to contraceptives may be religious attitudes towards them.
Who Uses Contraceptives?
Margo Andersen Taylor, an undergraduate student in the BYUSociology Department, has gathered new evidence that has broken down old assumptions about women’s autonomy and contraceptive use in Nepal – a country with low contraceptive use. She presented her findings at our recent Fulton conference.
It is often assumed that people in rural populations are less likely to use contraceptives because they do not have access to them. People who live on farms, for example, might not live close to a physician or a store where they could get “the pill” or a contraceptive device. However, Andersen’s newfound evidence suggests that being in a rural setting actually does not deter women who are allowed to make personal and/or household decisions from accessing contraceptives. In fact, the difference between urban dwellers’ use of contraceptives and rural dwellers’ is almost entirely negligible.
Why Then, are Contraceptives Not Used?
If women in rural settings are not likely to be kept from contraceptives, why are there so many Nepalese women who do not use them? This study, with a sample size of almost 10,000 Nepalese women, showed that autonomous women of the Hindu faith were more likely to use contraceptives than Buddhist women. In fact, the most autonomous women of Buddhist affiliation were among the least likely to use contraceptives.
According to this study in Nepal, when it comes to contraceptive use, it doesn’t seem to matter so much where you live, but what you believe.
The government of Nepal is currently running a media campaign to inform its citizens about options for better family planning, directing most of these messages to people in urban settings. Their hope for change, however, is likely based on the false assumption that this urban-directed campaign will be most effective because urban populations have greater access to contraceptives.
Andersen believes that it’s likely Nepal would have more success in achieving their goals of increased health and population control if they were to focus their campaigns on religious groups rather than regional populations. Her data is being prepared for publication that may help the government of Nepal to take a more effective approach in their endeavors to improve women’s autonomy and health.
Andersen’s poster (seen below) won first place in the sociology category of the conference.