Poor Mental Health in Adolescence Precursor of Rapid Aging

Dr. Terrie E. Moffitt to deliver upcoming Hinckley Lecture

The 18th annual lecture of the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair in Social Work and the Social Sciences is titled, “Surprises About Mental Health Revealed by Following 1,000 People for Decades.” Terrie E. Moffitt, professor of Social Development at King’s College in London and the Nannerl O. Keohane University Professor of Psychology at Duke University will present her research on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hinckley Center Assembly Hall.

Moffitt serves is associate director for the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study in New Zealand, a longitudinal study that has followed a birth cohort of 1,000 participants for nearly 50 years. This study has an unheard of retention rate with 94% of the remaining living subjects still participating.

The latest research from this longitudinal study explores the link between mental health in young people and faster biological aging, the likelihood that the majority of people will struggle with mental health at some point in their life and the value of holistic psychological treatment.

By tracking the life histories of study participants, Moffitt discovered that those who were diagnosed with mental disorders as adolescents also aged quickly. According to biomarkers of physical health, these people aged twice as fast as normal while those with good mental health in their youth showed very little aging.

Moffitt also recognized that over 800 of the 1,000 study participants met the diagnostic criteria for a mental health problem at least once in their now 50 years of life. “If you follow people long enough, almost everybody will have some brush with mental health issues. There’s no room for stigma,” says Moffit.

Many study participants also suffered from a variety of mental health issues throughout their lives. Moffit recommends that mental healthcare providers shift their focus from working through a single diagnosis at a time to doing more to encourage healthy lifestyle skills. This approach can potentially prevent the snowball of other mental health issues in the future and help people enjoy healthier, longer lives overall. “Don’t just treat the one thing that’s wrong today but give them skills they can use to stay healthy the rest of their lives,” says Moffitt.

The lecture is free and open to public. Per university event guidelines, attendees should wear a mask and must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. More information is available at https://hinckleychair.byu.edu/2022-hinckley-lecture.

The lecture will be recorded and available for online viewing at a later date.

Unauthorized Love: The Inequitable Application of Immigration Law on Mixed-Citizenship Families

Dr. Jane Lilly Lopez’ Thought-Provoking Research, Lecture, and Book

“There is no constitutional right to live in the United States with one’s spouse,” ruled the Supreme Court in Kerry v. Din (2015). Family reunification law in the United States leaves many mixed-citizenship couples baffled and disappointed as they strive to build a life together in the United States. Jane Lilly Lopez, assistant professor of sociology at BYU, addressed her research on the subject in a Global Women’s Studies Colloquium lecture on Jan. 13 titled, “Unauthorized Love: Mixed-Citizenship Couples Negotiating Intimacy, Immigration, and the State.”

Lopez described how she became interested in the topic of mixed-citizenship marriage saying, “In 2009, two of my dear friends and I all fell in love with non-citizens. As our different love stories advanced and progressed it seemed like we were all walking down this path of love and family togetherness. But our partners’ legal statuses were already pushing our lives in different directions.” With this experience in mind, Lopez studied 56 mixed-citizenship American couples and their stories.

Many U.S. citizens have successfully sponsored their noncitizen spouse on the path to citizenship, but just as many live in fear of their spouse’s deportation and the inability to live with their family in their own country. The United States currently looks at citizenship and immigration status in terms of individuals, not families, which can create a rift in the most important social construct that our society is built on. Lopez argued that this framework is incompatible with the family.

Lopez compared the process of applying for family reunification to a game of poker, where your success depends largely on strategy, expertise, and timing, as well as the cards you are dealt. Depending on a couples’ income, insurance status, length of relationship, or parenthood status, the state may or may not grant the noncitizen partner citizenship, and a couples’ ability to succeed may change based on the phase of life in which they apply for family reunification. The unpredictable nature of the system leaves many couples in a disadvantaged situation.

Dr. Lopez addressing students at the Kennedy Center. (Kathleen Reyes)

Application for family reunification also shines a light on the disparities already so prominent in our country. The system favors wealth and whiteness, adding to the injustices that minorities face. Gender also plays a key role. The 1907 Expatriation Act decreed that female American citizens who married noncitizens immediately lost their citizenship. On the other hand, if male American citizen married a noncitizen female, they were immediately granted citizenship. While that policy has since been repealed, sponsorsing a spouse for citizenship remains far easier for American men than women.  

Dr. Lopez addresses recommendations for immigration law reform and action in her book, also titled “Unauthorized Love: Mixed-Citizenship Couples Negotiating Intimacy, Immigration, and the State,” published in November 2021 by Stanford University Press. When asked at the lecture how students can participate in a solution to the plight of many mixed-citizenship couples, Lopez encouraged students to remember that only citizens have the power in this country to influence the laws that affect immigration. Only citizens can run for office, write laws, vote on laws, and vote for candidates who affect immigration. Lopez urged students to understand the issues and exercise the power that most BYU students hold as United States citizens. She concluded saying, “Creating a connection to the issue is the most important first step to leading to real change.”

If this topic interests you, sociology is a great major for studying social problems and solutions.