Brain Scans Illuminate Potential Reasons Some Adolescents Are More Susceptible to Obesity

Kelsey Zaugg, PhD student in the BYU Clinical Psychology Program

According to the CDC, 1 in 5 children are affected by obesity in the United States today. 

Kelsey Zaugg, PhD student in the BYU Clinical Psychology Program, has committed her research to ensure that children are psychologically, physically and spiritually healthy.

Zaugg’s research involves MRI data and neuroimaging of the brain. She studies how the rewarding impact of food is related to obesity in children. Her goal is to see if there is an association between weight and brain structures involved in reward processing. 

By looking at parts of the brain associated with how we process rewards, Zaugg has been able to discover that these brain structures are different in their literal shape for adolescents with higher body mass indexes. Zaugg says, “This finding helps to illuminate a potential reason why some adolescents might be more susceptible to obesity than their peers.”

Her findings are currently in the process of being submitted for potential publication.

According to Zaugg, there are many factors that play into childhood obesity including brain anatomy. She said, “It is so much more than the societal stigma that a person is simply being lazy.”

Upon completing her PhD, Zaugg plans to work in an academic medical center alongside pediatric psychologists in a children’s hospital. She says, “I want to be a part of an integrated care model and work with physicians and psychiatrists to give kids the comprehensive care they need.”

Zaugg expresses her gratitude for the role she has played in helping children: ”In life, we will not be able to remove all challenges children may face, but we can do our part to limit some of the vulnerabilities of children so they can face challenges with a strong foundation.”

Learn more about BYU’s Clinical Psychology PhD Program here.

Family Life in a Pandemic

Findings presented by

How has a devastating pandemic, social unrest, and political turmoil affected American families? Though most might assume family life has become more stressful, strained, and shaky in recent months, the 2020 American Family Survey results showed despite “pockets of trouble” in family life, there is still strong evidence of “resilience in the face of adversity”. Despite societal tumult, the state of the American family seems to be better than we might have expected.

Principal Investigators Christopher F. Karpowitz & Jeremy C. Pope and Co-Directors of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at BYU, designed the 2020 American Family Survey, an annual nationwide poll with 3,000 respondents, to test how families are faring under unprecedented conditions.

The survey was administered between July 3-14, at the height of racial, social, and political unrest, and these are five of the most interesting findings as identified by the Deseret News.

Finding #1: The pandemic is making families stronger.

56% of respondents say the pandemic helped them appreciate their partner and 43% evaluated their own marriages as getting stronger. Nearly a majority, 47% of respondents agreed with the statement that, “the pandemic has deepened my commitment to my relationship.” During the 2020 American Family Survey webcast from the Brookings Institution, Principal Investigator Karpowitz concluded, “We do see resilience in relationships.” In a time of worldly upheaval, some think couples would struggle, but surprisingly 62% of respondents disagreed that the pandemic had made them question the strength of their relationship.

Finding #2: Since the pandemic started, men are more likely to say they struggle balancing work and home life.

With many men and women now working from home, work and home life is all managed under the same roof. 40% of men versus 31% of women say the balance is a struggle.

Finding #3: The role of a parent has become more important

80% of parents say their role as a parent is important to their identity, up from 71% in 2018. Karpowitz said, “We are living in a unique moment, a moment that is priming those identities, a politicized moment. But it’s also a moment where people are especially cognizant of their family relationships.” Panelist and Senior Fellow of Economic and Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution Camille Busette discussed how parenting has increased in importance for respondents, and how greater percentages of Blacks, Latinos and Whites reported that their role as parents is important to their identity than in previous years. Busette discussed how this increase could be attributed to the fact that many parents took on the additional role as educators and invested personally in their children’s education during the pandemic.

Finding #4: Men think they’re carrying their weight around the house.

With many men and women staying home, men say they’re dividing tasks 50-50, but women disagree. Women say it’s more like 65-35.

Finding #5: More extended families are moving in together.

There was a significant increase in percent of families living with extended family. 25% of respondents live with extended family, up from 20% last year.

These findings show the resilient nature of American families, but there is also a relationship between respondents who reported lost income and increased stress in marriage. 24% of those who reported no lost income during the pandemic also reported an increase of stress in marriage as compared to 34% of those who reported lost income of a spouse or partner. Dr. Pope discussed the negative effects of the pandemic on the family: “This highlights that most people are resilient but there are pockets of people who are experiencing trouble and it’s worth us paying attention to.”

Panelist and Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings Institution Richard Reeves shared his thoughts about the importance of relationships within American families during the pandemic, “The survey shows the need for, and a hunger for a good relational quality of life…I do think that the things that people associate with marriage and family are being more valued, [and] that’s true with extended families coming together [and] people having to spend more time with their children.”

Busette proposed future implications of the survey results, “The picture that’s clear here is that families are very resilient, particularly during COVID. And I think the fact that they have been so focused on their families means that there is an interesting foundation upon which to pursue pro-family policies in the next few years.”

Reeves concluded that the survey shows that “if there’s a piece of hope, maybe it’s that we have a broader recognition of how much our relationships matter.”

Topline reports and data sets are available for download from BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.

Watch the Brookings Institution presentation of the results and expert panel.

See more findings at

Military Service and Male Veterans’ Civic Engagement

Sven Wilson portrait Photography by Alyssa Lyman/BYU

How does military service affect male veterans’ civic participation?

BYU professor & chair of the Department of Political Science, Sven Wilson recently published a paper in the journal Armed Forces & Society showing that military service has historically predicted greater civic involvement later in life.

Wilson and coauthor William Ruger of the Charles Koch Institute published “Military Service, Combat Experience, and Civic Participation,” which examines the relationship between military service, combat experience, and civic engagement. The researchers stated the goal of their study: “We wanted to see whether veterans, especially those with combat experience, are more or less active in their communities.”

Wilson and Ruger looked at data from the National Survey of Families and Households from 1987–88 and found that veterans are more engaged civically than other men across all the major wars of the 20th century.

The researchers analyzed responses from 2,185 men aged 30–69 who were divided into three groups: nonveterans, noncombat veterans, and combat veterans. The respondents indicated their civic participation from a list of 15 kinds of organizations.

Using data from the national survey, the researchers found that the likelihood and intensity of group participation is higher among veterans than other men and that combat veterans have the highest level of participation. Wilson and Ruger found that combat veterans were just as likely to participate as noncombat veterans in service, youth and sports groups.

Christie Allen for BYU news reported that, “According to survey data, male veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were significantly more likely than male nonveterans to join civic groups. They also on average joined 21% more groups and had a 19% higher rate of participation than nonveterans, even when researchers controlled for veterans’ increased educational opportunities, which are known to boost civic activity.”

Read the full article by Christie Allen on BYU news.

2020 American Family Survey Results To Be Released September 22nd

Are marriages more or less healthy because of the pandemic? How frequently have families protested and discussed Black Lives Matter? Are Americans satisfied with local, state and federal responses to the pandemic?

These are several questions taken from the 2020 American Family Survey, an annual nationwide poll with 3,000 respondents.  The study examines current trends in American family life and identifies how those trends relate to cultural and political issues.

The American Family Survey is designed by the Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University and conducted by YouGov.

The 2020 survey will examine several topics including the presidential election, pandemic, and racial unrest and their affects on the family.

Now in its sixth year, the results of this year’s study will be released on Tuesday, September 22 at 11 a.m. EDT. The Brookings Institution will stream the event and, following the presentation of the results, an expert panel will respond to issues raised in the survey. The panel will take audience questions after the discussion.

Click here to register for the webinar.

Viewers can submit questions via email to or via Twitter using #FamilySurvey.

Learn more about this year’s survey results in the Deseret News video “90% of Americans don’t want their kids to be politicians”

Global Women’s Studies Releases Fall Colloquium Schedule

Take a look at the fall GWS 392R lecture lineup! The Global Women’s Studies Colloquium lectures present research findings on topics relating to women’s lives and experiences throughout history, across the world, and within ethnic, educational, and economic segments of society. Students can earn 1 credit hour each fall and winter semester by enrolling in GWS 392R. All members of the university community are welcome to attend lectures via Zoom.  

Click here on lecture days at noon to join Colloquium Lectures in which you are interested.

For students in the class click here to add each class to your iCal or Google calendar.

More Than a Theater: How The Olivos Family Created a Safe Place for Mexican Americans

The Yost Theater (El Cine Yost) circa the late 1960s. (Photograph courtesy of the Olivos family)

When we think of movie theaters today, we think of buttery popcorn, comfy seats, and the newest Marvel movie. But in the early-to-mid 1900s, El Cine Yost, one of the first Spanish-language movie theaters in Orange County, California, was more than a place of entertainment for the Latino population in southern California. It was also a safe place for Mexican Americans to feel proud of their ethnic heritage. During the early-to-mid-twentieth century when schools, neighborhoods, and parks were segregated throughout Orange County, Latinos could enter the theater and feel a sense of community.

Dr. David- James Gonzales, Assistant Professor of History at BYU, researched the theater for his article “El Cine Yost and the Power of Place for Mexican Migrants in Orange County, California, 1930–1990,” which will appear in the Journal of American Ethnic History in July 2020. He interviewed several members of the community, including members of the Olivos family, who were responsible for bringing Spanish-language cinema to Orange County, to learn more about how the theater impacted their lives and provided a safe place during a time of intense racial discrimination.

Gonzales reflected on his research, sharing the insight that we need to create safe places in our communities today for people of all ethnicities to feel accepted. These spaces may not always be physical like El Cine Yost, but we can do this as we focus on understanding the lived experiences of others. “We can ask them about their culture, set aside our limited understanding, and listen,” Gonzales said. He encourages us to talk to people of different backgrounds and “have them to teach us their story.”

Louis and Phoebe Olivos circa 1945 shortly after Louis returned from serving as a B-17 gunner in World War II.

That’s exactly what Gonzales did when he met with the son of Louis Sr. and Phoebe Olivos, the couple who ran the famous El Cine Yost from 1952 to 1985, as well as two other theaters, The Princes and State, from 1939 to the early 1990s.

Louis Olivos, Jr. revealed that his father could frequently be found at the movie theaters in Santa Ana during his youth. Even though he was forced to sit in segregated sections because “Mexicans” were not allowed to sit alongside whites, this did not diminish his passion for cinema.

Louis Olivos Sr. was a frequent patron of the Princess Theater in the 1930s. He noticed ushers assigned to the “Mexican” section seemed afraid to go up to the balcony. Louis approached the manager suggesting he supervise the balcony section and was soon hired as an usher. Later on, Louis was able to convince the owner, to screen Spanish-language films weekly, which kept the struggling theater in business. Because of the great success of Spanish films, Louis was eventually promoted to manager and soon after took over the lease. When Louis left to serve in the army during World War II, his wife Phoebe was left to manage the theater. After returning home from the war, Louis leased the Princess and State theaters and later purchased the historic Yost Theater, his childhood dream.

Legendary actor Mario Almada (considered the Clint Eastwood of Mexican cinema) signs autographs for adoring fans at el cine.

 “El Cine Yost and the Olivos family brought ethnic Mexicans together physically and culturally, helping them to build bonds of ethnic solidarity despite differences in citizenship, class, and nationality,” said Gonzales. Mexican Americans would come from all over Orange County to meet and socialize. By screening Spanish-language films, Louis brought Mexico’s top actors and recording artists to Santa Ana. He provided audiences with a positive image of Mexican history, people, and culture.

A packed house at El Cine Yost. Louis Olivos, Jr., estimated that the Yost averaged one thousand patrons each weekend. (Photographs courtesy of the Olivos family)

Louis’s journey from patron to owner was a great inspiration to members of his community where his family became model citizens as they achieved their American dream. They treated all patrons as if they were family. Sadly, after thirty-three years of owning and operating El Cine Yost, the Olivos family was forced to sell their theater to the city of Santa Ana in 1985.

Gonzales said, “El Cine Yost provided a physical gathering place for people all over the community, where they could build relationships, they could meet people, and enjoy film together.”

Gonzales shared the many opportunities to learn about ethnic Mexican history at BYU, including the Latino Civil Rights Seminar. Dean Benjamin Ogles and a team of BYU professors in The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences proposed the seminar in the summer of 2018. Last fall, Professor Gonzales and Professor Bryant Jensen led the first seminar with BYU students, traveling to Texas to meet with civil rights leaders and activists, including the mother of Julian Castro. Professor Gonzales and Professor Jane Lopez plan to lead the seminar in fall 2020 and hope to visit important Mexican American and Latino historical sites in Southern California, but the trip may be postponed due to COVID-19.

There are several courses available at BYU to learn more about Latino civil rights. Gonzales said, “Dr. Jane Lopez teaches the Sociology of Immigration, Dr. Jacob Rugh teaches Sociology of Race & Ethnicity, and Latinos in the United States, which has been taught by Dr. Ignacio Garcia over the past two decades, will be taught by myself in winter 2021.”

Gonzales is also the faculty advisor for “Hispanos Unidos” an official club for both BYU students of Hispanic/Latin origin and anyone who desires to learn and celebrate Hispanic/Latino culture. The club’s goal is to “create a safe space to express our Latinidad and provide students with resources to feel included and involved inside of BYU.”

Whether through establishing a theater, supporting a club, taking a class, or listening respectively to the lived experience others, creating safe places in our communities for people of all ethnicities to feel accepted is important and worthwhile.

Who Suffered More? Comparing the Effects of the 1918 Spanish Flu to the COVID-19 Pandemic

BYU Students were required to wear hygienic masks as they gathered in assembly in College Hall to protect against the Spanish Flu, ca. 1918. Photo courtesy L. Tom Perry Special Collections, UAP 2 F-092]

Looking back over 100 years ago, BYU students faced many of the same challenges you are facing today. Closed campus, social distancing, canceled events, although these times seem unprecedented, this isn’t the first time BYU students have suffered the effects of a worldwide pandemic.

BYU History Department Chair, Brian Cannon compared the effects of the 1918 Flu pandemic to the current COVID-19 pandemic on today’s BYU students. He said, “I think in terms of students being cut-off from one another the potential for isolation was greater in 1918.”

When campus closed its doors in the middle of the fall semester in 1918 to comply with state health mandates and to stop the spreading of the Spanish Flu, classes abruptly stopped.

The university did not open its doors again until after winter break in January of 1919. Upon returning, the students were forced to wear masks on the street and in public buildings. There was even a student death because of the flu during the pandemic; Gerald Beck was a senior and passed away before he could graduate that spring.

The effects of the 1918 pandemic were worse in some respects, and better in others when compared to today’s challenges. Cannon explained, “I think that the effects of the 1918 flu pandemic were more severe in the sense that there were deaths in the student body.”

In 1918, little was known about the flu virus. Small preventive measures were taken at BYU to stop the spread which included, girls being asked to “dress more warmly that windows might be thrown wide open, insuring full and thorough ventilation of all rooms.” (White and Blue, October 16, 1918).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that one-third of the world’s population became infected with the flu virus. BYU students in 1918 not only faced a great risk of death but they were also instantly cut-off from each other and classes without access to virtual communication. Students’ only form of instant communication was telephones, “Although they existed very few people had them” said Cannon.

On March 12, 2020, when BYU announced the closing of campus for classes there were resources available to continue online instruction, “It’s allowed classed to continue, not under optimal conditions but still it allows us to engage in the dissemination of information” said Cannon. Online platforms like Zoom allow students to continue to engage and interact with teachers and classmates.

However, the constant access to information can be a disadvantage for BYU students of today. Cannon said, “We’re so connected to what’s going on across the world that it can heighten our sense of distress. 100 years ago, if you left Provo, and went home to the farm, you didn’t have instant knowledge of what was going on as a pandemic was unfolding.” The access to news and systems tracking every new virus case causes us to “feel the effect of people suffering across the nation and world in real-time” said Cannon.

Comparing the effects of both pandemics there are great risks for students’ mental and physical health. Pandemics are never easy, but BYU students can focus on the fact that classes have been able to continue and interactions with one another are only a few clicks away. Students can find peace in the fact that our nation has overcome pandemics in the past, and with increased knowledge and technology our nation and university will do it again.

Want to learn more about the worldwide pandemic of 1918? Check out “Lessons from 1918” By Michael R. Walker

FHSS Valedictorians: Paige Park, Sociology

Paige Park

Graduate Paige Park was named valedictorian for the Department of Sociology.

She grew up moving around the country with her family for her dad’s job. Though she enjoyed all of the places she lived, Paige claims Columbus, Georgia, where she went to high school, as home. The racial injustice apparent in her Columbus community prompted Paige to study sociology at BYU, where she hoped she would learn how to eradicate systemic inequality. Almost immediately after choosing sociology, Paige became involved in research and internships with professors who have continuously instructed and inspired her throughout her time at BYU.

Paige has worked on projects related to community well-being, education access, and rural health care. Currently, she is working on a project related to paid family leave that she plans to turn into her master’s thesis at BYU next year. After completing the BYU master’s program, Paige plans to attend law school to become a public interest lawyer. She would like to thank her family, friends, and BYU mentors for their continued encouragement and support. 

FHSS Valedictorians: Pamela Love, School of Family Life

Pamela Love

Graduate Pamela Love was named valedictorian for the School of Family Life. She is the daughter of Ross and Jolene Davidson.

At age 10, she set a goal to attend BYU on scholarship. Her father mentored her until she accomplished her goal. After studying elementary education for a few years, she decided to continue her education at home when she married Kevin Love in 1993.  She devoted the next twenty-five years to her family and she and Kevin now have six children: McKaila, Hunter, Emily, Weston, Elisabeth, and Abigail. When Kevin’s health prevented him from working, she returned to BYU to finish her childhood dream.

She looks forward to using her undergraduate education as a foundation as she enters the Master of Social Work program at BYU in the fall. She would like to thank BYU, her professors and mentors, and especially God, her parents, husband, and children for their support, guidance, and encouragement. 

FHSS Valedictorians: Camille Carter Tuttle, Psychology

Camille Carter Tuttle

Graduate Camille Carter Tuttle received valedictorian honors from the Department of Psychology. She is the daughter of Eric and Allison Carter and the fifth of seven siblings.

The activities she enjoys most are playing with her family, spending time outside, reading excellent books, and swimming. During her undergraduate studies and mission to Mexico, she was repeatedly drawn to the complex nature of cognition and the human experience. She is double-major in psychology and human development. Throughout her BYU education, she participated in the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Student Outreach Council as well as Dr. Birmingham’s Health and Behavior Lab as a research assistant.

She began a master’s program in counseling psychology in January and looks forward to the day when she can open her own private practice for mental health counseling. She attributes her success at BYU to the support of her incredible husband, Lawrence, her wise professors, ambitious classmates, and to God for all He encouraged and helped her to accomplish.