Stance Studies on the Family
Studies on the Family
Studies on the Family
Jessica Romrell, Editor-in-Chief Lexi Foster, Assistant Managing Editor Jessica Olsen, Designer Frances Avery, Editor Lynne Crandall, Editor Bridget Lewis, Editor Jessica Olsen, Editor Carlee Schmidt, Editor Samuel Watson, Editor Miray Weeks, Editor
Cover artwork courtesy of Jessica Olsen. The contents represent the opinions and beliefs of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, staff, advisors, Brigham Young University, or its sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While the editors and staff have checked the contents for accuracy, responsibility remains with the authors for content and sources cited within. Current students are invited to submit manuscripts as well as any questions or comments via email at email@example.com
Copyright ÂŠ 2015. All rights reserved.
Stance: Studies on the Family Printed in the United States of America.
Table of Contents
Paternal Pleasantness, Patience, Propensity: Links Between Fathering and Prosocial Behavior Robyn Argyle.........................................................................................................................1
A Case for Traditional Marriage Jenna Cassinat........................................................................................................................8
Authoritarian Parenting and its Effect on Cheating Alicia Gialanella...................................................................................................................16
Falling Out of Love Ashley LeBaron...................................................................................................................28
Inhibited Children and Over-Solicitous Parenting Rebecca McKinnon...........................................................................................................40
By Study and By Faith: An LDS Perspective on Addiction's Influence on Marriage Relationships Megan Moreton..................................................................................................................46
Inspired By Family Asia Ackerman....................................................................................................................54
Step Out of the 50s Makayla Nielson.................................................................................................................58
Cultural Socialization of the Psychological Well-Being of Transracial Adoptees Mariah Ramage....................................................................................................................62
Chastity: What Does It Really Mean? Abigail Weible.....................................................................................................................74
Letter From the Editor Marriage and family are controversial topics today. The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of gay marriage, making it legal across the United States. This ruling forced everyone to take a stand. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our stance is not a popular one. But it is important and we want to reaffirm our belief in eternalÂ families. We believe in families! Stance is all about families. Our goal is to publish articles that strengthen families, enhance marriages, and encourage family values. This journal includes personal essays, artwork, creative writing, and academic papers; here you can learn about love, child-parent relationships, faith, adoption, chastity, and traditional marriage. Read and ponder these messages. Appreciate the artwork. We hope that something here will inspire you and strengthen your family. I am thrilled to present to you the Fall 2015 issue of Stance: Studies on the Family. I hope that you are inspired by the messages in this journal and that our work will strengthen your family. Thank you, Jessica Romrell Editor-in-Chief ix
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Paternal Pleasantness, Patience, Propensity: Links between Fathering and Prosocial Behavior Robyn Argyle
rosocial behavior, or altruism, is widely accepted as an important life skill for children. When children act prosocially they are putting another’s needs before their own and showing the ability to be selfless. This is why it is critical to investigate altruism: children that are high in prosocial behavior are found to be more successful and do better academically and socially (Caprara & Claudio, 2000). Investigating parental relations can help us understand the fundamental root of this desirable behavior in children. Studying a father’s influence (rather than a mother’s influence) can provide a more valuable insight on children’s development. There is a lack of research in this area and a father’s impact is likely to be undervalued. However, a father’s love tends to have just as heavy of an influence, if not stronger, as a mother’s love on the psychological well-being and health of children (Rohner & Veneziano, 2001). A father’s substantial influence does not solely come from his presence; his influence also comes from the behavior he exhibits in the home. When a father is absent, negative behaviors tend to be encouraged in children. In contrast, a father involved with his children can positively impact children’s development; this impact is evident in an increase in cognitive development and a decrease in psychological and behavioral problems
2 • Stance: Studies on the Family (East, Jackson, & O’Brien, 2006; Sarkadi, Kristiansson, Oberklaid, & Bremberg, 2008). Beyond paternal presence alone, research shows that a father’s specific behavior can assist children in obtaining a healthy development (Kane & Garber, 2004). Despite these positive findings, there is a significant lack of research on how a father’s behavior can attribute to prosocial behavior specifically. Either way, the effect is clear: a father has a large influence on his children’s development. This evidence led me to hypothesize that children would have higher amounts of prosocial behavior when their fathers are more responsive and show more warmth.
Method Participants and Procedures In one of the Family Relationships Project’s studies, there were 201 families in a northeastern state, which were interviewed in an in-home setting. There were 2 siblings per family that participated, although not all of the children in the family participated and the mean number of kids per family was 2.55. The mean age of the children interviewed was 10.52 with a standard deviation of 1.51. As far as family income, the mean income was $61,756 with the standard deviation being $29,445. There were 201 children that were firstborn, and 201 children that were second born. Out of these children, 203 of them were females, and there were 199 males. This data came from the first wave of the Family Relationships Project, which is a synthesis of many studies done on the family.
Measures Fathers’ responsiveness. Children reported on their fathers’ responsiveness using six items from Darling and Steinberg (1993). Items were based on a 4-point scale with higher values reflecting greater responsiveness.
Fathers’ warmth. Children reported on their fathers’ warmth
using 8 items from Blyth, Hill, and Thiel (1982.) Items were based on a 5-point scale with higher values reflecting greater warmth.
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Prosocial behavior. Parents reported on their children’s prosocial behavior using 5 items from Goodman (1994). Items were based on a 3-point scale with higher values reflecting more prosocial behavior.
Results To evaluate my hypotheses I conducted an Ordinary Least Squares regression analysis. Prosocial behavior was examined as the dependent variable. In one step I entered birth order (0 = firstborn; 1 = second born), age, gender (0 = female; 1 = male), number of children, family income, fathers’ responsiveness, and fathers’ warmth. Findings revealed (see Table 1) a negative association with gender (b = -.15, SE = .03, p < .001), a positive association with fathers’ warmth (b = .08, SE = .03, p < .01).
Discussion As we look at fathers’ behavior and kindness with their children, we can better understand how the children form their actions with others. I found that children had higher levels of prosocial behavior when fathers were warmer with their children. Since fathers that express more warmth may be better at teaching their children to interact in a positive way, children may emulate their fathers’ behavior and become more prosocial in nature. In short, children tend to model their behavior after their fathers’ behavior. Unexpectedly, there was no link between responsiveness and prosocial behavior, suggesting that responsiveness is not the equivalent to paternal warmth. Warmth could be considered more of an emotional connection, whereas responsiveness refers to the involvement of fathers. This suggests that in studying paternal involvement, we should look at the fathers’ specific behavior with their children, not just the fathers’ general presence. In searching for the ideal of paternal benevolence, it would be beneficial to look at distinct ways that fathers can make their time meaningful with their children. Since most studies on paternal affection are on a
4 • Stance: Studies on the Family survey basis (i.e. asking the subjects whether or not their father is warm or affectionate), it can be difficult to identify what specific behaviors will have the greatest impact on children’s altruistic behavior. However, it is clear that when fathers show a generous amount of physical affection (such as cuddling and hugging) and empathetic behavior (i.e. listening intently to others, affirming emotions, and showing evidence of feeling the emotions of others on self-reports) fathers can have a significant effect on children’s social success (Barnett, King, Howard, & Dino, 1980; Barber & Thomas, 1986). As previously mentioned, the effect of fathers on prosocial behavior has not been studied nearly as much as it merits. This study was unable to address the many questions that remain unanswered. One limitation of this study may be that there was a lack of comparison between genders and the sample was not sufficiently diverse. Future research may want to consider gender and investigate the difference between mothers’ responsiveness and warmth in relation to fathers’ responsiveness and warmth. Overall, the findings from this study suggest that fathers’ actual presence and behavior matter in children’s development of altruism. Furthermore, fathers with ample warmth in their demeanor can encourage the development of altruism in their children.
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References Barber, B. K., & Thomas, D. L.. (1986). Dimensions of Fathers’ and Mothers’ Supportive Behavior: The Case for Physical Affection. Journal of Marriage and Family, 48(4), 783–794. Barnett, M. A., King, L. M., Howard, J. A., & Dino, G. A. (1980). Empathy in young children: Relation to parents’ empathy, affection, and emphasis on the feelings of others. Developmental Psychology, 16(3), 243-244. Blyth, D. A., Hill, J. P., & Thiel, K. S. (1982). Early adolescents’ significant others: Grade and gender differences in perceived relationships with familial and nonfamilial adults and young people. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 11, 425-450. Caprara, G. V., Claudio. (2000). Prosocial foundations of children’s academic achievement. Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell), 11(4), 302. Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 487-496. East, L., Jackson, D., & O’Brien, L. (2006). Father absence and adolescent development: A review of the literature. Journal of Child Health Care, 10(4), 283-295. Goodman, R. (1994). A modified version of the Rutter Parent Questionnaire including extra items on children’s strengths: A research note. Journal of Child Psychology Psychiatry, 35, 1483-1494. Kane, P., & Garber, J. (2004). The relations among depression in fathers, children’s psychopathology, and father–child conflict: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 24(3), 339-360. Rohner, R. P., & Veneziano, R. A. (2001). The importance of father love: History and contemporary evidence. Review of General Psychology, 5(4), 382-405.
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Sarkadi, A., Kristiansson, R., Oberklaid, F., & Bremberg, S. (2008). Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: A systematic review of longitudinal studies. Acta Pædiatrica, 97(2), 153-158.
Table 1 Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting Prosocial Behavior (N = 402) Variable Birth Order Age Gender Number of Siblings Family Income Father Responsiveness Father Warmth
B .06 .01 -.15*** .01 .00 -.01 .08***
R2 *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
SE B .06 .02 .03 .02 .01 .00 .03 .08
β .10 .06 -.26 .03 .07 -.02 .16
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A Case for Traditional Marriage Jenna Cassinat
ith the recent decision of the Supreme Court to give homosexuals the right to marry, the definition of marriage has essentially been redefined to mean “the legal union of a couple as spouses” (“Marriage and Divorce,” 2014). Many may wonder why it is that, of those who do get married, most get divorced (“Marriage and Divorce, 2014). Why is it that marriage—the “most important association you will ever have in time and eternity”(Holland, 2000)—it more often than not ends in divorce? It is because, as a society and in the eyes of the law and otherwise, there has been a fragmentation of marriage. This fragmented view of marriage has fundamentally altered the way that couples approach their marriage relationship, which in turn has degraded the quality and duration of marriage. Therefore, rather than redefining marriage yet again, in hopes of curbing the divorce rate, it is essential that we return to the traditional, historical definition of marriage. Historically, marriage was looked at as something that was “more than something personal—it [was] a status, an office” (Bohoeffer, 1953, p. 42–43). In its recent ruling, the Supreme Court said itself that marriage has a certain “status and dignity” and has “no doubt . . . been thought of by most people as essential to . . . civilization.” They went on to say that “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest
Stance: Studies on the Family • 9 ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become greater than once they were” (570 U.S., 2013). Marriage was the social norm, and people got married knowing that there would be no going back. In his first American dictionary, Noah Webster went so far as to define marriage as “the legal union of a man and woman for life” (1828). There were no separate bank accounts (women often were not allowed to have their own account unless their husband was a cosigner), no personal storage units, and no “safety nets.” Indeed, until recently, the concept of a prenuptial agreement did not exist, but it has become a reality as couples plan and prepare for divorce before marriage. Where traditionally there was total union, today there are contingency plans. Traditional marriage is a lifetime commitment where the couple promises that, come what may, they are a team. Yet, the idea of premarital cohabitation has slowly been increasing in popularity and prevalence. Brown and Booth conducted studies showing that “between 1980 and 1984, 44% of all marriages involved at least one spouse who had cohabited” (1996, p. 668–678). The reason that cohabitation has increased in prevalence is beyond the scope of this paper, but we can see what is happening as a result. With the increase in cohabitation, there has been a number of papers published regarding the nature of cohabitation and, for some, determining if cohabitation is in fact simply a different type of “marriage.” At times, the studies contradict each other and themselves. A study entitled “Cohabitation versus Marriage” says that “the relationships in which most cohabiters are involved are qualitatively similar to marriages [and] provide further evidence of their viability,” and therefore, “cohabitation is very much another form of marriage” (Brown & Booth, 1996, p. 668–678). Yet, in the very same study, it also reports that “we find that cohabiters in general report poorer relationship quality than their married counterparts.” In other studies, “data from both Sweden and Canada suggest that marriages preceded by cohabitation are more likely, rather than less likely to end in divorce” (Bumpass & Sweet, 1989, p. 615-625). So in this age of cohabitation and casual sex, with broken homes and broken vows, marriage, as we have known it, has been completely fragmented. It has been broken up, and people choose the parts that are
10 • Stance: Studies on the Family the most convenient to them or the ones that are the easiest to abandon should troubles come along. However, Elder Holland (2000) taught that, No . . . marriage is worth the name if we do not fully invest all that we have in it and in so doing trust ourselves totally to the one we love. You cannot succeed in love if you keep one foot out on the bank for safety’s sake. The very nature of the endeavor requires that you hold on to each other as tightly as you can and jump in the pool together. Yet, people are hesitant to do this. Why bother with “a piece of paper” (a piece of paper that can prove to be very inconvenient should things go wrong) when you can receive the benefits of marriage, sex, and companionship without the hassle of a legal agreement? A “legal union” has not been and ought not to be the basis of a marriage. A legal union is a contract—something that is maintained only as long as both sides are mutually benefitted. This perspective is at the root of our societal problems. “When troubles come, the parties to a contractual marriage seek happiness by walking away” (Hafen, 1996). However, in a true marriage, the legal union is a culmination of the love and commitment felt by the couple. Thus, in order to save marriage as an institution, we need to view marriage as the institution that it was meant to be. It needs to be a complete and total union of two people. This kind of union, a covenant marriage, is not entered into without significant planning and preparation. Then, as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “If we do it right, we end up sharing everything— all our hopes, all our fears, all our dreams, all our weaknesses, and all our joys—with another person” (Holland, 2000). This union is represented in the parable that was illustrated by Elder Bruce C. Hafen (1996), called The Hireling. In this parable, he also illustrates the opposite, the “legal union,” and its consequences. Jesus taught about contractual attitudes when he described the “hireling,” who performs his conditional promise of care only when he receives something in return. When the hireling “seeth the wolf coming,” he “leaveth the sheep, and fleeth . . . because he . . . careth not for the sheep.” By contrast, the Savior said, “I am the good shepherd, . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Many people today marry as hirelings,
Stance: Studies on the Family • 11 and when the wolf comes, they flee. . . . When troubles come, the parties to a contractual marriage seek happiness by walking away. They marry to obtain benefits and will stay only as long as they’re receiving what they bargained for. But when troubles come to a covenant marriage, the husband and wife work them through. Here, we get a greater sense of what is really happening when people cohabitate in lieu of marriage. A person in a contractual relationship, or one acting as a “hireling,” will remain as long as there is good (e.g. pleasurable companionship, sex, etc.) that is coming from the relationship. However, as soon as the wolf comes (e.g. frequent arguing, sickness, financial problems, etc.) they leave because the benefits, to them, are not worth the cost. However, once the price has been paid in a long-term, committed relationship, there is a stunning pay-off. Just as many other things do, marriages tend to go through a natural trend of satisfaction and appreciation, like a child with a new toy. At first, the child is thrilled and wants only to play with that toy. But as time goes on, the initial excitement fades away until the child rediscovers the toy and gains a greater and lasting appreciation for it. This idea and phenomena has been demonstrated in a number of studies which state that marital satisfaction “start[s] high, drop[s] sharply after the birth of children, reach[es] an alltime low when children are adolescents, and then increase[s] as children leave home and couples retire (Dougherty & Jacobson, 1982)” (Levenson & Carstensen, 1993, p. 301). This article, which is a longitudinal study on specifically middle-aged and old couples who have been together for most of their adult lives, goes on to conclude that there is “reduced potential for conflict in old marriages…[and that] the potential for pleasure [is] greater in old couples than in middle-aged couples.” Or, to summarize, “there will be less conflict and more pleasure in old marriages than in middleaged marriages” (Levenson & Carstensen, 1993, p. 301). Unfortunately, couples generally do not realize that after a certain point, their marital satisfaction reverses its downward trend and moves continuously upward. Apart from the fact that many couples rob themselves of the chance to experience true happiness with the spouse, the contractual view of relationships has a number of other difficulties. A skewed idea of physical intimacy is one of the greater ones. Elder Holland warns specifically
12 • Stance: Studies on the Family against the dangers of this problem in his talk “Personal Purity.” In his original talk, Elder Holland’s intention is to help youth understand why physical intimacy should be reserved for after marriage. He stresses that human intimacy is reserved for a married couple “because it is the ultimate symbol of total union, a totality and a union ordained and defined by God” (1998). This symbol ought to be proportionate to the level of commitment displayed by the couple, such as a commitment of marriage where they promise their lives to their spouse. Elder Holland (1998) then goes on to say, Can you see the moral schizophrenia that comes from pretending you are one, pretending you have made solemn promises before God, sharing the physical symbols and the physical intimacy of your counterfeit union but then fleeing, retreating, severing all such other aspects of what was meant to be a total obligation? When people fail to make that commitment, they prohibit themselves from experiencing greater fulfillment and joy. Sadly, people generally fail to see that the truest happiness in marriage has a price. No relationship that anyone has will ever be perfect; there will be periods in which there is greater happiness and feelings of contentment, and periods in which the “feeling” just isn’t as strong. This is a natural part of marriage. But as Judith Viorst said, “One advantage of marriage is that when you fall out of love with him, or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in love again” (Viorst). Marriage will not always be easy. In those times of trial, it is crucial that couples remember that they have chosen this person, and that they choose to love each other even when it is not easy. A contractual marriage will remain intact as long as the feelings of love remain; then, when these euphoric feelings inevitably fade, the marriage ends. A covenant marriage will continually choose to show and express love even when they are not feeling it, and they will thus endure. A successful marriage comes with a price; it requires a willingness to stick to the commitment and a willingness to overcome conflict. Then, once the price has been paid, there will be greater joy and satisfaction. Interestingly enough, elderly couples who are engaged in long-term, committed relationships generally report greater levels of satisfaction in
Stance: Studies on the Family • 13 their marriage. Perhaps this is in part due to the fact that they were raised in the age of traditional marriage, and their parents modeled a committed relationship for them. Regardless of the reason, “compared with an equivalent group of middle-aged marriages, old marriages have reduced potential for conflict and [have] greater potential for pleasure in a number of areas” (Levenson & Carstensen, 1993, p. 301). Why are they happier? They are happier because they have paid the price. Elderly couples know almost everything that there is to know about their spouse: how to make them happy, how to make them feel loved, and how to make them feel special. Furthermore, they have a lifetime of commitment behind them. They have complete trust in the other person because they know that they are on the same team no matter what. They are husband and wife, legally and lawfully wed, entirely committed. They have discovered that the surest way to true happiness is founded on principals of trust, commitment, and, above all, love.
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References Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (1953). Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge. New York, New York: SCM Press, Ltd. Brown, S. L., and Booth, A. (1996). Cohabitation Versus Marriage: A Comparison of Relationship Quality. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 668-678. Bumpass, L. L., and Sweet, J. A. (1989). National Estimates of Cohabitation. Demography, 26(4), 615-625. Hafen, Bruce C. (1996). Covenant Marriage. Retrieved from https:// www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/10/covenant-marriage?lang=eng Holland, Jeffery R. (2000). How do I Love Thee? Retrieved from https:// speeches.byu.edu/talks/jeffrey-r-holland_how-do-i-love-thee/ Holland, Jeffrey R. (1998). Personal Purity. Retrieved from https://www. lds.org/general-conference/1998/10/personal-purity?lang=eng Levenson, R. W., Carstensen, L. L., and Gottman, J. M. (1993). Longterm Marriage: Age, Gender, and Satisfaction. Psychology and Aging, 8(2). Marriage and Divorce (2014). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/ fastats/marriage-divorce.htm United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. (2013). Viorst, Judith. Retrieved from BrainyQuote.com Webster, Noah (1828). Webster’s Dictionary, ed. American Dictionary of the English Language. “Marriage.” Def. 1. Retrieved from http://webstersdictionary1828.com/ Dictionary/
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Authoritarian Parenting and its Effect on Cheating Alicia Gialanella
n recent years, secondary and higher education institutions have faced an increasing number of cheating students, whether on projects, exams or homework assignments (Qualls, 2014). The survey organization Who’s Who among American High School Students found that around eight out of every ten of the country’s top students attend a high school where cheating is widespread (1997). Teachers and faculty members have wondered what is causing these high rates of academic dishonesty. Many aspects have been considered and studied, including peer influence, societal values and desire to easily obtain high grades. All of these ideas must be examined in looking at the cause of cheating, but there is one often overlooked idea that may be at the root of the problem: an authoritarian parenting style. This type of parenting is characterized by strictness, low warmth and affection and little compromise between parent and child (Merritt, 2013). In a study at a Salt Lake City high school, Fowler (1986) reported, “the most common reason given by forty percent of the students for cheating was parent attitude and pressure” (p. 95). There hasn’t been sufficient research yet to prove a causal relationship between the two, but new
Stance: Studies on the Family • 17 research studies are being conducted that reveal potential links among different aspects of the authoritarian parenting style that yield negative outcomes for child development and can lead to raising teenagers and young adults who resort to cheating in school.
Definition of Cheating One of the major roadblocks when it comes to understanding and preventing cheating is a lack of a clear definition of the word. Both students and parents today have difficulty knowing exactly what actions fall under the dishonest category when it comes to school work (Fowler, 1986). For instance, some consider the popular SparkNotes website a useful study tool, while others believe using it at all is a form of cheating. Group work also brings up questions about honesty. Is it bad when students help each other on assignments, or does it enhance students’ work and learning experiences when they collaborate? Qualls (2014) defines cheating as “a way for students to claim they have mastered the core concepts of a particular discipline without having done so that compromises the educational process” (p. 362). Even if some specifics of cheating are debated, the heart of the problem is the notion that using deceptive techniques to succeed academically is acceptable.
Parental Pressure What is it that makes so many young people today feel that resorting to cheating in school is an acceptable way to to tattain academic success? One of the main reasons may be achievement pressure placed on them by parents, specifically those who hold extremely high expectations and use harsh punishment for what they consider sub-par performance (Qualls, 2014). Since an authoritarian parenting style places high demands on a child and uses assertion to elicit strict obedience (Merritt, 2013), children’s motivation for academic achievement may become distorted when they have authoritarian parents who place strong emphasis on academic success.
18 • Stance: Studies on the Family In a study by Miller and Tesser, results showed that students were more likely to lie based on the expectations of the target (who they were lying to) than on their own moral beliefs about whether the action was right or wrong (cited in Greene & Saxe, 1992). In this situation, “the motivation to lie was to save face with the target” (Greene & Saxe, 1992, p. 5). The study also addressed how college students do in fact recognize the extensive prevalence of cheating that is happening in university settings and often admit to taking part in it themselves. However, they discovered that students often use their parents as an excuse for cheating, even as young adults not living under any upper authority anymore. Students blame parents for putting too much stress and pressure on them for academic achievement in their undergraduate studies and for placing high expectations on getting into good graduate and professional schools in the future that sometimes become too much to bear (Greene & Saxe, 1992). Bong (2008) discusses how some children may come to the belief that getting good grades is equivalent with keeping a good relationship with their parents. This places added strain on the student to maintain those high grades. In a study she did with nine-hundred and five freshman and sophomores from Seoul, South Korea, Bong (2008) created a survey where students reported on their help-seeking avoidance, cheating behavior and parental academic pressure and emotional support. The results showed that many of the students in the study felt that their parents wouldn’t allow failure or at least expected very good grades, so the students also knew that taking home a bad grade would cause conflict with their parents. This led to students being reluctant and usually unwilling to ask for help because doing so implied possible failure. Many students in Bong’s study felt that cheating was a better option than studying on their own because they didn’t want to ask for help with understanding the concepts (2008). These teenagers didn’t believe that they were capable enough to get a high grade themselves, which demonstrates Greene and Saxe’s idea that those who predict possible but not certain success are the most likely group of students to cheat (1992). All of the direct correlations found in the study by Bong (2008) between students’ perceptions of what was being asked about how they acted when it came to school work and the reasoning behind their actions were related to parents rather than classroom culture. This adds
Stance: Studies on the Family • 19 to the growing evidence for the influence of parents in matters regarding academic dishonesty.
Self-Esteem Issues Parental pressure can have damaging effects on children’s development. This often becomes very apparent when looking at self-esteem (Merritt, 2013). In Bong’s study, cheating was seen more among children with low self-esteem than it was among those with high self-esteem (2008). These results were likely seen because low self-esteem children were more afraid of failing and facing conflict with and disappointment from their parents than students who were more confident in their own knowledge and abilities (2008). Baumrind was the first to categorize parenting styles and their possible implications with his proposal of three types of parents: authoritative (warm, communicative), permissive (overly carefree) and authoritarian (strict, cold) (Merritt, 2013). Merritt took a closer look at these three types of parenting in relation to self-esteem in the preschool classroom. She looked at the early development of self-esteem based on parenting style by surveying teachers and parents of eight preschools in Southeast Texas. Her results, described below, supported Baumrind’s initial findings: she saw higher self-esteem in children of authoritative parents compared to those in children of permissive or authoritarian ones. Although self-esteem can be driven by intuition, positive parenting practices (like praising appropriately, being helpful and caring, and giving reassurance and encouragement) were found to be strongly correlated with high youth self-esteem and social and academic ability (Merritt, 2013). As Baumrind first discovered, Merritt (2013) also found a link between low self-esteem and authoritarian and permissive parenting styles. Since authoritarian parenting is on the opposite end from parental warmth on a warmth-rejection scale, children of authoritarian parents tend to have little self-worth because their parents didn’t give them the encouragement and affection that children need to build confidence in themselves (Gulley, Oppenheimer, & Hankin, 2014 and Merritt, 2013). Erozkan (2012) discusses this same idea, saying that children raised under authoritarian parenting do not receive the essential care needed for healthy development of self-esteem and grow up to be very self-critical
20 • Stance: Studies on the Family because they judge themselves extensively as a result of being harshly judged by their parents their whole lives. If we know that parenting style has an influence on self-esteem at such an early age, we see how big of an influence it can be on children’s confidence and self-worth as they grow older. By the time they are high school or college age, depending on how extreme their parents were in their parenting style, these young adults may have extremely low levels of self-respect. Greene and Saxe (1992) made the statement that “lying can help regulate self-esteem” (p. 4). People who think they are capable of accomplishing very little are prone to getting through life by cheating and lying. They might think they aren’t capable of doing things themselves and find satisfaction in what they are able to achieve through the use of deception. Since we have evidence both that those with low self-esteem are more likely to cheat and that an authoritarian parenting style can lead to children with lower-levels of self-esteem, an authoritarian approach to parenting may be an influencing factor in children’s decision to cheat.
Feeling Threatened Not only does authoritarian parenting seem to increase the risk of lowconfidence in youth, it also may lead to other psychological problems like feeling insecure and being easily threatened (Gulley et al., 2014). Gulley et al. (2014) studied the influence of negative parenting styles, such as authoritarian, on later psychological development by examining a study done about attention bias to threat-related stimuli, specifically to angry faces. They found that children who experienced more severe kinds of physical punishment had more of an attention bias to angry faces because these young individuals found angry faces much more significant, identified them more accurately, and had a harder time looking away from them when compared to their reactions to other emotional expressions. If children are threatened by anger and feel anxious when they observe that their parents are angry and know getting bad grades will make them angry, they may be tempted to do whatever they can to always get good grades, even resorting to cheating to do so. In a study done by Qualls (2014), two-hundred and thirty-one students from three different colleges were surveyed about their beliefs regarding their own academic
Stance: Studies on the Family • 21 dishonesty. The findings showed that students who were disciplined with harsh physical punishment reported being more involved in cheating and dishonesty throughout their higher education experiences (Qualls, 2014). Since an authoritarian parent often employs physical discipline to try to change their child’s behavior by eliciting fear of performing the undesired behavior again in the future, we see another way that this parenting style may lead to children cheating (Gulley et al., 2014). Fear is something that all of us experience. It’s a natural human response and can turn into a huge underlying motivator for many of our actions. Sometimes it can work in our favor and push us to accomplish things we didn’t think possible. However, it can also make us feel we have to do something we know is wrong because we feel we have no other choice. In terms of parenting techniques, fear of harsh parental discipline can drive children to do things, such as lying and cheating, that they may have never thought about doing if they had had supportive, communicative parents who set fair rules and expectations for them. The constant feeling of threat and fear that children of authoritarian parents usually grow up being consumed with can lead to major psychological problems and real issues with fraudulence and dishonesty throughout the rest of their lives (Gulley et al., 2014).
Anxiety Sensitivity The combined effects of little self-confidence and major feelings of insecurity and threat that are often associated with authoritarian parenting may be linked to another problem that is becoming a growing concern for adolescents: anxiety sensitivity. This is the idea that anxiety symptoms can have mild to severe social, psychological and/or physical consequences for those who suffer from anxiety (Erozkan, 2012). Two studies were addressed by Gulley et al. (2014) that confirm their first attention bias study and show a positive correlation with social anxiety and authoritarian parenting, parent negative affect, and parent criticism. Erozkan (2012) also describes the association between anxiety and greater attention to potentially threatening stimuli, including an increased likelihood to perceive neutral stimuli as threats.
22 • Stance: Studies on the Family Erozkan’s study looked at the relationship between and predictability of parenting style and anxiety sensitivity by using different scales and analyses (2012). The data found a positive correlation between negative parenting techniques and anxiety in teenagers and found that “levels of parental threat, hostility and rejection were predictors of anxiety sensitivity” (Erozkan, 2012, p. 55). Erozkan (2012) evaluates the critical nature of parenting in general in the sense that parents are the ones who prepare children to go out into the world and live the rest of their lives on their own. This shows us the big picture implications for children raised under the authoritarian parenting style. In terms of developing anxiety sensitivity, children who have these feelings may be at risk for other severe anxiety disorders and fears as adults (Erozkan, 2012). This goes along with the same idea of fear driving kids to resort to immoral tactics. If children with anxiety sensitivity are given high expectations in school from their parents, expectations that they feel they aren’t capable of living up to, they may associate any grading method with feelings of anxiety. Their anxiety sensitivity would make them believe these feelings are harmful and they should do anything to avoid them, such as relying on dishonest methods to assure good grades and, therefore, no accompanying anxiety. These students are learning to associate working and studying on their own with feelings of worry and uneasiness and associate cheating with feelings of relief instead of anxiety. Differences observed in moral behavior (cheating, resisting temptation, etc.) among children are regarded as early signs of their differences in internalization of moral values, ideas of ethics, and development of conscience as they grow older (Spinrad et al., 1999).
Low Moral Internalization An authoritarian parent would tend to believe that their word is always right and should be obeyed by the child without discussion of reasoning behind a rule or demand and little to no tolerance for compromise between parent and child (Merritt, 2013 and Sim & Chin, 2012). A study by Vitro (cited in Qualls, 2014) concluded the following: A curvilinear relationship between the disciplinary practices of fathers and academic dishonesty was found such that both “nominal” (e.g.,
Stance: Studies on the Family • 23 talking to a child) and “harsh” types of discipline (e.g., spanking) were related to higher amounts of academic dishonesty, whereas moderate discipline (e.g., withdrawal of privileges) was associated with less cheating. Both students who experience very limited negative consequences [permissive parenting] and those who experience harsh physical punishment [authoritarian parenting] in childhood are more likely to cheat in college as the result of a failure to internalize pro-social moral values. (p. 363) If children aren’t experiencing positive parenting that helps them develop moral values, they are more likely to grow up to become much like the college students Vitro (cited in Qualls, 2014) discussed, students who lacked a strong moral example in their parents and used deceitful measures to get through their college studies. In Greene and Saxe’s study (1992), many of the college students “opted to use deceptive tactics over honest ones in order to avoid unfavorable outcomes (e.g., a poor grade or personal information being disclosed to an authority figure)” (p. 2). They may still graduate with a degree, but if they are not truly learning and absorbing the material from their classes, these individuals won’t be properly prepared for their future jobs. They may continue to depend on using dishonest methods to get by in their careers and in other areas throughout the rest of their lives. With the explosion of cheating we see today, this concern is becoming a real issue as we look at the likely longterm effects that low levels of moral internalization has on a person and their method of dealing with everyday problems (Fowler, 1986).
Encouraging Moral Behavior On the other hand, there are ways that parents can help children grow into morally conscious adults. Spinrad et al. (1999) describe how parents who do take the time to really know their children and interact with them can help them learn to effectively cope with negative emotions, which could lead to children being better able to regulate their behavior in various tempting situations. When children have parents who model appropriate moral behavior and emotional regulation, specifically parenting on the principles of “reciprocity and acceptance,” kids are more
24 • Stance: Studies on the Family likely to adopt these moral beliefs themselves and exhibit moral behavior (Augustine & Stifter, 2014, p. 289). In terms of the “best” parenting style, the general conclusion is that an authoritative approach to parenting is the one that will help children develop into the best possible, well-rounded adults they could be. This same answer applies when discussing the moral development of children (Augustine & Stifter, 2014). In Eisenberg’s study of moral behavior, he discovered a link between “children’s ability to persist, rather than cheat, on a frustrating task and parents’ and teachers’ reports of children’s regulation” (cited in Spinrad et al., 1999, p. 326). Parents must be able to recognize their children’s needs and respond to them in a supportive, warm, and instructive way that will help the child understand what morality is and how they can uphold moral ethics and values in every aspect of their lives, including academic behavior. This idea was illustrated in a study that examined academic success among Singapore teenagers in two-parent authoritarian homes versus those in two-parent authoritative homes. Sim and Chin (2012) reported that those students with two authoritative parents had more interest in their schooling and set more mastery goals than those students with two authoritarian parents. Instead of taking an authoritarian approach and focusing solely on the end result of a child’s grades in school, Fowler (1986) says that parents need to emphasize the importance of the actual learning process and teach them that the test grade isn’t the most important thing if they put their best effort in to learn and study. He also advises parents to try to instill the value of integrity in their children by explaining to them how an A achieved through cheating means so much less than a hard-earned B (Fowler, 1986). Erozkan (2012) hopes that parents will recognize how children and teenagers feel more appreciated and respected and can better express their emotions and thoughts when parents use supportive, understanding, and warm parental techniques. Parents must still impose rules, but they must be fair, consistent ones, and the reasoning behind why they are important and should be followed must be given to the child so they understand the value of good moral behavior (Who’s Who among American High School Students, 1997).
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Conclusion Children raised under an authoritarian parenting style can develop traits that have detrimental effects on their later psychological health and moral beliefs and behavior. These individuals constantly feel pressure from high expectations placed on them by parents, which is typically coupled with feelings of fear from the threat of harsh or extreme consequences for not living up to them. This leads to the development of very poor self-esteem, anxiety sensitivity and low levels of moral internalization. Not only can these traits make children feel that cheating in school is their best option for success, they may lead to adults rely on using dishonest, fraudulent means when faced with any issue or difficult task in any area of their lives. Therefore, parents must model appropriate moral behavior and avoid authoritarian parenting in favor of a warm, supportive parenting style. If they do, they will help their children to recognize why cheating is inherently wrong and promote high levels of moral internalization among the youth of today and the adults of tomorrow.
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References Augustine, M., & Stifter, C. (2014). Temperament, parenting, and moral development: Specificity of behavior and context. Social Development, 24(2), 285–303. Bong, M. (2008). Effects of parent-child relationships and classroom goal structures onmotivation, help seeking avoidance, and cheating. The Journal of Experimental Education, 76(2), 191–217. Erozkan, A. (2012). Examination of relationship between anxiety sensitivity and parentingstyles in adolescents. Kuram Ve Uygulamada Eğitim Bilimleri, 12(1), 52–57. Fowler, D. (1986). Cheating: A bigger problem than meets the eye. NASSP Bulletin, 70(493),93-96. Greene, A., & Saxe, L. (1992). Everybody (else) does it: Academic cheating. Annual Meeting of theEastern Psychological Association. Lecture conducted from Boston,MA. Gulley, L., Oppenheimer, C., & Hankin, B. (2014). Associations among negative parenting,attention bias to anger, and social anxiety among youth. Developmental Psychology,50(2), 577–585. Merritt, K. (2013). What is the association between parenting styles and self-esteem amongfour to-five year olds in the preschool classroom. Masters Abstracts International,51(4). Qualls, C. (2014). The relationship between disciplinary practices in childhood andacademic dishonesty in college students. College Student Journal, 48(3), 362–374. Sim, T., & Chin, J. (2012). Do mothers’ and fathers’ authoritative and authoritarianparenting interact? An exploration on schooling aspects with a Singapore adolescentsample. Youth& Society, 46(2), 286–300. Spinrad, T., Losoya, S., Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R., Shepard, S., Cumberland, A.,…Murphy, B.(1999). The relations of parental affect and
Stance: Studies on the Family • 27 encouragement to children’s moralemotions and behaviour. Journal of Moral Education, 28(3), 323–337. Who’s Who among American High School Students (1997). Attitudes and Opinions from the Nation’s High Achieving Teens: 28th Annual Survey of High Achievers. Lake Forest, IL.
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Falling out of Love: Why Couples Emotionally Disconnect and the Road to Reconnection Ashley LeBaron
ivorce has become a societal norm. This monster no longer creeps up and surprises people; instead, they expect to see it and calmly acknowledge it with a glum, somewhat bored nod. However, research shows that 75% of couples who divorce later regret it (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012)—a statistic that most people are unaware of. Thankfully, reconciliation is a very possible option for many couples who may be considering divorce (Hawkins et al., 2012). Most divorces are not due to dramatic events such as infidelity, but rather a phenomenon our society describes as “falling out of love.” “I just don’t feel about him the way I used to.” “It’s like there’s this gap between us.” “We don’t understand each other anymore.” “I’m not even sure I know who she is.” “I don’t love him anymore.”
Stance: Studies on the Family • 29 Thoughts like these are experienced by the majority of couples today. Despite popular belief, however, love and emotional attachment are not feelings that happen to us—they are feelings that we create or don’t create based on our patterns of attitude and behavior. These attitudes and behaviors are identified in the models of connection and disconnection (displayed on the following page). Many studies indicate that disconnection and reconnection occur in patterns or cycles ( Johnson & Anderson, 2013; Stanley, Rhoades, & Whitton, 2010; Zuo, 1992). As shown in Figure 1, couples grow apart due to apprehension, actions that disconnect, a problems lens, withdrawal, and instability; this pattern of disconnection is repetitive and cyclical in nature, resulting in the elements feeding off of each other. Conversely, Figure 2 shows that couples come together through a cycle of commitment, actions that connect, marital satisfaction, interdependence, and stability. This paper will use these models to explore why couples become emotionally detached and how they can reconnect.
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Growing Apart Drs. Alan Hawkins, Brian Willoughby, and William Doherty (2012) conducted a study of 886 people considering divorce. They identified that the most common reason for divorce is “growing apart.” Some may ask, “How can you grow apart from the person you live with and see every day?” This process of growing apart does not refer to physical proximity but to emotional connection. Couples who do not feel close to each other, or even love each other anymore, have not arrived there all at once; rather, this is a gradual process made up of negative attitudes and behaviors in a lethal cycle.
Apprehension The first element in this cycle of disconnection is apprehension. An attitude of apprehension toward the relationship creates a sandy foundation for a marriage. In the context of marriage, apprehension refers to a lack of commitment to the relationship or the presence of fear toward the outcome of the relationship. Instead of being committed to the relationship, apprehensive partners are expecting failure and may be ready to duck out when problems arise. Although this attitude flies under the radar during happy times, when conflict arises, apprehension creates a barrier against emotional connection. Unsurprisingly, then, 73% of marriages that end in divorce lack commitment (Hawkins et al., 2012). The first element on the road to marital instability is the very way that couples think about their relationship—as something that might end.
Actions that Disconnect Attitudes influence behavior. When couples go about their marriage with ready-to-run apprehension, their actions will reflect that. If they think their relationship may not be for life, they likely will not put forth the enormous effort it takes to cultivate a marriage. It is all too easy to fall into negative patterns of behavior where actions lead to disconnection. Two of the contexts in which this is manifest are neglect and negative communication patterns.
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Neglect It is vital that couples give one another sufficient attention—listening intently, spending time together, etc. 34% of people seeking a divorce feel they are neglected by their spouse (Hawkins et al., 2012). Just as infants develop emotional insecurities if they are neglected, adults also crave and require someone to respond to their needs. When marriages lack commitment, one or both spouses may not put the other above things like a career, hobbies, personal time, or even children. Naturally, this engenders feelings of being neglected.
Negative communication patterns Unhealthy communication is another action that disconnects. 53% of divorcing couples don’t feel like they can talk to each other (Hawkins et al., 2012). Spouses who cannot express their thoughts and feelings to one another are well on their way to disconnection. It is equally destructive when couples can communicate with each other but the way in which they communicate is negative. Stanley, Markman, and Whitton (2002) found that how couples communicate is more impactful than what they actually say. Similarly, Dr. Keith Sanford (2006) found that a pattern of negative behaviors during communication is a predictor of low relationship satisfaction, divorce, domestic violence, and poor physical health. Two facets often found in negative communication patterns are contempt and negative attributions.
Contempt refers to the use of blanket generalizations (“always” and “never”) and/or sarcasm in order to belittle or hurt the other spouse. When couples participate in this kind of communication, they are no longer dealing with the actual problem at hand; they are attacking the very nature of their spouse and assuming an air of disgust. This is very damaging to both the ability to communicate effectively in the future and the feelings of appreciation, love, and trust (Graber, Laurenceau, Miga, Chango, & Coan, 2011).
Negative attributions, which can be defined as one spouse assuming ill intentions in the other spouse, are also destructive. Not only can negative attributions be totally false and
32 • Stance: Studies on the Family therefore induce misunderstanding, they can also lead the attributing spouse to inadvertently lash out and therefore produce the ill intentions that weren’t even there originally. In making negative attributions, the attributing spouse decides that “it is necessary to employ aggressive or defensive strategies to protect oneself against intentional ill treatment by a partner. . . . In this way, expectancies can become a self-fulfilling prophecy” (Sanford, 2006, p. 256-7).
Problems Lens The way that couples prioritize each other and communicate, among other behaviors, influence further marital attitudes. If these actions that disconnect become patterns, marital satisfaction is likely to decrease (Waldinger & Schulz, 2006) because couples develop sour attitudes. They start seeing their relationship through pessimistic eyes. They expect to see problems (Anderson, Van Ryzin, & Doherty, 2010). Much like negative attributions, a problems lens in marriage reinforces what it expects. Couples who are looking for problems will surely find them—and create them.
Withdrawal When spouses see their marriage through a problem lens, they often withdraw—literally and emotionally. Withdrawal is the point at which couples do not even try to deal with their disagreements; they simply ignore them. Instead of fighting together, they avoid interaction. This is the opposite of productive interaction, though, because it reinforces elements of the disconnection cycle such as neglect and negative communication which then build more walls and cause further withdrawal. Just when couples need to come together the most, they often pull farther apart.
Instability Marital instability, brought on by a number of various elements and peaking with the presence of withdrawal, marks the final element in the cycle of disconnection. This instability refers to just what it sounds like: an insecure attachment and an uncertain future as a couple. The uncertain future may also be called apprehension, hence the cyclical nature of marital disconnection. And so, the quote previously referring specifically
Stance: Studies on the Family • 33 to negative attributions is applicable once more: “expectancies can become a self-fulfilling prophecy” (Sanford, 2006, p. 257).
Coming Together Although disconnection may happen, that does not have to be the end of the story. Reconciliation is possible (Anderson et al., 2010; Hawkins et al., 2012) if both partners are willing to change their attitudes and behaviors. As shown, disconnection does not happen all at once; likewise, reconnection takes time. In this gradual process, it is important to not only reduce negativity but to also rebuild friendship and trust (Stanley et al., 2002). A rekindled romance is the natural result.
Commitment The first element of the reconnection process is commitment. A strong commitment to each other and to the relationship bodes well for a marriage. This is largely a matter of attitude, regardless of circumstances (or disconnection). Couples who are committed do not consider divorce as an option; they plan to be there through thick and thin, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Essentially, they are “all-in.” When spouses have this mindset, they feel less trapped, less desire for other partners, and more patience with their partner’s negative behavior; they are also more likely to sacrifice for the relationship (Stanley et al., 2002; Stanley et al., 2010). Although it is ideal for commitment to be present from the beginning, it is possible for commitment to develop later on in a marriage, even after rocky times. Couples trying to reconnect must have this outlook: commitment is a choice.
Actions that Connect Couples demonstrate commitment through their actions, which, in turn, further increases their commitment. “When confident that a relationship will persist into the future, an individual is more likely to behave in ways that do not always benefit the self immediately but enhance the long-term quality of the relationship” (Stanley et al., 2010, p. 246).
34 • Stance: Studies on the Family These actions can be seen as emotional investments into a relationship. Two major actions that connect are shared time together and positive communication patterns.
Shared time Research shows that couples who are committed to their marriage choose to spend more time together ( Johnson & Anderson, 2013). Being physically and mentally together in a positive environment will help spouses build a sense of friendship and reconnect. Couples who spend some of their shared time participating in leisure activities that they both enjoy build the strongest connection (Crawford, Houts, Huston, & George, 2002); as couples strive to reconnect, they should find activities that they both find pleasure in and strive to do those together. Weekly date nights are one way to facilitate this.
Positive communication patterns Another way in which couples demonstrate their commitment is through communicating in a positive way. If spouses know they are going to be in a relationship forever, they will take the pains to communicate effectively, which can be challenging particularly in situations of conflict. Positive communication patterns create a safe environment wherein emotional intimacy can flourish. Two patterns of communication that are especially important in the reconnection process are productive discussion and positive attributions.
Productive discussion. Dealing with disagreements in a way
that maintains a sense of respect toward each other is essential for maintaining emotional safety; this is done by addressing problems in a productive, anger-free manner. Productive discussion is characterized by actions such as displaying patience and empathy, listening with the intent to understand, speaking in gentle tones, talking openly but calmly about thoughts and feelings, etc. As mentioned previously, how couples communicate is more impactful than what they say (Stanley et al., 2002). One of the most important things couples can talk about is, ironically, how they communicate; it is very helpful to mutually be aware of any negative patterns and then work on improving those patterns together
Stance: Studies on the Family • 35 as a couple. Talking about talking is a great way to get comfortable with open, productive discussion. In addition, couples must be aware of and respond to each other’s bids for attention and affection. Connection occurs when one partner puts themselves in a vulnerable position—whether by putting their arm around the other spouse, by telling the other of a small success, or by proposing to get ice cream together—and the other partner responds in a positive way (Graber et al., 2011). How spouses respond to good news is just as important for building a connection as how they respond to bad news (Graber et al., 2011). Especially when healing from a state of disconnection, it is vital to actively respond to each other’s bids.
This idea of vulnerability and safety is also relevant to positive attributions. Connection happens when couples assume that their partner has good intentions (Sanford, 2006); when conflict, misunderstandings, and miscommunications arise, what could turn into a heated, ugly blame game can instead be a productive discussion in which problems are solved, spouses learn more about each other, and they develop deeper respect for each other. When healing from disconnection, couples should think well of each other and assume the best intentions.
Marital Satisfaction These actions that connect—particularly shared time and positive communication patterns—lead to a sense of mutual satisfaction in marriage (Anderson et al., 2010; Johnson & Anderson, 2013); in fact, they “go hand in hand” (Crawford et al., 2002, p. 433). “Interaction produces liking, and liking in turn generates more interaction” (Zuo, 1992, p. 876). It is in relationship security (commitment) and emotional security (actions that connect) that connection occurs (Stanley et al., 2002). Vulnerability is essential for connection, and continuous vulnerability will only happen when the marriage is an emotionally safe environment. When this occurs, the happiness of one is related to the happiness of the other, and so their actions are mutually satisfying. Couples find fulfillment, contentment, and happiness in their relationship. This attitude affects all aspects of their marriage; it is a snowball effect, leading to greater and greater satisfaction.
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Interdependence Commitment and emotional investments in a safe environment enhance marital satisfaction, which in turn produces interdependence (Stanley et al., 2010). Interdependence, or mutual dependence, is a relationship in which there is an attitude of “we” and a sense of couple identity. The needs of one are the needs of the other; the joys and heartaches of one are shared by the other. This strong sense of an attachment can be described as a “safe haven” (Stanley et al., 2010).
Stability Where there is interdependence, there is relationship stability (Stanley et al., 2010). Marital stability means that a couple’s shared future is stable and sure, both in respect to their perception as well as reality. This builds a sense of confidence and further commitment to the relationship, thus the cyclical nature of connection.
Conclusion It is not uncommon for couples to feel, at one point or another in their marriage, an emotional disconnect—a feeling of having fallen out of love. The message that movies and reality TV shows send is that if a marriage isn’t working anymore, couples should get out of it and look for better options. Their message—divorce is freedom! The reality—75% of couples who get divorced later regret it (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012). Marriage isn’t easy, but it’s worth it! Couples who take the easy way out may look back with regret, wishing they had done more. When the hormones stop flooding and the sparks die, all hope is not lost. By changing some attitudes and behaviors, emotionally estranged couples can travel down the road of reconnection and fall in love all over again.
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References Anderson, J. R., Van Ryzin, M. J., & Doherty, W. J. (2010). Developmental trajectories of marital happiness in continuously married individuals: A group-based modeling approach. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(5), 587-596. Crawford, D. W., Houts, R. M., Huston, T. L., & George, L. J. (2002). Compatibility, leisure, and satisfaction in marital relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(2), 433-449. Graber, E. C., Laurenceau, J., Miga, E., Chango, J., & Coan, J. (2011). Conflict and love: Predicting newlywed marital outcomes from two interaction contexts. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(4), 541-550. Hawkins, A. J., Willoughby, B. J., & Doherty, W. J. (2012). Reasons for divorce and openness to marital reconciliation. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 53(6), 453-463. Johnson, M. D., & Anderson, J. R. (2013). The longitudinal association of marital confidence, time spent together, and marital satisfaction. Family Process, 52(2), 244-256. Sanford, K. (2006). Communication during marital conflict: When couples alter their appraisal, they change their behavior. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(2), 256-265. Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., & Whitton, S. W. (2002). Communication, conflict, and commitment: Insights on the foundations of relationship success from a national survey. Family Process, 41(4), 659-675. Stanley, S. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Whitton, S. W. (2010). Commitment: Functions, formation, and the securing of romantic attachment. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 2(4), 243-257.
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Waldinger, R. J., & Schulz, M. S. (2006). Linking hearts and minds in couple interactions: Intentions, attributions, and overriding sentiments. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(3), 494-504. Zuo, J. (1992). The reciprocal relationship between marital interaction and marital happiness: A three-wave study. Journal of Marriage and Family, 54(4), 870-878.
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40 • Stance: Studies on the Family
Inhibited Children and Over-Solicitous Parenting Rebecca Tanner
lthough it may appear intimidating, how can parents best raise their shy child and shield them from negative consequences? Some parents may either push their child’s limits or protect them from fearful environments. Parents’ worrisome behavior can have an exacerbating effect as they seek to control situations and child behavior (Rubin, Cheah, & Fox, 2001; Coplan, Arbeau, & Armer, 2008). However, the last thing parents want to do is contribute to their child’s problems. Inhibited children are inclined to struggle academically and socially, and parental over-control worsens those struggles (Chen et al., 2014). As parents become aware of the exacerbating effect that over-solicitous parenting has on inhibited children, they should seek an authoritative parenting approach. Researchers have suggested methods to help parents make this parenting style switch. Inhibited children are fearful and cautious of new stimuli, and thus parents may protect them from such situations (Rubin et al., 2001). However, the protection backfires as it shelters the child further, discourages approaching new stimuli, and nurtures inhibited behavior (Rubin et al., 2001; Morris, Silk, Steinberg, Myers, & Robinson, 2007). Parental over-control also reinforces dependency on parents and defeats autonomy (Wood, McLeod, Sigman, Hwang, & Chu, 2003). For example,
Stance: Studies on the Family • 41 Rubin and colleagues found that shyness in two-year-old children predicted more controlling and restricting parents two years later; this led to a circular effect as it consequently predicted increased shyness (Rubin, Nelson, Hastings, & Asendorpf, 1999). As children enter adolescence, both social challenges and the importance of connecting with others increase (Miller et al., 2011). When parents respond to shyness with restraint and control, shy adolescents perceive them as over-solicitous and overprotective (Tani, Ponti, & Smorti, 2014; S. Miller et al., 2011). Conversely, adolescents who view parents as supportive and warm, while lending autonomy, possess a significantly decreased amount of internalizing problems than adolescents with oversolicitous parents (Chung & Doh, 1997; Tani et al., 2014). In addition, over-solicitous parenting of shy children is sometimes paired with psychological control. With this combination, not only do parents seek to be over-controlling, but they also aim to manipulate the child’s emotions and thoughts (Costa, Soenens, Gugliandolo, Cuzzocrea, & Larcan, 2015). This manipulation creates a learned helplessness for inhibited children, as parents initiate the child’s belief that they cannot handle difficult social situations (Miller et al., 2011). The psychological control, which promotes the learned helplessness, fosters already present internalizing problems (Costa, Soenens, Gugliandolo, Cuzzocrea, & Larcan, 2015), and also leads to peer exclusion (Miller et al., 2011). As parents recognize their direct influence on behavior and development, a positive change can occur. Therefore, parenting style should be adjusted for inhibited children (Miller et al., 2011). In place of an over-solicitous approach, parents should employ an authoritative style to build social competence (Chen et al., 2014). This can minimize the exacerbating effect that over-solicitous parenting has on inhibited children. While rearing an inhibited child may seem daunting, researchers have made several suggestions that may help. Parents can encourage sociality and generate opportunities for interactions (Rubin et al., 2001). They can also create opportunities for children to familiarize novelty stimuli, which aids children’s adjustment ability (Rubin et al., 2001). It is recommended that parents allow children to face challenging but formative experiences that will help their children to develop various life skills (Rubin et
42 • Stance: Studies on the Family al., 2001). Finally, parents can encourage play and social skills, thus teaching shy children how to not avoid peer interactions (Grady & Karraker, 2014). In conclusion, over-solicitous parenting has a negative impact on inhibited children. As mothers and fathers become aware of the circular pattern of certain parenting styles and child shyness, parenting styles can be adjusted to fit an inhibited child’s temperament. As parents extend warmth, support, autonomy, and encouragement, inhibited children can develop with fewer internalizing problems. In addition, the inhibited children will develop an increased social competence and a healthier parent-child relationship.
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References Chen, X., Zhang, G., Liang, Z., Zhao, S., Way, N., Yoshikawa, H., & Deng, H. (2014). Relations of behavioural inhibition with shyness and social competence in Chinese children: Moderating effects of maternal parenting. Infant and Child Development, 23(3), 343-352. Chung, S. W., & Doh, H. S. (1997). Parental sociability, parenting behaviors, and shyness in children. Korean Journal of Child Studies, 18(2), 149-161. Coplan, R. J., Arbeau, K. A., & Armer, M. (2008). Don’t fret, be supportive! Maternal characteristics linking child shyness to psychosocial and school adjustment in kindergarten. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36(3), 359-371. Costa, S., Soenens, B., Gugliandolo, M. C., Cuzzocrea, F., & Larcan, R. (2015). The mediating role of experiences of need satisfaction in associations between parental psychological control and internalizing problems: A study among Italian college students. Journal of Child And Family Studies, 24(4), 1106-1116. Grady, J. S., & Karraker, K. (2014). Do maternal warm and encouraging statements reduce shy toddlers’ social reticence? Infant and Child Development, 23(3), 295-303. Miller, S. R., Tserakhava, V., & Miller, C. J. (2011). ‘My child is shy and has no friends: What does parenting have to do with it’? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(4), 442-452. Morris, A. S., Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., Myers, S. S., & Robinson, L. R. (2007). The role of the family context in the development of emotion regulation. Social Development, 16(2), 361-388. Rubin, K. H., Nelson, L. J., Hastings, P., & Asendorpf, J. (1999). The transaction between parents’ perceptions of their children’s shyness and their parenting styles. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 23(4), 937-958.
44 • Stance: Studies on the Family Rubin, K. H., Cheah, C. L., & Fox, N. (2001). Emotion regulation, parenting and display of social reticence in preschoolers. Early Education and Development, 12(1), 97-115. Tani, F., Ponti, L., & Smorti, M. (2014). Shyness and psychological adjustment during adolescence: The moderating role of parenting style. The Open Psychology Journal, 7, 33-44. Wood, J. J., McLeod, B. D., Sigman, M., Hwang, W., & Chu, B. C. (2003). Parenting and childhood anxiety: Theory, empirical findings, and future directions. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44(1), 134-151.
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46 • Stance: Studies on the Family
By Study and By Faith: An LDS Perspective on Addiction’s Influence on Marriage Relationships Megan Moreton
n our world today, addiction runs rampant. Many struggle with too much reliance on alcohol, drugs, pornography, and even video gaming. Addiction is especially destructive to marriages because of how intimately connected a couple’s individual lives are. Husbands and wives completely commit to and invest in each other. This creates a sense of vulnerability that, if abused, can permanently damage the relationship. This is why addiction prevention and addiction recovery are immensely important. The marriage relationship is a delicate union that must be sheltered from the warfare that accompanies unbridled addiction.
Research Findings There has been numerous research studies conducted on the topic of addiction in marriage. One article, titled “Sexual Addiction and Marriage and Family Therapy: Facilitating Individual and Relationship Healing Through Couple Therapy” by Mark H. Bird, begins by describing how the internet has made it easier and more tempting to access pornography. This is because pornography is inexpensive to acquire and easy to obtain. The viewer often remains anonymous. Bird discusses a method ¬of some couples therapists that encourages sexual addiction treatment to be done without the spouse, at least at first. Bird compares this with studies that 46
Stance: Studies on the Family • 47 show marital therapy is more effective than group or individual therapy. Articles that Bird references discuss certain themes concerning marital therapy including restoring trust, improving awareness of individual issues and emotions, improving communication and assertiveness, forgiving, dealing with sexual problems, establishing boundaries, improving intimacy, reducing defensiveness, and reducing shame. However, despite the increased recognition of the importance of marital therapy, it is still mostly used as an addition to group or individual therapy. Through his research, Bird found that addicts continue to participate in sexual behaviors regardless of negative consequences to their relationships and personal life. Often, the addicts feel isolation and shame because of their sexual behaviors but are still unable to change their actions. Despite the negative consequences, the addicts continue hiding their addiction from their spouses. When the addiction comes to light, the spouses report feelings of sadness, anger, hopelessness, and confusion, which often lead them to participate in activities that they think would reduce the frequency of the inappropriate sexual behaviors such as bargaining with sex as the reward, increasing the amount of sex, wearing lingerie, etc. When this approach does not work, most couples enter therapy, although some choose to continue taking matters into their own hands. Bird proceeds to talk about the importance of the therapist being comfortable and receptive in situations that concern s¬exual addiction. If the therapist is direct yet sensitive, he or she will be able to make the couple feel safe and at ease while connecting to them on a deeper level. Bird also explains that individual and relationship wellbeing greatly affect each other and that a more stabilized marriage involving trust and openness could assist in a more rapid recovery. Couples therapy allows for the spouses to be involved in each other’s healing process, which can improve the level of trust in the relationship. Marital therapy can help a couple maintain or improve their relationship as they recover from sexual addiction. Bird concludes by saying that a balance should be found between individual healing and relationship healing for complete recovery from sexual addiction. Another article, “Gamer Widow: A Phenomenological Study of Spouses of Online Video Game Addicts” by Jason C. Northrup and Sterling Shumway, states recent data has found there are well over 20 million Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) players today and over one-third are married. Many players admit they have
48 • Stance: Studies on the Family sacrificed relationships to maintain their status in the game, among other game-related reasons. Northrup and Shumway also acknowledge that gaming addiction has been found to greatly affect friends and family members, which is consistent with systems theory that the actions of one person affect other members in the system. Northrup and Shumway discuss studies that suggest marital satisfaction levels are lower in marriages where only one partner plays video games. Researchers have also found that addictive behaviors and relationship problems inevitably affect each other. The study Northrup and Shumway conducted shows that gaming addiction changes the addict, the spouse, and the marital relationship. The participants, ten Caucasian females, described feelings of anger and resentment, as well as stress and frustration, noting the changes in themselves. Many also noticed financial losses, a lack of communication, and elevated conflict in the home. The women observed their husbands were often detached and rarely wanted to participate in physical intimacy. All of the participants in the study recognized a large void developing between their spouse and themselves.
Revealed Teachings Several spiritual resources emphasize this same topic as well. One talk given in the LDS General Conference held by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. He begins with a story of being approached at the airport by three women who said they had all been recently divorced as a result of their husbands’ infidelity. In each case, this infidelity was sparked by an addiction to pornography. Elder Holland explains we are bombarded by immoral images and messages from every side and pornography is becoming even more accessible through the internet and the media. He also declares that lust is the source of the problem. Lust, which is described as self-indulgent and ungodly, defiles marriage and destroys trust. Lust is completely different from love, for love makes us want to reach out to God and others, whereas lust makes us want to satisfy a sexual appetite. Elder Holland then goes through several ways we can avoid and deal with temptation: separate from people, materials, and circumstances that are harmful; acknowledge that people suffering from addictions often need more than just self-help; remember that the only real control in life is
Stance: Studies on the Family • 49 self-control; shut out unwelcome thoughts; and cultivate and be where the spirit of the Lord is. He also advises that we think of Christ more often. When we transgress, we hurt not only our friends and family, but we hurt Him. He loves us and atoned for our sins; He is the one that can save us. Elder Holland also speaks of real, true love. We must respect the proper time and place for it, the sanctity of it between a man and a woman, and the families it creates. Satan will try to deceive us and counterfeit true love, but we can’t let him influence us. We can reject this evil by relying on the redeeming power of the Lord Jesus Christ and the light of His gospel. Holland ends by pleading with us to keep our love, marriages, society, and souls pure. Another General Conference talk titled “O That Cunning Plan of the Evil One,” given by Elder M. Russell Ballard, also discusses addiction and its influence. Elder Ballard begins his talk with an insightful analogy. A fly fisherman catches trout through skillful deception, making artificial insects to lure and catch the fish. He relates this to how Satan tries to tempt and catch us. Satan knows our individual weaknesses and tries to draw us in with counterfeit lures, the result of which can be devastating. He takes away our agency through addictions that make us dependent on a destructive substance or behavior. When certain drugs and behaviors come into play, the pleasure center in our brain can overpower the more logical part of our brain, making us forget what we know to be right. When we allow this to happen, Satan gains control over us. Elder Ballard includes a story about a woman in the psychiatric unit of a local hospital that lost her marriage and family as well as her mental and physical health as a result of abusing prescription painkillers. She was suffering from intense physical, emotional, and spiritual pain and even considered taking her own life. She felt she was without hope, which is not a unique viewpoint among the addicted. Elder Ballard advises us to stay away from any substance that might lead to addiction. Addiction can quickly arise from just one pill or drink, and we must be aware of this. Elder Ballard reiterates that any kind of addiction surrenders agency and makes us dependent. Behaviors like pornography and gambling can obviously turn into addictions, but so can video gaming and texting. He also states that addiction is a disease of the brain as well as it is of the spirit. But no matter the addiction, there is always the hope that comes
50 • Stance: Studies on the Family through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We can humble ourselves before God and plead to be free of the addiction through fervent prayer. Elder Ballard concludes by advising us to recognize and refuse the temptations of Satan. He also reminds us to understand all things are possible through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Correlating Sources of Knowledge The findings from the research and revealed sources overlap in some of their statements about addictions. “Sexual Addiction and Marriage and Family Therapy: Facilitating Individual and Relationship Healing Through Couple Therapy” acknowledges the impact the internet has had on pornographic addictions, which coincides with what Elder Holland says in “Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul.” Both sources noted that the internet, though it can be extremely useful, has made it far too easy to access pornographic material. Also, both sources recognize the extremely negative impact sexual addictions can have on the marriage relationship. Trust deteriorates and the relationship suffers. The “Gamer Widow” article and the talk by Elder Ballard both acknowledge the negative effect of addictions on couple relationships. Both substance abuse and gaming can create a void between the husband and the wife, which is demonstrated in the personal accounts of the “gamer widows” as well as the story Elder Ballard told about the woman addicted to prescription medication. In Elder Holland’s and Elder Ballard’s talks, the importance of redemption from sin through Jesus Christ is highlighted. Both talks also discuss the significance of avoiding Satan’s temptations. On the other hand, both research articles avoid the topics of God and religion. Instead, they focus on healing through professional counseling and reconciliation between the spouses. These secular sources also focus on the effects addictions can have on the temporal things, like finances and the home, in the lives of the couple; the two General Conference talks emphasize the impact addictions can have on the spiritual things like salvation and redemption from sin. The secular and religious articles were created from different perspectives, making the points they formulate somewhat diverse in nature.
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Personal Experience In my own experiences, I have seen addictions destroy lives and marriages. The findings of the scholarly articles and the stances that the LDS Church has are relevant and concerning. In my opinion, pornography is the most destructive addiction to a marriage. The addicted spouse does not always recognize the consequences of his or her actions and the other spouse ends up suffering. Pornography destroys trust and love, which was especially emphasized in Elder Holland’s talk, and lust is the root of the problem. It is true, we all have sexual desires and urges, but we must utilize them in the right time and circumstance. Otherwise, we succumb to lust and subject ourselves to unnecessary pain. The purest love results from a holy marriage between a man and a woman. Only in this context can sexual intimacy be used for its intended purpose. I have experienced firsthand how damaging a pornography addiction can be. A few years ago, I was seriously dating a boy who was a couple of years older than me. After a few months of dating, he confessed he was addicted to pornography. I was caught completely off guard and I did not know how to respond. I took his pain upon myself, and I felt like it was my responsibility to support and help him; furthermore, I thought it was my responsibility to fix him. I was being naïve and unfair to myself, but I did not care. I just wanted him to feel better and be better. Our relationship became strained and conflict-ridden after his confession. Even though he had opened up to me and was working on getting his addiction under control, his past behavior kept creeping back into our relationship. During this time, I was at the lowest point I have ever been in my life. I was suffering from depression and low self-esteem. My boyfriend’s addiction not only affected him, but it affected me and our relationship. If I had married this boy, I know our marriage would have struggled. The pornography addiction he fought with wrecked both his life and mine, and I know the destruction would have been much worse if we had been married. Since this time, he has talked to his bishop, repented, and served a full two-year mission for the Church. He recovered from this experience and so have I, but it did not come without diligent effort. Several years ago, one of my cousins severely struggled with alcohol abuse, and I personally witnessed the negative impact substance abuse, and even gaming addictions, can have on a marriage. In Elder Ballard’s talk, he emphasizes that it does not take much to become addicted and that
52 • Stance: Studies on the Family when the addiction hits, it consumes the life of the addicted and takes away his or her agency. I know this to be true. Satan does everything he can to confuse the good with the bad, trapping his victims in a seemingly inescapable snare. One of the biggest lies Satan tells us is that once we sin, we are irredeemable and past all hope. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Elder Ballard says, there is always hope. Those suffering from addictions can always be saved through the Savior’s infinite atonement. I have a strong testimony of the Atonement and the positive impact it can have on a person’s life. I know that, no matter how far gone we think we are, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can always reach us. As I read through these secular and religious sources, it became very apparent to me just how much damage addictions can cause in a marriage and in the lives of each spouse. If the couple does not communicate and work through the problem with each other and with God, the problem can run rampant and completely demolish the marriage. However, if the right steps are taken, any marriage can be saved.
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References Ballard, M. (2010, October). O That Cunning Plan of the Evil One. Retrieved November 7, 2015. Bird, M. (2006). Sexual Addiction and Marriage and Family Therapy: Facilitating Individual and Relationship Healing Through Couple Therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 32(3), 297-311. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from EBSCOhost. Holland, J. (2010, April). Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul. Retrieved November 7, 2015. Northrup, J., & Shumway, S. (2014). Gamer Widow: A Phenomenological Study of Spouses of Online Video Game Addicts. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 42, 269–281 269–281. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from EBSCOhost.
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Inspired by Family Asia Ackerman
ne day Asia Ackerman decided to pick up a paintbrush and try painting. With no previous experience, Asia created these charming paintings that represent her love for foxes and family. She was inspired to paint these paintings by families and her own excitement to be a mom some day. She plans on hanging these fox paintings in her future nursery. The family of foxes painting represents her, her husband, and their future child. The single fox painting is a representation of their future child. These paintings are an expression of her newfound passion mingled with her love of families.
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58 • Stance: Studies on the Family
Step Out of the 50s Makayla Nielson
y seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Wendt, showed us a video about the civil rights movement. She turned off the lights, and I settled into my seat, getting comfortable before the hour-long snooze-fest I was about to endure. As the video went on, however, my posture became more rigid instead of more relaxed. I focused intently on the screen, and my pulse sped up. There were vivid images of young black men being beaten by police officers, black women being grabbed by their hair, and children with dark skin running down filthy roads to find refuge from white persecutors. My eyes stung and I held back tears. Almost without my consent, my hand shot into the air and I asked, “Mrs. Wendt, can I go to the nurse? I’m not feeling well.” As I made the short walk down the narrow hallway to the nurse’s office, I braced myself for the intense smell of disinfectant that would greet me at the door of the small room. I sat there for a while on a plastic-covered chair until I was told that my mom was waiting in the parking lot for me. When I got to the car, Mom reached over to the passenger door and opened it for me. I could tell she was concerned by the way she looked; her hair was in a haphazard ponytail, and she was wearing her pink pajama bottoms and one of Dad’s old t-shirts. The second I got in the car she asked, “Makayla, what’s wrong? You’re not sick.” Tears spilled over onto my cheeks, and between jagged breaths I told her about the terrifying movie. She listened to my concerns intently, her eyes never leaving me. When I finished, she said, “Let’s get you home, and I’ll make some hot cocoa.”
Stance: Studies on the Family • 59 After sitting me down on the couch at home and wrapping me in a blanket with a warm mug of hot chocolate, my mom told me a story that I almost couldn’t believe: In high school, she had a teacher who was very outspoken about his southern roots and heritage. He kept a wooden chest in his classroom. The students would sometimes speculate about it. Some said that he kept dead bodies in there—and as it turned out, they weren’t far off. During a lesson about the Ku Klux Klan, the mysterious wooden chest was finally opened. “All right class, I know I’ve been going over dates and facts that are not of much interest to you. However, since you have been attentive, I’m going to share something a bit more exciting.” The students perked up and shifted in their seats as their teacher reached down and pulled out many items from the ancient chest. Only two of them, however, remained permanently fixed in my mother’s memory. The first was a white “grand dragon” costume worn by only the most prominent clan members, and the other was a wallet. A wallet made of human skin; dark, dry, leathery, human skin. It was wrinkled and fragile, and it still had moles and other telltale signs of human imperfection visible. After taking in the scene, my mother looked her teacher right in the eye, shook her head, and walked out. Once she was out the door, she walked down the long hallway with wobbly legs. After a few seconds, she heard a door open behind her and saw that many of her classmates had followed. When Mom finished her story, I lifted my head from her shoulder and looked up at her. She smiled and said, “You never have to stay in a place that makes you uncomfortable, honey. Sometimes it’s best to stand up and make it known that some things simply won’t be tolerated.” I put my head back on her shoulder and smile.
In grade school, my sister Jessie and I would walk home together. We would race up the driveway and plop ourselves down at the island in the kitchen and wait for Mom to set some after-school snacks in front of us.
60 • Stance: Studies on the Family As Mom sliced apples for our after-school snack, she asked, “Did you do anything interesting at school today? Did you make a new friend?” Jessie sat quietly for a moment and looked down at her small hands, folded in her lap. She looked up slowly, barely meeting Mom’s eyes, and cautiously said, “Well, there’s a new girl in my class and no one would play with her. She looks different and has black skin.” She lowered her gaze and focused her eyes on her little hands once again. Mom stopped slicing the shiny red apple she had been working on and wiped her hands on a kitchen towel. She was still, for what seemed like an hour, until Jessie finally looked up. Only then did Mom begin her story: She grew up in a small town where there was only one black family. The youngest child in the family happened to be my mom’s age. She was friends with this boy through middle school and high school. On a Friday night, they decided to go to a party in the neighboring town. When they were picked up, the driver told my mom’s friend, “Get in the back! Your kind don’t belong up front.” My mom looked him in the eye with red cheeks and a raised eyebrow and yelled, “You need to step out of the 50s!” Then she got out of the car and slammed the door. By the end of the story, Jessie had made her way over to a drawer in the kitchen that held broken pencils, half-used rolls of masking tape, years of old phone books, and the school directory, which contained the phone numbers of every student at the school. She stood on her tippy-toes and peeked over the edge of the drawer. Once she found the staple-bound directory, she pulled it out and began her search. “Mom, how do you spell Whitney? I want to call her and ask her to play.” My mom smiled and walked over to the seat next to Jessie and said, “I think that’s a very good decision. That will make Whitney very happy.” She wrapped her arms around Jessie, giving her a gentle squeeze, and said, “I’m proud of you, sweetie.” My mom was aware of racism but expected that her children respect others, despite differences in outward appearances. She set an example that not only taught us how to behave, but also demanded that we respect all human beings, regardless of race or creed. As we grow older
Stance: Studies on the Family • 61 and encounter these types of trials, we will be able to set an example that others will follow, just like my mother’s classmates followed her.
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Cultural Socialization and the Psychological Well-Being of Transracial Adoptees Mariah Ramage
ver the last decade, researchers have shown increasing interest in transracial adoptions and the situations surrounding the adoptees (Burrow & Finley, 2004; Basow, Lilley, Bookwala, & McGillicuddy-DeLisi, 2008; Reinoso, Juffer, & Tieman, 2013). This interest is partly because of the differences between the race of parents looking to adopt and the race of adoptive children. Researchers have looked especially at the areas of cultural socialization, discrimination stress, and identity development (Riley-Behringer, Groza, Tieman, & Juffer, 2014; Leslie, Smith, Hrapczynski, & Riley, 2013; Kim, Suyemoto, & Turner, 2010). Although many studies examine these factors for one particular race of adoptees, few study more than one race at the same time (Burrow & Finley, 2004). The purpose of this literature review will be to explore effects on transracial adoptees in regards to Asian, Black, and multiracial adoptees. It will provide a synthesis of the various studies already conducted and look at new perspectives that are apparent after combining the segregated literature. I will argue that the manner of cultural socialization that occurs in transracial adoptees’ lives affects their psychological well-being, namely their ability to develop self-identity and handle discrimination. First, I will briefly address the importance of studying cultural socialization and the concept of pre-adoption adversity. Second, I will discuss the manners of cultural socialization in the lives of transracial adoptees. Finally, I will discuss how it affects aspects of
Stance: Studies on the Family • 63 their well-being, particularly how they handle identity development and discrimination stress.
Pre-Adoption Adversity Some argue that study of cultural socialization is unnecessary because problems in the lives of transracial adoptees stem from pre-adoption adversity. Over the years, researchers have given much attention to pre-adoption adversity and its effects on adoptive children (GagnonOosterwaal et al., 2012). While it has been shown that pre-adoption adversity is a serious risk factor in regards to the future development of children, positive post-adoption buffers can, combined with children’s natural resilience, negate the effects of the pre-adoption adversity and result in healthy development and positive self-esteem ( Juffer & van IJzendoorn, 2007). Pre-adoption adversity is a factor that can affect many different aspects of life for an adoptive child. However, just as preadoption adversity can affect many different aspects of life, many other factors influence and affect each aspect of life, such as psychological wellbeing. It is now time for other influencing factors to be given their share of attention by researchers, instead of merely focusing on pre-adoption adversity. As it is not possible for researchers to address every influencing factor in the lives of adoptees, decisions must be made as to which factors will be addressed. For transracial adoptees, one of the most influential factors is cultural socialization. This presumed status is due to the conflict between the attention given to birth culture and adoptive culture inherent in the lives of all transracial adoptees (Riley-Behringer et al., 2014, p. 233). As such, while it is important to consider effects of pre-adoption adversity, it is also important to look at the effects of the various manners of cultural socialization in the lives of transracial adoptees.
Manner of Cultural Socialization I will begin by operationalizing cultural socialization, and then progress to discussing how color-blind ideology, consideration for racial issues, community diversity, prevalence of adoptee’s culture, and parental association with adults of cultural similarity to their adoptive child influence the manner in which cultural socialization occurs in families.
64 • Stance: Studies on the Family The first thing to remember when operationalizing cultural socialization is that two forms of cultural socialization exist within transracial adoptive families. There is the cultural socialization to the culture of the parents, and there is the cultural socialization to the birth culture of the adoptee. When speaking of cultural socialization in the lives of transracial adoptees, I am referring to birth cultural socialization. Cultural socialization includes various behaviors and activities that promote or foster a sense of racial or ethnic pride in minority children (Leslie et al., 2013, p. 73). Some studies give consideration to the amount of preparation for bias that parents provide for their minority children (Leslie et al., 2013; Kim et al., 2010). Cultural socialization can also be used to address issues that arise as transracial adoptive children become aware of the physical differences between themselves and their parents (Riley-Behringer et al., 2014, p. 233). This awareness can occur at different times depending on the age of the child upon adoption, with some children already being aware from the time of adoption because they are old enough to notice and possibly understand the physical differences. The manner of cultural socialization varies depending on the family. In transracial adoptive families, any birth cultural socialization that is going to occur must be through the intentionality and consciousness of the parents, rather than the naturally unconscious parental and birth cultural socialization that occurs within monoracial families (Basow et al., 2008, p. 474). Therefore, it is necessary for the parents to become well-versed in the culture of their minority child and understand what it means to be a member of a minority group (Riley-Behringer et al., 2014, p. 231). The approaches that parents take regarding cultural socialization include assimilation, integration, and multiculturalism (Riley-Behringer et al., 2014, p. 233). Assimilation involves leaving the child’s culture behind. Integration is absorbing aspects of the birth culture where some difference is maintained, yet parents and child become one. Multiculturalism involves blending the cultures of the parents and child into one new family culture. However, none of these approaches are entirely clear-cut and are more of a continuum of approaches influenced by different factors. One factor is the degree to which the adoptive parents are “colorblind” in regards to race and cultural issues. Color blindness is more than just not “‘seeing’ or using race to identify people, but . . . avoiding
Stance: Studies on the Family • 65 the historical and continued impact of race and rationalizing away racial inequities as something from the past, natural, or caused by poor choices” (Sweeney, 2013, p. 45). This is a problem as it professes to “acknowledge that race is not innate by calling for the elimination of race, yet it neglects the structural privilege and power still attached to it” (Sweeney, 2013, p. 45). As with most ideologies, there is a spectrum of color blindness, with many people subscribing to it in the most basic level where they are trying to prevent discrimination or isolation due to race. However, the more color-blind individuals are, the more they tend to ignore the racial issues that exist in the world and which must be dealt with at some point, or continually, in the lives of minority groups. Therefore, the more color-blind the parents are, the less likely they are to support cultural socialization, believing it is unnecessary (Kim et al., 2010, p. 188). In theory, being color-blind is a good thing because it implies that one’s judgment of an individual is based on factors other than skin color. However, not everyone is color-blind, and children need to be prepared to face those non-color-blind individuals and the accompanying discrimination. Similar to color-blindness, differing amounts of consideration are given to either racial issues or cultural issues. This difference is explained as being due to the ability of the parents to become versed in the adoptee’s birth culture and contrastingly, how “they do not inherently understand the psychosocial consequences of racial discrimination as a result of lived experience” (Leslie et al., 2013, p. 73). It is much easier to become familiar with a particular culture than it is to understand what it means psychosocially to be discriminated against because of race. As such, parents are often unprepared to deal with racial issues regarding their adoptive child (Riley-Behringer et al., 2014, p. 234). For example, perhaps the parents have no personal experience with how to handle racial bias or discrimination. If so, they do not know what to tell their child about how to handle the situation and are not able to prepare the child for such instances before they occur. This leads parents to engage in “cultural socialization practices, such as celebrating the holidays of their children’s culture, more frequently than they took steps to prepare their children for bias” (Leslie et al., 2013, p. 73). While these practices are part of cultural socialization, it is not a sufficient means of preparing children to live in a world where racial bias exists. Preparing for bias means acknowledging that it is going to happen and providing techniques for how to handle it when it occurs.
66 • Stance: Studies on the Family The remaining factors are all mainly environmental in nature. Several studies support the idea of community diversity. The idea suggests that cultural diversity in the area in which the parents choose to raise their child is beneficial to the process of cultural socialization, especially when the child’s own ethnic group is present in the community (Basow et al., 2008, p. 474; Kim et al., 2010, p. 188; Riley-Behringer et al., 2014, p. 232). Living among other minorities allows them to develop a positive view of minorities in general and a nonwhite or minority group identity (Basow et al., 2008, p. 474). For example, areas like Seattle where there are large immigrant populations provide individuals with opportunities to interact with minorities and develop an accurate view of them. On the other hand, areas like small towns in the Midwest that are predominantly White do not provide many opportunities for real life interactions with minorities, leaving individuals’ views to be based on what they see in the media, which is often stereotyped and inaccurate. Similarly, cultural socialization can be made easier by the prevalence of the adoptee’s culture. For example, “mothers of Korean adoptees engaged in less frequent cultural socialization practices than did mothers of Chinese adoptees, perhaps because Chinese culture is more prevalent (in terms of numbers) as well as more visible (e.g., restaurants, cultural festivals) in the U.S. than is Korean culture” (Basow et al., 2008, p. 474). This prevalence makes it easier for the adoptive parents to become versed in the adoptee’s birth culture as well as provides them with more community opportunities to engage in cultural socialization activities. An infrequence of such culture and activities can be mediated by parental visits to the birth culture of their future adoptive child. These visits lead to greater awareness of the need for cultural activities and sensitivity (Riley-Behringer et al., 2014, p. 234). Further visits after the adoption is finalized can also serve as a means to expose the child in a natural setting to the culture. One of the most influential environmental factors for the manner of cultural socialization is parental association with adults of ethnic, racial, or cultural similarity to their child. Association with their child’s minority group makes parents more likely to “emphasize ethnic pride, heritage, and diversity to their adopted children” (Basow et al., 2008, p. 474). Having a greater number of adult minority friends within the parents’ social networks is influential as they act as “cultural role models and a gateway to [bicultural socialization] activities” (Riley-Behringer et al., 2014, p. 232).
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Psychological Well-Being Cultural socialization is one of the many factors that influence the psychological well-being of transracial adoptees. Over the years, as researchers have tried to determine developmental outcomes such as psychological well-being, they have found that it is crucial to look at multiple domains of development or adjustment (Burrow & Finley, 2004, p. 578). For this literature review, the domains that will be discussed are those of handling self-identity development and discrimination stress.
Self-Identity Development This section will discuss the types of influences on self-identity development, the difficulties faced by transracial adoptees in developing their self-identities, and the effects that cultural socialization can have on their development, both when done poorly and when done well. Developing a self-identity is a long and complex process that occurs largely in the first 25 years of an individual’s life, though self-identity will continue to develop and change as new factors are added. A few factors must be considered from the very beginning of his or her life. The most obvious factor is an individual’s decisions about various aspects of his or her life that influence the individual identity that he or she will develop. Beyond that, however, are the social experiences and responses of others that have “influential roles in identity development through ascribed identities” (Kim et al., 2010, p. 188). The racial or ethnic identity that an individual chooses also influences his or her self-identity. While racial identity may not at first seem to be a choice, individuals who are multiracial have the option of identifying more with one race than another. Beyond race, ethnicity can be vastly complex. Ethnicity is defined as belonging to a social group with a common national or cultural tradition. As such, a child who is racially Black may identify ethnically as American. Along the same lines, Asian transracial adoptees can choose whether or not they identify with the nationality and culture they were born to or the one they were adopted into. These racial or ethnic identities that people may choose from are influenced by social contexts and interactions with other racial and ethnic groups (Kim et al., 2010, p. 188).
68 • Stance: Studies on the Family While every person must go through the process of developing a selfidentity in his or her life, there are particular difficulties for transracial adoptees (Reinoso et al., 2013, p. 265). These difficulties begin with the differences in physical features and cultural heritage that exist between transracial adoptees and their adoptive parents. As mentioned above, ascribed identities also have influence on the development of self-identity. This is especially true for transracial adoptees as they will be subjected to judgments based on perceived race, physical features, and various levels of acceptance or rejection by different racial and ethnic groups (Kim et al., 2010, p. 188). Transracial adoptees are able to use these experiences to decide which ascribed racial or ethnic identities they wish to identify with. They also have the option of claiming multiple identities at the same time partly because of how they naturally could belong to various racial or ethnic groups based on their birth groups and their adoptive groups. Cultural socialization that occurs in the lives of transracial adoptees influences how they choose to identify racially or ethnically. When cultural socialization is done well, it actively insulates transracial adoptees from negative racial messages while “emphasizing positive racial messages including knowledge of [their race’s] culture and achievements” (ButlerSweet, 2011b, p. 195). This means it aids in the development of a positive racial or ethnic identity. This process may take longer for transracial adoptees, but “they do eventually develop secure ethnic identities” (Butler-Sweet, 2011b, p. 195, emphasis in original). In turn, this positive racial or ethnic identity aids transracial adoptees in the development of positive self-identity. Poor cultural socialization can lead to a myriad of problems in the development of identity. When adoptive parents are not adequately educated about the birth culture of their adoptive child, they will often focus on one aspect of the culture that they feel is the most important, such as cultural celebrations. This focus is often on the aspects that are, at least in part, stereotypical. This leads to transracial adoptees believing in the stereotypes of their birth culture, rather than all the variety that exists within it (Butler-Sweet, 2011b, p. 206). This misconception can damage their cultural identities and cause problems as they attempt to navigate their birth culture and develop a positive self-identity in relation to it. Stereotypes are often inaccurate, and behaving as though they are true can be very offensive to the party being stereotyped.
Stance: Studies on the Family • 69 Poor cultural socialization can also lead to the inappropriate transmission of the idea of white privilege. Studies have shown that transracial adoptees will often de-emphasize race not only when describing themselves, but also when giving interpretations of how others view them (Butler-Sweet, 2011a, p. 762). While it is acceptable for them not to consider race when defining themselves, there is a need for them to understand that others will use it to define them. This lack of acknowledgement of race is considered to be a remnant of the idea of white privilege as transmitted to them by their adoptive White parents. It causes a lack of attention to birth culture that interferes with their ability to integrate their cultural identity into their self-identity. Cultural socialization is done well when parents take into account the age of the children and plan accordingly. This involves recognizing that, at least as early as age eight, transracial adoptees feel connected to their birth culture (Reinoso et al., 2013, p. 271). When parents begin birth cultural socialization early, they are able to utilize this feeling of connection to aid children in developing a positive cultural identity before they reach the “increased turmoil and reflections on one’s identity” that is adolescence ( Juffer & van IJzendoorn, 2007, p. 1069). It also provides a solid basis for them to decide how much they want to include various cultural, racial, or ethnic identities into their self-identity (Reinoso et al., 2013, p. 270).
Discrimination Stress In this section, I will first address how cultural socialization can affect the handling of stress caused by racial discrimination, after which I will address how color-blind ideology, the amount of discrimination faced, and the source of discrimination interact with other aspects of cultural socialization to impact the handling of discrimination. The ability of transracial adoptees to handle the stress caused by racial discrimination is affected by how their parents culturally socialize them. Indirectly, these effects can be seen through how parents foster positive self-identity development. Their positive self-identity is then either strong enough to moderate discrimination stress or too weak and their self-identity is compromised by the discrimination they face (Kim et al., 2010, p. 181). These effects can also be seen directly through how their parents prepare them for bias, teach them strategies to manage racism,
70 • Stance: Studies on the Family and validate the children’s reactions to discrimination (Leslie et al., 2013, p. 79; Samuels, 2009, p. 92). Studies have already identified cultural socialization by parents as a protective factor against discrimination stress in monoracial families, but the process of cultural socialization in transracial families is more complicated (Leslie et al., 2013, p. 73). The first factor of cultural socialization that affects the handling of racial discrimination is how color-blind the parents are. When parents are color-blind, they cannot “always recognize racism in schools or in some other experiences . . . parents sometimes avoided discussions of race or often tried to minimize their experiences of racism, rather than seeing it through the child’s eyes” (de Haymes & Simon, 2003, p. 263). The parents often are “unable to appreciate the unique weight of racial epithets when one is the target of them” (Samuels, 2009, p. 88). Parents might wish that race did not matter, but “racialized discrimination and stigma are considered part of the normative ecological context in which all children of color must develop” (Samuels, 2009, p. 83). The children’s ability to handle stress caused by discrimination is influenced in part by whether or not parents acknowledge their children need support facing racism. If parents do not, children are left to navigate a highly racialized world on their own (Samuels, 2009, p. 88). Some may argue that White parents are not equipped to teach their children how to handle racial discrimination because the parents do not inherently understand what it means to face racial discrimination in their lives (Leslie et al., 2013, p. 73). However, transracial adoptees have said “I didn’t need my parents to identify with me on how it felt to be called n—r [sic]. All I needed to know is that they were there for me. That when I hurt, it did hurt them. They may not understand, but it did hurt them. And that’s what they [children] need” (Samuels, 2009, p. 91, brackets and emphasis in original). Another factor to consider is the amount of discrimination that the adoptees are facing. It has been found that parental actions can be especially helpful in the handling of discrimination matters when children are faced with high levels of discrimination (Leslie et al., 2013, p. 77). These parental actions generally include promoting cultural pride and preparing the children for dealing with racism (Leslie et al., 2013, p. 78). However, the intensity of these actions and the levels of discrimination can also make it slightly more difficult for transracial adoptees to handle discrimination. This phenomenon can be seen when high levels of cultural socialization are combined with low levels of discrimination. When faced
Stance: Studies on the Family • 71 with this situation, children have a heightened racial awareness that makes them more sensitive to and bothered by what little discrimination they are faced with (Leslie et al., 2013, p. 78). The source of discrimination must also be considered. Parents may expect Whites to be prejudiced against people of color, but they do not always realize that they must also prepare their children to face the prejudice that exists from people of color against Whites (de Haymes & Simon, 2003, p. 260). Over the years, communities of color have formed racial bias toward whiteness as a “self-protective response to counter internalized racism and stigma” (Samuels, 2009, p. 92). Handling this kind of discrimination can require different strategies than those that might be employed against racist Whites. Parents must not only aim for a happy medium of cultural socialization that will work with most levels of discrimination, but they must also anticipate the discrimination that may come from communities of color.
Conclusion Over the years, researchers have focused on the importance and impact of pre-adoption adversity. However, the impact of cultural socialization on the psychological well-being of transracial adoptees has rarely been addressed as a complete whole; rather, research focuses on specific aspects of cultural socialization, psychological well-being, and even race. This review of literature was done to synthesize the existing research on this topic. I used this synthesis to explain how cultural socialization takes place within the home of transracial adoptees. I also explain how it affects their ability to develop a self-identity and handle the stress that results from discrimination. When cultural socialization is done well, it aids in the development of a positive self-identity and teaches adoptees how to handle discrimination in their lives in ways that will decrease the stress that can be caused by said discrimination. More research needs to be done in order to understand the best cultural socialization options for parents to use with their transracially adoptive children. Naturally, what is best will vary by family and circumstances, but parents can be taught universal skills to aid their children. Research also needs to address what resources or methods of teaching these skills are the best for parents. With this knowledge, social service agencies
72 • Stance: Studies on the Family would be able to ensure that transracial adoptive families are wellequipped to handle the challenges they will face. If these resources can be provided, the controversy surrounding transracial adoption will decrease as parents are able to minimize the issues that are of most concern to the opponents of it.
References Basow, S. A., Lilley, E., Bookwala, J., & McGillicuddy-DeLisi, A. (2008). Identity Development and Psychological Well-Being in Korean-Born Adoptees in the U.S. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 78(4), 473-480. Burrow, A. L., & Finley, G. E. (2004). Transracial, Same-Race Adoptions, and the Need for Multiple Measures of Adolescent Adjustment. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74(4), 577-583. Butler-Sweet, C. (2011). “Race isn’t what defines me”: Exploring identity choices in transracial, biracial, and monoracial families. Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, 17(6), 747-769. Butler-Sweet, C. (2011). “A Healthy Black Identity” Transracial Adoption, Middle-Class Families, and Racial Socialization. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 42(2), 193-212. de Haymes, M., & Simon, S. (2003). Transracial Adoption: Families Identify Issues and Needed Support Services. Child Welfare: Journal of Policy, Practice, and Program, 82(2), 251-272. Gagnon-Oosterwaal, N., Cossette, L., Smolla, N., Pomerleau, A., Malcuit, G., Chione, J., & Berthiaume, C. (2012). Pre-Adoption Adversity and Self-Reported Behavior Problems in 7 Year-Old International Adoptees. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 43(4), 648-660. Juffer, F., & van IJzendoorn, M. H. (2007). Adoptees Do Not Lack Self-Esteem: A Meta-Analysis of Studies on Self-Esteem of
Stance: Studies on the Family • 73 Transracial, International, and Domestic Adoptees. Psychological Bulletin, 133(6), 1067-1083. Kim, G. S., Suyemoto, K. L., & Turner, C. B. (2010). Sense of Belonging, Sense of Exclusion, and Racial and Ethnic Identities in Korean Transracial Adoptees. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 16(2), 179-190. Leslie, L. A., Smith, J. R., Hrapczynski, K. M., & Riley, D. (2013). Racial Socialization in Transracial Adoptive Families: Does It Help Adolescents Deal With Discrimination Stress? Family Relations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, 62(1), 72-81. Reinoso, M., Juffer, F., & Tieman, W. (2013). Children’s and parents’ thoughts and feelings about adoption, birth culture identity and discrimination in families with internationally adopted children. Child & Family Social Work, 18(3), 264-274. Riley-Behringer, M., Groza, V., Tieman, W., & Juffer, F. (2014). Race and Bicultural Socialization in The Netherlands, Norway, and the United States of America in the Adoptions of Children From India. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 20(2), 231-243. Samuels, G. (2009). “Being Raised by White People”: Navigating Racial Difference Among Adopted Multiracial Adults. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71(1), 80-94. Sweeney, K. A. (2013). Race-Conscious Adoption Choices, Multiraciality, and Color-blind Racial Ideology. Family Relations: An Interdisciplinary Joural of Applied Family Studies, 62(1), 42-57.
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Chastity: What does it really mean? Abigail Weible
t is too common in the Church today for young men and women to break the law of chastity. Rather than repenting and continuing to come to church, they feel unwelcome and turn elsewhere for acceptance. There are also many young men and women in the Church who unknowingly break the law of chastity because the protective guidelines were not made clear enough. Both of these issues are rooted in the fact that young men and women are not being taught the purpose of abstinence and the importance of chastity as preparation for intimacy in marriage. Youth need to be shown that living the law of chastity brings joy that can’t be found in any other way. Chastity involves not merely our actions—chastity is a condition in our hearts. I was blessed with wise Young Women leaders who never viewed intimacy as dirty or destructive and often taught me about its sacredness. However, there have often been misconceptions in the Church taught through metaphorical lessons that objectify human intimacy. In one instance, a cupcake was offered to a youth group. Everyone enthusiastically proclaimed their desire for it, but before it was given to anyone in particular, it was passed around the room so everyone could touch it. In another metaphor, a piece of gum was chewed, and students were asked if anyone else wanted to chew it next. In another metaphor, a nail was hammered into a board to represent sin, then removed to demonstrate repentance, but a hole remained in the board illustrating that the sin was never truly gone. All of these metaphors inadvertently send the message that sexual sin makes us “used” and less desirable. Every single one of these metaphors is wrong. Every. Single. One. We are not cupcakes or gum. We are not less valuable or undesirable to God when
Stance: Studies on the Family • 75 we sin, and yet many young men and young women in the Church are learning that sex is destructive to our worth—that once we are “used,” we are incapable of being pure ever again. This idea opposes what we know to be true—that the Atonement of Christ has infinite power to make us new, and Christ has pled with God to give us a second chance. It teaches youth that Christ’s Atonement only covers smaller sins that seem less detrimental to our eternal well-being. When we utilize the Atonement, we do not have a hole remaining in our board; we become brand new boards with all of our worth restored. When Christ pleads with Heavenly Father to forgive us, He hears the plea of His beloved son; He hears our plea as His beloved children, and He knows our sorrow. When we repent and seek His forgiveness, He forgives. He loves us and He wants to forgive (Cardon, 2013). Sex is sacred, not secret. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published A Parent’s Guide that explains we should “teach [youth] to use their procreative powers within the bounds the Lord has set” (Guide, 1985). If we only use object lessons like those mentioned above to teach youth about sex, we show them that we are uncomfortable talking about sexuality and they should be too. Lessons like these teach that sex is inappropriate and our desires as human beings should be suppressed until marriage—but why? This often causes teenagers to build up anxiety and feel as if their teen years are a race to the marriage finish line when they get to experience sex and no longer have to live chastely. But chastity is not a virtue that only applies to those who are unmarried. Chastity is a virtue that is applicable after marriage too through fidelity and respect; chastity is a habit to be continued throughout one’s life. President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “We advocate the example of the Lord, who condemned the sin, yet loved the sinner. We should reach out with kindness and comfort to the afflicted, ministering to their needs and assisting them with their problems. We repeat, however, that the way of safety and the road to happiness lie in abstinence before marriage and fidelity following marriage.” Youth know that sex is pleasurable, but adults pretend it is a secret. Yes, it is sacred, but it is the responsibility of adults to teach children about the functions of their bodies, which were created in the image and function of God. This should include being open to answering questions, using correct terminology, and most importantly, explaining the significance and
76 • Stance: Studies on the Family beauty of sex without shame. Studies have shown that the more children understand and know about sex, how their bodies work, and the purpose for these functions, the more likely they are to wait until the appropriate time and age to have sex (Evans, 2012). Children of every age should have someone they can turn to for truth. The Parent’s Guide explained, “Teaching human intimacy to our children is only one of many ways in which we help them to prepare for eternal life. But it is a very important responsibility we have toward our children.” A 3-year-old can typically understand that two people are capable of bringing forth life, and should be told that a baby is a gift from God whom mommy and daddy want very much. An 8-year-old can understand attraction, and is usually ready to be introduced to the idea of sex. A 13-year-old will need to know more details and fully understand the process of creating life. We should always tell children some level of truth—even if only the age-appropriate amount—and never attempt to sugar-coat or bend the truth merely because we’re uncomfortable with the subject Parents and trustworthy leaders should be people to whom children can turn when they have questions and are seeking the truth. They will often find skewed information in the media and from their peers, which “morally disarms them rather than gives moral sensitivity to help make the proper sexual choices” (Hinckley, 1987). Believe it or not, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages every member to have healthy intimacy within their marriage. We need to stop teaching youth to be uncomfortable with their sexuality and we need to stop teaching them that their worth suffers when they commit sin; the Atonement of Christ encompasses these sins too. Worthiness changes, but worth does not, especially in the eyes of our Savior and our Heavenly Father. Chastity is not just physical; it is an attitude in our hearts—a personal desire to be morally clean in every way, and this needs to be instilled in the youth of the Church. They should learn that, though sacred, sex is natural and not shameful. Leaders and adults should emphasize that intimacy is how we can be most united with our spouse in Godlike oneness. Jeffrey R. Holland affirms this idea by prophesying, “Human intimacy, that sacred, physical union ordained of God for a married couple . . . is—or certainly was ordained to be—a symbol of total union: union of their hearts, their hopes, their lives, their love, their family, their future, their everything.” I am so grateful that my leaders supported healthy intimacy and allowed questions without
Stance: Studies on the Family • 77 criticism. Because of this, I don’t struggle with the damaging opinions so many other youth struggle with. I hope all youth will have the opportunity to gain a knowledge of the sacredness and beauty of intimacy and someday enjoy the blessings of this knowledge within the bonds of their marriages. Loving and responsible adults can ensure that this happens.
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References Cardon, C. (2013, April 1). The Savior Wants to Forgive. Retrieved November 11, 2015, from https://www.lds.org/ general-conference/2013/04/the-savior-wants-to-forgive?lang=eng Evans, W. (2012). Effects of Media Messages on Parent-Child Sexual Communication. Journal of Health Communication, 498-514. Hinckley, G. (1987, April 1). Reverence and Mortality. Retrieved November 11, 2015, from https://www.lds.org/ general-conference/1987/04/reverence-and-morality?lang=eng Intimacy and the Purposes of Earthly Families. (1985). Retrieved November 11, 2015, from https://www.lds.org/manual/a-parents-guide/ chapter-1-intimacy-and-the-purposes-of-earthlyfamilies?lang=eng
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