Family Time: the Family Enrichment Program

What is the value of spending one night a week with one’s family in concerted, collaborative learning? That is a subject that Dr. Wendy Sheffield has spent the last eighteen years studying, with widespread results. Like our professors Dollahite, Carroll, and Willoughby, she is passionate about providing families of all sizes and races the tools that they need to succeed. At the 2015 World Congress of Families. In particular, she talked about a family enrichment curriculum she helped develop that has been applied around the world.
Sheffield, WendyThe Family Enrichment Program is a curriculum developed in 1998 by faculty members of BYU’s School of Social Work, part of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Because students of that school were and are required to serve families as part of their professional training process,
a search began for a simple tool to help families across a wide variety of cultural and family backgrounds implement an organized system for weekly family interaction. Dr. Sheffield and her colleague Dr. Shirley Cox, as well as many of the students they taught, had grown up having weekly family meetings, and out of the many positive experiences they’d had grew a curriculum that could be used by those students in their field internship program. The curriculum consists of lessons on:

• The Benefits of Holding Weekly Family Night

• How to Organize an Effective Family Night

• How to Hold an Effective Family Night

• Family Togetherness

• Individual Talents Strengthen Our Families

• Playing Together as a Family

• Family Communication

• Problem-Solving and Decision-Making in Families

• Anger Management and Non-Violent Behavior

• Family Work and Responsibilities

• Family Service

• Family Traditions


Since its inception, the Family Enrichment Program has been taught in 47 countries, including Vietnam and Zimbabwe, and translated into 14 languages. Regarding her experience talking about the program at the World Congress, Dr. Sheffield said this: “Participating in the World Congress of Families is a truly wonderful and rewarding experience!  This was the fourth international conference on the family in which I have been invited and privileged to participate.  I am continually uplifted and inspired by the many good people, from all countries and all religious faiths, who work to strengthen families.  I have come to truly love, admire, respect, and appreciate those who work so tirelessly within their own spheres of influence to assist and fortify families.”

Family Enrichment ProgramDr. Sheffield spoke in two separate sessions: the first to an “Emerging Leaders” group — young adults ages 18 to 28— and the second on Wednesday afternoon in a general breakout session about establishing an advocacy program. Its purpose was to encourage and inspire Congress participants to develop and utilize their individual skills and abilities and work to strengthen families within their individual circles of influence. She spoke not only of the Family Enrichment Program, but also about the Staying Alive program, a culturally sensitive, structured, abstinence and family-based HIV/AIDS prevention and life skills education program taught to children and youth ages 9-14, in 14 African countries to over 2 million African children and their families.

The full video of her presentation can be viewed here

Porn and Marriage: Dr. Willoughby Presents at WCF

In case you haven’t noticed, we spend a lot of time talking about families here. A lot of our faculty are doing some really interesting research on family dynamics, families and religion, family therapy, families and politics, and the changing definition of marriage in American culture. It’s something that’s on a lot of people’s minds lately, as evidenced in part by the presence of the World Congress of Families conference in October 2015. Several BYU FHSS faculty members presented there: professors Dollahite and Carroll were some. Dr. Brian Willoughby also presented, on the issue of pornography use and marital relationships.

Willoughby, Brian
BYU Photo 2009 All Rights Reserved

“My presentation focused on how pornography use intersect with family formation and marriage,” he said. “One of the often overlooked costs of pornography is how it influences relationships and family formation at all stages of the life course.  This issue is particularly important among teens and young adults who are in a crucial stage of relationship and family formation.  Several studies and data collection efforts show how pornography has both a negative relational effect and also influences how young adults think about marriage.  Specifically, pornography users generally have more negative views of marriage and hold a desire to delay marriage in their life.  Given the high levels of pornography use we see among young adults, such [attitudes] may have important ramifications for future marriage and families.”

According to a study co-authored by colleague Professor Carroll, pornography use has increased dramatically in the past 10 years.  Among the 258 young adults surveyed for Dr. Willoughby’s presentation, seventy percent of young men had viewed pornography on a weekly or monthly basis in the past year. Eighteen percent of young women had viewed it. Of those young men, sixty percent agreed that pornography was an acceptable way to express sexuality, compared with thirty-five percent of young women.

13072266233_31534a21e3_k via flickr iconicphotoservices

He said that those who view pornography on a regular basis are more likely to think of sexual intimacy more in terms of their own sexual needs, with a sexually available and often submissive partner. These expectations lead to frustrated, selfish behaviors. Amongst young adults, this is particularly concerning because it impacts their value of marriage and their decisions about when they will form those long-term commitments. Pornography use is linked to a desire to delay marriage and a devaluing of marriage.

About presenting at the World Congress of Families, Dr. Willoughby had this to say: “It was wonderful presenting the WCF.  I was able to present with two other leaders in the field of pornography and we were able to approach the topic from numerous policy and research angles.  The audience was great and energized by the presentations and I think motivated to take the work that was presented and advocate for positive societal change.”

It is interesting to think about what avenues those who want to advocate for positive society change regarding the use of pornography might take. Our own Comprehensive Clinic offers a pornography process group for males struggling with pornography, for instance. Dr. Willoughby cautioned that marital beliefs are complex and multi-faceted, but, when considering the bigger, social costs of pornography, we should consider the subtle yet important ways pornography nudges youth away from committed and healthy relationships.

The full video of his presentation can be found here:

Feature image courtesy of IconicPhotoServices on Flickr.

World Congress of Families: Dr. Carroll Presents on Delayed Marriage

Carroll, Jason S
Copyright BYU PHOTO 2008 All Rights Reserved

In the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex marriages, the prevailing judges stated that “this Court’s cases and the Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order.” Reinforcing the concept of marriage’s fundamental role in the functioning of a healthy society, the World Congress of Families met recently in Salt Lake City, Utah. Several BYU College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences faculty members presented relevant research. Dr. Jason S. Carroll, a professor in the School of Family Life and a Fellow of the Wheatley Institution, was one of those.

The purpose of the Congress was to “bring together the finest scholars, government and religious leaders, healthcare professionals, and advocates to research, present, discuss, and promote facts and practices that support life and the natural family.  In doing this, the WCF addresses trends affecting the family as well as a broad range of issues impacting the family, including human trafficking, child exploitation, pornography and addictions, health issues like clean water and access to medicine, and even family finances and management.” Professor Carrolll’s presentation focused on research that points to the fact that, overall, in the U.S., the   median age of marriage is higher than the median age of child-bearing – which means that marriage is not just delayed, but re-sequenced. He outlined why this delay in marriage paradoxically leaves individuals less prepared for marriage, not more.

wcf screenshot

He and fellow presenter Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, discussed studies that showed family structure is the best indicator of family income, the American dream, and child poverty. Research shows, they said, that: “there is a connection between marriage and societal prosperity.”

About his experience, Dr. Carroll said:

“Presenting at the WCF was different than presenting at an academic conference.  There were speakers with a variety of backgrounds, but we received very positive feedback about our scholars panel plenary. Conference participants said they really valued the research and data foundation of our presentations.”

This research was also discussed in a report on, and will be featured in an upcoming issue of the School of Family Life’s magazine Family Connections, to be released mid-December 2015.  That issue will also present research regarding current divorce trends, and same-sex marriages, entitled “Gender Complementarity vs. Gender Irrelevance.”

KnotYet screenshot

Dr. Carroll is an internationally-recognized researcher and educator in the areas of marriage fragmentation, sexual intimacy, marriage readiness among young adults, the effectiveness of marriage education, and modern threats to marriage (such as pornography, delayed age at marriage, materialism, premarital sexuality, and non-marital childbirth). His work has been featured in the Economist, the New York Times, and other popular media and news outlets.

Dr. Carroll has authored dozens of scientific articles, book chapters, and pubic scholarship pieces; and has presented numerous papers at national and international conferences. He is a professional member of the International Association for Relationship Research (IARR) and the Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood (SSEA). Dr. Carroll’s research has appeared in leading scientific journals such as:

  • the Journal of Family Psychology,
  • Archives of Sexual Behavior,
  • Journal of Sex Research,
  • Aggressive Behavior,
  • Journal of American College Health,
  • and the Journal of Adolescent Research.

He recently authored a chapter entitled, “Marriage and Emerging Adulthood” in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Emerging Adulthood and previously authored a chapter, entitled “Theorizing About Marriage” in the Sourcebook of Family Theories and Research. Most recently, Dr. Carroll was the research director and co-author of a highly publicized report entitled “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America” ( that was funded by the National Marriage Project, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and the RELATE Institute.

Dr. Carroll served as a visiting scholar and was a research advisor for a national media campaign on healthy marriage targeting young adults that was conducted by the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). In 2003, Dr. Carroll was commissioned by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to co-author a guiding report for the National Healthy Marriage Initiative entitled: A Comprehensive Framework for Marriage Education. Dr. Carroll currently serves on the editorial board for three journals: Emerging Adulthood, Family Relations, and the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy. Dr. Carroll is also currently an Executive Research Associate of the RELATE Institute ( and the Senior Research Consultant for Fight the New Drug a youth-oriented, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the harmful effects of pornography (

What academic or civil experiences have you had regarding these issues?

Change photo courtesy of Flickr.

Family Best Practices Discussed at the World Congress

In the midst of changing cultural definitions of “family,” it is perhaps more important than ever to know what works in families and what doesn’t. BYU FHSS School of Family Life professor David Dollahite and his colleagues have been hard at work for years researching those “best practices,” particularly as they relate to the practice of religion. Their research has been gaining a lot of attention lately, at Virginia Cutler lecture given on campus in October to a standing-room-only crowd, and more recently, at the World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City, Utah. The latter is a global gathering of parents, youth, lawmakers, scholars, religious leaders, and advocates united to affirm, celebrate, and encourage the natural family.


About his experience presenting at the World Congress, Dr. Dollahite said: “Across the earth, the two things that matter most to most people are their family and their faith. It was nice to be able to provide some information form our research project on how families of faith draw from their religious beliefs, practices, and communities to strengthen their marriage and family relationships.”

In both presentations, he described the American Families of Faith project. They surveyed 200 families:

  • All 200 families were parents in heterosexual marriages.
  • Married average of 20 years.
  • Parents were mostly middle-aged but ranged from late 20s to 60s.
  • Wide range of social-economic statuses.
  • Youth averaged 15.5 years.
  • Religiously diverse: 150 Christian families, 30 Jewish families; 20 Muslim families
  • Ethnically diverse: Over half of the families are from various ethnic, national, and cultural minorities including: African American, Asian American, East Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Native American, Pacific Islander
  • Geographically diverse: Families are from 17 states in all 8 major regions in the nation including: Mid Atlantic (DE, MD, PA), Midwest (OH, WI), Mountain West (ID, UT), New England (MA, CT), Northwest (OR, WA), Pacific (CA), Southern Crossroads region (KS, OK), South (FL, GA, LA)

They found that:

  • Belief that God is a transcendent moral authority helps married couples strengthen their relational bonds.
  • Religious belief and practice help married couples make significant changes in their marital processes.
  • Couples’ perceptions of the roll that God plays in their marriage influence their relationship.
  • For religious couples their marriage means many things and their faith causes them to believe that their marriage means more than it would otherwise.
  • Religious belief, practice, and community helps couples avoid, resolve, and reconcile after marital conflict.
  • Religious commitment helps couples increase marital fidelity by sanctifying marital relationships.

American Families of Faith screenshot

About religious parents and youth, they found:

  • Religious youth describe how they explore their religious identity in various ways leading to varying degrees of commitment to their faith.
  • Religious youth describe how their religious commitments are anchored in God, their parents, youth leaders, and peers.
  • Religious youth choose to make a variety of personal sacrifices for their faith but most clearly see how this blesses their lives.
  • Families rated religious conversations as the most meaningful and the second most frequent (after grace at meals) religious activity when compared with 19 other religious activities (i.e., church attendance; prayer with the children).
  • When parent-adolescent religious conversations are youth-centered, the emotional experience is more positive for parents and adolescents than when they are parent-centered.

Dr. Dollahite commented that the future directions of the project will include creating ways to help inspire and empower the rising generation to create high-quality families of faith.

More information about the American Families of Faith project can be found at