Thursday, July 15, 2010

Does Your Family Flourish or Flounder?

Another story for the newspaper. I wish I could write an article that gives more information, like you would see in the Wall Street Journal or New York Times! This research project is amazing and the data that they are gathering only testifies to me the importance that families have on the well being of our society. Families really do matter.

Since 2007, more than 500 students at BYU have been involved in one of the largest research projects focusing on family processes that contribute to positive family environments.

The four-year study, titled The Flourishing Family Project, is being conducted through the School of Family Life. Five hundred families are being studied in Seattle and 170 LDS families are being studied in Utah.

“We are trying to access why families matter,” said Randal Day, project director of The Flourishing Families Project. “[Looking at the] trajectories of kids’ lives as they make important choices [such as] risky sexual behavior, school choices, friend choices and relationship choices. How do families help shape them and how are families a resource to kids who flourish?”

Several studies have been conducted on the negative impacts that affect families. However, in this study, research is being conducted which measures positive outcomes of flourishing families as they pass through life’s problems and crises.

As a result of four-year’s worth of data, the projects team professors have published about 10 papers. A book based on the research is being written as well.

Typically in research studies of this magnitude, scholars are the ones conducting interviews and collecting data, but BYU chose to have undergraduates participate in the research.

Team member Rick Miller, director of the School of Family Life, has been pleased with the national attention and acclaim the project has been receiving.

“When we introduced this idea to other family scholars, using undergraduate students to collect data in Seattle, they were skeptical,” Miller said. “They underestimated the competence and commitment of our students. The fact is that our students have done an incredible job.”

During the four-year study, more than 92 percent of the original 500 Seattle families remained involved in the research, which according to Day is unheard of. There is currently a team of 20 students conducting interviews in Seattle.

The criteria for family selection in the Seattle area were families that had a child between 10 and 14 years of age.

“Some parts of town we go into are a little rough around the edges, and some home environments can be filled with chaos and really unfortunate circumstances,” said Maren Christiansen, a member of the Seattle research team, in an e-mail. “It has been an eye-opening experience for me to see the environments that some children are being raised in, and it is easy to see why some families are able to ‘flourish’ more than others.”

The same study is being conducted in Utah, with a team of 10 BYU students interviewing 170 LDS families. Before this study, little research had been collected about LDS families.

In addition to field interviews, over the past four years, undergraduate involvement has included research, data entering and coding.

“This study gives me hope,” field interviewer Julie Lutz said in an e-mail. “We hear so much about how our society is crumbling and how evil and wicked it is, but so many of these people are good people.”

To learn more about the Flourishing Families Project, students can visit

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