Video Games Can Make Brothers Cooperate Better: A Study

It can easily be argued that video games will never go away. Gamers generated $630 million in revenues last year in the U.S.  and will generate $99.6 billion in revenues worldwide this year, according to the Global Games Market Report. While this may be to the chagrin of some parents, to more and more of them, it is a part of life. Siblings playing video games together can be a cause of contention that they would bemoan. However, a recent study shows that, sometimes, playing video games together can be a positive thing.


The study, published in the Journal of Adolescence, surveyed over 500 teens about the content of the video games they played, how long they engaged in them, how often they played them with a sibling, and the quality of their relationships with their sibling. Playing video games with a sibling was associated with higher levels of sibling affection for both boys and girls, but, surprisingly, brothers playing violent video games had less conflict in their relationship.   Sarah Coyne, the primary author of the study and a faculty member in BYU’s School of Family Life, theorizes that this is based on the collaborative nature of some of those kinds of games (Halo’s team mode, for example). In these games, the siblings face off against a common enemy, which breeds cooperation.

This isn’t the first study to look at the ways in which video games affect different relationships, or to document the kinds of things that encourage cooperation between siblings. It is one, however, that shows that “playing video games together may be one way that siblings share time and experiences, and strengthen sibling bonds.” It was motivated in part for Dr. Coyne’s observations of her five younger siblings playing video games together as they grew up. Coyne continues to research video games and the effects they induce; currently, she is studying the brains of those addicted to gaming and those who aren’t using fMRI data.

How do Video Games Affect Your Relationships with Your Siblings?


Alumni Spotlight: Margaret Busse, Volunteer Extraordinaire

Photo from
Photo from

Margaret Busse is an engaged member of her community.  As a Chair of the Acton Massachusetts Finance Committee, Busse advises the town on its proposed initiatives. She is an Associate Director of Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative.  She has organized conferences on family issues.   Of the benefits of getting involved, she says: “getting to know so many various people is the best part. There are so many opportunities to do that, you basically just have to stand up and say ‘I’m here, I want to help.’ I think having people that are willing to do that is one of the most important things for a community to have.”

When she was at BYU, she double majored in Economics and Political Science in only four years, then completed her master’s degree in public policy.  Her influence blossomed while at the university, where she was involved as vice president of the Social Enterprise club, and sang in the women’s chorus.  After graduation, she interned in D.C., worked for the U.S. Treasury Department, and consulted with the nonprofit advising agency Bridgespan Group. Currently, she serves as a member of BYU’s National Advisory Council, which influences curriculum development, student career development, and alumni relations.  She is a full-time mother to her children.

She is wonder woman with kids and degrees.  She married Franz Busse after receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School. They live in Massachusetts with their five children. “It [was] an interesting twelve years [not] working,” she says. “It’s certainly not the profile for people who graduated from Harvard Business School, and it’s certainly not the profile for people to have four or five children either,” Busse says of motherhood, “So it’s been kind of an interesting path that I’ve taken, but I’ve been really happy that I’ve taken it.”

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is honored to have given Margaret Busse her springboard. Like future wonder woman Rachel Stone, also a Political Science major, she is an inspiration!

Are you or someone you know a BYU Alumni? Submit your story and be featured on the website!

Student Rachel Stone: Passionate About Political Science

Confucius once said, “The truly wise person goes beyond knowledge.” Nobody exemplifies this more than Political Science student Rachel Stone. An active member of the university and the community, she has used her skills and knowledge to better everyone around her. Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with her:

Q: What’s your major? Why did you choose it? Was there a particular experience that led you to it?

A: I study Political Science with a minor in Computer Science, with the intention of using technology to change the way that governments interact with their citizens. rachel-stoneI became converted to the future of 21st century government after conducting research for a venture capitalist after my first year at BYU.

Q: What are you involved in (i.e. extracurricular activities)?

A: I co-founded and served as President of Women in Politics, a branch of BYU’s Political Affairs Society. I was raised by feminists to become a feminist, and am passionate about empowering women in fields of leadership and STEM. After two years of heavy involvement with Provo City, I also helped launch the nonpartisan Provo Student Project. It is currently registering students to vote and orienting students to Provo when they first move in.

Q: Any tips for getting involved?

A: First, know your strengths and offer them.

Second, someone else on campus feels the way that you do too.

Third, persistently ask and ye shall receive. Boldly, continuously asking for the jobs, internships, scholarships or extracurricular roles that you want will open doors for you.

Q: What do you like to do outside of school?

A: Shop the Provo Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning during the fall, drink hot chocolate on Provo Center Street during the winter, attempt to out-cycle Mayor Curtis during Provo Bike Week during the spring, and run all of the Provo 5K’s during the summer.

Q: Random fact or story about yourself?

A: Right now, I am writing you from the BYU Jerusalem Center. I came to Jerusalem to realize more of my identity as an Asian Ashkenazi Jew (from which my dad converted to Mormonism). From here, I am voting by email, believe it or not! I encourage you to invest energy to vote this year!

For more Student Spotlights, be sure to check out Sarah Curry!

BYU Professor Talks About the Importance of Marriage Education

Six years ago, four in ten Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center said that marriage is becoming obsolete. Of the many challenges facing that institution, those that come from within–different communication or parenting styles, for example–can often be the most difficult.  Married couples, when they reach the point where they begin to consider divorce, have a variety of resources available to them if they want to, as do couples who are not yet married but who want to prepare. Marriage education being one of them. But many are not be aware of this resource, or its effectiveness. A recent BYU study, published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, found that through advertisements, couples were more likely to attend the relationship/marriage education classes.

Dr. Alan Hawkins, from the School of Family Life, noted a 20-percent rise in the participation rate of a Utah-based healthy marriages initiative, especially among minorities. divorce-separation-marriage-breakup-split-39483-medium“Scholars and therapists know a lot about how to form and sustain healthy relationships,” he says, “but we need to get that knowledge out of academia’s ivory towers and clinician’s wood-paneled offices to the public, especially to less educated young people who are at much greater risk for churning, unhealthy romantic relationships.”

What is marriage education? Professor Hawkins’ description of it, from his book The Forever Initiative: A Feasible Public Policy Agenda to Help Couples Form and Sustain Healthy Marriages and Relationships, is the government …trying to build a better fence at the top of the cliff rather than funding more ambulances at the bottom of the cliff.” It is classes focused on helping couples learn to better communicate, solve problems, and have healthy relationships.

While there are various government-funded programs to help with unemployment, family planning, and the like, there is almost nothing related to marriage education. Only two states–Oklahoma and Utah–have government-funded, marriage education programs.  pexels-photo-70737-medium“Forever is still the dream of virtually all Americans regardless of their social and economic circumstances,” says Dr. Hawkins. “But getting and staying on the road to forever is probably more challenging than it has ever been.”

That being said, Dr. Hawkins is optimistic about the future. Currently, the government of Utah is considering legislation that would aim to make it easier for couples to get relationship education. His book

  • outlines an integrated set of feasible and affordable educational initiatives across the early life course, beginning in youth, continuing in early adulthood, during cohabitation, engagement, and through the early years of marriage, as well as for couples at the crossroads of divorce.
  • reviews the early, encouraging evidence that these kinds of educational initiatives can help to strengthen relationships and increase family stability.
  • argues that this public policy agenda of educational initiatives can make more young people today better drivers of their romantic relationships, more competent at avoiding destructive detours, and more capable of achieving their marital aspirations and destinations.

He says that “successful navigation of that road provides tremendous personal benefits for children and adults and strengthens the communities they live in.”

For more information on relationship education classes, visit  and 

Do You Think Relationship Education is Important?

“Huānyíng” to our new faculty member, Dr. Jon Felt

felt-jonDr. Jon Felt is living the dream as a new professor in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. He says: “I get to spend my time reading, thinking, and writing about my favorite topics, and then I have a captive audience in the classroom with whom to discuss them.  And then they pay me for it!  This is what I would do for fun if I had to make a living by some other means.”

Dr. Felt teaches in the history department.  He specializes in ancient and medieval China. Dr. Felt is also an expert in Central Eurasia. After graduating high school, Dr. Felt read Keys of the Kingdom, by A.J. Cronin.  The novel tells of early Catholic missionaries in China who befriended local leaders through serving the Chinese people.  This book inspired him to study Chinese history and culture.

He could be your teacher of Traditional China or World Civilizations to the 1500’s.  In the winter semester, Dr. Felt will teach The Mongols in World History, as well as two sections of World Civilizations. He graduated from the Y with a degree in History, then went on to obtain his master’s degree in Chinese Literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His formal education concluded at Stanford University with a PhD in Chinese History.

Though he is fascinated with history, Dr. Felt would stay in our time period if he was given the chance to time travel: “There has never been a safer and more prosperous period in all of human history than today.  I am very happy with my global food, transportation networks, internet, free public education, health care systems, and safe streets.  Nothing in the past even comes close to being as appealing!”

Dr. Felt is a Utah native, who can be found hiking the Rockies in his spare time. He loves being with his family—his wife, Cambria, and their three children.

Welcome Dr. Felt!

Photo from New York Times

Study Shows Friends are Greater Than Phones for Weight Loss

There is no question that smart phones make things easier.  Daily tasks are more convenient because of these portable personal assistants.  But, there is fear that smart phones will eliminate the need to interact in person with others, and research already shows that smartphone usage can turn into an addiction which indeed harms interpersonal relationships. A recent study at BYU showed that usage of the device—for teens who are trying to lose weight, in particular—is in fact not sufficient. It is not a substitute for the support and accountability elements that real-life relationships provide.

Dr. Chad Jensen, FHSS psychology professor and director of BYU’s Pediatric Health Behavior Research Group, has been researching how to help teens lose weight for years.  His latest study reveals the importance of person-to-person support. “We know that teens are on their phones,” he says, “which gives us a way to intervene in the moment. We wanted to determine whether we could effectively use texting and a commercially-available smartphone app to help adolescents with weight loss.”  He provided an app called Daily Burn to help teenage recipients track their weight loss by recording exercise and food intake.

Photo by Jaren Wilkey of BYU

Weight Gain=App-Friends

Over twenty percent of teenagers are obese, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The participants in Dr. Jensen’s study were all between the ages of thirteen and eighteen and had a body mass index that placed them in the eight-fifth percentile for height and weight, meaning that they were heavier than eighty-five percent of teenagers overall. For the first 12 weeks of the study, participants met face-to-face with a clinician and other peer participants to discuss their progress and motivations.  Three times a day, the clinicians texted encouraging messages to the teens. For the second 12 weeks, the teens no longer met in groups. They only received texts from the clinician.  Surprisingly, only 16.8 percent of teens recorded their progress in the app, a fifty-percent drop from earlier weeks. The teens also regained the weight they had just lost.  Although participants were able to lose weight during the in-person treatment, they were unable to maintain weight loss during the electronic-only intervention period.

Weight Loss=App+Friends

Losing weight can be a challenge because it requires persistence and time, which can wear us down.  That is why social support is crucial to helping teens loose weight. “The Daily Burn app doesn’t include all the things we know are successful for weight control,” he reported, “like social support and the accountability that comes with that support. That support existed when the teens were meeting with other teens and sharing their experiences.”

This study is one of the first to examine smartphone outcomes in the context of weight-control interventions for adolescents, and perhaps part of the arsenal of information parents and teens can use in their quests to live healthier lifestyles.

Are you sharing your goals with your friends? In person or on-line?

Alumni Spotlight: Christopher Wilms, Founder of Pop ‘n Sweets

Who can start a business, take it from the ground up, and turn it into one of the best sweet shops in the entire state of Utah? The candy man, in the person of Christopher Wilms, can! A recent attendee of Brigham Young University’s Economics department, Wilms and his wife went on to found Pop ‘N Sweets, a candy and soda parlor whose purpose is to “make the world a better place one candy bar at a time.”

Of his experience at school, he says: “BYU was great for networking and making friendships that I hope to never lose.” He also praised the low cost of such a high-quality education. However, Wilms felt restricted by the academic environment. One day, while driving with his wife, they came up with the idea of opening a sweets shop–and they actually decided to try it out. That’s how Pop’nSweets came to be, in September of 2013.

Pop’nSweets sells exactly what it says: pop and sweets. With five locations already open throughout Utah, business is booming and the sky appears to be the limit. “So far, it’s been crazy fun,” Wilms said. “It’s something that is easy to duplicate, so opening more stores hasn’t been hard. It’s fun because of how different it is and how awesome it is to see people reflect on the stuff they can find there.”

“My favorite aspect [of the business] is watching people enjoy the experience of all the different products we offer,” he continued, referencing the 300+ different flavors of soda that can be found in his stores. “Honestly, this is a concept that can go anywhere–even internationally, especially because we import products from other countries. I think the most important thing for the future of Pop’nSweets is . . . setting up the store in the most customer friendly way possible.”

In 2015, he was honored by the Utah Student 25, a non-profit corporation that honors the top student-founded companies in the state. One of the other awardees, Ryan Caldwell, founder and CEO of MX, compared the Utah community of entrepreneurs to a forest of redwood trees:

“Utah finds itself in this very unique situation where it’s in this magical stage of a startup ecosystem. If you look at Utah about a decade ago, you had two massive redwoods – WordPerfect and Novell. These powerhouses, these great redwoods started to shed branches. And those branches being shed were people who had developed very big skills – they learn business lessons and how to run big companies. And that resource, that wealth of nutrients, falls to the ground as the branches shed and it creates this dense cover that allows other trees to grow.”

When he’s not busy making the world taste good, Wilms is spending time with his family. He has a wife and two children, a two-year-old daughter and a two-month-old son.