Two-Minute Video on the Effects of Violent Video Games

This post is ninth 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.

Dr. Brad Bushman, as we mentioned last week and like various faculty members in our college, is an advocate for making the effects of video games on children known so that they and their parents can make informed decisions. Realizing that some of his findings are unpopular with mainstream channels, Bushman challenges popular conceptions by taking painstaking efforts to design his studies in accordance with the scientific method. At a 2014 Hinckley presentation, he related how he did a study on aggression in which he assigned teenage boys to play either violent or nonviolent video games, and then see how they would react when competing against each other.

A group of 14-year-old boys were randomly assigned to play a violent or non violent video game for twenty minutes. After their game-time, the boys rated how cool they thought the game character was, and how much they wanted to be like them. Then, the boys competed against each other to see who could push a button the fastest. The winners got to blast the losers with sound. The winners could chose the duration and level of sound. The winners were told that levels eight through ten could cause permanent hearing damage (though they actually would not.) Some of the winners did indeed choose to blast the losers with those levels of sound, making comments like: “I blasted him with level 10 noise because he deserved it. I know he can get hearing damage, but I don’t care.” The results of his study are reflected in 140 others.

Watch the full lecture here for more information.


Increase Your Understanding: Fulton conference

There is perhaps no more unique an opportunity for us to support research that increases everyone’s collective ability to understand the world around us and to engage with the people around us, and to see what great work our undergraduate students are capable of, than at the annual Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference. This year’s conference is just around the corner, and promises to inform on topics such as internet addiction, adolescent romantic relationships and their relationship to depression, and parental school involvement and responsible children, and many others.

The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is pleased to host the 13th Annual Mentored Student Research Conference on Thursday, April 13, 2017. The conference will be held in the Wilkinson Student Center Ballroom from 9:00 a.m. – 12 p.m. and is open to the public.  The conference will feature research done in the areas of neuroscience, sociology, social work, psychology, family life, geography, anthropology, history, political science, and economics.

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The conference is a unique opportunity for hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students to present their most recent research visually and succinctly. Parents and family members, students across the Y’s campus, and members of the community are invited.

About Mary Lou Fulton

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences honors the life and contributions of Mary Lou Fulton by designating a chair in her name. Mary Lou was a wonderful example of a Latter-day Saint woman who, after devoted service raising her family, returned to college to finish her degree. Throughout her life, Mary Lou sought to help those with personal challenges, whether assisting her own students who struggled with reading or rendering quiet service to neighbors and ward members.

During her lifetime, Mary Lou and her husband Ira supported causes and programs that uphold and strengthen the family unit. This goal continues to be a high priority for Ira, as well as helping others remain free of addictive substances or crippling afflictions that limit their possibilities in life.

Fulton Photo

About the Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair

The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair provides meaningful research and educational experiences for students, faculty, and children. Mary Lou’s passion for educating and elevating others is reflected in the many elements of the chair, established by her husband Ira A. Fulton in 2004 to honor and recognize her example. The Chair also funds internship grants, professorships, and young scholar awards.



Laurel Thatcher Ulrich to Present on Early LDS Women and Polygamy

It was Laurel Thatcher Ulrich who originally said that “well-behaved women seldom make history,” a quote that has taken on a life of its own in American culture. The statement appeared in a 1976 article by her about Puritan funeral services, but she expounded on it in a 2008 book titled with that quote, in which she bemoaned the fact that people often misinterpreted it to mean that women should misbehave in order to be memorable. “She wrote those words,” says Kim Z. Dale on Chicago Now, “lamenting…the fact that so many women who made positive impacts on society are overlooked by history.” Ulrich, in various publications since then, has noted that some of those impacts took place because of the early polygamist practices of the LDS Church. In an upcoming BYU event, in fact, she will expound on how women in polygamist marriages benefited from and in fact brought benefit to the entire then-territory of Utah.

On March 14 in the Hinckley Center at 7pm, BYU Women’s Studies and the History Department will host Ulrich as she speaks on rethinking the position of women in early Mormonism. Of plural marriage, she said in her recently-published book A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870: “it could…have been described as an experiment in cooperative housekeeping and an incubator of female activism.” Indeed, Ulrich defended the practice by reminding people that Utah, a primarily female state, had given women voting rights, fifty years before it was federally mandated.



Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Ulrich won the Pulitzer Prize for writing A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812. She has also written books on polygamy and women’s rights in the Church as well as notable female historical figures.

Hinckley Lecture: Sparks and Solution for Fragile, Poor families

Poverty is a large and complex topic of research, as is family instability and complexity. Both can be daunting subjects to understand. However, Kathryn Edin has spent decades researching and living among poor families, and shared some of the insights she’s gained since writing books like $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America at a recent presentation on campus, sponsored by the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Chair. “Family instability and complexity,” Edin  said, “are both consequences and causes of poverty. It is more common among low-income families. And they are at an all time high.”

So, what, if anything, can be done to address the core problem of family instability and complexity in poverty? Edin said it comes down to SPARKS.

What are SPARKS?


SPARKS are Supported Pathways through the Arts, Recreation, Knowledge, and Schools. They are activities or programs that help children or teenagers identify themselves outside of their hard home life. They find themselves. Eventually, they make better family decisions because they can mentally get out of their difficult upbringing. “Emerging RCT evidence suggests that these positive youth development activities can have a dramatic impact on family formation and family stability among disadvantaged youth,” said Edin.

Edin shared her encounter with three teenagers living in complex and unstable families. Despite their home challenges, these teens connected with something outside of themselves.

“They found something that defined them…that consumed them,” said Edin. She described these teen’s experience as a “life-saving identity project.” For one Baltimore teen, Vicky, it was pigeons. She cares for pigeons, and has a goal to take them flying in every park in the city. Edin said this was the first level of a SPARK. Vicky identified herself with her love and care for her birds, not the horrors that occurred in her own home.

Bob found identity with Pokémon and Japanese anime. He found friends who identified with him as well as gaming, anime, and the arts. Bob dressed in goth clothes as his way of drawing the line between his street upbringing and his identity. Bob’s SPARK connected him to friends with similar interests, and was his way out of street life.

Cody’s SPARK was the most effective, as it was with an institution—the police academy. Police used to question Cody on the street, but after he joined the academy, cops saw his academy medallion and befriended him. Edin described Cody’s SPARK as the highest kind: “It’s like he jumped onto a moving train—there was already direction, good mentors, and service opportunities.”

Career/academic program SPARKS showed the most dramatic results and influenced young men in the following ways:

  • 33 percent more likely to be married
  • 46 percent more likely to be a custodial parent
  • 30 percent more likely to live independently with child and partner (21 percent for women)

High quality after-school programs affected pregnancy by up to 50 percent.

Many schools are no longer teach the arts and music because of budget cuts. Police academies have also been cut in some cities. These programs are often SPARKS for children and teens.

“We’ve got to create real pathways to follow SPARKS so that the bridge gets them to the other side,” said Edin.


Societal Systems That Foster Family Progress

“Ill-timed and unplanned pregnancies [are] the biggest contributors to unstable, complex, and fragile families,” Edin said. By extension, birth control is a central issue, a “how” of every child being planned and well-timed. But for those children already born, child support, paid by non-custodial parents to aid in the raising of children, is perceived as the most significant institution to fragile families. Fathers feel that the child support system does not ensure that they will see their children, and it handicaps them if they fall behind on payments.

“Why can’t child support be the mechanism that says to co-parents they’re in this for life?” said Edin. She called upon graduates of this university to consider working with these co-parents to get along. Then, parents will better be able to build “strong durable childhood bonds that last all the ways past the first five years, to high school graduation, college, and beyond,” said Edin. She lamented community college degrees that are losing their value in this ever-progressing world. Young adults from poor communities and unstable families are going to college more, but they often cannot finish college and end up in debt. “We are robbing these hopeful, aspiring kids of their dreams,” Edin said.

“But this is not hopeless,” she said. “We need to try things. She said classrooms need to be filled with students like those at BYU, who are invigorated to change and impact society for good.  Universities are one place to begin feeding students into important avenues.


The whole lecture can be seen here.


FHSS Internship Fair: A Student’s Advice on How to Take Advantage of it


BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences provides a variety of resources to help students prepare for their future careers, from advisement services to resume-building experiences to highlights of alumni who’ve gone on to achieve success with their degree and internship fairs. History student Madelyn Lunnen attended the college’s 2017 FHSS Internship Fair, held at the beginning of February, and provided some insight on how students can best take advantage of events like these.

There was a plethora of employers there,” said Madelyn, “from Allyse’s Bridal, Make A Wish, The Family Academy and BYU On Campus Internships. When I first arrived I was ready to go; I was going to find my internship and just feel like such an adult. Walking around and talking to many vendors, I found quite a few cool internships. Allyse’s Bridal was looking for students who could alter wedding dresses for them and would continue to work for them after the internship was complete”

She also met with a representative from the Provo School District who was looking for interns to work with their truancy officers, be able to make home visits, and facilitate good outcomes to sometimes difficult conversations about education, housing, mental health needs, and/or medical needs. The Make A Wish Foundation of Utah wanted interns for:

  • Program Services
  • Special Events
  • Corporate and Community Outreach and Development
  • Operations and Volunteer Management
  • Communications

Madelyn said: “The overall feeling I got from the fair was that what they really wanted was business people; students who take what they learned and apply it to some form of business, be it in the the traditional sense or in a more abstract way. Many of the internships seemed tailored to specific majors, such as Psychology, the School of Family Life, and Social Work.

Overall, she reported that the fair did what it said it would: introduce students to various employers who wanted interns.


Did You go to the Internship Fair? If so, was it helpful?

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.


Upcoming Hickman Lecture: Top 10 Scientific & Public Policy Controversies Regarding Air Pollution and Health

 Utah is infamous for it’s poor air quality, particularly during the early Winter months. The American Lung Association gave Utah County in particular an “F” in overall air quality in its 2016 State of the Air report. No county in Utah received higher than a C grade. Curious what you can do to make the air you breathe cleaner? Dr. C Arden Pope of the FHSS economics department will explain public policy and scientific differences regarding Utah’s air quality.
Dr. C. Arden Pope will speak on “Air Pollution and Health: Top 10 Scientific and Public Policy Controversies” for the 24th annual Martin B. Hickman Lecture.

C. Arden Pope, III is one of the world’s most cited and recognized experts on health effects of air pollution and has served on and/or chaired various scientific advisory and oversight boards and committees including: U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board and Chair of the U.S. EPA Advisory Council on Clean Air Compliance Analysis.
imgDr. Pope is the Mary Lou Fulton Professor of Economics at Brigham Young University. He has a PhD from Iowa State University (1981), was a Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health (1992/93), and an Honorary Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians (2008). He has conducted or collaborated on seminal studies on health effects of air pollution and has authored or coauthored approximately 200 research articles. Dr. Pope received multiple research and teaching awards.
*Featured photo taken by Eltiempo10 on Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

“You Never Murdered Anyone? BIG DEAL,” Says Dr. Brad Bushman.

This post is eighth 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.

Most parents aren’t worried about violent video games turning their children into killers, said Frank Bushman, a 2014 Hinckley presenter. They’re worried about how violent video games affect their relationships with others. They ask: “How do these games affect how they treat me? How do they affect how they treat their siblings, their peers, and others? How do they affect how they see the world? How do they affect how they see women? But there are other effects of violent media beside whether you’re going to kill somebody.

If a person has played violent video games and have never killed anyone, they’re just like the majority of Americans. According the U.S. Census, the population was 308,745,538 in 2010. That same year, the FBI estimated that 14,748 people were murdered. That’s only .0048% of the population. With such a small percentage of murders, nearly everyone can boast that they’ve never killed anyone. And yet people use the phrase “I’ve never killed anyone!” to justify their violent games.

Bushman focuses his research on the positive and negative effects of different media content. He received his Bachelor’s in Psychology from Weber State in 1984 and holds an M.Ed in Secondary Education from Utah State University (1985), and Masters in Psychology and Statistics from the University of Missouri (1987 and 1990 respectively), and a Doctorate in Social Psychology from the same school in 1989. He has the Rinehart Chair of Mass Communication at Ohio State University and teaches both psychology and communication classes. The professor has been featured in media such as BBC, NPR, and the New York Times.

While acknowledging adults’ rights to choose what media they consume, he is an advocate for making these effects on children known. Realizing that some of his findings are unpopular with mainstream channels, Bushman challenges popular conceptions by taking painstaking efforts to design his studies in accordance with the scientific method. His studies have been published in prestigious scientific journals. He has testified in the U.S. Congress on topics related to youth violence and aggression, and has served as a member of President Obama’s committee on gun violence.

The Marjorie Pay Hinckley Chair was created to strengthen, understand, and research families as well as create strategies to bolster families through challenges such as learning disabilities, “social development,” and single parenting.

Since this topic can be controversial, we encourage viewers to watch the full lecture and the Q&A session that follows for a more complete look at these findings.

Dr. Edin defines family instability and complexity

Part 1: The Problem

“By the time a child of unwed parents turns five, 23 percent of them have 3 half siblings,” said Dr. Kathryn Edin at our most recent Hinckley lecture. Edin’s decades-long ethnographic research about low-income families revealed that:

  • 78% of families are unstable and complex
  • 18% are stable two-parent families
  • 4% are stable single mother families

Family or relationship instability refers to the forming, breaking, reforming, breaking cycle of family life. This cycle of parents not staying together leaves the child with many parental figures who enter and leave their life, often while the child is very young. “In the first five years of a child who belongs to unmarried parents,” she said, “twelve percent of these children see one parent transition; 30 percent of children see three or more parent transitions in the first five years of their life.”

“Family instability and complexity,” she said, “are both consequences and causes of poverty. It is more common among low-income families. And they are at an all time high.”

These causes and consequences are parts of a difficult and complex societal issue, but her research provides both illumination for every member of society wondering how to help, and suggestions for improvement at the public policy level. That research began decades ago when she began roaming the country in her 20’s interviewing poor single mothers about their budgets. In her 30’s, she sought to get a more complete picture by focusing on the stories and laments of single fathers.

A major cause of family complexity and instability in poverty: unplanned pregnancy

captureNow as a distinguished sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, she investigates low-income and middle class family planning styles. These observations have proven crucial to discovering how to lessen family instability and complexity.

She found that those in low-income families often had unplanned or ill-timed pregnancies in non-committal relationships. Children tended to come along when the parents were still trying to “find themselves.”

In contrast, middle-class families meticulously planned and timed births. Parents were in a stable and committed relationship, often marriage. Parents had children when they both had “arrived” in a career-sense—they were confident with who they were and they felt fulfilled. Children who were born into families like the second scenario had a better upbringing in a more stable family.

The key lesson Edin learned in her 30s: “Moving the needle on mobility from poverty must include the family contexts into which children are born and raised. This is not a popular opinion, but I became convinced this was essential.”

With all of this in mind, Edin asked: “What would it take to ensure that every child can be planned and well-timed?” The answer? SPARKS (Supported Pathways through the Arts, Recreation, Knowledge, and Schools). Children and teens who have a SPARK identify themselves outside of their hard home life—they find themselves. They make better family decisions.

Stay tuned to for more posts about how to help low-income families become more stable as we provide further coverage of the Hinckley lecture and explanation of SPARKS.

You can view the whole lecture here:

Hinckley Lecture: Dr. Edin shares stories of impoverished American families

Edin is more than a desk researcher. She has gone into the trenches to fix the American problem of poverty. Edin has met and worked with hundreds of individuals and families to learn from them what their struggles and successes are. The surveys, interviews, and research Edin has done has raised the cry of the impoverished American family.

“Edin has gotten up close and personal with the people she studies—and in the process has shattered many myths about the poor, rocking sociology and public-policy circles,” said Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones regarding Edin’s book, Doing the Best I Can: Fathering in the Inner City 

Her work has found unexpected answers to the following questions:

  • How do single mothers possibly survive on welfare?
  • Why don’t more go to work?
  • Why do they end up as single mothers in the first place?
  • Where are the fathers and why do they disengage from their children’s lives?
  • How have the lives of the single mothers changed as a result of welfare reform?


Edin found that unmarried fathers are not always “deadbeat dads.” Many of these men adore their children, such as this teenage father, Andre, quoted in her book, Doing the Best I Can:

I always wanted my own child. People didn’t understand me. They like, ‘How you gonna take care of this baby? This baby is going to be born in poverty’ and all this stuff. That’s what they was saying.” But Andre shrugged off these negative assessments. “To them it was a mistake, you know. My daughter wasn’t no mistake to me!” He adds, pointing proudly to the sleeping child, Jalissa, “My daughter, she is the bomb!”

Edin has worked with the challenges unmarried mothers face as well. In her book, Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage WorkEdin debunked the myth that single mothers may take advantage of government welfare. She found that single mothers work “off-the-books” to support their children. Single mothers often combine welfare, work, money from the children’s father, and money from grandmothers–even with those several incomes, that still is not enough. 

Edin went a step further, to bust the myth that those living off welfare do so because they are lazy and want a hand-out. Edin reports her findings in her book $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America . John Hopkins Magazine reviewed Edin’s work and said:

To the contrary, the people Edin studied embody what Americans like to think are the cardinal virtues of upstanding citizens. They are resourceful, inventive, thrifty, and not just willing to work but eager to work. They seize every opportunity for employment and want nothing as badly as they want stable, full-time jobs. But they have fallen out of the 21st-century U.S. economy at a time when there is little in the way of a net to catch them, and they face overwhelming obstacles to clawing their way back up. And there aren’t a handful of them. There are millions.

719s6j81mllDr. Kathryn Edin has spent years researching how to help impoverished Americans. As noted, her work has helped many understand the real tragedies and triumphs of the poor. Edin knows there are many more unanswered questions, so she continues to speak with hundreds of people in inner-city America.

Edin’s current research includes studies on:

  • the lives of the working poor
  • the inter-generational transmission of poverty among African American young adults
  • the trade offs moderate- and low-income Black, White, and Latino families make when deciding where to live, what kind of place to rent or purchase, and where to send their children to school
  • landlords and the supply side of residential choice for low-income renters.