What Young Adults Think Influences When They Transition to Adulthood


Graduating from college is still one of the most visible markers of the transition to adulthood, but it’s not the only one. Brian J. Willoughby, a professor in our School of Family Life, co-authored a study that revealed that a young adult’s approach to marriage and family could impact when, if at all, specific adult roles are realized.

The study, published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues, recognizes that marriage can be, of course, another major indicator of adulthood. Ashley Wade Puriri, a recently-graduated FHSS alum, accomplished both benchmarks in less than two years. She met her husband playing soccer when mutual friends invited them to a game. They’ve been married for almost 18 months and moved to New Zealand after Ashley’s graduation from Brigham Young University last week.

She says: “being married has re-shaped my goals and approach to career and family,” Puriri says. “It introduced possibilities that I did not think about before I was married.” Like her, many others in similar circumstances find themselves re-assessing their priorities upon marriage.


As such, the purpose of the study was to “investigate the relative prioritizing of anticipated career and family roles among young adults in the context of other behaviors and attitudes related to the transition to adulthood.” Not surprisingly, they found that:

“ways of viewing adult roles correspond to…attitudes and behaviors related to those roles that reflect subjective meanings pertaining to the roles. Furthermore, the attitudes and behaviors potentially influence the likelihood of the adult roles being realized. As a sample of single, young adults, it is expected that the participants were developmentally preoccupied with establishing their social, adult identities (Arnett2000); and as (mostly white) college students they likely believed their current circumstances afforded them numerous career and relationship options (Arnett 2004).”

Young adults reassess their roles and the order of importance they give them as their worldviews and circumstances expand to include other people. Puriri says her transition to adulthood evolved with her marriage and affects, in a positive way, her career decisions.

“Everything now is focused on both of our successes and personal happiness,” Puriri says. “A big part of our marriage is supporting each other in our respective goals.”


Five Ways to Keep Cognition Strong Later In Life


“When we talk about cognitive aging, we focus on the decline part but late life is a time of gains and losses,” Marsiske said at the 26th annual Russell B. Clark Gerontology Conference. “We have areas of functioning that decline and we have areas that function and stay strong. There are losses but benefits of experience. For example, vocabulary skills grow.”


As an individual ages, their cognitive functions deteriorate. Symptoms of this deterioration include memory loss, trouble planning or problem solving, and social withdrawal.  Brain diseases like Alzheimers have similar patterns of dementia.  Dr. Marsiske spoke about “an arsenal” to combat the consequences of the aging process, specific solutions to keep cognition strong later in life:

1. Continue your education: learn to play the piano, or take an independent study class.

2. Play video games: His research demonstrates that older adults experience “flow,” an optimal psychological state said to occur when people are able to meet the challenges of a given task or activity with appropriate skills and accordingly feel a sense of well-being, mastery, and heightened self-esteem, by playing video games. Higher levels of engagement are experienced with games that provide clear goals and immediate feedback to players.

3.  Spot train your brain: seek to understand your daily medication dosing patterns or use a bus schedule to plan a trip.

4. Combat negative moods: be familiar with the symptoms of depression or anxiety, identify when you are experiencing them, and keep handy those things that make you happy.

5. Engage: participate in life, as opposed to just “being on a rocking chair.” See what opportunities your local senior, recreation, or community center offer.

Dementia is a fear for many people all over the world. Research shows that there is an increase in dementia internationally with advancing age. Marsiske says that even though the majority of people will not experience dementia, rates continue to grow. One of the things that causes cognitive aging, he says, is disuse.

Dr. Michael Marsiske is Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida. He received his PhD from the Pennsylvania State University in 1992 in Human Development and Family Studies. He followed this with a postdoctoral felllowship in Psychology and Human Development at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin from 1992 to 1995. Prior to joining the University of Florida in 2000, Dr. Marsiske was an Assistant Professor of Gerontology and Psychology at Wayne State University.


Easter and BYU’s Civil Rights Seminar

Though Easter has just passed, the thoughts of many still turn to the significance of Jesus of Nazareth’s triumphant rise from the grave and the consequences of His resurrection. On the minds of several students who just returned from a college-sponsored seminar to the American southeast, also, is the state of civil rights in America, and a hope for justice.

Thanks to the generosity of donors Mary Lou and Ira Fulton, BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences sponsors an annual Civil Rights seminar so that students can:

  • familiarize themselves with the major figures, events, and locations of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, with a particular focus on the 1950s and 60s.
  • prepare for and provide students with a civil rights tour, where they will visit historical sites related to the movement in Georgia and Alabama.
  • provide students with the opportunity to develop character as described in the BYU Aims:

The development of character is so important that BYU “has no justification for its existence unless it builds character, creates and develops faith, and makes men and women of strength and courage, fortitude and service–men and women who will become stalwarts in the Kingdom and bear witness of the…divinity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not justified on an academic basis only.” Rather, it fulfills its promise when “the morality of the graduates of this University provide[s] the music of hope for the inhabitants of this planet.”

Beyond this, BYU aims not merely to teach students a code of ethics but to help them become partakers of the divine nature. It aspires to develop in its students character traits that flow from the long-term application of gospel teachings to their lives. This process begins with understanding humankind’s eternal nature and ends with the blessing of eternal life,w hen human character reflects in fully flowered form the attributes of godliness.

The four-day trip occurred during the second week of March 2016; it was the culmination of a semester-long class focused on black history in America. During the Civil Rights Movement, blacks faced concerted, illegal, and unprecedented measures to deny them basic human and civil rights. Old and young blacks had to mine fields wired with obstacles, some that would cost them their lives, in order to get justice. Blacks and whites were murdered for pushing for or supporting the struggle to end segregation and Jim Crow era laws that were rampant in the South and disguised in other parts of America.

BYU seminar students participated in the annual “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Alabama that honors the time when activists marched under threat from Selma to Montgomery to advocate for voting rights.


Says Professor Jonathan Sandberg, who led last year’s trip, of the seminar:

This immersion experience includes a three credit class and a six-day trip to Alabama and Georgia, where we visited major civil rights sites and even attended Sunday services at a traditional black Baptist church.  During the trip, we learned about the deep spirituality and courage of the men, women, and children who peacefully strove to bring about equality and stability to our country.  The trip is particularly impactful for our students of color at BYU who have often lived a life cut off from the beauty and spirituality of their own people.


Perhaps the best part of the experience is when the students come back to BYU and make public presentations where they share with others what they have learned.  I have been touched over the years as students have taught the therapists in the counseling center, the academic counselors, religion department faculty, and other educators and students on campus.  This trip is changing many lives.

Justice Served

Although U.S. Supreme Court decisions have been rendered to correct awful abuses and evil practices from America’s segregationist past, injustices still abound.  At this time of year, and always, there is the comfort that an eternal perspective supplies. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a lawyer by trade, said:

“To establish and preserve the law is a great good, but the greatest good we can do in helping others become what they can become will be to lead them to the Savior. Only His Atonement has the power to overcome all weakness and imperfection and to make right all injustice. Only He can convert offense and injury into blessings; only He can bring life again to a life unjustly cut short; only He can return a perfect body for one diseased or malformed; only He can reinstate beloved associations lost and make them permanent; only He can make right the suffering entailed upon the innocent by ignorance and oppression; only He can erase the impact of sin on one who is wronged; only He can remove the stain and effect of sin in the sinner; only He can eliminate sorrow and wipe away all tears; only He can provide immortality; only His grace can compensate for our inadequacy and justify us before that law that enables us to become joint heirs of eternal life life with Him. Of the glorious reality of the living Christ, I bear my witness.”


Memorial of four young black girls who died after a planted bomb at their church exploded in 1963 (Montgomery, Alabama).


The Golden Rule for Better Government: Treat Women Better

Many Americans believe that in their lifetime they will live to see a female commander-in-chief. It’s possible that one will be elected in the 2016 presidential elections. The fact remains, however, that most populations around the world have not witnessed a powerful female head of state. Most citizens arguably want the same thing: a government that works for them. New research from the political science department shows that gender roles significantly matter. It also shows how gender-based treatment makes a difference.

treat women well


An August 2015 study published in the American Political Science Review by Donna Lee Bowen and Perpetua Lynne Nielsen showed a distinct correlation between poor government and poor treatment of women. The professors explored the “micro-level processes that link clan predominance with dysfunctional syndromes of state behavior. Clans typically…are characterized by extreme subordination of women effected through marriage practices.”  In addition, the researchers noted that “particular types of marriage practices give rise to particular types of political orders and may be fiercely guarded for just this reason.”

Professors Bowen and Nielsen’s research demonstrates that the stability of governments is tied to the autonomy of women in marital unions. Their study, titled Clan Governance and State Stability: The Relationship Between Female Subordination and Political Order, concludes that the existence of powerful clans tend to undermine the possibility of a functional, capable state.

“Clan governance is a useful predictor of indicators of state stability and security, and we probe the value added by its inclusion with other conventional explanatory variables often linked to state stability and security,” according to the researchers’ abstract report.

The study also found that one can predict the effectiveness of government based on the extent of oppression women experienced in marriage. “These findings suggest it may be difficult to construct a more egalitarian—or more secure—society where households are profoundly inegalitarian between the sexes,” state the authors.  “We [can] elicit much through the lens of gender, not just about women as such, but about attitudes towards civic tolerance and governance more broadly”

What does this suggest, then, for governments looking to improve their strength and cohesion? More than the dissolution of the power of agnatic, or male-only, lineages, or the promotion of literacy and education, the provision of free health care, an emphasis on industrial production or on a more equitable distribution of wealth, the improvement of the situation of women as a whole in marriage relationships is what is most likely to improve governmental quality.

The study has received worldwide attention on Twitter. You can read more about their results in the American Political Science Review.

Beyond A Career: College Degree Helps Motherhood


Educational levels for women in America are the highest they have ever been. Women with infant children are now the most educated than any of their predecessors. In fact, the Pew Center reports that “on average, a mother with more education is more likely to deliver a baby at term and more likely to have a baby with a healthy birth weight.”

Renata Forste, professor of sociology at Brigham Young University, says that a college degree helps a woman in both her career and her parenting. Research shows that kids who have a college-educated mother do better than kids who do not. “I don’t think people think about the fact their college education is critical and will help them be a better parent, a better mother. They only think of it in terms of, well if I need it I can get a better job,” Forste says.

Maternal education matters.

Callie Smith, who graduated from a Utah university and used to play tennis for BYU, welcomed a baby girl to her family late last year. She says the education from her degree in Exercise Sport and a minor in Nutrition helps her physically, emotionally, and mentally. “It’s helped me deal with the stress and no sleep because I am used to it from studying all the time,” Smith says. She says the study skills she gained from a college education and knowing how to research makes a difference. “I solve problems all the time as a mom and I research stuff like different ways to nurse and how to help a baby relieve gas. I learned that baby acne is normal.”

Although breastfeeding practices proved difficult for Smith when her daughter was born in December, she has stuck with it and plans to for awhile.

Forste co-authored a study with fellow professor of sociology Benjamin Gibbs in the “Journal of Pediatrics” titled, “Breastfeeding, Parenting and Cognitive Development” which reports that “there is a positive relationship between breastfeeding for at least 3 months and child rearing skills, but this link is the result of cognitively supportive parenting behaviors and greater levels of education among women who predominately breastfeed.”

The researchers also said that they “found little-to-no relationship between infant feeding practices and the cognitive development of children with less-educated mothers. Instead, reading to a child every day and being sensitive to a child’s development were significant predictors of math and reading readiness outcomes.”

From her background in nutrition, Smith says she is super aware of what she eats and knows that keeping a healthy immune system is important for her baby’s own health. As a new mom, Smith says she talks to Kamber and that it feels natural for her. “I let her know that I love her. She mimics me when I talk to her and I feel that on some level she understands.”

At the end of the day, Smith agrees that one thing motherhood and college have in common is being a challenge. “I had to challenge myself as a college student and that is what I do everyday as a mom.”


Photos courtesy of Callie Smith. 

The First Fifty Years of Relief Society


Since the leadership of Emma Smith as president of the Relief Society in 1842, the philanthropic organization has come a long way. The organization is now led by its sixteenth president, Linda K. Burton, and continues to spread its influence across the four corners of the globe. But what about the first half-century of its existence? What can individuals learn from the first five decades of its growth and impact?

Reflief Society WHM 2016

Women’s History specialist Kate Holbrook is the co-editor of “The First Fifty Years of Relief Society” and will present this book and answer questions at a lecture event sponsored by the Women’s Studies Program at Brigham Young University. Holbrook works for the LDS Church History department and is an author for the Religious Studies Center at BYU.


Thursday, Mar 17

Book Lecture & Reception: The First Fifty Years of Relief Society Years

11 AM, B192 JFSB

The Women’s Studies program at BYU, a joint program in the College of Humanities and the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, is an interdisciplinary forum for the study of women’s past and present position in global society. A minor in women’s studies can unlock a variety of doors: to graduate study, or to numerous arenas of work and social-change leadership where specialized knowledge on women is an asset.


Remarkable Women Scholars in BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Lambert Kristin 2015
All Rights Reserved.

Professor Kristin Lambert from the School of Social Work is among a cadre of female faculty members in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences whose work and teaching has scattered them across continents. As part of the month that celebrates the contributions of women trailblazers, one needs to look no further than a group of PhD-toting and Master-holding scholars.

As a social worker, Lambert once worked with a client from Somalia who was a survivor of torture. “She had been beaten so badly that it had broken most of her teeth and when she had arrived here her teeth were rotting and causing a lot of pain,” Lambert recalls. She helped organize her dental care and, because she was a refugee, she had Medicaid, which would pay to pull out her teeth, but not for dentures. “She was going to be 45 and without teeth and I was overwhelmed and looked at her and said: What are you going to do without your teeth? She looked at me and said ‘Oh Kris, I’ll just drink a lot of milkshakes.'”

Lambert says the exchange is “something I will always carry with me as a reminder of the woman’s ability to use humor in that very difficult circumstance.”

Getting the Degree

To be sure, most scholars are not born overnight. Just ask professor of history Leslie Hadfield. After completing a bachelor’s degree in history and a study-abroad program in South Africa, she sought an opportunity that would provide her with both additional  education and the opportunity to remain engaged with African issues. Initially, she planned on attending a master’s program while getting linguistic training in Swahili so she could land a job with the government.  But, after spending two years to finish her master’s degree, Hadfield was at a crossroads.

“At the end of my Masters’ I had also applied for PhD programs, [but then] I actually hadfielddecided I didn’t want to do a Phd. I was tired of school. And then I got into these two programs,” Hadfield says. One of them was at Michigan State, where she ultimately chose to go because of its superior program. After her first year she was confident that this was right for her.

“The first year went pretty quickly. Dean Ben Ogles…had said to me once: “If it’s what you need to do, to do what you want to do, then put in the time. What is a few years to get where you want to be?” I think somebody said that to him when he was working on his PhD. “Why let those few years, put you away from something you want to do?”

Climbing the Ranks

Hadfield is a part of a steady but growing number of women scholars at BYU. “I feel very grateful for the women who came before me here and at other places of academia. Since I came, we definitely hired more women in our history department, but there had already been a cohort here before,” Hadfield explains. “There were two women who retired recently and they had been here for a while. I think they fought some battles that made it a lot easier for me as a professor to be here…as a woman.”

Carter, Karen
All Rights Reserved

Her fellow colleague and historian, Karen Carter, says that when she was a Master’s student at BYU, there were probably two or three female faculty members. Now, they have eight members. She says she would not have gone on to acquire a PhD without some encouragement. “It was really the encouragement of my male professors who wanted more diversity on the faculty,” Carter says. “They wanted more female colleagues because that’s the way the field is going. There are many more women involved in academia and there just wasn’t any here at BYU.”

Lambert says that Dr. Jini Roby from the School of Social Work inspired her to become a social worker during her undergraduate experience at BYU. Social work is a field started by women. Historically, it yields a high percentage of women. The first social workers were women.

“Social work in general has a history of strong capable women who use their skills and talents to help.  A social worker could be a therapist, community organizer, or policy worker. Social work differs from a college such as marriage and family therapy because we help on all levels not only just with the individual and the family but the communities and neighborhoods, legal policy and how that all influences an individual’s ability to achieve their potential.”- Kristin Lambert

Role Models

Professor of Sociology Renata Forste says she also benefited from good mentors and that she finds the greatest joyimg through mentoring students. She is part of the Women’s Studies program at BYU which offers students a minor.  Someone she admires and teaches about in an introductory course is a woman named Leymah Gbowee from Liberia who won the 2011 Nobel Peace prize.  She organized a peace movement and organized women to end the Liberian Civil War. They did so in a nonviolent way. “I am so impressed with women when they organize and pool together–they can literally end a war. They can change society for the better,” Forste says.



Late-Life Health & Brain Training:New Information

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

-Abraham Lincoln

BYU’s Gerontology Program is holding its annual Russell B. Clark Gerontology Conference on March 16 and March 17.  The program offers presentations from leaders in the field and additional speakers from across the United States.

Michael Marsiske, PhD, an Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Research in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida will talk about how computers, treadmills, and video games are the new “arsenal” for late-life brain training. His presentation will be very worthwhile for all disciplines!

The event will also include:

  • Jonathan Wisco, PhD, an Associate Professor and Director of the Laboratory for Translational Anatomy of Degenerative Disease and Developmental Disorders, College of Life Sciences, Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology, and Neuroscience Center at Brigham Young University, and
  • Laura Bridgewater, PhD, an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology at Brigham Young University.

Dr. Marsiske will deliver the keynote address on Wednesday evening and Doctors Wisco’s and Bridgewater’s presentations will be deliver Thursday March 17th at 11 a.m.. Event sponsors says the event is for those with any interest in gerontology, or who take care of a senior citizen. All are welcome to attend the event.

The Gerontology program offers both a minor and a certificate qualifying graduates to work with the elderly in many different domains. Explore the Gerontology Program website or visit the gerontology secretary (located with the School of Family Life in 2086 JFSB) for more information.


Feature image courtesy of Flickr.



BYU Chicano Scholar Opens Up About His Spiritual Journey

The first 25 years of Ignacio Garcia’s existence comes to life on paper with the publication of “Chicano While Mormon: Activism, War, and Keeping the Faith.” In his deeply personal memoir, Brigham Young University professor Ignacio Garcia writes about his activist past, combat experience, and navigating the Mormon faith with his Latin roots. For those incredibly vexing years, Garcia was involved in civil rights, went to war for his country, and came to grips with the difficulties of being a Mormon of color.


Garcia says his book was intended to talk about his civil rights activist history and also talk about how he dealt with his faith. He believes his book, among other purposes, will contribute to the current conversation about race and invite more dialogue. “There is a much more diverse Mormon world out there. This was a way for me to say it. I really enjoyed it writing the book,” he says.

Memoirs from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints written by people of color are rare. Garcia says he attempted to not only write a story about his experience within Mormon culture but beyond the four walls of Mormonism. “My memoir is about living Mormonism outside of a bubble, both in the army, the civil rights [movement], and college. It was about how complicated that can be,” Garcia explains. He talks about his struggle to get Chicano scholars and Chicano activists to see him as one of them, as opposed to being a Mormon, and to get Mormons see him as one of them because he is a Chicano scholar. “That navigation has never given me an uncomplicated space because mine has not had the privilege of being in that safe space.”

On Matters of Faith

Part of the reason why the book title includes “keeping the faith” is because Chicano says he has had to keep the faith in all phases of his life, not just as an army member and activist. “I had to keep the faith not only in my religion but in my humanity and my faith as a person of color in American society and the struggles that that in itself brings up that we are always outside the mainstream. All of this, plus me being a Mormon of color, added a huge complication,” Garcia says.

Irrespective of personal backgrounds, Garcia’s book offers something for even a casual reader. He says that individuals, whether or not they are Latino will see something they have dealt with. Readers will be surprised to realize that there are many Latter-day Saints like him “who grew up in different circumstances and had to call upon the purity of the idea and the message rather than the nicely-packaged Mormonism (which is comfortable and is embracing). We would rather have it that way, but not all of us were born in this reality,” Garcia says.

Latino, Male, or Mormon?

Garcia has many labels: Hispanic, Mormon, scholar, educator, and husband, to name a few. His response is that you can’t necessarily separate those things. “There are things that I don’t embrace of my Latino heritage but there are some things of Mormonism as a cultural manifestation (apart from the social aside from the gospel) that I have not embraced.”

In some ways you can’t separate who you are, Garcia says, but you can reject things within what you are that you don’t find in line with, for example, the gospel and that sometimes means stepping outside of our cultural bubble. “The gospel of Jesus Christ that we live in is bigger than Mormonism, liberalism, conservatism, or bigger than politics or gender,” Garcia says. “We see life and the gospel through the filter we are: color or gender, because the gospel helps us navigate the world we find ourselves in, not the one we create, but in the image and reality of who we are.”

You can read more about Garcia’s memoir here.

I Seek Dead People: Family History Education


Brigham Young University-Provo is known for several things: being the number one stone-cold sober school, being the largest private religious university in America, and having the only four-year degree program for Family History–Genealogy. In the United States of America, Western Europe, Asia and elsewhere, no other university offers a Bachelor of Arts in this major that educates students in both history and genealogy.

At the recent RootsTech Conference, BYU had a presence, with representation from the Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections unit, the Center for Family History and Genealogy and the Family History Technology Lab as well as the Family History program.

Family History Coordinator and BYU History Professor Amy Harris, who supervises the program’s recruitment and curriculum standards says an event like RootsTech helps raise the profile and recognition of BYU’s commitment to genealogy research and education. “It’s my hope that BYU becomes more associated with high-quality genealogy and family history education and that BYU gets recognition as a major player in the genealogy community,” Harris says.

The Family History program, which receives support and funding on both the department level and college level and from donors, employs 40 students in the CFHG research lab and sends students domestic and abroad for hands-on field research and mentored student learning.

Students at the Center for Family History and Genealogy are currently seeing the migration and impact of their work for people’s use.  In partnership with LDS Church Historic Sites, students are identifying residents of Nauvoo, Illinois, from 1839 to 1846. Each resident, to the extent possible, has records trailing from birth to death. All this data is free and accessible for curious minds and researchers into the history of the Nauvoo community.

The findings can be located on FamilySearch’s Family Tree. Complete research logs along with other discoveries are just within a mouse-click reach. Learn more about the Nauvoo Community Project that is dedicated to academic genealogical research.

The Family History and Technology Research Lab also has multiple projects on the line like Relative Finder that allows you to uncover how you are related to your everyday associates: co-workers, prophets, historical figures…you name it. FHTR is always developing the latest in creative, fun applications for family history, so keep checking!