5 Keys to Winning the Game of Life

Setema Gali Delivers Convocation Address

BYU Alumnus Setema Gali Speaks at 2021 Convocation

BYU alumnus Setema Gali (BS Sociology ‘01, MPA ‘14) told students that 20 years ago when he graduated, he never could have imagined coming back to his alma mater and speaking to over 1,500 graduates. Gali was the speaker for the 2021 convocation for the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

The former NFL player and best-selling author shared five things he wishes he had known when graduating from college.

Key #1 Get Clear (Crystal Clear) About the Life You Want to Live 

Setema explained that clarity is power and if you lack clarity you might end up in a destination that you had no desire to be at. He said, “No one leaves Brigham Young University and says I can’t wait to be miserable, unhappy, emotionally bankrupt and spiritually out of alignment. But if we’re not careful and we don’t get clear, we end up there.” He asked students to consider how clear they are about the life they want to live, “Does your heart and your soul call to you today? If it does, I invite you to listen.”  

Setema encouraged students to gain a clear understanding of who they want to be, how they want to interact with others, and what type of contributions they want to make.  

Key #2 Be Prepared for Adversity 

Setema shared a difficult experience of becoming bankrupt and being evicted from his home. During this challenging time, he found himself looking to the heavens and asking, “God, where are you?” Setema decided to sell his Super Bowl ring in order to provide for his family. He faced emotional, spiritual and financial trials but he learned to use his struggles to propel him forward. He encouraged students, “Don’t let these trials crush you but use them as stepping stones to help you get to the next level.” He shared with students the teachings he learned from his professors, teammates and coaches at BYU that God can consecrate trials for our good.  

Key #3 Go All In 

As Setema reached his mid thirties he was still struggling to make ends meet and provide for his wife and two sons. He took three summers and knocked doors despite feeling embarrassed and humiliated. He went all in to help his family. Setema reminded students of the blessings from working hard, “Whatever you do, whatever responsibility you have, God will bless you for going all in.” 

Key #4 Have Fun 

While Setema was knocking doors during the summers, he learned how to have fun. He shared the scripture, “Men are that they might have joy.” Setema emphasized that it’s important to enjoy life and that everything isn’t as serious as a Super Bowl game.  

Key #5 Exercise Faith in God 

As Setema reflected back on his life he saw God’s hand in the intimate details of his life. He shared, “We can do so much more with our life when God is a part of it than when he’s not.” He promised students that has they put God first everything else happens the way it’s supposed to.

Setema concluded his message by emphasizing the purpose of a BYU education. He shared, “We came here to learn, grow, and become so we can enter into the world and make a lasting impact.” 

Watch the full address and department programs here and then check out the profiles of our impressive graduates.

FHSS Student Spotlight: George Garcia III

Ecomonics valedictorian eager to do the most good 

George Garcia, valedictorian for the Economics Department, is a first-generation college student who came to BYU without any real understanding of what he was getting himself in to — he says he didn’t even know what “major” meant. He started in a track for international relations, moved to seminary teaching, then switched to political science, and ended with a double major in economics and math. For George, math gives him the tools to more fully understand economics, where his true passion lies.  

George’s passion for learning was ignited by Darrin Hawkins in POLI 200. Professor Hawkins showed George that the point of college wasn’t just to take in existing knowledge but to create and discover knowledge. That’s when he realized that he could generate knowledge himself, instead of just consuming it. Since then, George has helped in a number of research projects involving both political science and economics. 

George’s passion for economics stems from his belief in a higher moral obligation to do the “most good” with the blessings he has received. Looking around at the blessings that students at BYU enjoy, George sees an obligation to take our privileges and use them to bless the lives of those less fortunate. He says economics provides “a beautiful framework to take resources and do the ‘most good’ with it.” The field gives a base of knowledge on which to build a life of service. 

Looking back on his time at BYU, George remembers fondly the time he spent working on his Honor’s Thesis, which explored the effect of air pollution on people’s expressed sentiment on Twitter. He was able to work for professor Arden Pope as a research assistant for this project. Together they wrote a paper that they hope to publish in the near future. The process of taking an idea and creating something useful with it excites George.  

George will be working as a pre-doctoral research fellow at Stanford Law School studying disability and labor policy. He hopes to go on to get a Ph.D. in economics and spend his life trying to learn how to do the “most good,” whether that path leads further in academia or takes him somewhere else.  

For all the students that will follow in George’s footsteps, he asks that they remember that “no matter the field, it won’t be whole.” There are still discoveries to be made, experiments to be conducted, questions to be asked. He urges students to find ways to look at the world differently and ask seek opportunities to contribute to the wealth of collective knowledge.  

George believes in BYU’s motto: “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” Beyond just our ability to help, we have a moral duty to lift the burdens of others with the many blessings we have received. An education is more than generating new knowledge, it is building a life that is capable of doing the “most good.”  

Senior Spotlight: Beth O’Brien

Graduate in Social Work promotes systems of support for new mothers

Beth O’Brien April 6, 2021 Photography by Rebeca Fuentes/BYU © BYU PHOTO 2021

As a mother of six, Beth O’Brien has a particular passion for new motherhood and believes there is a substantial lack of postpartum care for women in the United States. From her own experience, Beth understands the value of good postpartum care as well as the challenge of being without sufficient support.  

Beth had originally planned on pursuing a route in marriage and family therapy until she met Dean Barley from the Comprehensive Clinic, who directed her to social work; the program was a perfect fit.  

From the beginning, Beth threw herself into her studies and tried to soak in all of the information she could. She wants students who follow her to know, “Don’t worry about what has passed or even what is next, but be as present as you can in your program. Know that you are qualified to be here and at the end of it, you will be qualified to practice where you choose.” 

For Beth, the next step is just up the road from her home, at the Crossroads to Wellness clinic. There, she will be practicing trauma-informed therapy with an attachment focus, as well as teaching workshops for new mothers and fathers. Her work will put her in contact with children, adolescents, and adults in individual and family settings. The flexibility of her new role will allow her to engage in clinical practice part-time while still successfully supporting her family. 

Beth looks back fondly on her time as a graduate student and the systems of support she benefited from saying, “The professors and the hands-on access to mentorship from such phenomenal people was one of a kind and exceeded any expectation I had.” BYU’s emphasis on experiential learning allowed Beth to work alongside exceptional students and instructors in developing her skills, which is especially helpful for practice-oriented fields like social work. 

Beth also enjoyed her time as an intern at New Roads Behavioral Health and the Green House Center for Growth and Learning. Both have helped her “feel prepared to enter this field and hit the ground running.” She was grateful for support during her internships from the Marjorie Pay Hinckley endowment and also credits the generous financial support she received from BYU’s single parent scholarship.

Beth says, “I have loved everything about my graduate experience.” We are honored to now call Beth one of our many talented alumni and look forward to seeing how she uses her education to bless the lives of many in the community — including her own and her family’s. 

Senior Spotlight: Savannah Melvin

International experiences are driving this anthropology grad to right injustices around the world

Anthropology Senior – Savannah Melvin

Savannah Melvin was raised in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Zimbabwe. Having experienced different cultures and seeing lots of injustice, she feels it’s her moral responsibility to do something that will contribute back and make a difference for people.

For her senior thesis project, Savannah traveled to Ecuador to study its medical culture. Savannah spent two months in midwife clinics and hospitals around the country. As she compared healing practices in Ecuador and America, she recognized important differences. “I realized that Ecuadorians used what we would think of as non-traditional medicine but what they consider traditional,” she says.

Savannah also traveled to Rwanda as part of a study abroad. She worked with genocide-affected women and children. The experience developed even more compassion in her. She explains, “It drove me to want to make a difference because I was surrounded by people who were doing amazing things to help this population who went through so much.”

Savannah’s undergraduate experiences in the Anthropology program and at BYU have shaped her passion to defend human rights and refugees. She says that she chose to study anthropology because she wants to do something multiculturally based to lay a foundation to practice law in a multicultural setting.

Savannah plans to apply to Harvard Law School next year with the hopes of becoming an international lawyer to right some of the injustice she’s witnessed around the world.

Senior Spotlight: Breeze Parker

Studying Tongan culture helps anthropology grad identify family glue

Anthropology Senior – Breeze Parker

As part of her senior thesis project, Breeze studied three huge kinship groups totaling 100 individuals (some online and some in-person) last summer. All of the families practiced honoring the fahu, which in Tongan culture is your father’s oldest sister. The fahu is an important kinship role and considered the matriarch of the family. Fahus historically dictated many things in the family including who her kinship could marry.  

Breeze noticed how the practice of fahus is dying out. During her research, she discovered the  importance of fahus in present day Tongan families. “Fahus are the glue for the intergenerational idea of family,” says Breeze. She analyzed how Tongan families include all extended family where as an American family is mostly comprised of the nuclear family.  

Breeze chose to study anthropology because she loves diverse groups of people. After graduating in April, Breeze will attend BYU Law School to become an immigration lawyer. She feels her studies have prepared her for her future career in many ways and says “Anthropology is all about getting to know people on their terms. It’s nice because as a lawyer, I will have an anthropologic perspective and desire to understand what my clients are going through.” 

Breeze grew up in Hawaii and felt it was difficult to find her place when she first came to BYU in Provo. She reflects, “I found out what it was like to be a minority on campus and sometimes it was hard to relate to people.”  

Breeze was able to find her place participating in the BYU Polynesian Club. She also felt a sense of acceptance when she started the anthropology program. “My peers and professors made me feel like I was at home.” 

Senior Spotlight: Brayton Bate

Anthropology grad uncovers moral divide Arab-Americans see between themselves and other Americans 

Anthropology Senior – Brayton Bate

Graduating senior Brayton Bate sat in the living rooms of many Arab-American families in Utah, studying how they viewed Americans and American culture. In dinner conversations he learned that the way Arabs distinguish between themselves and Americans is moral in nature. He reports, “It’s about ethics. It’s not about skin color or even religion.”  

Brayton observed how Arab-Americans in Utah understand the ethnic divide between themselves and Americans to be a moral divide. As Brayton discussed the differences between the two cultures with one Arab woman, she said that from her perspective Americans value their career and productive schedules more than relationships. She felt Arabs, on the other hand, prioritize community over autonomy.  

One thing that surprised Brayton during his research was the affinity that Arab-Americans had for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says that the families he talked to respected and loved members of the church in Utah because of how closely related their conduct is to Islam. Brayton shares, “They do not feel that way about other churches and they’re very clear about it.”  

Brayton choose to study anthropology because he wanted to perform his own ethnographic research, “I thought it was a unique opportunity to be able to spend time on the ground in the trenches of people — recording, taking pictures and videos. It’s very similar to work you would do on a graduate level.”  

Brayton loved his time in the anthropology program and how he was able to learn to interact with people in a candid way in order to collect data. Brayton shares the importance of removing personal bias, “You can’t impose your personal beliefs on data, but rather, you collect and publish data based on what the data is saying instead of what you want to say.”  

Reflecting upon his senior research project, Brayton said he gained humility. “Spending time with people and performing research doesn’t necessarily make you an expert.” 

Brayton’s father is a Palestinian immigrant who came to the United States. After Brayton graduates, he plans to apply for foreign policy internships in the Middle East and eventually live and work there. 

Senior Spotlight: Samantha Snow

Anthropology grad studies impact of Zoom turning Provo apartments into college classrooms

Anthropology Senior – Samantha Snow

While Zoom has worked well in lessening the spread of COVID-19 on college campuses, it has had detrimental effects on students’ ability to engage with their classes and connect with classmates and professors.  

For Samantha’s senior thesis project in the anthropology program, she studied the experiences of BYU students in the summer of 2020, during the largest influx of remote learning that has ever occurred. The students she observed were participating in all their classes via Zoom. Samantha noticed how the pandemic didn’t just ruin things by adding distractions with learning from home, but students were having to control two parts of their lives at once: being a student and whatever they tried to do simultaneously.  

Samantha argues that Zoom shouldn’t be viewed as an equal replacement to in-person courses but as a secondary method of instruction. She explains, “You can’t mute yourself in an in-person interaction, so classroom exchanges are much more genuine. It’s easier to tell the mood of a classroom than a Zoom room, for reasons such as feedback, technological delays, and overall, the simple lack of togetherness-feeling over Zoom.” 

Despite feelings of disconnection, Zoom offers advantages like allowing students to take classes from literally anywhere in the world. It also helps with accessibility issues. Zoom’s closed captioning feature can be added to a recorded meeting and help those who would otherwise need an interpreter.  

After looking at the advantages and disadvantages of Zoom, Samantha notes that many of the successes and failures are at the control of both the student and the professor. 

Tips For Students  

Samantha’s research shows that students need to feel present in their live-streamed classes, even if they’re not physically with their classmates and professor. She saw how difficult it can be to balance two frames of life at once. To combat this, Samantha suggests that students become aware of these contrasting frames and be willing to change, “If students are taking classes at home, there’s nothing they can do about the maintenance workers showing up, but they can try to place themselves in a location that removes them from the most distractions possible.”  

Tips For Professors 

Samantha encourages professors to understand the features of Zoom and use them for the student’s benefit. “The professor, or anyone facilitating a Zoom call, has the chance to make the meeting as engaging as they’d like, but this also requires premeditated effort and training on their behalf,” she says. Professors can also request feedback from students to learn how they can improve and increase engagement. 

Samantha plans to continue pursuing her interest in education and attend Boston College this fall for a master’s program in international higher education. Samantha’s dream is to work in an administrative position at a college or university.  

Samantha is grateful for the anthropology program and how it prepared her for graduate studies. “Anthropology is really broad and some people see that as a downside but it’s really a benefit because you can apply its main focus of understanding people to anything.” 

Senior Spotlight: Jordan Etherington

Family life grad organizes first Springville food pantry for civic engagement capstone

Jordan Etherington cuts ribbon for the grand opening of Springville’s first food pantry

On Saturday, April 10, the Springville community cut the ribbon and opened the door to its first food pantry sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. 

Jordan Etherington, a senior graduating in family life with an emphasis in human development, organized the Springville Food Pantry as part of his civic engagement leadership capstone project. Jordan coordinated efforts between several organizations to make this dream a reality. Jordan worked as a representative of Mountainland Head Start, which provided space for the food pantry at the former Grant School located at 400 East and 100 South in Springville.  

Jordan says Mountainland Head Start plans to turn the school into a community center with the food pantry being its first program. The Kiwanis Club of Springville will operate the pantry as a satellite of the Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo. Community Action will be providing foodstuffs and other support. The mission of the Springville Food Pantry is to distribute donated food directly to low-income families in the area.  

“I hope this local resource will help individuals and families get through difficult times by providing food and reassurance about where their next meal is coming from,” says Jordan of his efforts.

Jordan chose to participate in the civic engagement leadership minor at BYU because he wanted to be involved in the community. “At first I was a little nervous that the minor was going to be all about political involvement but the program taught me the importance of making connections with community leaders and organizations,” he says. 

Jordan encourages all students to consider participating in the minor as a good way to serve the community and make an impact for good.  

Jordan highlighted the ample opportunities available for BYU students who want to make a difference. “If there is a cause you want to be involved in, just reach out to the organization and see what opportunities they have. They won’t turn you away.” 

Jordan’s plans after graduation are to attend the University of Southern Mississippi in the fall and pursue a Ph.D. in school psychology with an end goal of becoming a therapist for autistic individuals. 

To volunteer at the Springville Kiwanis Club Food Pantry, contact them at springvillekiwanisclub@gmail.com or to find other volunteer opportunities in your area visit https://www.justserve.org/.

Find out more about the Office of Civic Engagement at https://civicengagement.byu.edu/.

A Day of Learning: The Mentored Student Research Conference

Students from across the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences gathered virtually for the 17th annual Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference on Thursday, April 8. After opening remarks from President Kevin Worthen and a brief talk from Loren Marks, professor in the School of Family Life, participants watched as awards were announced for outstanding posters from each discipline.  

These research posters are a representation of the great scholarship being carried out by our undergraduate and graduate students. Experiential learning is a core part of the college’s aim to prepare students to be active participants in their respective disciplines. Through the conference, students are given the opportunity to share their work in a professional setting; this opportunity not only builds resume, but also helps prepare students with tools for success in their future careers.  

The conference is funded by the Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. See the list of awards below and view all posters and a recording of the awards ceremony at https://fultonchair.byu.edu.  

Undergraduate Awards 

Anthropology 

1st Place— 

Student: Abigail Rivera 

Mentor: David Johnson 

Poster: Paleopathology Report for Excavations at Wadi Mataha 

Economics 

1st Place— 

Student: Carver Coleman 

Mentor: Joseph Price 

Poster: Mortality Benefits of Non-pharmaceutical Intervention During the 1918 Flu Pandemic 

Geography 

1st Place— 

Student: Casey McClellan Geslison 

Mentor: Sam Otterstrom 

Poster: ’To Hold the World Together’: A Uinta Basin Homesteading History, 1905–1930 

History 

1st Place— 

Student: Jinhee Nelson  

Mentor:Rebecca de Schweinitz 

Poster: From the Eisenhower Presidential Library- Young People in Politics 

2nd Place— 

Students: Steven Tarno, Abigail Davidson, AJ Tower 

Mentor: Dr. Skabelund 

Poster: “To Lose a Voice: The Systematic Suppression of Women within Nazi Germany” 

Neuroscience 

1st Place— 

Students: Shawna Ibarra, James Bates, Summer Arthur, Gavin Jones, Tanner McVey, and Dallin Otteson 

Mentors: Scott Steffensen and Jordan Yorgason 

Poster: Shaking for Relief: Reducing Anxiety in Alcohol Withdrawal 

2nd Place— 

Students: Lindsey Edwards, Roger Woods, Lesle Nevillle 

Mentors: J. Dee Higley, Elizabeth Wood, Jacob Hunter 

Poster: MAOa-Genotype-by-Environment Interactions on Central Monoamine Metabolite Concentrations in Infant Rhesus Macaques (Macaca Mulatta) 

Political Science 

1st Place— 

Students: Kelsey Eyre, Kesley Powell, Heather Walker 

Mentor: Jeremy Pope 

Poster: White Identity Does Not Equal Racial Resentment 

2nd Place— 

Students: Grant Baldwin and Zeke Peters 

Mentor: Adam Dynes 

Poster: At Large But Not in Charge: How Formal Institutions Affect Minority Representation on US City Councils 

3rd Place— 

Students: Ethan Meldrum, Camilla Alacron, Layla Shaaban 

Mentor: Ethan Busby 

Poster: Whistle While You Work: What Attributes Influence Whistleblower Credibility? 

4th Place— 

Student: George R. Garcia III 

Mentor: Darren Hawkins 

Poster: International Reverberations: How the January 6th Insurrection Affected Political Views of South American Bureaucrats 

Psychology  

1st Place— 

Students: Alex Merce and Maryn Rolfson 

Mentor: Wendy Birmingham 

Poster: Breadwinners and Bread Makers: Trends in Gender Ideology Among Religious Working and Stay-at-Home Mothers 

2nd Place— 

Students: Alice Wang, Samuel Castillo, Fatma Luka, Tyler Parra, and Josely Velasquez 

Mentor: Niwako Yamawaki 

Poster: Misinformation and Education Level on Discriminatory Behavior Toward Asian Victims During COVID-19 

3rd Place— 

Students: Leslie Neville, Elysha Cash, and Elijeh Tauai 

Mentors: J.D. Higley and Elizabeth K. Wood 

Poster: Inherent Sensitivity and Acquired Tolerance to the NMDA-Antagonist Ketamine is Associated with Alcohol Intake: A Nonhuman Primate (Macaca mulatta) 

4th Place— 

Students: Colt Mitchell Halter and Elysha Cash 

Mentor: Dr. Higley 

Poster: Translating Kagan’s Human Testing Paradigm for Measuring Behavioral Inhibition four Use Infant Rhesus Macaques (Macaca Mulatta)—A Pilot Study 

School of Family Life 

1st Place— 

Students: Logan J. Marks and Heather H. Kelley 

Mentors: Loren D. Marks, David C. Dollahite, and Spencer James 

Poster: Change in Financial Stress and Relational Wellbeing during COVID-19: Exacerbating and Alleviating Influences 

2nd Place— 

Student: Annie Rushton 

Mentors: Erin Homes and Jeremy Yorgason 

Poster: What Did You Preconceive Before You Conceived 

3rd Place— 

Students: Danielle Cannon, Jessica Willis, and Elisabeth Kimball 

Mentors: Loren Marks and David Dollahite 

Poster: Strong Black Families: Unique Strengths and Challenges to Religious Black Families 

4th Place—    

Student: Corinne Archibald 

Mentor: Laura Walker 

Poster: Sexual Development: Influence of Peers and Media on Adolescent Sex Ethics and Behaviors when Parent Communication Quality is Low 

Sociology 

1st Place— 

Student: Emley Holcombe 

Mentor: Melissa S. Jones 

Poster: Early Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adolescent Substance Use: Boys vs Girls 

2nd Place— 

Student: Brianna Walker 

Mentor: Melissa S. Jones 

Poster: Police, Teen Cynicism & Gender 

3rd Place— 

Student: Michele Castro 

Mentor: Curtis Child 

Poster: Sisterhood is the Most Beautiful Gift: The Social Meaning of Direct Sales 

4th Place— 

Student: Ashley Kernan 

Mentors: Melissa S. Jones and Rick Miller 

Poster: Affects of Childhood Adversities on Women Prisoners Who Experience PTSD 

Graduate Awards 

Psychology 

1st Place— 

Student: Maddy Peterson 

Mentor: Jared Nielsen 

Poster: Extra-axial Cerebrospinal Fluid Volume Normalizes with Age in Autistic Individuals 

School of Family Life 

1st Place— 

Student: Rebecca Walker Clarke 

Mentors: Chelom Leavitt and Jeremy Yorgason 

Poster: Honoring Otherness: Religiosity and Marital Connection Through Empathy and Commitment 

2nd Place— 

Students: Alexandra Cooper and Matthew Daines 

Mentor: Jeremy Yorgason 

Poster: Too Fit to Quit: Relationship Benefits of Exercise in Early Marriage 

3rd Place— 

Student: Amber Price 

Mentor: Chelom E. Leavitt 

Poster: Self-silencing & Emotional Intimacy in Romantic Relationships 

Social Work  

1st Place— 

Student: Spencer Sandberg 

Mentors: Sherinah Saasa and Steve Hoffman 

Poster: Exclusion, Drugs, & African Immigrants: Testing Social Exclusion Theory 

2nd Place— 

Student: Abena Yirenya-Tawiah 

Mentors: Sherinah Saasa and Joseph Olsen 

Poster: Perceived Parental Involvement and Self-Efficacy among children in Zambia 

3rd Place— 

Student: Kirra Crump 

Mentors: Stacey Shaw and Mallory Funk 

Poster: Refugees and Religion: The Impact of Religious Coping on Emotional Distress and Resilience 

4th Place— 

Student: Tucker Wallace 

Mentor: Steve Hoffman 

Poster: I Think I Can: How Health Literacy Influences Self-Efficacy Among College Students 

Sociology 

1st Place— 

Students: Taylor Topham, Breanna Duffin, Hannah Dizon, Avanlee Peterson, Alex Rieder, and Jordan Coburn 

Mentor: Carol Ward 

Poster: Native Americans in STEM: A Case Study of Mentored Internships 

Neuroscience 

1st Place— 

Students: Hillary Wadsworth, Gavin C Jones, James Bates, Summer Arthur, Tanner McVey, Dallin Otteson, Shawna Ibarra, and Parker Layton 

Mentors: Jeremy Yorgason and Scott Steffensen 

Poster: Virus-Induced Inhibition of Mu Opioid Receptors and Anxiety in Mice 

Anthropology 

1st Place— 

Student: Jacob Jepsen 

Mentor: Michael Searcy 

Poster: Detecting Remnants of the Past: Archaeo-Geophysical Prospection at Wolf Village, Utah 

Additional Awards 

Redd Center 

1st Place— 

Student: Casey McClellan Geslison 

Mentor: Sam Otterstrom 

Poster: “To Hold the World Together”: A Uinta Basin Homesteading History, 1905–1930 

2nd Place— 

Students: Nadia Gisselle Terron Ayala, Catalina Valdez, and Rachel Weaver 

Mentor: Jane Lopez 

Poster: Shades of Belonging: The Intersection of Race and Religion in Shaping Utah Immigrants’ Integration 

Civic Engagement 

1st Place—Camilla Alarcon 

Mentor: Jay Goodliffe 

Poster: A Latent Class Analysis of Methods of Political Participation 

Gerontology 

1st Place— 

Student: Carver J. Coleman 

Mentor: C. Arden Pope III 

Poster: Greenness is Associated with Decreased Mortality Risk in Cancer Patients 

Diversity and Inclusion 

1st Place— 

Students: Nadia Gisselle Terron Ayala, Catalina Valdez, and Rachel Weaver 

Mentor: Jane Lopez 

Poster: Shades of Belonging: The Intersection of Race and Religion in Shaping Utah Immigrants’ Integration 

2nd Place— 

Students: Taylor Topham, Breanna Duffin, Hannah Dixon, Avanlee Peterson, Alex Rieder, and Jordan Coburn 

Mentor: Carol Ward 

Poster: Native Americans in STEM: A Case Study of Mentored Internships 

3rd Place— 

Student: Samuel Hale Pulsipher 

Mentor: Aaron Skabelund 

Poster: Himmler’s Persecution: His Mistreatment of Homosexuals in the Third Reich 

4th Place— 

Student: Ruth Kaloki Bryson 

Mentors: Anthony Bates and Ben Ogles 

Poster: BYU Students’ Experiences with the African American Civil Rights Seminar 

To view all posters, visit the conference page.   

Childhood adversity shapes adolescent delinquency, fatherhood

Written by Christine Allen of University Communications

Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo

About 61% of Americans have had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), experts’ formal term for a traumatic childhood event.

ACEs—which may include abuse, neglect and severe household dysfunction—often lead to psychological and social struggles that reach into adulthood, making ACEs a major public health challenge. But the long-term consequences of ACEs are just beginning to be understood in detail. To fill in the picture, two recent BYU studies analyzed how ACEs shape adolescents’ delinquent behaviors as well as fathers’ parenting approaches.

ACEs linked to girls’—but not boys’—delinquent behavior

Although the role of adversity in adolescent delinquency has long been examined in the field of criminology, only in the past decade have criminologists referred to these events as ACEs and seriously considered how early ACEs predict a person’s delinquency, according to BYU sociology professors Hayley Pierce and Melissa S. Jones.

In their study of that relationship, published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Pierce and Jones showed that ACEs do have a significant effect on teenagers’ criminal behavior—at least for girls. Girls who experienced four or more ACEs by age five, during the most sensitive period of brain development, were 36% more likely to participate in delinquent behavior. Boys’ delinquent behavior, on the other hand, appeared unrelated to early ACEs, although boys have an overall higher rate of delinquency.

“These results run counter to previous research suggesting that girls are far more likely than boys to internalize trauma through developing an eating disorder or other self-harming behaviors,” said Jones. “What we find here is the opposite: girls are externalizing trauma through delinquent acts.”

Pierce and Jones drew their data from the longitudinal Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study. The survey examined childhood adversity and adolescent behavior over a 15-year period for approximately 5,000 children, with a high proportion born to poor, single-parent or minority families in the U.S.

“Our analysis points toward the need for gendered strategies in working with children with ACEs because the different ways boys and girls are socialized shape how they process trauma,” Jones said.

The study should also promote compassion and understanding for adolescents who act out, the researchers emphasized.

“One of the most important things I teach in my juvenile delinquency class is that delinquency is a symptom of an underlying problem,” said Jones. “If an adolescent is getting arrested, there’s often something else going on in the child’s life, such as problems at home.”

“When adolescents engage in delinquency, it’s important first to ask, ‘Okay, what got you here?’ and work from that knowledge,” Pierce added.

ACEs predict less warmth, more harsh discipline in fathers

Even though ACEs may not be linked to teen boys’ delinquency, having ACEs earlier in life does apparently impact how men parent.

Most existing research on ACEs and parenting focuses on mothers and looks exclusively at abuse. Curious about ACEs’ effects on fathers and the wider range of ACEs that may influence more day-to-day aspects of parenting, BYU sociologist Kevin Shafer and Scott Easton of Boston College decided to examine parenting patterns in men with past ACEs.

In a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, they found that fathers who had experienced at least three ACEs were more likely to use harsh disciplinary techniques. Compared to the mothers with ACEs from previous studies, these men were also less likely to exhibit positive parenting characteristics, such as giving affection to their kids, providing care for young children and being emotionally supportive. The more ACEs a father had, the greater their effect on his parenting.

ACEs likely influence fathering partly because ACEs are associated with poor mental health, including depression, anxiety or anger management problems. Mental health challenges in turn influence how men parent their children.

“While on the face of it that sounds bad, it’s weirdly also a good thing because even though ACEs happened in the past and can’t be changed, you can get treatment for mental health issues in the present,” said Shafer. “When men get that help, they can blunt the impact of their ACEs on how they parent their kids, and that improves their kids’ outcomes. So their own childhood isn’t destiny.”

The study analyzed data from the 2015–16 U.S. Survey of Contemporary Fatherhood, which queried over 2,000 fathers about their adverse childhood experiences, degree of psychological distress and parenting habits.

The connection between ACEs and negative fathering techniques is especially indicative of the “untreated trauma” suffered by many men, which Shafer believes is “one of the biggest public health issues we have.”

“When men get that help, they can blunt the impact of their ACEs on how they parent their kids, and that improves their kids’ outcomes. So their own childhood isn’t destiny.”

Kevin Shafer, BYU Professor of Sociology

“We have a lot of individuals walking around with ACEs going untreated, and our study shows that has a wide-ranging impact on people in their lives,” said Shafer. A big part of the solution would be a “comprehensive public mental health strategy” for fathers, which may include better incorporating fathers into the childbirth experience and early pediatric care, as well as regularly screening fathers for mental health, he concluded.

Media Contact: Tyler Stahle