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Faith & Families

With Dave Dollahite & Loren Marks

Faith & Families

Podcast hosts:

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Loren Marks


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Dave Dollahite


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Prof. A. James

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About this Podcast:

This episode is an interview with Drs. David Dollahite and Loren Marks, about the American Families of Faith Project.

Episode Transcript:

Welcome to another addition. Family talk with yours truly, Anthony James, editor and Chief of Marriage and Family Review. Today. I have a couple of friends with me on the program to discuss their work on faith and families in America. They will tell you a little bit more about that when I pass them. Like to them for them to introduce themselves. But I must first tell a story. Ask those of you who listen to my podcast. know I like to do and it's about one of our speakers who doesn't know I was going to tell this story. But it's okay. It's nothing that this individual has to be worried about But I entered into the field around 2,006 the field of family science. So my first conference was that actually couple slash few years later, I think I started full time in 2,007. So this would I then, I believe, that 2,009 conference in Arkansas, and I usually remember that, because I believe that's when President Obama was not so much spent 2,007 as he was there we watch the vote or the you know, during that during that conference, and so I went to a session and one of our guests Today I gave a talk about work with African-american couples, and how their faith up strengthen them in some of the challenges 13:11:45 they faced These were Southern us african American and couples, and he didn't use a powerpoint, so that already pulled me because i'm like Oh, this person is a little look different everyone else had a power plane 13:11:57 but I didn't have back to just listen to this person and talk, and it was very calm, and soothing and relaxed, and I was so sort of taken aback because I didn't even know what they expect at the 13:12:06 conference. I stayed the talk with this individual afterwards, and is encouraging. and it became a thing that every conference he was put me aside and say, how are you doing? 13:12:18 Oh, yeah, you're working with mark that's good you need me help. 13:12:21 You know there can be some challenges we're presenting because I was interested in religion and research, and you talked about the difficulties because of differences in values and trying to publish in some of the journals and and I never forgot 13:12:34 that and it was meaningful to me then and it's meaningful to me now. and so i'm glad to be able to share this story publicly. 13:12:41 I guess about how I met this individual so i'm interested in learning more about their work, and before we get there I will pass the mic to them to allow them to introduce themselves. 13:12:53 So I maybe we'll because on my screen we'll start with the the first. 13:12:59 Now is on the call first. Well, the the story that you share was about my dear friend Lauren Mark. 13:13:04 So I think Lawrence should introduce himself to, and so so you can connect your your story. 13:13:09 I could tell you lots less stories about Lauren being really cool and and and interested in people and blessing people. 13:13:17 So, Lauren, would you please introduce yourself first I that works happily. 13:13:24 I'm Anthony James Friend lauren and delighted to be on on family talk with you today, and for for any students that are listening, there's a really important message I think, and lesson the story that anthony 13:13:36 shared in terms of being proactive and just jumping on in approach and and go and talk to to folks that you hear who present shoot them. 13:13:47 An email. If, if you read a piece you enjoy they're real people with real lives and real interests, and the way you get to learn the most from them is by by engaging and I appreciate your your kindness your 13:14:03 Anthony in terms of scholarly introduction. 13:14:06 I I did some Dr. Work at University of Delaware with a wonderful fathering scholar, Rob Palkovitz, who I just spoke with on the phone earlier this morning. 13:14:18 Dear friend and true mentor went to Lsu as faculty for 13 years, loved my time there, and have been up here at Byu, where I did a bachelors and masters with my my mentor and and dear 13:14:33 friend and research partner, Dave dolahite who I get to join on this this call with anthony today, and we're We're really excited to have the opportunity to tell you a little bit about her German journey both academically. 13:14:46 And personally that we've had together. so with that said Dave. 13:14:52 Okay, So I, boy, started off with telling stories about lauren marks that's that's a great way to start is Lauren Lauren is worth I know I I tell people that he moon walks on water so 13:15:06 he he doesn't like that when I say things like that but he's he's a tremendous person, and i'm very grateful to get to work closely with with lauren we're actually in adjoining 13:15:15 offices. there's a wall in between our 2 offices I like to tell people that you know, before Lauren came to Byu we were really close, but now it feels like there's a wall between us way. 13:15:31 So I I grew up in California and in the Bay Area, and I have been doing this research on religion and family life for a few decades now, and and Lauren was there at the beginning of this research. 13:15:46 We I came to be where you from I was a faculty member at University of North Carolina, at Greensborough for a few years, and then, when I first got to Byu some friends here, we're doing some research, with 13:16:00 kids, fathers of kids with special needs. And so we interviewed, and Lauren did most of those interviews. 13:16:10 I think about 3035 interviews We interviewed fathers of kids with a number of significant developmental disabilities and serious illnesses and other kinds of challenges. 13:16:21 And we didn't actually ask any questions at all about religion. But all of the all but one of the fathers talked about how their personal, religious and spiritual beliefs practices and communities were helpful to them. 13:16:40 As a father of the child with special needs so so we we began that research, and and I've i've been grateful that we've been able to extend out from from our initial interviews to to then end up now 13:16:56 we interviewed a few 100 families from various faith backgrounds and various. 13:17:02 Many of them are minority face and many of them are from various ethnic minority backgrounds, and it's just been a great privilege and a blessing, and and that you know the the joy of talking with people 13:17:17 from many what 8 8 different regional areas of America, 20 different denominations, a number of of ethic religious communities. 13:17:33 It's just been a great experience, and so i'm i'm delighted to get to chat about our work and and what we've learned, and and why we why we do what we do and how we try to do what we 13:17:45 do So that study wasn't a study about religion and families but that topic came up a lot. 13:17:55 I'm: assuming the interviews, and I understand that correctly, Yeah, we actually presented some of the findings of the research to a faculty group here at Byu and one of our dear colleagues, Tom Draper, 13:18:11 who is a senior colleague at the time, said, and we we shared a lot of the narratives. 13:18:17 You know the quotes that we had heard about how religion made such a difference, And Tom Draper said, you know, guys, this is very interesting work. 13:18:26 It's too bad that it'll never be published in the social space, because at that time you know that there wasn't a lot of work being done, especially qualitative work on on religion. 13:18:38 And so it was a reasonable prediction to make. He has since told us that he has never been happier to be wrong about something, because the the good news is, It turns out that those articles were published and then that allowed us continue on 13:18:54 with interviewing religious folks about family life and and we've been very fortunate that a number of scholarly journals have been willing to to publish our work and and then a few books we've been able to do and so 13:19:12 we've we've we've been very blessed we feel very blessed that the work has been well received by our scholarly colleagues. 13:19:20 And so there's there's 2 questions I have as a Follow-up. 13:19:22 Maybe each of you can take one so one is How did you pivot from that research to the primary research you're working on now, or maybe there are some steps in between there that i'm missing So 13:19:36 That's the sort of professional scholarly pivot the other one is a little more, and you will ask, that may not have a ready-made answer. 13:19:45 But how does a young scholar pivot? All right. 13:19:49 From one topic to another, especially given the constraints of 13:19:56 You have a certain amount of time. you have to publish and you know to get tenure, or you know there's pressures to be grants. And those are the 2 questions that if you yeah Lauren Yeah, thank you i'll dive in maybe both. 13:20:09 The personal and a professional response, Anthony. I really enjoyed the work that Dave and I got to do early on with with fathers along with our dear friend and colleague Michaelson, and it was my plan as I 13:20:25 moved into doctoral work at University of Delaware to continue to interview fathers and to focus a little more deeply on faith. 13:20:35 And at 1 point a faculty member who would become a mentor of mine at University of Delaware tomorrow. 13:20:43 Raven said to said to me, What are you gonna be doing for your doctoral work? 13:20:46 And I told her I want to do fathers and faith. 13:20:52 And she she said, Why only interview the men, Lauren and she had a delay, full room. 13:20:58 Action, and I said, Well, well, you see, Dr. Raven, you know about 9% of the the research on parenting. 13:21:08 Is done on mothers. And so I really want to focus on fathers. 13:21:13 And she paused for a minute, and then she said, I see. 13:21:17 So you want to commit the same sexist sampling sin that but in reverse that's like. 13:21:24 Wait. wait a minute. Well, yeah, and and I was listening at the point in time, and and she kind of laughed at at me, getting flustered a little, and she said, She is right, you know. 13:21:39 And so one of the important pivots that that Dave and I were able to make was to interview wives, and how husbands together, mothers and fathers together, and that added so much richness because very little of the research at that point in 13:21:54 time and family studies. jointly was considered you know was jointly, considering women's and men's perspectives in harmony. 13:22:03 And so that was a That was a wonderful and important shift for us. 13:22:08 I think it was also a bit of a leap of faith. 13:22:11 Most of the fathers of special needs. Children that we interviewed were within our own faith. 13:22:16 Tradition, and it was with some trepidation that we moved out into the Abrahamic faith of Islam. 13:22:26 Different branches of Judaism. Several different Christian denominations, trying to read up on those different case, read their sacred texts, attend worship services, speak with their clergy, and at some point there are quite literally leaps of 13:22:41 faith that you have to take as a scholar into into. 13:22:45 You know, terra incognito, and have we were able to do that together, and i'm grateful that we were able to do it together. 13:22:55 But so, from a personal standpoint and professionally that's part of the picture, i'll also mention that in the mid 90 S. 13:23:04 David Bwarson, a leading scholar of religion and health at that point has said religion to to the faculty here at be Oneu, where Dave and I teach Now religion is the anti- tenure topic it's the 13:23:20 fast track out of an academic career. it's fraught with dangers and landmines, and so that wasn't very encouraging. 13:23:30 But you know, to skip ahead a little bit to those those students who have a desire to move into this this research domain. 13:23:41 Lauren. learn from the mistakes that we have made you don't have to make all the same mistakes that they have, and I have made you can talk to us. 13:23:51 You can. you can reach out with a phone call or catch us at a conference and and say, What do you wish? 13:23:57 You would have known 20 or 30 years ago. If your interest or domain is is a different one. 13:24:02 The principle still applies. Be humble. be teachable be social reach out and and be wise enough to learn by curiously, instead of stepping on the landmines yourself. 13:24:16 Ask people who you're the unwritten rules well, and who've navigated those successfully, and and that can really, I think, accelerate your success and limit your failures. 13:24:30 To some degree. Dave: Yeah. So another Lawrence story. 13:24:33 So you , finished up his master's degree and was headed out to his dock Starter's doctoral program at Delaware. 13:24:44 We had a kind of a final chat before he he and his wife Sandra left, and I gave him what I thought was very sound advice, which was, You know, Lauren, you're you've done both an undergraduate and a 13:24:59 graduate degree here at by you you've studied and by the way, he got involved with my research first as an undergraduate, and that's another piece of advice for undergraduates who are thinking about you know that 13:25:12 they might want to have an academic career or at least might want to go to graduate school, go ahead and be be brave, and seek out scholars who are doing research and and areas, that you think are meaningful and interesting and that you'd 13:25:27 like to contribute to, and go and offer to assist with them. 13:25:30 I actually track what I didn't talk about I saw Lauren on campus. 13:25:35 He had had a class from me, and I invited him to come. 13:25:37 Do research with me, but I think undergraduates who who are very interested in moving in an academic career, would be well served to go ahead and show initiative and reach out and ask faculty whether they could use some help anyway, so so 13:25:52 back to the interview at the end of lauren's master's degree. 13:25:55 I don't lauren you know you you've now done. Qualitative research on religion, and and i'm glad you've been working with us. 13:26:06 You know we published some things it's been great but I strongly encourage you to do 2 things. 13:26:10 First cover any subject other than religion. anything else You want to do don't do more on your list. 13:26:18 You don't want to get labeled or pigeonhole as just a person who does research on a religion. 13:26:25 And secondly, don't do qualitative methods qualitative methods are not very not as popular in the social sciences. 13:26:33 It's much Harder to get published so I encourage you to go study anything about religion, and don't do qualitative methods, and Lauren kindly said, Well, Dave you know thanks i'm sure that's good advice, 13:26:43 but I really like what we've done and I want to continue so. I'm going to go do qualitative research on religion, and hope for that, because my advice to him was understand that it would be very difficult for him to get an 13:26:57 academic job coming out with only having done qualitative research on one topic area. 13:27:02 And it turns out what Lauren had. You did 25 applications, and you got one interview at Lsu, and you got got hired at that one. 13:27:11 So you basically had one job interview, and you got one job offer. 13:27:14 So it turned out well for you the but it might not have turned out quite so. 13:27:23 Yeah, I think it took a series of of either miracles or good luck, or both, that i'm i'm here on your show with you today, Anthony. 13:27:32 And and what a lot of good mentoring gratefully 13:27:37 Most of the time I did listen to wise counsel for mentors, but that was a time where I rejected both pieces and it worked out. 13:27:47 Okay, it worked out. Okay, worked out Now, and so yeah lauren's earlier point about sometimes. 13:27:52 You need to take a leak with faith, I mean. Lauren took a leap of it. 13:27:55 He felt strongly that this was what he wanted to do, and he stuck with that, and I honor that, and respect that. 13:28:01 And and I appreciate that because we've been able to to now do oh, 2 decades, 2, and a half decades worth of work together, doing qualitative research on on religion, and and it's turned out you know far beyond what we 13:28:17 could have imagined at that time. Yeah, that makes sense so a couple times you've mentioned the qualitative research on religion. 13:28:30 Can you expand? What What does that mean? What it? What is qualitative research from religion? 13:28:36 Lauren, you teach our qualitative methodology class. 13:28:40 So you give a better answer than I would, I think, simply put Dave and I really have focused on on narratives, on story. 13:28:53 We value statistics, and we we read predominantly quantitative research. 13:28:59 We review primarily quantitative research within the discipline. the there are tremendous things you can gather from it. 13:29:07 But there! there are some things where deep story can convey meanings that that no other medium can. 13:29:16 And when you're talking about both the issues of faith and also a deep family relationships, having the chance to hear story from women and men particularly together, it it's it's been a privilege to to learn in that way and then to try 13:29:37 to take the best of those stories, and to to share them with with others. 13:29:43 We. We sometimes compare the work that we do to being choir directors, where you can it to to call for voices. 13:29:52 And you've you have the opportunity not to always be the diva soloist. 13:30:00 But to to blend a series of voices together into a coherent whole. 13:30:05 And so qualitatively, I think, that's that's a large part of what we do anthony. we try to to focus on words as opposed to not even though we do value numbers, and it's it's been 13:30:17 a a wonderful journey have school and Oh, i'm sorry David, I just I would add to that that our focus on a lot of quantitative studies had shown and continue to show statistically. 13:30:33 You know, providing empirical statistical evidence, we that religiosity tends to have an impact across a number of dimensions across number of variables. 13:30:46 And we wanted to dive a little deeper, you know, since the statistics kept suggesting that there are correlations between religiosity and a number of benefits in relationships and marriages, and and families, we wanted to dig a little 13:31:00 deeper and ask the questions, Why and how? what is it? 13:31:06 A religion seems to be popping up in all these quantitative studies as one of the important variables, that as predicting positive things. And so, what is it about religion? 13:31:17 What is it about religious beliefs or religious practices or faith communities that is making a difference for people? 13:31:24 And so we felt that asking, you know, doing in-depth interviews? 13:31:30 Our interviews last anywhere from one to 2. Well, I wanted to 4 h. 13:31:33 Most of them are around 2 h, and so to have a chance to sit with people in their homes, you know, around their kitchen tables or in their living rooms, and have them share with us. 13:31:42 We why they think their religion makes a difference for them. What is it about the which particular beliefs tend to matter? 13:31:50 What kind which practices tend to make a difference? What is it about their their faith? 13:31:57 Communities that provide support for them, and we got to listen to. 13:32:02 You know now almost more than 600 individuals, you know, both adults and couples and families, as well as more than 80 teenagers, you know. 13:32:13 We got to sit and listen to teenagers and parents talk about how religion affects their family, their parenting, their their sense of identity. 13:32:19 And so it's It's been a wonderful blessing and then, for in terms of getting our students involved with us here at Byu, and and also at Lsu, we have the opportunity to have students code those interviews who so they can read the 13:32:34 interviews, looking for themes looking for, You know, if for research questions about relationships, about what is what kinds of relationships tend to make the most difference, we get to have our students read. 13:32:47 Through these, you know you have about now close to 10,000 pages of interview transcripts. 13:32:53 So our students get to dive into those and read those, and that they love it. They learn a lot. 13:32:57 They enjoy that process, and they can actually help. You know most undergraduates are not particularly sophisticated with statistical analyses. 13:33:06 And using you know know software packages but they're bright people they're they're interested people they're they're able to read interviews, you and sort of you know find themes and what's and what people are saying 13:33:16 to us So it's worked out really nicely as as as an effort to understand better why religion makes a difference, and when you say makes a difference. 13:33:28 These are in family relationships and family life, or in particular types of family life. 13:33:34 That's what i'm assuming that the connection made for that American families of faith is that okay assumption? 13:33:42 Okay, okay? and so questions that you may address would be related to those underlying reasons that feed into some of the quantitative findings. 13:33:53 Maybe that explain why there's a positive relationship between religious sort of religion, variable, and some sort of family life interaction that that makes sense. 13:34:05 And so where does a student sort of get started? Do they just read? 13:34:12 The literature are there particular? So you have your program, or research, or the other programs or research that are also part of this choir. 13:34:20 You know that, you know, if we talk about the whole scientific community. 13:34:27 Yes, there are. There are Anthony I i'm sure Dave and I would both like to to tip the hat to a couple of our favorite researchers in in in this domain before shift in there maybe I can told the listeners for just a 13:34:45 moment that that we were fundamentally family relationship scholars. 13:34:57 And as we, as we dived into into the specific domain of real, which years ago, even even predating that this takes us back probably 2025 years. 13:35:07 But at 1 point I noted using some psychological literature database tools. 13:35:13 From that that period of time that there were about 10,000 studies, empirical studies that have been conducted on divorce, and only about 300 qualitatively explored. 13:35:26 Strong marriage and family relationships. 300 about 3% as many certainly it's. 13:35:35 It's important to understand Divorce it's antecedents its consequences, etc. 13:35:40 But but we thought it was really a shame that there was so little that focused on a strengths based or salutogenic approach to relationships. 13:35:50 And so in in the work that we have done, our our emphasis has been on. 13:35:56 How do you build a strong, lasting, happy, enduring marriage, a prototypically strong marriage? 13:36:05 With the aim of trend to share those secrets, how to build a strong marriage and family with emerging adults who, who we had, filling the seats in our classes. 13:36:19 How do you? How do you capture the secrets of what? 13:36:23 A what it what it takes as a wife is a husband working together to to build a strong marriage, and so i'd love to to make sure that we have that on the record that that for many highly religious families faith is an important part of that 13:36:38 but there certainly is is much more that's. involved. and and many things that need to be attended to, and as Dave and I may mention a little bit later on, there are their damages. 13:36:51 That that religion can do if we're not careful there's healthy religion and unhealthy religion, and we're fundamentally concerned with what builds strong family relationships. 13:37:04 With that, said some. some work that's been done by colleagues and friends in the social science community that that I really appreciate, in includes in in terms of exploring racially and ethnically diverse populations I really like 13:37:26 the work of Brad Wilcox and Nick Wolfinger. 13:37:31 It captured in a very nice volume called Soul Mates as well as several related journal articles which they will get at relational strengths across a different face. 13:37:42 And in different racial and ethnic. groups I I really appreciate the work of Harold Konick. a marvelous scholar who is a pioneer on religion and health. 13:37:56 He looked at how religion impacts physical health, longevity, etc. 13:38:03 Kenneth Pargament, who looks at religion and mental health. 13:38:07 I want to leave a couple, you know, for Dave to focus in on as well. 13:38:11 But those are those are some folks who have been really influential to me, to us, to our team in terms of high-end work that they've done. 13:38:22 That's that's influenced the field they've yeah, So along those same lines i'll just mention a few folks that I that we particularly appreciate and draw on a net mahoney, probably the leading figure and the 13:38:36 psychology of religion and marriage, and she you know, she's really developed this idea of sanctification, and how even non-religious couples and parents tend to sanctify marriage and family relationships, and and she's done a whole series 13:38:51 of interesting studies, on sanctifying what what sanctifying marriage and family life means to couples across a variety of settings. 13:39:03 The work by Christian Smith with adolescence and their religiosity, and a book called Soul Searching and follow up books, souls, and Transition, where he studied, I think, about 3,000 teenagers across the country, including doing 13:39:19 a couple 100 interviews, and found. Similarly, you know what I was mentioning before found that more religious teenagers tended to have a variety of benefits, mental health, relational health, and so forth. 13:39:36 Chris allison's does some great work in sociology of religion, as has John Bartowski. 13:39:43 And so you know, those are some of the folks that that I would encourage students to consider looking at these folks who have done very high quality work methodologically. 13:39:54 Theoretically their work is is sound. it holds up. 13:39:59 And And so yeah, Annette Mahoney, Chris Allison, John Bartowski, and Christian Smith would be some of the folks that I would point point point students forward absolutely. 13:40:09 So given these various programs about how religion interfaces with various parts of family life, or even individual, so development you can talk a little bit about some of the challenges that families may face as they navigate changing family relationships 13:40:31 and leaf systems that may have some differences such as you know how salient is it? 13:40:38 Or, for example, I teach a personal adolescence, and I know at some point we talk about that transition for adolescents to become, You know, a little more Nintendo, and that sometimes may align with parents 13:40:50 belief systems. it may not. The chicken outside changes in belief systems over time between couples? 13:40:59 Are those types of things i'm sorry between couples that made, you know, impact their their relationship? 13:41:08 Do those types of thing are those things you address sense from your research? Yeah. 13:41:13 So i'll just say briefly I I had the great privilege of interviewing over 80 teenagers in about 55 of the families that we received permission from a irb board to interview teenagers so 13:41:30 I got to sit with with parents and teams again around their kitchen tables, or in their living rooms and ask questions about how they're excuse me how their religious beliefs and practices and communities influence their relationships and 13:41:43 I was fascinating, of course, a wide range of you know, anywhere from kids who were all in, and and, you know, believe, you know, strong believers in the faith that their parents raised them in to other kids who were questioning having doubts 13:41:59 kind of moving away from that faith. And so you know, in some degree of of difference or conflict with their parents. 13:42:10 And yes, as you mentioned, obviously teenagers. there's a body of research called transmission of faith, or you know, faith, intergenerational faith, transmission research looks at the you know the kinds of factors that tend to impact 13:42:25 whether teenagers are likely to continue, along with the faith, practices, and faith identity that they were raised in or move in different directions. 13:42:36 And one of the interesting things that we have found, and we did some work on. A lot of it is about parenting style, and how strong the relationship is. 13:42:44 If if parents are really focused on the religious rituals and the religious identity to the exclusion of relationships with their kids, that's very problematic. 13:42:59 And kids are likely to when they can, you know, rebel, or move away from their parents. 13:43:05 If their parents maintain very good warm relationships with the kids and don't push religion on them. 13:43:10 Don't sort of demand that they you know you engaged in religious activities in the home, or you know, at places of worship. 13:43:19 Then it's more likely that the kids will not feel a sense of resentment. And and and you know anger at their parents, for for you know, coercing them in religious directions. 13:43:31 We're actually currently about to launch a study a big survey where we're looking. 13:43:38 We're going to look much more carefully at religious change, and what happens when someone in the family decides to move in a very different direction religiously, and how that affects family relations. 13:43:48 But we have yet done this day. so We don't have any interesting findings from that one other side little piece of the research that we've done about adolescence is the way that parents and teams talk with each other 13:44:02 their conversation styles their conversation patterns, tends to make a big difference, and conversations where the parents are oriented toward the interests of the youth. 13:44:13 The needs of the youth kind of questions that the youth have, and able to be. 13:44:18 You know, very respectful of their teenagers. Those conversations about religious things tend to go much better, obviously, than those when the parents are being a little preachy and a little, you know, dogmatic. and and you know sort, of 13:44:34 controlling things. And so just, you know one of our studies is about parent, child, religious conversations, and encouraging parents to be very youth oriented. 13:44:44 Respect youth, autonomy, and youth agency as they talk with their kids about religious things. 13:44:52 More. Yeah, you you really he get a $1,000,000 question. 13:44:58 Their answer in in the back of my mind, I thought, Oh, no! 13:45:02 We just went from a 1 h interview to a 2 h energy. 13:45:06 It the question you raise it's it's so important and and as Dave is indicated, it's in some ways where we hope to head over the next decade, or so of our own own research, together, but religion it is a 13:45:22 great unifier, and it is a great divider those those things are both true, and they're they're true societally, and also within the family in our oath or in our own faith community. 13:45:39 For example, some sociological work by Evelyn, Lara and Carmel. 13:45:43 Cheswick indicates that for for members of our faith the Church of Jesus Christ. Latter day saints that when there's a within faith, marriage, the divorce rate at the five-year mark is is one of the 13:45:55 lowest on record, and about 13% after 5 years. But when a member of our faith marries outside the faith the divorce rate at the five-year mark more than trillion's to 40% And and so you 13:46:17 see just in in those 2 statistics, both the unifying and the dividing potential that exists there. 13:46:25 The same is true, I think, at some level in parent child relationships. 13:46:29 As Dave is indicated, our our late colleague, Bern Bankson, at Usc. 13:46:36 Longitudinal study that that indicates some more. With that religion can unite or divide. 13:46:41 And And so a lot of our work we're hoping is help help parents help partners help children to find ways to emphasize the unifying effects of what we would identify as healthier religion and tried to avoid the 13:46:58 divisive and and contentious elements that can can drive wedges. 13:47:05 So yeah, really appreciate the question, Anthony. And hope that in 10 years we have an even better answer to it. 13:47:13 To that question, and maybe some of your student listeners will be some of those that will help us with those those answers that are needed. 13:47:23 I have baked on you. So so so is this like, How do you study that across different religions, as you mentioned earlier about expanding to the Abrahamic religions? 13:47:38 You have differences of them Families? we know that. you certainly have differences within. 13:47:41 You know religions. But you're in interviewing across So how do you navigate that as a as a family scientists? Yeah. 13:47:51 So that until the last year, or 2 we have done kind of old school qualitative interviews where we've got out and sat with people in their homes and turn on a digital recorder and and talk with them 13:48:07 face-to-face for a couple of hours, and then done, you know, transcribing those interviews and and and then doing the analysis. 13:48:15 But that's increasingly expensive and difficult way to Do research, especially if you want to have geographic diversity and diversity across faiths and ethnicities and races. 13:48:28 It's just it's almost impossible to do that and you know it's incredibly expensive to do that and takes a I mean It's taken us decades to know to get up to basically 300 interviews families and and 13:48:43 you know little sort of here. they're a little there small little grants, but this this new initiative that we're doing will be kind of taking our research into the 20 first, century where we're going to use qual tricks so it 13:48:57 would be a mixed methods analysis where people will get a link to to an online survey. 13:49:02 Most of the questions are going to be quantitative in nature but there'll be a number of questions that will be open-ended where they can. 13:49:10 You know, type in a in a text window. some of their own experiences and thoughts. 13:49:18 And so we We have it's the way the call tricks does is they have panels which tens of thousands of people. 13:49:23 We have quotas. We want to have roughly even numbers of people across a variety of faith communities and and so you know roughly, even numbers across. 13:49:36 I think we have 8 different faith communities, and then, roughly, even numbers of men and women. 13:49:43 Roughly. you know, even numbers of people spread across various age categories. 13:49:47 We roughly. Even numbers of people you know there's a whole set of criteria groups that we hope to get representation across. 13:50:00 And then the way that qualtrics does it is they manage the data set. 13:50:03 They? You know we have qualifying questions, and then we try to get, you know. 13:50:09 Couple 100 people across a number of different, samples and Then we'll look carefully at both the quantitative and the qualitative data, and you know it's a very complex, very expensive very very new type of research, from what 13:50:26 we we have done thus far. Okay, and i'll go ahead that's all. 13:50:33 Yeah, I was just gonna say I'm on a much closer to home level. 13:50:39 Anthony I. I frequently try to convey to to students. 13:50:45 Truth is expensive. It's expensive it costs you something and Dave and I it was it was really challenging to move out and to begin to interview families that were really different in some ways from our own from those that We'd interviewed 13:51:07 in the past. we we tried to spend hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours reading sacred texts of other faiths, of attending worship services as respectful outsiders; that with a variety of face, meeting with clergy, interviewing them and 13:51:26 then trying to really listen closely to these diverse women and men that we interviewed. 13:51:32 I don't know about you I I weren't very little when i'm talking, and so to learn to bite your tongue, and and really listen to to folks of different faiths different backgrounds is an acquired skill that doesn't 13:51:49 come naturally to to many of us and West have had some great examples of powerful listeners in my wife. 13:51:59 I'm. i'm not there yet, but to to remember the truth is expensive, and that whatever your your discipline your domain, your focus, it's going to take some time and it's going to take some deep breeding and thinking and pondering 13:52:12 and listening to to get anywhere close to the destination that you seek absolutely. 13:52:19 And he, while you were talking and made me think about some of the changes that we've experienced, even in the last couple of years. 13:52:28 Shameless blog. you all have a covet 19 special show coming out in mayors and family review. and that will just say near future, as we figure out the dates and things of that. 13:52:38 Nature. So we certainly want to live with you know publicize that and that type of research in family relation family relationships. 13:52:48 But over time there's been changes so we can think about social events that changed the social, political landscape that of course, religion can be center into. 13:52:59 So if we're talking about you know not letting some couples marry because of their skin color, or their sexuality, or some other reason. 13:53:09 This year. And then how churches may view these social issues are important. 13:53:12 Have you seen changes over that, or even the people who may prefer to be to go to church at home as opposed to going to a place to work? 13:53:22 So we I think, of've heard some pieces of workshops on different things. 13:53:26 Talk about. You know the timing membership in you know, sanction or a place of worship. 13:53:32 But not necessarily online. Do these types of things. You study those effects of issues in your your work? 13:53:40 Do they come up? Yeah. So that Covid has had a tremendous effect across a wide range of sectors in our society, and we we did a study on 2,020 in the summer, similar to the methodology that I mentioned before 13:53:57 we had qualtrics due to but 1,500 people across the country, and we asked them about what kinds of changes they were making religiously and spiritually. 13:54:08 As a result of the of the shutdowns. and yes, it was. 13:54:13 It is fascinating to see how individuals and couples and families have brought roads in home by faith home, so to speak, some more successfully than others, some more comfortably than others. 13:54:30 Personally and my family. We held services in our own home that summer and and loved it. 13:54:36 You know, we had our so several of our kids and our grandkids with us each Sunday, and we had had a little family service, and many of our friends and and associates did something similar to that. 13:54:48 And and some of us, you know, really really missed that. 13:54:53 And and and when things began to open up and you know religious communities began having services again, at least in our own faith community. It's it's. Now you can participate from home, every service you know, like it is for most services most faith 13:55:08 units every services broadcast over online and So there are proportion of people who continue to to participate remotely. and And so that that that's become a really big shift in terms of what we found is that many people 13:55:26 really found that the being forced to to adapt, they enjoyed bringing their their religious practices religious conversations, religious rituals, into a more of a home centered place, Beck, Lauren, and I have a book that that be coming out the end of 13:55:46 this year, called Home, centered religious life and it's particularly focused on our own faith community on latter-day saints. 13:55:55 But but but I think there's a lot of things that would apply to others. 13:56:01 And so yeah, there's a to quote Bob dylan times they are changing, and there's a lot of interesting stuff going on. 13:56:09 More. Yeah, Occasionally I've been asked so you know are you a fan of faith. 13:56:18 Community centered religion or or home-centered religion. And one of the things that I think has been driven home by by Covid. 13:56:29 Is there. There is a fundamental power in home-centered religion home based rituals that that are really unique. 13:56:41 And I hope that I hope that that that's a message that we don't forget from the covid Era that there are wonderful things that can be done autonomously in the home by mother's father's children 13:56:53 that build meaning. On the other hand, there are some elements of faith, community, wife, that that in our our professional experience, I think, are almost non-transferable. 13:57:09 Looking at some of the the sociological work, of thomas pnam with Boeing alone, with with Campbell and others, that that there are elements of community that are irreplaceable, and faith communities may be I don't want to say 13:57:24 that they are, but but they may be the last context in American social life, where where a year you anthony, where I and my family can be meaningfully connected across time across generations. I have friends in my faith community that are in their 13:57:43 eightys, their sixtys, their fortys, and their twentys. 13:57:49 And so whatever stage of life i'm at I can look 10 years in front of me, I can look 20 years in front of me and get a little bit of a sneak preview what may be coming and there's 13:58:02 tremendous value in that that that you can't replicate only in your home have with that said we had a young married couple in our home doing a podcast with my wife Sandra, and I recently to talking about this issue and and one of the 13:58:18 things. Sandra said that that jumped out of me as she said I I don't go to church. 13:58:26 Primarily looking for for service or to have my needs met anymore. 13:58:31 I've been i've been so west again, quoting her. I've been so blessed in my own life have been given so much in the way of educational privilege etc. 13:58:44 That I go and look for people to serve. That is a place where where I can give back, in a way that families gave to me when I was an adolescent when I was a child, when I was a young struggling mother individuals and 13:58:59 families gave to me. and now it's my turn we might say generativity from, you know, an Eriksonian standpoint to to give back. 13:59:09 But whatever stage of life you're at I think there there are wonderful benefits that can be derived from face community involvement. 13:59:18 So I think in Dave can weigh in but don't you know. we would say, I think both empirically and personally, that it's not necessary to choose between the 2 that you can have the best of both worlds of 13:59:30 a faith community authentic today's community wife is as well as a rich, vibrant home-centered religious life. 13:59:41 They have anything to add there. Hey, man, brother? Yes, and and I think, you know, as we know, get closer to the endemic, I believe, is the next phase of our current. 13:59:55 You know, global condition. it will challenge not only faith, communities for families to think about what this part of their life means. 14:00:04 Hopefully, we don't forget how isolating it was, you know, last summer, and and people did at that. 14:00:13 But there are some human needs in terms of what communities provide, and something you mentioned earlier about the within a group divorce rate relative to interfate, or one member is in, and one member is not a part of the the faith 14:00:33 grew what that means. and it there may be some community components there that doesn't necessarily say anything negative about individuals. 14:00:45 But there are risks that we have to be open and honest about that, you know. hey? 14:00:49 If you enter into this type of union, warned that you know it increases chances. 14:00:55 But here are some things that you can possibly do. Are those the types of things your your research cover? 14:01:03 By chance, you Yeah, so great question and you're absolutely right and and yeah, we just in the last couple of years we've branched out to begin interviewing 2 groups that we hadn't really devoted much time and attention 14:01:16 to one of those is interfaith couples, and one is unaffiliated, you know, happily married, unaffiliated couples, and we actually have articles that are out manuscripts that are currently out being 14:01:28 reviewed at journals about those those 2 topics, right? Maybe one of them has been accepted. One of them is still under review, but looking at strengths and interfaith couples and strengths and unaffiliated 14:01:42 couples. And And so yeah, well, you know, most of our work up until the last couple of years has focused on the ways that couples that have shared faith that are sort of committed to the same religious community in the same religious beliefs 14:01:57 you how that strengthens marriage and family and the more you know again more of the house and the wise kind of the details of that. 14:02:05 So we've published over a $100 articles focus on various different relationship. 14:02:13 You know ways that that religion can benefit and strike the relationship and also some ways that religion, when lived in unhealthy ways, no dogmatic ways and ways that don't honor other people's choice and autonomy and 14:02:26 so forth the ways that that religion can be very harmful. 14:02:29 But then, these last couple years, we've done about 30 interviews with interfaith couples about 30 interviews with unaffiliated couples. And so we're we're trying to explore in a similar kind of 14:02:41 in-depth way. if you do choose to to enter into a relationship where you're not in a shared faith, or if, as often does happen over time, you know maybe 2 people marry each other, and they're both non-religious, or 14:02:58 they're both in the same faith, but one of them switches to a different faith, or becomes much more religious or much less religious. 14:03:04 Then that that likely will bring some challenges, and and our our work has tried to to look at what what people can do in those very challenging situations. 14:03:20 More. Yeah, you're right Anthony, I think we have a responsibility of social scientists. 14:03:27 We can't predict in terms of strong causal relationships. but we can give percentages. 14:03:35 And you know frankly, Yeah, the the battle is not always to the strong or the race to the Swift. 14:03:41 But that's the way to bet and that's where the percentages lay, and as we've looked at looked at the the couples that we've interviewed over the years, our friend and colleague yashin lou 14:03:54 who was an immigrant from from China and a convert to Christianity. 14:03:59 She did graduate work with me at Lsu, noted in aff data that many of the couples that we interviewed the strongest couples were not only the same, faith, but also reported a shared level of commitment. 14:04:17 They were. They were similarly committed to their faith and That's something that I think messes some of the the sociological box checking approaches that that we've used in the past is as a discipline and 14:04:31 that's important for young people to be aware of just for clarity. Is that, regardless of if it's a shared faith or not, might hear you correctly, or it's it's a good question so, again, if 14:04:47 If you were looking for the the horse most likely to win the the marital race, it would be a same faith. 14:04:54 Marriage, for example, a Baptist to about history, Catholic to a Catholic marriage. 14:05:00 But but the partners would share a similar level of commitment. 14:05:08 And so, if that level of commitment was shared and high there, there would be more likely a synergistic effect of religious involvement on the couples. You know not a guarantee but that that introduces the 14:05:23 complexity that Dave raised that many transition across life become more or less religious or switch, and and we need to know more about how to navigate those shifts successfully and optimally. 14:05:37 And again, we hope the next decade will give us more insight. 14:05:39 There absolutely. Yeah, Yeah. planes made me think about my my international club, My chess united. 14:05:49 Their general manager. Rafa, bringnick has a call he said. You can't guarantee success, but we can reduce the the coincidence of failure, and that that always sticks with me so having said 14:06:02 that maybe one last question we can fit in here before we wrap up today's episode. 14:06:08 I know if people to Google you they would find phrases like nexus and faith, and I hope I get it correct. 14:06:20 It's like when when religion harms I think is the part of the name of the the paper where you talked about some of these sort of areas you want couples to stay clear of My My question is How do couples actually 14:06:32 navigate that because they may sense that oh, this fate that we have within the family unit. 14:06:39 If we do these things which the face says to make, we do, or we interpret as the faith saying to do, it works. 14:06:46 But when we do these other things, it doesn't should we expect that couples have the knowledge to know how to find that guilty lock zone, or do we clergy work with them on that these are things that maybe are covered 14:07:03 in marital counseling, or you just find it on the Internet, just trying to think about the sort of process. 14:07:11 For how do we get this information out? because of course we care about families, and want to do all we can to strengthen those families? 14:07:19 And if there's this sort of one thing that can go either way, how do couples navigate that? 14:07:23 So hopefully, it's not too much of a confusion here That's great question. 14:07:26 Yeah, we've we've tried to in the last 3 or so years reach out and publish more what we call public scholarships. 14:07:37 So not just scholarly articles in scientific journals, but writing shorter pieces that try to take some of the main findings from our our studies and make them accessible to a broad audience. 14:07:51 Of folks. And so we've we've you know in the Googling. 14:07:57 If you were to Google our names or our work. you'd see both some scholarly stuff pop up, but also some some stuff more for general audiences. and you know, we've done a podcast series recently we're doing 14:08:10 what we call audio. articles. where we're reading out loud, because some people, of course, prefer to get their content through their ears and through their eyes. So so we're trying to make that available so so we you know we have 14:08:21 addressed. And so, for example, one of those ideas I mean there's a time to talk about all the we probably have articles out there at this point, but you know one of those might be you know balancing the parents desire for continuity you know 14:08:36 for having their kids come to share their religious views balancing that with honoring children's religious choice. 14:08:44 We we'll just agency and finding that balance it's not easy. 14:08:49 It's it's challenge it'll be it'll look different, you know, for each couple. 14:08:53 But being aware that that's that that's you know we one of those things, another quick one would be balancing religious firmness with religious flexibility. 14:09:05 So we have an article, a Scholarly article and then a an article for General audiences that talks about sort of being importance of religious firmness. 14:09:14 That it's important to be committed we've learned that there's kind of a threshold level that that if you're not at all committed to your faith it's probably not going to bring much benefit to you you sort of need 14:09:25 to be fairly committed, and you know, like a once a week, or, if possible, you know that that level of commitment. 14:09:33 Lots of studies show that that can really make a difference. 14:09:37 But then also honoring family members, choices their preferences, their their challenges, their their questions, their issues, and so finding a way to balance kind of being all in, and your faith and your relationship with God, we being all in on honoring 14:09:54 honoring individual family members, choices, challenges, preferences, questions, anxieties, and so forth. 14:10:01 And and those are those are tough. but but we have. You know we are blessed that we had a number of folks who talked about that, and so we get to quote them in terms of how they how they successfully navigate that morn thank you 14:10:17 Anthony i'll follow up with with dave's Dave's comments there with just just a couple parting shots to to particularly a student audience, and I want to want to tell you that that Dave and I both have 14:10:33 a tremendous love for emerging adults we've intentionally chosen. 14:10:41 That group where we want to spend our professional life try and try to lift and and strain one of one of the most important things. 14:10:53 I believe i've learned and this is relevant for for emergency adults, and all of us I think at some level from the couples we've interviewed is what we often call the principle of lives in the invitation and 14:11:06 that principle is our behavior permission to others to behave. 14:11:13 Similarly, but it is more than that. It is an invitation to do so. 14:11:21 With that said I think one of the most powerful things we can do within faith, whatever our faith may be. 14:11:29 Within relationships, Whatever relationships there may be is to to keep that fundamental, to try to to live, to to live truth out the best that we can, and and to let let our actions and and who are striving to be be 14:11:50 the message as opposed to preaching additionally I think I'd I'd probably finish up as we look at this, this amazing group of 300 prototypically strong families that Dave and I have had the chance to learn 14:12:11 from over the past 2025 years of working together, that one of the things that we would want to say to that emerging adult audience that we that we really love dearly and have committed our lives to professionally, is that it is 14:12:28 possible in 2,022 to to make a wise mate. 14:12:35 Selection choice to to take a good hard look at yourself, and to make needed improvements, and to build a strong marriage one where 20 years 20 years down the road. 14:12:50 You're not just tolerating each other but you're crazy about each other. 14:12:55 Our best teachers. Dave and I have been our our wives, Mary, for Dave Sander for me, and to together. 14:13:04 You know we we we've got about 6 or or 7 decades of marital experience. 14:13:11 But I would say also to those emerging adulthoods who are we looking at at marriage in their future? 14:13:19 That before these couples we've interviewed many of them have said the first 3, 5, 7, 10 years of marriage. 14:13:26 We didn't know if we were gonna make it and it was our faith that helped us stay in the boat together, and it was a challenge. 14:13:34 It was a challenge as we grew up as we grew into a me, or from 2 mes into one, we that it was work for a big girl and a big boy, and it was hard, and it was challenging. 14:13:48 But it was beautiful, and it was meaningful. So on one hand we would say, It is possible, and it is a wonderful thing to shoot for. 14:13:57 But, you better put on your work boots, and you better be ready to do some work, some compromising, some growing up some forgiving, some repenting, some changing, and that will continue to beth do us part thanks so 14:14:15 much for for having us, Anthony, appreciate, appreciate you. 14:14:18 Your friendship and and the chance to speak to to a group that all 3 of us really appreciate that the students and emerging adults hoped that some of what we've said Will, meaningful and helpful absolutely and thank you so 14:14:31 much for for for that answer, thanks to both of you for coming on to the family talk. 14:14:39 I episodes today to discuss faith and families it's an important topic. 14:14:45 It means a great amount to many people for good reason and I'm: So in you know. thankful that you're willing to come and share your work with us. So thank you for coming today. 14:14:54 So thanks for having us with you. Appreciate it absolutely, and thank you as well to my motor assistant, Miss Hughes, and of course, to everyone. Listen in and thank you to the audience for taking time out of their schedule. to Check us out I hope you find this interesting and 14:15:12 inspiring, please some of our other projects that wwe ww that profit a change Com: And would that have a wonderful day?
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