Upcoming Hinckley Lecture

Overwhelmed by America’s problems sometimes? Dr. Kathryn Edin, a prominent sociologist from Johns Hopkins University, has spent decades researching the family formation and dissolution behaviors of low-income men and women in this country, and she’s published three publicly-accessible books and numerous scholarly publications that shed a lot of light on why they tend to choose to have children but not marry, why the romantic relationships they form tend to be fragile, and how parenthood gains powerful meaning in their lives. A delightful, down-to-earth individual, a devoted wife and mother, and a caring citizen involved in not only researching her subjects but trying to improve their lives with community service, she can help members of both the campus and wider communities understand those problems better, and be encouraged by the solutions she suggests.

Dr. Edin will explain what her research has revealed regarding family instability and complexity, and the kinds of public policies that have been most effective in helping those families. All are invited.


Dr. Kathryn Edin

Kathryn Edin is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. Her extended ethnographic research among low-income U.S. populations has helped to shed light on why they tend to choose to have children but not marry, why the romantic relationships they form tend to be fragile, and how parenthood gains powerful meaning in their lives. She has published a number of general interest books and academic studies on these subjects. She received her PhD in sociology from Northwestern University, her MA in Sociology from Northwestern University, and her BA in Sociology from North Park University. She has taught at Harvard University as a Professor of Public Policy and Management and served as chair of their Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. She is a Trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation and on the Department of Health and Human Services advisory committee for the poverty research centers at Michigan, Wisconsin, and Stanford.

History of the Hinckley Lecture

This much-anticipated event is the Hinckley Lecture, offered by the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair in Social Work and the Social Sciences. The Chair is dedicated to strengthening home and family and offers research, mentoring, and conferences towards that purpose. This will be the thirteenth year that a prominent social science scholar has delivered a lecture aimed at alleviating the various stresses that families face.

Past lecture topics have included positive youth development, forgiveness in marriage, the effects of playing violent video games, and teenager’s spirituality.

The Utah State Legislature and YOU: How to get Involved

George Washington once said, “A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government… And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?” Brigham Young University understands this and, to further political education, has an internship program with the Utah State Legislature. 

2017 intern class, courtesy of Dr. Adam Brown


The Internship

FHSS Political Science professor Dr. Adam Brown, faculty advisor of the project, says that its purpose is to teach students “how to run a state. The Utah State Legislature is comprised of seventy-five representatives and twenty-nine senators…who only meet for seven weeks out of the year. During that time, they have to pass all of the year’s laws. With a few exceptions, these legislators have no personal staff. In Washington, each legislator has thirty to forty staff and all year to get their work done. The Utah representatives and senators do two to three times the amount of work in a much shorter time, and with no staff, than the national legislature does.” Therefore, interns are able to get a good amount of resume-building experience during their time at the Capitol. 

A Student’s Perspective

Former intern Trevor Guy can attest to that: “I was the sole assistant to Senator  [Lincoln] Fillmore during the legislative session. My duties included: maintaining the daily schedule, arranging meetings with other government officials such as fellow state senators and state school board members, obtaining and distributing documents necessary for the Senator’s committee meetings, managing the Senator’s daily blog, coordinating a lunch the Senator had with county delegates from his district. I also would attend committee hearings, town hall meetings the Senator held, and Senate floor deliberations but my main responsibility was constituent correspondence. I would answer most, if not all, of the Senator’s phone calls, emails and physical mail.”

Student intern Jenessa Taylor did similar tasks. Working with committees and on the House floor, she learned much through her experiences. She added that the internship was extremely valuable in that she had ample one-on-one time with Majority Leader Jim Bennigan. 

There is another, less obvious, benefit from this internship: it gets women involved in politics. Political Science student Rachel Finlayson says, “…politics are a means of dialogue, of improving society, and of championing ethics and freedom of choice.” Encouraging women to become active in government will empower them and other women they come in contact with. She adds, “…as American citizens, our responsibility should be to help women to see politics as an option for them.” The Utah State Legislature Internship accomplishes this.


What About You?

Jenessa and Trevor offer the following advice to incoming and prospective interns:

  • Take a lot of initiative. Be involved and take everything as far as you can.
  • Read Dr. Adam Brown’s book Utah Politics Under the Dome: Representation and the Utah Legislature. It can really help you understand and navigate the political scene during your internship.
  • Get to know the other interns; you may form lifelong friendships.
  • Eat it all up. Get involved in every way that you can. Go to every event or program that interests you.
  • Go the breakfasts hosted by the House Rural Caucus. According to Trevor, “they have the best bacon I have ever had.”

Currently, the Utah State Legislature internship is ongoing. However, if you wish to participate, you can visit the FHSS Internship Office located in room 945 of the SWKT. Application and deadline information can be found here.

Have you ever done an internship?

“Forgiveness is not the Same as Trust,” Says Dr. Frank Fincham

This post is fourth 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.

If you’ve ever been the victim in a hurtful incident or relationship, you’re probably familiar with the miasma of emotions they can kindle. How to handle them often seems unclear. Dr. Frank Fincham, in a 2013 BYU lecture, provided some powerful, research-backed words of advice and direction: “You the victim have a right to feel resentful,” he said, “but forgiveness involves working through, not avoiding that emotional pain. Hence, the Mahatmas [Gandhi] statement: ‘the weak can never forgive; forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” Because you have to work through the emotional pain, you have to be strong to forgive.”

As the holder of a Rhodes Scholar doctoral degree in social psychology from Oxford University, then a professor and director of clinical training at the University of Illinois, a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo, and an Eminent Scholar and Director of the Family Institute at The Florida State University, as well as an award-winning author of more than 250 publications about personal relationships and a Fellow of five different professional societies, he spoke with authority on the subject of forgiveness. His lecture was the ninth in a series of annual lectures honoring the legacy of Marjorie Pay Hinckley, wife of former president of the LDS Church Gordon B. Hinckley.

“We do our forgiving alone inside our hearts and minds,” Fincham continued. “What happens to the people we forgive depends on them. When we are forgiven, remember that doesn’t put us back to the same status we had with the person. That’s why forgiving is not the same as trusting the person again; you forgive them, then they have to behave in a way that earns your trust back. Forgiveness is not the same as denial or foolishness; you may forgive someone and yet protect yourself from future harm by that person. So if you’re the victim of spousal abuse, you may forgive the abuser, [but] that doesn’t mean you run back and put yourself in danger. That is foolishness…not forgiveness. You can forgive and keep your distance, and then when it is safe and prudent, you may or may not choose to reconcile with him or her. If you’re in a relationship where there’s consistent hurt all the time, then forgiveness doesn’t involve forgiveness of a specific hurt, it involves forgiveness for a hurtful relationship, and maybe the grounds for your thinking very seriously about whether this is a relationship that should continue.”

Watch these highlights here in the two-minute video below, or catch the full lecture here.

Social Media Comparisons and Motherhood: All Too Common

If you compare yourself with others while on social media, you are not alone; such comparisons are fairly common. But if you’re a mother making those comparisons,the likelihood that you’ll feel worse as a result of them is increased, according to a recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior, and the number of people affected by your comparisons is potentially greater. School of Family Life Professor Sarah Coyne examined the connection between making social comparisons on social networking sites with a mothers’ parenting, mental health, and romantic relationship outcomes. Results concluded that mothers making social media comparisons are affected in their parenting, mental health, and romantic relationships.

Coyne, Sarah
Sarah Coyne

Coyne and her associates, Brandon T. McDaniel and Laura A. Stockdale, asked 721 mothers social media use, parenting behaviors, and health outcomes, for the iMom Project.  Most of them were caucasian, had a college degree, and one or two children, with their youngest or only child being about 1 1/2 years old. Most of them were middle-class, married, heterosexual. Coyne’s research acknowledged that people post their idealized life and best self on social media. “If people compare others’ ‘best selves’ conveyed through social media to their own ‘normal selves’ or ‘worst selves’ this may result in increased negative social comparisons and decreased overall mental health and well-being,”she says.

“Even when difficult parts of parenting are presented,” she continues, “many parents laugh it off online or portray themselves as cool under pressure. Rarely, do we see the true face of parenting online, where parents present the frustrations, exhaustion, self-doubt, and pressure combined with the joy that exists in a typical parenting context. They may wonder why parenting is so easy for others, when it feels so difficult to them. These feelings may increase a sense of role overload…, parental stress…, higher levels of depression…, lower feelings of support, and less positive perceptions of the coparenting relationship.”

Feeling Content in a Comparing World

With this in mind, Coyne et al. caution others to “focus on developing a positive view of self as a mother as opposed to focusing on comparing one’s own self with the many idealized images and portrayals of mothers online. [This] may be helpful in mitigating the negative impact of social comparisons on social networking sites.” The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences at BYU provides many resources to support mothers in those kinds of efforts, from posts and publications on parenting, single parenting, marriage, and relationships, as well as publications and events on those topics, and places to spend family time, like the Museum of Peoples and Cultures


Nine Mile Canyon & Forty Miles of Truth: an Event

“Outlaws and lawmen, schemers and dreamers, cattle barons and sod busters, shady saloon keepers and water witches.” It is more than likely that at some point in your life, you have seen a film or read a book featuring these very topics. Our media is infused with Old Western characters. But did you know that you don’t have to look to books or film to experience the culture? You have it right here in Utah! On February 2 at 11 am in room 3220 of the Wilkinson Center, you can learn all about it from renowned Nine Mile Canyon experts Jerry and Donna Spangler. Put on by the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences’ Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, the event, titled “Jerry & Donna Spangler: Nine Mile Canyon: Where the Old West Came to Die” aims to “inform the audience of new research, but [also] to spark curiosity and passion for them to engage further with better understanding the West.”

petroglyphs-500261_1280-nine-mile-canyonNine Mile Canyon

Nine Mile Canyon, often promoted as “the world’s longest art gallery” because of its extensive rock art and rich archaeological history, sits in eastern Utah, south of Vernal and north of Moab. Like other desolately beautiful, mineral rich areas of the state, it has found itself a focal point of tension between those who would preserve it as-is and those who would use it for more recreational and economically-advantageous activities.

Jerry and Donna Spangler

Jerry Spangler is the the executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance and was previously an environmental reporter for the Deseret News. He is also the author of several books and reports including Nine Mile Canyon: The Archaeological History of an American Treasure and Horned Snakes and Axle Grease.  He graduated in 1993 with a Master’s of Arts in Anthropology from Brigham Young University.

His wife Donna obtained a Bachelor’s in Communications from the University of Portland. She is currently employed as the Public Information Officer/Communications Director at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. She was previously a reporter for Deseret News and a senior reporter for Exchange Monitor Publications, Wash. D. C. Donna coauthored Last Chance Byway: The History of Nine Mile Canyon and Horned Snakes & Axle Grease with her husband.

Charles Redd Center

Founded in 1972, the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies came about because of growing ethnic studies: “ New areas of study included Mormon, women’s, African American, Chicano, and Native American studies. Scholars interested in those fields created new professional organizations, journals and conferences.” charles-redd BYU’s research center was formed when history professors petitioned the administration for the center so as to: “promote and enhance western studies on the campus.” The center hosts six programs, a few of which are the Western Studies Minor,the Oral History Program, and K-12 History of the West Lesson Plans.

In the coming months, be sure to keep in the mind the Charles Redd Center’s upcoming events: Benjamin Madley: An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe and the annual Annely Naegle Redd Lecture presented by David Wrobel on John Steinbeck’s effect on the country and his representation of Western America.

According to Dr. Brenden Rensink of the BYU History Department, this event is intended for everyone, not just BYU students. For those not able to attend in person, the presentation will be live streamed online here.

Have You ever been to Nine Mile Canyon?

Salt Lake: a Sinful City? Professor Willoughby Weighs In

It may come as a surprise that the big city to the north of us—Salt Lake City—ranked second most vain and third angriest on a recent measure of the most sinful cities in America, as measured by the financial tools website WalletHub. Its survey compared the 150 most populated cities across seven definitions of vice: anger and hatred, jealousy, excesses and vices, avarice, lust, vanity, and laziness. One of our closest municipal neighbors also ranked fourteenth out of 150 on measurements of jealousy,  but almost last on the rankings of avarice, excesses and vice, lust, and laziness. Brian Willougby, one of our School of Family Life associate professors, encouraged a positive perspective of the results: “Believe in the greater good of humanity,” he said, as part of a panel of five academic experts speaking on the relationship of sinful behavior to surroundings. “Explore how this might be resolved at the individual, couple, family, or even community level.”

Salt Lake has the second highest number of beauty salons, tanning salons, and plastic surgeons per capita, behind only Scottsdale, Arizona. Based on violent crime and sex offenders per capita numbers, as well as bullying and suicide rates, Salt Lake ranks third behind Detroit, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri. And, if thefts, identity thefts, and fraud cases per capita are accurate measurements of jealousy, then the city ranks fourteenth. Although these findings are disturbing, and illuminate, perhaps, serious problems that need to be or are being addressed, they may be balanced, to a certain extent, by its rankings as

  • 115th in numbers related to excesses and vice, as measured by percentages of adults who are obese and/or who smoke, prevalences of binge or heavy drinking among adults, drug-overdose deaths per 100,000 residents, and debt-to-income ratios.
  • 147th in number of casinos per capita, percentages of residents with gambling disorders, and charitable donations as percentages of income
  • 114th in number of Ashley Madison users, adult entertainment establishments per capita, teen birth rates per 1,000 female residents aged 15 to 19, and number of active Tinder users.
  • 145th in volunteer rates, average daily time spent watching TV, high school drop out rates, mean hours worked, and percentage of adults who do not exercise

Indeed, WalletHub reports that, with all of those rankings taken into consideration, Salt Lake ranks 24th in the list of most sinful cities. But, says Willoughby, “it’s important to define what ‘sinful’ means. Taken outside of a strictly religious context, we generally refer to sinful behavior as…that [which falls] outside of the normative or moral code within our society. With that definition in mind, is sinful behavior innate or influenced by surroundings? The answer, as is often the case, is a bit of both.”

With regards to whether government should play a role in trying to reduce vices such as greed and consumerism, he says: “[That’s a] very loaded question. I think rational people will likely always debate whether specific governmental policies should intervene with an individual’s personal freedom to make their own decisions…. However, I do believe that any healthy culture and country will hopefully be one where a government is concerned about the collective good…of its citizens.” That being said, he also encourages personal responsibility in the resolution of vices such as addiction and domestic violence: “One of the first things people can do to help combat addiction, domestic violence, or any other major life stresses,” he says, “is to seek out the resources around you. Research suggests that any hardship can be generally overcome with the right resources and attitude, [belief] in the power of resiliency in your own life, and work toward that goal.”






Rootstech: What is it and Why Should BYU Students Care?

Family history is not exclusively a Latter-day Saint phenomenon–in fact, it’s a common interest among the world’s population, as we noted in Connections a few months ago. And nowhere on earth is genealogy a bigger deal than Rootstech, the biggest family history conference on the planet. That being said, the LDS Church is a heavy proponent of connecting to our ancestors, so it’s no surprise that students and faculty at BYU are getting involved in Rootstech like never before.


This isn’t the first year BYU has been involved in the conference, nor is BYU’s involvement consigned to only one department. The school’s History department, Center for Family History and Genealogy, Family History Library, Computer Science, Bachelor of General Studies program, Independent Study, and Economics will all be represented in a large booth in the expo hall, “so they can talk to people about the various family history resources here on campus,” according to Lenore Carrier of the Center for Family History and Genealogy.

“Any students that are interested in family history would benefit from attending the conference,” Carrier continues. “There are lectures for beginner to advanced researchers, as well as fantastic general sessions with high-profile celebrities like LeVar Burton, the Scott Brothers, and Buddy ‘Cake Boss’ Valastro.” Last year, nearly 30,000 people attended the conference.

Discounts for Rootstech are available for students who are registered at an accredited high school, college, university, or online program, and who have some form of valid credentials proving their status as a student (student ID, registration letter, valid class schedule, etc.).  You can receive the discount by emailing your documentation to info@rootstech.org. Although faculty and staff unfortunately do not qualify for the student discount, they are still encouraged to come!

In the April 2010 LDS general conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves. Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors.”


Family photo courtesy of Flickr.


Marital Conflict: Better With Religion or Worse?

This post is third 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 advise 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.

As expressed in our mission, we are very intent on studying the family as the basic unit of society. Every department, program, and center relates in some way to that analysis. Much of what we talk about on this site has to do with it and the challenges facing the core part of most families, which is marriages. We know that married couples face a lot of challenges, ranging from addictions to everyday conflict. One of our School of Family Life professors, David Dollahite, has conducted a lot of research about some of those challenges, particularly the affect that religion has on them. In a 2015 lecture, he summarized his findings on whether or not the shared exercise of religion helps married couples avoid, respond to, or reconcile after conflict. “In a nutshell,” he said, “we found that religion has an impact at all stages of conflict. When you have a deeply-shared set of beliefs and understandings, you avoid a lot of problems off the bat.”

Watch this less-than-two-minute video discussing those findings here:

52 Stories and FHSS: How Will You Be Remembered?

How will you be remembered? In answering that question, think not about your accomplishments or the people by whom you’ll be admired, but of the ways in which your descendants will learn about you. They won’t be able to follow you on social media, and even if they could, what you like and follow today may not reflect what you like and follow tomorrow, or who you are as an actual person. If you don’t keep a journal, once you and those who know you pass, your only lingering mark in this world might be a small rock on a plot of land in the local cemetery. FamilySearch is looking to change that. With their new social media campaign, #52Stories, the LDS-owned genealogy site provides users with a series of writing prompts, in the form of questions, for their personal journals or family history projects–one for every week of the year. The idea is to help people not only write in their journals, but write meaningfully–thus providing their life stories with more enriching and fulfilling details.



The questions so far have been simple. This week’s question is: what is something you taught yourself without any help from someone else? In answering that particular question, it might be useful to read the example of alumni Christopher Wilms, who taught himself how to start a successful soda and sweets shop called Pop ‘n Sweets. In other weeks, you might be invited to write about your most important and valued friendships, or your childhood home. The whole list of questions is available here. But don’t feel restricted to only these questions if you want to take part. As college students, you could tailor the experience more specifically to your needs and life circumstances. For instance, you could write a post about your academic goals for this semester. (For help on this, check out this blog post.) Or maybe you could write an entry about your favorite professor or a faculty member who’s been particularly meaningful in your life. If you’re more determined, check out the resources available to you through FamilyHistory.byu.edu.

Dennis B. Neuenschwander, in a 1999 LDS general conference address, said: “A life that is not documented is a life that within a generation or two will largely be lost to memory. What a tragedy this can be in the history of a family. Knowledge of our ancestors shapes us and instills within us values that give direction and meaning to our lives.” Whatever rules and goals you set for yourself, be sure to make #52Stories a meaningful experience for you so that you can be remembered accurately and fully by your descendants. Make the time–it’s well worth it!



Towards Successful Single Parenting: Four Research-Backed Tips

Twenty-six percent of children under the age of 18 live with a single parent, according to a 2014 Pew Research study, compared to nine percent in 1960.  Single parents–an obviously increasing segment of the parent population–fulfill the responsibilities of two with half the resources.  They often give up hobbies. They may feel like they never have enough time or resources, since it is their job to maintain household order, support the family financially, and take care of the children.  However, single parents can have a knack for making quality time with their children. In an article in Helping and Healing our Families, published by faculty members in our School of Family Life, professors, authors, and single parents Elaine Walton and Gary Burlingame recognize the different challenges that widows or widowers, divorcees, never-marrieds, single non-custodial father, custodial fathers, and mothers face, and suggest four research-backed tips for thriving as a single parent:

Try a different approach

One mother made a list of things she and her children could do better as a family. Instead of reflecting her enthusiasm, her kids were discouraged. Their mother changed her approach. “A few weeks later…for family home evening,” she said. “I brought into the living room a bottle of hand lotion. After our song and prayer, I announced to the children that for family home evening that night we would rub each other’s feet. Suddenly giggles were heard, and the evening was a time for unwinding and loosening instead of tightening the pressure on an already stressed family.”



Set parenting as a priority

The Family: A Proclamation to the World emphasizes the crowning responsibility of parenthood.  Single parents often juggle employment and spending time with children.  President Gordon B. Hinckley recognized this balance for single parents. He said: “I know how some of you struggle with decisions concerning this matter. I repeat, do the very best you can. You know your circumstances, and I know that you are deeply concerned for the welfare of your children.” President Hinckley, in a 1996 conference talk, also affirmed that parents who make time for parenting their children will be grateful for the influence they had on their children.

Within that context, Walton and Burlingame advise single parents to meaningfully implement carefully thought out rules, structure, and norms. They quote one mother, who said:

“[If I had it to do over again,] I would attempt to be more consistent. Instead of feeling sorry for my children, I would recognize that they have to do some suffering, too. I cannot protect them as I might like. They need to be allowed to experience their own frustration and to go through their own grieving in their own way. In the meantime, the best way I can support them is to give them the benefit of a family that is relatively stable and predictable. I would prioritize goals and pick my battles carefully, but my children would learn that ‘no’ means ‘no.’

Take care of your own needs

A worn-down and unhappy parent does not have stamina to nurture their children, say Walton and Burlingame.  Single parents should engage in activities that rejuvenate them.  These could be spending time with friends and extended family members, exercising, participating in a support-group, or maintaining religious practice. With some creativity, parents can care for themselves and create quality time with their children. Some singe parents take their children on their morning run. Others make friends with parents who have kids of similar ages.


Utilize available help

Do not let pride keep you from getting the help you and your children need, Walton and Burlingame admonish.  Priesthood leaders, visiting teachers, home teachers, friends, family, and more are eager to offer support.  Many ward members and friends are not aware of the specific needs single parent families have.  The authors advise: “Rather than feeling neglected or annoyed, single parents can help teach, inform, and sensitize their Church leaders. Help them do their jobs by better sharing in detail the needs of each family member and of the family in general.”

Walton and Burlingame were single parents.  Each have remarried and now raise blended families. “We know what it is like to feel lonely, discouraged, exhausted, and worried about our children,” they say. “We have experienced despair but have also reached out and claimed the special promises and blessings found in the scriptures for single parents. At times, our discouragement drove us to the scriptures, resulting in a deeper relationship with God. In our loneliness, we found new resources from within as well as without. In our suffering, we learned patience. In surrendering our pride and relying upon a spiritual solution, we found a new sense of freedom and renewed energy. We are different today because of our experiences as single parents. We are better; we have grown. That is our hope for all single parents.”


Read more from Helping and Healing Our Families, here and here.


**All quotes are from:  Walton, Elaine, and Gary Burlingame. “Toward successful single parenting.” Ed. Elaine Walton. Helping and Healing Our Families: Principles and Practices Inspired by the Family: A Proclamation to the World. Ed. Craig H. Hart, Lloyd D. Newell, and David C. Dollahite. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005. 96-100. Print.

If you’re a single-parent, what strategies have most helped you? What do you most wish other people knew about the experience of single-parenting?