Media and technology can be a blessing, but when they negatively impact family relationships in the home, they can quickly become a curse. In a society where media is present in most aspects of our lives, individuals should be informed on how media use influences their relationships and decisions and how they can manage this content in their own lives and in their homes. As a part of BYU’s Continuing Education Families at Risk lecture series, on December 13th Dr. Sarah Coyne of the School of Family Life will expound on how media affects families and how individuals can manage the media in their home with specific strategies and tools.
Dr. Coyne is an associate professor of human development and has focused much of her recent research on media and its affect on the family. In a recent study on mothers’ media monitoring styles on adolescent technology and media use, Coyne collaborated with Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker to study certain parental monitoring styles within the home. Research found that when monitoring strategies consisted of active monitoring, which is the promotion of educational and critical thinking about media by parents, and connective co-use, which is use of media by both parents and children in a joint experience, there is less media usage.
Coyne has also worked on research that investigates the impact texting has on adolescent behavior. The December 13th event will be part of the Families at Risk: Issues Facing Today’s Families lecture series. To register and learn more about their classes, please visit their website.
“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation,” saidactivist Mahatma Gandhi. On December 7th, Dr. Pamela Perlich, Director of Demographic Research Director at the the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, will speak on the importance of recognizing and utilizing diversity in our communities at an event titled “Utah’s Hidden Diversity, Multicultural Demography.” “Good active citizens,” said Dr. Brenden Rensink, assistant director of the Redd Center, which is sponsoring the event, “need to be aware of who makes up their neighborhoods and communities, otherwise we can’t make progress towards serving and representing each other appropriately in civic life, politics, culture, etc.” The event will be held on December 7th at 11am in B192 JFSB.
Utah is not known for its diversity. However, the state is more diverse than people realize, said Dr. Rensink. The purpose of the event is for citizens to “learn about multiculturalism, diversity, and demographics in Utah, and to come away with an understanding that Utah’s 21st century population is much more diverse than we realize.” He continues: “Utah, along with the rest of the nation, is in the midst of a remarkable demographic transition, becoming older and more ethnically diverse. Utah County, projected to add one million residents over the next fifty years, will be especially impacted.”
A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 58% of Americans believe that diversity makes America “a better place to live.” However, in a different Pew study, the number of Americans viewing racism as a ”big problem” has increased 8 percentage points in the past two years to 58%, and roughly doubled since 2011. America seems to be a nation conflicted about the value of diversity versus the implementation of that value in daily actions.
Dr. Perlich holds a doctorate in economics and has worked for the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
How can hope inspire us to do good? Better yet, how can it inspire us to be good? C. Terry Warner, an author and emeritus professor of philosophy, shared a few ideas at this semester’s recent bi-annual Reason for Hope Conference, hosted by the Wheatley Institution.
He shared the story of the The Other Side Academy, a live-in school that boards adult criminals and substance abusers looking for a fresh start after they’ve hit rock bottom, to demonstrate the difference between short-term and long-term hope, and how recognition of those different kinds of hope, and feeling both, can truly change lives.
The academy’s residents often begin their two-year stay with a sense of hopelessness or of “imminent hope,” defined by Dr. Warner as short-term, passing hope. The residents usually become discouraged, and they doubt that they can change. Dr. Warner compared their mindsets to those commonly held by many people: “Our mental constructs both enable and limit our experience. Our mentality is, in this sense, prejudicial.”
But, as other people invite residents of Other Side to do good things and to be better people, the residents acquire a sense of transcendent hope, with the idea that these invitations to do good in and of themselves disrupt and intrude on the residents’ negative mentalities. They begin to recognize that they can change, and they find increased confidence in themselves, the future, and others. The academy’s programs give residents work experience, and its strict rules teach them self-control, but its success depends on each resident’s commitment to change.
Dr. Warner said that anyone can change, but we can only do so if we’re motivated by a call to goodness that originates outside ourselves. That call to goodness interrupts our negative (and often cyclical) thinking, and then it plants a seed of transcendent hope in each of us. “Transcendent hope is a hope that goodness will prevail,” he said. For Dr. Warner, the gospel brings transcendent hope into his life. He specifically mentioned the light of Christ and its permeating influence on every person who has ever lived.
Dr. Warner concluded by referring to scriptures that discuss how all goodness is rooted in God and Christ. “But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” (Moroni 7:13)
What is the Wheatley Institution?
The Wheatley Institution is an on-campus entity that enhances BYU’s scholarly reputation while enriching faculty and student experiences. It lifts society as it preserves and strengthens its core institutions.
In the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we have many remarkable students, young people who stand out in different ways. Jacob Fisher, one of our Econ students, recently won a Wheatley Institution award for his writing skills, for example. Ryan Shields, from our geography department, is student who embodies BYU’s motto to “enter to learn, go forth to serve” because of his passion for his major and his extra-curricular involvement in geographical activities. We recently had the opportunity to speak with him about his experiences at BYU:
Ryan: I have always had a natural aptitude for geography and passion for global affairs. Growing up in rural Nebraska, I did not have a lot of global exposure so maps were a big part of how I experienced the world. As I learned more, the dots on [the] maps eventually became more to me than just locations of cities. They represented people and that helped me to relate to my brothers and sisters across the globe. I started to better understand what life was like for them and how it was similar and differed from my own life. When I found out there were many geography career fields that would allow me to use that perspective and passion, I knew geography was the right choice for me.
FHSS: Was there a particular experience that led you to it?
Ryan: When I started at BYU, I declared as a Chemical Engineering major. I had worked in an oil field for a summer after I graduated high school and thought a career as a petroleum engineer might be a good fit for me. I took one class and realized that was not going to be [the case]. I started browsing the major catalogue and came across geography and was surprised at the diverse career paths in that field.
FHSS: What are you involved in (i.e. extracurricular activities)?
Ryan: Attend lectures on campus, search for groups that share common interests and career goals. Most groups will have a Facebook page or a website where you can contact them. Just ask for opportunities!
FHSS: What do you like to do outside of school?
Ryan: I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working on cars and motorcycles. I also manageThinkSpatial (the cartography service at BYU) and work for the BYU Police Department’s security division. I’ve worked crowd security for multiple special events and dignitary/VIP protection for religious leaders, ambassadors, and other foreign dignitaries from around the world.
FHSS: Random fact or story about yourself?
Ryan: I’ve skydived, visited 18 US States, and traveled outside the mainland US every year since I started attending BYU.
While each person’s college experience is unique, many share common elements, such as: navigating difficult classes, dating, and living with roommates. The research of various FHSS professors speaks not only to the importance of building and maintain positive relationships with friends and roommates, but also provides ideas for how to do so.
Why are relationships important?
Psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad studies relationships and the effects they have on health. In a 2015 study, she found that loneliness is a precursor for early death. “The risk associated with social isolation and loneliness is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality, including those identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (physical activity, obesity, substance abuse, responsible sexual behavior, mental health, injury and violence, environmental quality, immunization, and access to health care,)” she and her co-authors said. Loneliness can lead to death just as much as obesity and substance abuse can.
In an interview with Scientific American, the professor spoke on the importance of friendship: “[Friends] provide a sense of meaning or purpose in our lives.”
How can we improve relationships?
1. Understand that they may be struggling
In a recent Connectionsarticle, School of Family Life professors Laura Padilla-Walker, Jason Carroll, Brian Willoughby, and Larry Nelson identified the four top concerns of “emerging adults” (people between the 18 and 24) as:
Identity: still exploring
Parental involvement: transitioning to independence
Sexual behavior/Relationships: in light of religious beliefs and newfound independence
Religion/Morality: and how it relates to their worldviews
“Emerging adulthood is a unique time of life,” the researchers said, “complete with its own set of challenges and struggles, and it is important for parents, teachers, employers, and others to learn about these issues.” Understanding that your roommate may be experiencing these challenges can help you emphathize.
2. Talk with them
TheRelate Institute offers the following ways to have a meaningful conversation:
Don’t multitask: focus on your roommate when you’re talking to him or her
Don’t pontificate: enter every conversation with the thought that you have something you can learn from it
Ask open-ended questions
If you don’t know, say that you don’t
Don’t equate their experience with yours
Following these tips will allow you to meaningfully communicate with your roommate, which will lead to a better relationship.
3. Do something fun together
Check out our articles on what to do during Thanksgiving break and Summer (these still apply anytime of year) for fun ideas of what to do together.
The researcher studies violence/abuse, relationship education, and conflict within couples. “The family is a source of profound influence in our lives, for good and bad, and I hope to be helpful to those who are struggling. Specifically, I want to identify unhealthy ways of interacting, and offer solutions for being more kind and honest,” he says. In his book, Dr. Whiting discusses how partners can be more genuine and honest with each other.
The academician was inspired to study relationships because of his own past experiences: “Growing up in a big family left me curious about relationships: what makes some so fun, and others so frustrating? Individuals are interesting, but when you put them together into families they become even more interesting. Unfortunately, our most meaningful relationships can become damaging, and this was a very compelling issue to me: what makes intimate relationships work?
Brigham Young University
Dr. Whiting loves BYU. “I had a great experience here as a student,” he says, and have always been a fan of the mission of BYU as a unique force for good. After 16 years working at other universities, the stars aligned with what some [other] Family Life faculty here [were] doing, and what I was doing, which presented good collaboration opportunities. Also, my kids are starting to ‘launch,’ and they all want[ed] to come to BYU, so I thought I had better follow them.”
He offered the following advice to students:
Seek opportunities to interact with professors.
When choosing a course, learn about the person teaching the class, which is as important, if not more so, than the class itself.
Connect with faculty through office hours, and don’t be afraid to seek advice. Dr. Whiting reports that many of his most meaningful memories from BYU were those one-on-one interactions with faculty who he admired.
Being a college student with autism can be quite challenging, research shows. In addition to the typical struggles that come with adjusting to the more rigorous but less structured demands of university classes, and the life changes of moving away from home and making new friends, young adults on the autism spectrum (ASD) tend to struggle with deficits in sensory processing, social skills, and executive functioning. While they can take advantage of therapeutic resources and government-mandated accommodations to address these concerns, there is more that can be done, according to BYU professors Mikle South and Jonathan Cox.
South, who is an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, and Cox, an associate clinical professor, analyzed two-decades’ worth of patient records from the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center to discover the effectiveness of therapy for autistic students as opposed to their neuro-typical peers. They found that the students with autism generally took twice as long and required significantly more therapy sessions to achieve degrees of improvement comparable to their non-autistic peer. In the United States in general, the graduation rate of college students with autism is 18 percent lower than that of the general population.
In an October 2017 Spectrum article, South and Cox suggest that, while BYU and other universities offer therapy groups and accommodations to bring more of them closer to graduation and farther from their difficulties, some universities have implemented other effective non-therapeutic measures, and there are more that can be taken that are more suited to the specific needs of people on the ASD spectrum.
What Can Be Done
“In large institutions,” say South and Cox, “the [social, mental, and organizational needs of people with autism] can easily be missed by everyone, including the parents of these students.” To address those needs, they suggest that universities offer programs like one provided at Utah Valley University. Passages includes weekly skill-building meetings, recreational and social activities like hikes and movie nights, and regular workshops for families. In addition, they say that universities can consider training aides in executive functioning coaching.
Too, they offer, “It may be possible to create safe spaces— areas with minimal sensory stimulation—for taking exams and other activities. And our data suggest that extending treatment limits for people with autism can lead to substantial improvements in well-being while decreasing costs associated with student failure.”
“Generating the institutional willpower to improve support for students on the spectrum requires advocacy, creativity and flexibility,” they continue. “Administrators and others should take the time to learn about autism and push for change. Autism is not rare; every college has many students with autism who can succeed with a little help.”
What We Know
South and Cox’s suggestions add to the large body of expertise produced by research group Autism Connect, whose purpose is to help everyone see autism as “a collection of disorders where each individual has unique symptoms.” These professors and researchers seek to improve the lives of individuals and families with autism spectrum disorders through research so that new understanding and symptom-specific treatments can be developed. Doctor South focuses his research on the relationship between anxiety and ASD. Using MRI and EEG brain imaging, South and his peers have found that people with ASD may have difficulties understanding their emotions and the safety of situations. These individuals may assume that everything is threatening and adopt anxiety as a default emotion. This anxiety may be a connection between ASD and aggression.
This research can help individuals and families get the help and assistance they need sooner rather than later, helping to decrease distress and isolation among families and individuals who have ASD.
“For fish to understand the water of their environment, it’s not enough to describe different types of water,” says BYU psychology professor Brent D. Slife and his collegues in their new book The Hidden Worldviews of Psychology’s Theory, Research, and Practice. “The fish will not properly appreciate the environment they literally breathe through their gills until they have experienced a truly stark contrast, such as being jerked from the water altogether” (27). They argue that, like fish, people, and psychologists in particular, cannot appreciate the environments they are a part of unless they experience stark contrasts. They would say that in general, neither individuals nor psychologists fully understand and recognize their unique worldviews and how they shape them as individuals and participants in the field of psychology.
World views are defined by psychologist Mark Koltko-Rivera as “a set of beliefs that includes statements and assumptions regarding what exists and what does not…, what objectives or experiences are good or bad, and what objectives, behaviors, and relationships are desirable or undesirable…. World views include assumptions that may be unproven, and even be unprovable, but these assumptions are subordinate in that they provide the epistemic and ontological foundations for other beliefs within a belief system” (2). World views create the “foundation” for everything we accept and believe.
It is monumentally important, say Slife et al, that people not simply know what a worldview is but that they sensitize themselves to all majority and minority world views so as to enrich their psychological state and the field of psychology as a whole. In most psychological settings today, psychologists are asked to separate their personal biases, or worldviews, from the study being done or the client being assessed, but this simply cannot be done. “It is not possible for [psychologists] to empty their brains of theories and worldview influences,” writes Slife’s colleague Kari A. O’Grady. “Their choice[s] of topic and methodology are inevitably informed by theory and reflect biases: their grandmother’s philosophies, internet blogs, professors’ positions, and childhood experiences, to name just a few” (45). Worldviews are unarguably attached to all aspects of psychology in the following areas:
The General Discipline of Psychology
“Psychology is the product of a particular culture, which has been referred to as primarily WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic)” (58). The secularized history of psychology has likewise favored naturalistic over theistic approaches. “Many aspects of naturalism are so endemic to psychology’s methods that they are not understood or even recognized to exist as a [world influence]” (48). This influence has set a concrete need for generalization, separation of subjective and objective, and to detect causality in psychology, but these “needs” are not needed in every world view, just the one grandfathered in by psychology. This limits the field of psychology to a singular set of perspectives and demands rather than specific needs that are unique to different peoples and facets of the field.
Methodology and Psychotherapy
A large majority of psychotherapy methodology is based off of the Liberal Individualism and Strong Relationism worldviews. Therapists not imposing their own beliefs on their clients, the use of self-empowerment in therapy, prioritizing the individual, and seeing a client outside of their personal environment, in a therapy room for example, are all based on Individualism beliefs. Family and group therapy aimed at improving relationships is based on Relationism. These methods and ideologies are often taught and exercised, but never questioned, closing the door on minority worldviews and perspectives and possible approaches to therapy that are not included in these two majority worldviews.
Psychologists assume that objectivity in all cases is the best option, but as we’ve stated before, implying that a scientist, psychologist, or client has no worldviews is illogical. When an author of a cross-cultural study, for instance, “said that worldviews of other cultures ‘count,’ they neglected to count in their own worldviews” (59). When we study a different people or culture “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” (63).
Education and Training
“The norms of [undergraduate and graduate training] are tacitly perceived and internalized, and by such means, contemporary graduate education forms its students into a certain kind of ethical participant, one who has taken on the normative beliefs, values, attitudes, and practices of one’s discipline…so that they too can become a reliable informant and a trusted member of the intellectual majority” (18-19).
The fact that the field of psychology itself is defined by worldviews should be enough to show that it is impossible for people—including psychologists—to live their lives in a worldview-neutral way. The fish cannot stay in its own little world and the field of psychology cannot continue in its blind state ignoring all forms of opposing worldviews. It may be human to guard ourselves against new or different views, but it is inhumane to stop others’ stories and opinions from being shared.
In an attempt to keep psychology “pure,” a “reflexivity problem” has formed, says Slife. Psychologists might diagnose patients having minority worldviews with blindness and biases, but fails to see their own blindnesses. Minority worldviews exist, however, and are here and waiting to be heard. When psychologists hear and listen to diverse worldviews, psychology will have more sophisticated research, increased sensitivity in treatment, increased empathy towards clients, a decrease in the transfer of bias, increased policy transparency, more diverse ideas and perspectives on research and analysis, and increased efficacy in social programs (6-7).
Worldview awareness and coexistence is where psychology needs to be heading. “It’s where psychologists are allowed to be themselves, to come out of their respective worldview closets, and to openly explore the connections between their psychologies and their deepest convictions” (76). “It’s only when different worldview communities are treated in accord with the ethical and democratic values expressed [in this book] that these conditions will be possible. And all boats will rise. The recognizing and nurturing of all worldviews will create a space where all people of all worldviews can contribute to the field to make psychology more inclusive, integrated, and helpful.
How can you better recognize and accept other’s worldviews?
“Religious freedom is the first freedom, not merely in order of mention in the Bill of Rights, but as the source of human rights and their best line of defense,” argued Jacob Fisher in an essay that won first-place winner in the Wheatley Institution‘s 10-Year Anniversary Essay Contest. “If we believe that our beloved democracy will simply persist without commitment to religious liberty, we are admiring the flower while killing the root.”
Some voices question the validity of promoting religious liberty in modern America. Though it is prominently mentioned in the Bill of Rights, there are those who insist that religious freedom is a “redundant right” because its content, like religious speech and religious assembly, is already included in other enumerated rights. Far from being redundant, religious freedom is the root of all freedoms, because rights are a spiritual concept. Where does society obtain its knowledge of human rights? Do we find inalienable rights under the frontal lobe? Are they secreted by the liver? No. Rights are not a physical attribute of our bodies; any sense in which we believe human rights to be real must be a reflection of our spiritual understanding of human nature.
For limited government to work, personal behavior must be primarily governed by internal directives, rather than fear of legal enforcement. Religious institutions promote this voluntary right living. Those who support the project of limited government should be alarmed at America’s declining religiosity, because as religion recedes from public space, it leaves a gap that expansive State power is all too ready to fill.
Fisher, an undergraduate in the Department of Economics, wrote his essay, entitled “The Roots of Rights” in response to one of 10 prompts provided by the Wheatley Institution. His focus on rights forms part of a larger conversation within the college on a variety of rights, including civil, and the responsibilities and benefits that come with them.
The Wheatley Institution works to “enhance the academic climate and scholarly reputation of BYU, and to enrich faculty and student experiences, by contributing recognized scholarship that lifts society by preserving and strengthening its core institutions.”
Professor Adam Rogers, one of our newest Family Life faculty members, sees adolescence as a critical period in life, the experiences of which can affect individuals long-term, in positive and negative ways. “[We] all remember experiences during our adolescence,” he says, “that had a significant impact on who we are now. Some of those experiences were thrilling, others were so embarrassing that they are burned into our memories. Some experiences were educational while others were very painful. Through his research, Professor Rogers hopes to help teenagers and their their parents as they move through this transitional time. “I hope that in some way, my research can help parents understand a little more about what their teenage children are experiencing in today’s world, with all its unique challenges, so that they can feel more efficacious in guiding their teens to make positive and healthy decisions for themselves.”
While adolescents are the focus of his research, Professor Rogers’ teaching is all about his students. During his own undergraduate degree at BYU, Dr. Rogers had teachers that “noticed [him] and cared about [his] development.” This support from his professors has inspired him to do the same for others. As a teacher, Professor Rogers seeks to help students make positive connections that can change their lives. He knows that hard work is essential in making these life changes. “My [own] life reached a turning point when I finally learned that natural talent pales in comparison to hard work and attention to detail,” he said. He also strives to help his students recognize that “science and faith can coexist in a powerful way,” a unique perspective that we can experience and develop here at BYU.
Professor Rogers is currently teaching Critical Inquiry and Research Methods and will be teaching Adolescent Development next fall. When he is not in the classroom, Professor Rogers likes going on walks with his wife and nine month-old son, cycling, and traveling to the beach.