Fulton Conference: The Perfect Something for Your Resume

One of our college’s most successful annual events, the Fulton Conference, is coming up at the end of this semester — and we want you to participate! The conference features research done by undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

The Fulton Conference gives students the chance to partner with a faculty mentor and do academic research, but there are many additional reasons that students should consider presenting at the Fulton Conference. For example, conference participation looks great on a resume, the conference prepares students to present at other academic conferences, and there are cash prizes for the best research projects.

How can you participate in the Fulton Conference?

Posters are due on Thursday, March 29, at noon.

The Fulton Conference will take place on Thursday, April 12 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom.

Here’s a more detailed list of tasks that you’ll need to complete in order to participate. To summarize, you’ll design a poster, upload a digital version to our college website, and stay near your poster to answer questions during the day of the conference.

We can’t wait to see you at the 2018 Fulton Conference!

Start brainstorming your research questions today.


The Connection Between Religion and Families: A New Book

A recent publication from professors in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences provides answers to the questions of how religion affects marriage, ways parents should talk to their children about their religious beliefs, and whether practicing a faith — whether it’s Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or yet another belief system — strengthen families. in their 2017 book, Religion & Families: An Introduction, BYU School of Family Life professors Loren D. Marks and David C. Dollahite write about how religion strengthens faithful familiesThe two researchers wrote the book for emerging adults, in the hopes that it could help them navigate important decisions as they transition into marriage and parenting.


How Does Religion Strengthen Families?

Relying on existing research and their own American Families of Faith project, Dr. Marks and Dr. Dollahite teach relationship-building, faith-promoting lessons to their readers. The American Families of Faith project draws rich data from lengthy in-home interviews of 200 religious families living all across the United States. The diverse sample includes Christian, Jewish, and Muslim families, as well as immigrants and ethnic minorities, so Religion & Families provides a broad look at the connections between religion and family.

Perhaps the most useful way to study the nexus of religion and family is to explore three dimensions identified by the authors:

  • Religious beliefs
  • Religious practices
  • Religious community.

“Family members who consciously consider and discuss how their religious beliefs, practices, and community can work together for the good of their marriage and family relationships are likely to discover ways to increase harmony between these dimensions,” Marks and Dollahite write. Dollahite, when interviewed about the book, said: “We all ‘live into’ our answers to life’s biggest questions in patience and faith. As we face the realities and challenges of marriage and family life, the confident idealism of youth evolves into a mature and realistic optimism…. We hope that the kinds of information provided about the healthiest way to live one’s faith in marriage and family life in Religion and Families can help young adults be more likely to make that transition more smoothly.”

“There will always be one more unanswered question related to our faith that we do not currently have the answer to,” Marks added. “That question is not a reason to abandon the ship of faith. It is motivation to get to know the captain better. Part of my testimony is that God is a lot smarter than I am.” In other words, we can all build our lives, our marriages, and our families on faith, patience, and trust.

When Husbands and Wives Share Beliefs And Commitment

The American Families of Faith project, a national long-running research project led by Marks and Dollahite, allowed them to connect their three dimensions of religion (beliefs, practices, and community) to marriages, father-child relationships, and mother-child relationships. The findings suggest that husbands and wives enjoy greater marital satisfaction when they share beliefs and are similarly committed to those beliefs. What’s more, spouses can strengthen their marriages by participating together in meaningful rituals, including service attendance and holiday traditions.

As far as children are concerned, Dr. Marks and Dr. Dollahite’s research indicates that parents and children have more positive emotional experiences when they engage in “youth-centered conversations.” In these conversations, parents listen while kids do most of the talking and ask for understanding. The conversation is open, the parent helps the child connect religion to his or her life, and the parent-child relationship becomes richer and deeper.

Dr. Marks explained that visiting those families’ homes and observed those relationships, he learned how he could be a better partner and parent. Regarding their examples, he says: “We hope that we can convey enough of the exemplary power of these faithful families to young adults that a fire and hope will be kindled that they can do likewise. Gratefully, through their interviews, these families also tell us how they did it — and this may be the book’s most important contribution.”

Family-Centered Priorities Cut Across and Supersede

Elder L. Tom Perry, who attended a 2014 marriage and family colloquium at the Vatican, reported that all major religions value family life. He said: “It was remarkable for me to see how marriage and family-centered priorities cut across and superseded any political, economic, or religious differences. When it comes to love of spouse and hopes, worries, and dreams for children, we are all the same.” Dr. Marks and Dr. Dollahite share a similar message in their book. In each chapter, they remind their readers that practicing a religion can lead to healthier marriages and happier family life.



Religion & Families: An Introduction is available for purchase on Amazon, Google Play, Target.com, and Walmart.com.

Screen Violence and Youth Behavior: New Questions

In today’s world, many parents, educators, and policymakers are asking whether video games are good or bad for children and adolescents. Indeed, it’s a topic experts have studied and talked about here on more than one occasion, agreeing, for the most part, that violent video games and media are linked to aggressive and violent behaviors in their players. But according to a new article co-written by School of Family Life professor Sarah Coyne, the question most educators and policy makers are asking—are video games good or bad for children and adolescents?—is much too simplistic. They suggest a different, more “nutrition-based” approach.

What Research Says So Far About Violent Video Games and Their Effects

Dr. Coyne and her co-authors analyzed existing meta-analyses concerning video game aggression and violence. “A large body of evidence reveals that violent media can increase aggression,” she says, citing a census study done by Common Sense Media. “Indeed, the effects of screen violence on increased aggressive behavior have been reviewed and affirmed by numerous major scientific organizations, [and] a comprehensive meta-analysis found that exposure to violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiologic arousal, hostile appraisals, and aggressive behavior and decreases prosocial behavior (eg, helping others) and empathy. These effects occur for male and female subjects of all ages studied, in both Western and Eastern countries.12

That being said, Dr. Coyne and her co-authors also noted that that are many potential cognitive and social benefits of video game play, and that well-designed video games can be great teachers, since they help players develop sensory processing and cognitive skills. Not all video games are violent, and of course, no risk factor taken alone can cause a child to behave aggressively.

More research is needed to truly explore the negative–and positive–effects of video games on those who play them, they say: large-scale studies of at least 50 000 participants that take into account all known major risk and resilience factors for the development of aggressive and violent behavior tendencies. The study should follow the same large sample of children from an early age through early adulthood, they recommend. They also recommend a similar large-scale, multi-site, multi-year study to further develop and test media exposure interventions to determine what works best, for policy makers and consumers to implement.

A Better Way to Think of Media Exposure?

The authors suggested thinking of media exposure as a diet. It’s important to consume media in moderation, and consumers should make sure to take in more helpful than harmful content. And, the consumer’s age has to be taken into account. In the absence of those large-scale studies, but with the evidence that has been gathered so far, they and other researchers suggest that parents can most effectively help their children and adolescents consume a healthy “diet” of video games and media by actively monitoring their use, and engaging in and conversing about media with their children, rather than strictly restricting media use. Families can also monitor media exposure by implementing simple rules and setting limits to screen time.


Relief and Recovery: How Do Disasters Disrupt Routine Behavior?

How do disasters affect communities? If you’ve followed the impacts of the recent Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, or Central Mexico earthquake disasters, or if you’ve ever experienced one yourself, you’ll know that the devastation varies from place to place and from disaster to disaster. It can often take years to assess the damage and to reach a new normal. Even harder to assess, though, but in some ways more important, are the effects of various disasters on the people, over time. In a recently published study, sociology professor Michael Cope found that Louisiana communities affected by the 2010 BP oil spill traversed the road to recovery in widely different ways, depending on their core industries, and that community sentiment, in general, served as a protective factor that ameliorated lifestyle disruptions.



What happened in the BP oil spill?

The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig, contracted by British Petroleum (BP) exploded in April 2010, about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The wreck killed 11 people, and the rig spewed millions of gallons of oil for months before scientists finally stopped the flow. At the time of the oil spill, Louisiana produced 25 percent of the nation’s seafood. The state was also the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas and third largest producer of petroleum. The U.S. government placed strict short-term restrictions on fishing and drilling in areas affected by the oil spill, and the fishing industry suffered for years as a result of the oil spill’s impact on the environment.

How did the oil spill affect the community?

Research on people’s general reactions to disasters shows that those disasters have to be viewed not as “single-point-in-time events, but as processes of social disruption that play out over time.” Dr. Cope’s research relied on a telephone survey administered to people living in communities affected by the oil spill. The survey was conducted in five waves, with the first wave administered while the oil spill was active and the last wave administered in April 2013.

The results suggest that the oil spill disrupted people’s routine behaviors (including sleeping and working). The extent of disruption lessened over time, as people’s behaviors normalized again, but people who worked in (or had relatives working in) the fishing industry experienced the most disruption. This makes sense, given the devastating short-term and long-term impact of the oil spill on their livelihood. Too, residents of affected communities reported disrupted lives three years after the spill.

The good news? People who demonstrated positive sentiment toward their communities (in other words, people who liked the places where they lived) experienced less disruption than others did. Their positive community sentiment buffered the effect of the oil spill on their routine behaviors.

What next?

Dr. Cope, an FHSS professor who co-authored this article with a team from Louisiana State University, wrote that issues like disaster recovery warrant continued attention and research. “This study,” they said, “adds to the chorus of researchers who have long contended that planners need to recognize disasters as social processes linked to long-term antecedents and long-term consequences.”



How to Invest as a College Student

Many college students dream of becoming multimillionaires who split their time between philanthropic efforts and exotic travel. But the trouble is that we’re not always adept at making or saving money. Few of us will end up as multimillionaires, but learning how to make smart investments will help us live comfortably and provide for our families’ needs. In fact, according to School of Family Life professor Jeff Hill, any student can invest, no matter what how tight a budget he or she keeps.

Investing Tips for Students

Take Advantage of Compound Interest

Professor Hill is an expert on saving and budgeting money. In fact, one of his undergraduate courses — SFL 260, Family Finance — teaches BYU students those important skills, and Dr. Hill even co-authored the textbook that the students use (Fundamentals of Family Finance: Living Joyfully within your Means). In a June 2015 BYU devotional, Dr. Hill told a story about four hypothetical students, who each had $10,000 and who each planned on retiring 50 years down the line.


Get rich slowly - Jeff Hill

The first student put his money in a strongbox, meaning he would still have $10,000 in 50 years. The second student put her money in a savings account, where compound interest would double its value every 25 years. She’d have $40,000 at the end of the 50-year period. The third student put his money in a government bond mutual fund, where it would double every 15 years to become almost $100,000 in a 50-year span. The fourth student put her money in a broad diversified stock market fund, where it would double every seven and a half years. In 50 years, the student would have more than $1,000,000.

“That is the miracle of compound interest,” Dr. Hill said. “When you consistently invest like the fourth student, you have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you will be able to retire in the future and that if an emergency happens now, you have a reserve.”

Start Now

Dr. Hill said that any student can invest, no matter what how tight a budget he or she keeps. Some mutual funds even cater to small investors who can only afford to put a little bit of money into the stock market. “I invite my students, and I invite you, to begin to invest now,” he concluded.


Take a Little Risk, and Diversify

To Dr. Hill’s tips, Economics professor Scott Condie, who has published papers describing the effects of ambiguity aversion (the preference of known risk over unknown risk) on investment. It’s common among many investors, driving them to have less diversified portfolios and to participate in the market less often. “Ambiguity averse investors will almost surely have their wealth converge to zero if there is a rational expected utility maximizing investor in the market,” Dr. Condie wrote. In other words, investors who remain sufficiently ambiguity averse will not survive.

So make sure that you have a diversified portfolio, that you participate actively in the stock market, and that you don’t entirely avoid risk. After all, what’s life without a little risk?

How do you save, budget, and spend your own money?

Take a minute to think about your own finances. If you’ve got any questions about personal finance or investing, let us know in the comments, and we’ll get a research-based response to you!


Instability and Complexity in American Families

Today’s families are changing, as we’ve discussed here and here. Our School of Family Life professors are studying more and more types of families with more and more complex relationships. At our college‘s 2017 Hinckley Lecture, Dr. Kathryn Edin addressed the impact of instability and complexity on many American families. As parents break up, then re-partner, then bring new children into the family dynamic, Dr. Edin explained that “the parental roster is unstable” and “the child has multiple adults in and out of his or her life, claiming the role of mom or dad.” This dynamic is both a consequence and a cause of poverty.

Learn more about instability and complexity by watching this two-minute video, and stay tuned for new videos as we continue to explore these issues.

Dr. Edin’s full lecture is available here.

This post is thirty-fourth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

A Reason for Hope: How Transcendent Hope Inspires Us to Do Good

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.

What invites you to do good and be good?

Let us know in the comments below!

Econ Major Takes First Place in Wheatley Essay Contest, on the Religious Roots of Rights

“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.”

He continues:

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.”

William K. Wyckoff to Give 2017 Chauncy Harris Lecture

William K. Wyckoff,  a geographer from Montana State University, will give this year’s Chauncy Harris Lecture. The lecture will take place on Thursday, November 16, at 11 a.m. in 250 SWKT. He will speak on “Producing Public Geographics: Creating a Field Guide to the American West.”

william wyckoffDr. Wyckoff studies the cultural and historical geography of the American West. The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and its Department of Geography hold this lecture annually, named after Chauncy Harris. Harris graduated from BYU in 1933 with degrees in geography and geology; he was 19 years old at the time. He went on to earn his postgraduate degrees from Oxford and the University of Chicago, later becoming a professor who specialized in urban geography and Soviet geography.

Harris also developed the multiple nuclei model, which theorizes that a central business district is a city’s first core, but that new nuclei develop as various activities spread throughout the urban area over time.

We’ll see you at the lecture!

Breaking the Silence: Better Parent/Child Conversations About Sex and Sexuality

For most of us, parent-child conversations about sexuality are pretty uncomfortable, whether you’re the parent or the child. But School of Family Life professor Laura Padilla-Walker says there are ways families can avoid that tension. In this year’s recent Cutler Lecture, hosted annually by our college, Dr. Padilla-Walker discussed her research on the ways parents teach teens about sexuality, and what it revealed about more effective ways of having those conversations.

How Not to Have Those Conversations

Outside research suggests that highly religious parents often wait the longest and feel the least comfortable when they speak with their children about sexuality (which is especially true for Catholic, Jewish, and LDS families). In Dr. Padilla-Walker’s research, her students, who were predominantly LDS, reported that their parents didn’t discuss sex often and didn’t always handle the conversation well. LDS parents tended to focus on abstinence and the sacredness of sex, but 46% of her survey participants reported that their parents seemed embarrassed during conversations about sexuality. Roughly 24% mentioned that their parents used fear tactics as part of those discussions.

LDS sexuality conversations
These percentages come from a survey distributed by Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker, a professor in BYU’s School of Family Life.

What’s more, many people in Dr. Padilla-Walker’s sample (48% of female respondents, 33% of male respondents) reported that they had experienced anxiety concerning their sexuality. That anxiety wasn’t correlated with what their parents said but with how they led conversations about sex. When parents seemed embarrassed or when kids had to initiate conversations about sex, those children had less healthy views of sexuality. When parents said sex was good or normal (without employing any fear tactics), their kids had healthier views of sexuality.

But where exactly should parents begin?

How to Have Those Conversations

Improve the Parent-Child Relationship

Dr. Padilla-Walker said that it’s important to establish a “culture of openness” and that improving the parent-child relationship is the first step. As parents grow closer to their children by praising them, spending time with them, and keeping an open dialogue, conversations about sex will become more comfortable and natural.

Improve the Frequency and Timing of Conversations About Sexuality

She also suggested ways that parents can improve the frequency and timing of conversations about sexuality. It’s not enough for parents to initiate one big sex talk with their children, Dr. Padilla-Walker said, and parents shouldn’t postpone those conversations until their children are sexually active or curious. Rather, parents and children should discuss sexuality often and early, while parents “pre-arm” their kids.

Focus on the Positives

Finally, Dr. Padilla-Walker recommended that parents focus on the positives of waiting to become sexually active, as well as the positive aspects of sexuality in marriage.

Our friends at the Comprehensive Clinic provide these additional instructions, in a separate blog post:

  • avoid using slang, euphemisms, or metaphors when talking about sex
  • Give your children age-appropriate sexual education
  • avoid “reactive sex ed”

“Parents are the scaffolding that will help their children learn about healthy sexuality,” Dr. Padilla-Walker concluded. Adolescents will be better off when their parents help them build a healthy framework.

Dr. Padilla-Walker’s full lecture is available here.