FHSS Faculty Recognized by the BYU Faculty Women’s Association

The BYU Faculty Women’s Association, which seeks to improve the quality of professional life for faculty women at BYU, honored five women last week for their contributions to BYU. Two of these outstanding women are from our college!

Mentoring Award
Angela B. Bradford
Family Life

Dr. Bradford has chaired over 10 doctoral and master’s students, and has served on around 25 dissertation and thesis committees. Dr. Bradford supervises students on two projects she is co-leading related to family therapy clinical process research and physiology.

bradford

Citizenship Award
Mikaela J. Dufur
Sociology

Dr. Dufur’s work in the College of Family, Home, and Social Science has had a significant impact on changes made within the department. She shapes the experience of women on campus through various leadership assignments, including serving on the University Athletic Advisory Council. Most recently, she spoke about the importance of mentoring and holding open doors for people.

dufur

Other BYU Faculty Women’s Association award winners were Gaye L. Ray, Nursing; Bonnie Anderson, Information Systems; and Jill Larsen, English.

Congratulations, Dr. Bradford and Dr. Dufur!

New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Jason Whiting, Relationship Expert

I have always loved learning, and being a professor is like getting paid to learn all the time,” says Dr. Jason Whiting, author of Love me True and one of our newest School of Family Life professors.

Research

jason whitingThe researcher studies violence/abuse, relationship education, and conflict within couples. “The family is a source of profound influence in our lives, for good and bad, and I hope to be helpful to those who are struggling. Specifically, I want to identify unhealthy ways of interacting, and offer solutions for being more kind and honest,” he says. In his book, Dr. Whiting discusses how partners can be more genuine and honest with each other.

The academician was inspired to study relationships because of his own past experiences: “Growing up in a big family left me curious about relationships: what makes some so fun, and others so frustrating? Individuals are interesting, but when you put them together into families they become even more interesting. Unfortunately, our most meaningful relationships can become damaging, and this was a very compelling issue to me: what makes intimate relationships work?

Brigham Young University

Dr. Whiting loves BYU. “I had a great experience here as a student,” he says, and have always been a fan of the mission of BYU as a unique force for good. After 16 years working at other universities, the stars aligned with what some [other] Family Life faculty here [were] doing, and what I was doing, which presented good collaboration opportunities. Also, my kids are starting to ‘launch,’ and they all want[ed] to come to BYU, so I thought I had better follow them.”

He offered the following advice to students:

  • Seek opportunities to interact with professors.
  • When choosing a course, learn about the person teaching the class, which is as important, if not more so, than the class itself.
  • Connect with faculty through office hours, and don’t be afraid to seek advice. Dr. Whiting reports that many of his most meaningful memories from BYU were those one-on-one interactions with faculty who he admired.

Welcome to BYU, Dr. Whiting!

Photo courtesy of Dr. Whiting’s personal website

Does Exercising Together Bring Couples Closer? New Study Says Maybe Not.

A new study done by BYU Family Life professor Dr. Lee Johnson shows that exercise, while helpful for individuals, might not be good for couples. It might, in fact, be an indicator of problems in the relationship. Women in couples therapy with their husbands reported that the more they exercised, the more intense their arguments tended to be.

The Study

The study consisted of daily surveys from 36 heterosexual couples, cohabitating or married. The questionnaire included such queries as:

  • What did you argue about?
  • How heated was the argument?
  • Since you last reported, did you spend time exercising?
  • How many minutes did you exercise?

couple 2Dr. Johnson found that when males were more stressed, they reported a higher level of argument intensity. Male exercise had no significant impact on the variables. However, when females reported exercising, both partners reported higher argument intensity.

This result was surprising, and ran counter to the hypothesis Johnson and the other investigators were looking to prove. “Exercise has been an important part of my life,” said Dr. Johnson, “and has contributed to bettering my relationships.  I have also seen in be helpful in the lives of couples I work with in therapy. At first, we were surprised by the finding.  There is a lot of research on the benefits of exercise helping many mental and physical aspect of our life but no research on how exercise will influence couples who are attending therapy.  However, when we thought further about the findings, we came up with the explanation that as time exercising increases that is time away from the relationship, which can contribute to increased arguments.  This is our current hypothesis that we need to conduct additional research on.”

Additionally, they posit that some partners might withdraw from their spouses to exercise because of increased argument intensity. Exercise, in this sense, can be an indication of decreased relationship quality.

Meaning and Next Steps

exercise

With those findings and theories in mind, Johnson offered the following advice to clinicians:

  • be conscientious of how they prescribe exercise interventions in couples therapy
  • help males learn to be attentive to their own physiology and facilitate self and partner soothing

By extension, then women and men in couples should be conscientious of how they use exercise in their relationships: as escape or aid.

The researcher plans to continue this study using accelerometers to gauge physical activity as opposed to using participants’ responses. “This study opens many areas for future research. These include generalizing the current study to a sample including non-white couples and non-heterosexual couples,” said Johnson.

 

Exercise photo courtesy of Curtis MacNewton

 

New SFL Professor Aims to Mix Religion and Science

alyssa witting“There is no conflict between science and religion. Conflict only arises from an incomplete knowledge of either science or religion, or both,” said Elder Russell M. Nelson. New School of Family Life professor Dr. Alyssa Witting believes that religion and science can tremendously inform and help each other in the field of therapy. She intends on bringing this perspective to her work at BYU. 

The Scientific and the Spiritual

“As an LDS scholar, I have an overarching hope that my work will help in the effort to bridge gaps in AND between our gospel understanding and scholarly understanding of how to heal from trauma. We know that anything true is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ…. There is much to be learned about what we can and should do to help those affected by mass and personal traumas by turning to the scriptures and the words of modern-day prophets as well as the wonderful work and work of trauma researchers and theorists,” said Dr. Witting, who studies trauma.

Work with Students

The scholar is also excited to be teaching at BYU, calling her relationship with educating others a “love story.” While teaching at another university, she “learn[ed] to approach [her] students with an aim to serve them and stretch them rather than impress them.” This led to “[being filled] with confidence and peace that I had something to contribute. It also allowed me to practice…trying new things all geared toward creating an environment where people enter and feel respected, challenged, stretched and cared about, just like I do in my clinical work.”

She offered the following advice to students:

  • Rise above the fear that you are not good enough. Look outwards and find people that you can help and encourage. “Actively consider and pray to know how your talents can fit the needs [of those] around you. It will truly alleviate anxiety about being good enough because you will see the work the Lord has given you is uniquely suited for you. There is no one better for your mission than you.”
  • View failure as “inspiring learning.” Use your setbacks and challenges to reach farther and climb higher.

Time at BYU

“I feel very humbled to be a faculty member at BYU. I have truly extraordinary researchers and teachers who are people of great character to interact with and learn from as my colleagues and I feel privileged to be surrounded by the incredibly bright and dedicated students here in FHSS. I can honestly say there is no place I would rather or even would have continued my work as an academic,” said Dr. Witting. Welcome to BYU, Dr. Witting!

What is Your Young Adult Thinking?

What is your young adult thinking? Until recently, the concept of emerging adulthood (ages 18-24) was not academically recognized as distinct from adulthood. But now, in part thanks to School of Family Life professors Larry Nelson, Jason Carroll, Brian Willoughby, and Laura Padilla-Walker, researchers are beginning to study it. In a recently-released 2017 Connections article, writer Jake Healey said: “Emerging adulthood is a unique time of life, complete with its own set of challenges and struggles, and it is important for parents, teachers, employers, and others to learn about these issues. So what does the research of Carroll, Nelson, Padilla-Walker, and Willoughby reveal as the four primary concerns of this age group? They are, in order of importance:

  • identity,
  • parental involvement,
  • sexual behavior/relationships, and
  • morality/religion

For explanations of each of those categories, check out the full article on the Connections magazine webpage. While there, you’ll also find information on:

  • cutting-edge Alzheimer’s Disease research at BYU
  • helpful money management tips
  • an analysis of the U.S.’s relationship with Germany, from political science professor Wade Jacoby, an expert on the subject
  • our most recent and successful Utah Colleges Exit Poll
  • the changing face of invention (clue: it’s more of a team effort than you thought!)
  • help for members of stepfamilies

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Hope is Essential to Relationships, says SFL Professor

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for,” said Tom Bodett, an American author, voice actor, and radio host. In a forthcoming study, School of Family Life professor Alan Hawkins demonstrates that love and hope are inexorably connected. The study focused on how hope plays an integral role in the ability of couples to fix their relationships.

The Study

“Relationship hope is what it sounds like: hope for the future of the relationship,” says Dr. Hawkins, “hope that you have the knowledge and skills to make the relationship strong in the future, even if you are experiencing challenging problems now.” One-hundred eight-two married and unmarried, low-income couples took part in Family Expectations, a psycho-educational intervention in Oklahoma City that lasted 30 hours. They completed a pretest and an exit interview; the researchers used these assessments to study how relationship hope had affected what they got out of their sessions and whether hope increased as a result of their participation.

divorce-separation-marriage-breakup-split-39483-mediumDr. Hawkins found that those with the lowest amount of hope at their pretest were the ones who benefited the most from the intervention. “Those who are lowest have the most room to grow,” he said. “But also, these are the ones who possibly come to these programs with the most ‘pain’ and the most motivation to change. They sense that without help and change their relationship will fall apart.” Interestingly, he found that women’s relationship hope increased the most when their partner exhibited growth in positive relationship skills. “Previous research has shown that women are more sensitive to the overall quality of the relationship and monitor the ‘health’ of the relationship more than men. I think they are more attuned to changes in their partners than are men. And when they see positive change, it really means a lot to them. Women are just more relationship-oriented.”        

Impetus

What was the impetus behind the study? Dr. Hawkins serves as a member of the Research Advisory Group for Project Relate, an Oklahoma-based organization supporting relationship education services in the U.S. It is one of two state-government-supported organizations providing relationship education services. “I was excited to evaluate their flagship program, ‘Family Expectations,’ said Hawkins. “[It] serves hundreds of low-income married and unmarried couples every year. Moreover, I wanted to test explicitly the role of relationship hope in relationship education.”

Implications

What are the implications of these findings? Hawkins believes that a possible implication is that, if counseling program developers ensure that their processes are aligned well with men’s interests and learning styles, they will be more successful. As to where his research will go next, he says: pexels-photo-168426“I hope to spur more researchers in the relationship education field to focus on…relationship hope. Also, I think the construct of relationship hope in a particular relationship is important, but I think it is also important for youth/young adults to have a general hope that they can achieve a healthy, stable relationship and marriage. So I may play with broadening the concept to general relationship hope (not hope about a specific relationship).”

 “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all,” wrote the poet Emily Dickinson. In a relationship, such hope is crucial. Through his research, Dr. Hawkins expertly reinforced this truth.

A Two-Minute Video About how Praise can be the Perfect Teaching Tool

This post is part of a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains short 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.

What is the best way to teach a child? According to BYU alumni Denise Barney, the answer is praise. In a 2017 lecture to alumni of the School of Family Life, the Family Studies graduate spoke about how to teach children through praise.

Instead of negatively addressing children’s bad behavior, she said, one should commend children on their good behavior: “As you give praise, be descriptive: ‘I really love how you took out the garbage; that shows me that you’re responsible.’ So you’re describing the behavior and then you’re adding a value to it.” Barney added that our relationships are the only things we get to keep and that praise helps foster these relationships, making home “a place where they want to be.”

Barney also addressed the importance of attention: “If we are giving attention to negative behavior, we are strengthening it. If we’re giving attention to positive behavior, [the] same thing occurs, we are strengthening that.”

In this two-minute video, she talks about how to modify a child’s behavior through proper praise and attention. The full lecture can be viewed here.

Denise is an expert in the Power of Positive Parenting, a parenting manual written by Dr. Glen Latham, having taught classes on it for 15 years. She is also the mother of six children ages 30 to 17.

When You Can Ignore Your Kids, According to Positive Parenting Expert Denise Barney

This post is nineteenth 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.

Bette Davis once said: “If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.” Parenting is hard! In a recent lecture to the alumni of the School of Family Life, Family Studies graduate Denise Barney spoke about age-typical behaviors of children and how parents can move past them.

“When my daughter was around 16 or 17,” Barney said, “she became less focused on her family and more focused on her friends. She only wanted to spend time with the latter.” Understandably, Barney found this upsetting. However, she eventually came to realize that that’s just how teenagers act. Her attitude went from offense to understanding: “If someone had told me that was totally age-typical, that all teenagers at the age are self-absorbed. And it wasn’t because she hated us. It was just that she was being…normal. So, once I understood that, the rest of our kids at that age: ‘Be on your way, go be with your friends, hallelujah!’” According to Barney, if you ignore your child’s age-typical negative behavior, it will go away.

In this two-minute video, she talks about her experience, as well as the kinds of behaviors that can’t be ignored. The full lecture can be viewed here.

 

Denise is an expert in the Power of Positive Parenting, a parenting manual written by Dr. Glen Latham, having taught classes on it for 15 years. She is also the mother of six children ages 30 to 17.

 

 

Kids Learn Financial Responsibility Best Through Real-World Experience, Fulton Student Finds

pexels-photo-325154How can parents best teach their young adult children to manage their money well? Sam Runyan, a BYU School of Family Life student found that “practice makes perfect.” He interviewed 90 undergraduate students from various American universities, and found that, by enlarge, parents used experiential teaching to teach their children how to manage and spend money, how to work hard for their money, and how to become independent and self-reliant. He presented the results of his study at our college’s annual Fulton Conference,  where he and his co-authors won first place for their department.

Specifically, their study found that parents taught their young adults beginning when they were young, by doing the following:

  • Opening a bank account for their children
  • Giving them an allowance
  • Helping them understand smart spending
  • Giving them opportunities to work

Importance

Sam has seen the benefits of these teachings in his own life: “My parents taught me to work hard to earn money through chores around the house and different jobs, and they taught me how to spend and manage my money once I earned it.  They ultimately taught me to become an independent person, and as I got older they gave me more opportunities to do things on my own.  I think that because they taught me in that way, I was able to financially support myself when I went to college.”

He further described its universal importance :“Today, the millennial generation struggles to manage money as wisely as past generations.  In our day, it can be easy to make foolish mistakes with our money.  I believe it is important for people to learn how to avoid those mistakes so that they can financially take care of themselves and improve the lives of those around them.” He hopes that researchers, educators, and future parents will take his study’s results and and implement them in teaching their children about financial responsibility.

sfl first place

Where Next?

Sam’s project was part of a larger study examining the financial practices of emerging adults, something about which relatively little research has been conducted. More quantitative (i.e., numerical) data will now be gathered to supplement the qualitative (i.e., verbal). He says: “Our study gives us an accurate picture about the ways parents are teaching their children today, and the next step would be to find the most effective ways parents can help their children learn.”

The Fulton Conference

About the Fulton Conference, he said: “[It] was a really good experience.  It was great to be able to present our research and see all the work that other students have done this year.  I loved the opportunity to talk with other students and professors to share research with each other.  Seeing everyone’s posters and the hard work they put in helped me appreciate the opportunities we have at BYU.  It was also a great opportunity to work with such an amazing research team.  Dr. Hill, Dr. Marks, and all the wonderful students I worked with have made an impact in my life.  I was able to participate in a great study and at the same time make a lot of amazing friends.  Overall, the Fulton Conference was a wonderful experience, and I loved the opportunity to celebrate the great accomplishments of so many students.”

How did your parents teach you financial responsibility?