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Family Foundations of Youth Development

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Our Purpose


The purpose of the Family Foundation project is to understand the role of family, community, and faith in helping youth survive and thrive in today’s world.

Begun in 2016, this project has recruited hundreds of families and provided important insights into the experiences of youth today. In an effort to further understand the experiences of youth around the United States, we are currently recruiting families from various locations to participate.

The results from the Family Foundations project will help parents, policymakers, community, civic, and religious leaders to strengthen youth in a rapidly changing world.

Student Team

Eliza Peterson

Eliza Peterson

Megan Gale

Megan Gale

Savannah George

Savannah George

Julia Evans

Julia Evans

Annie Palmer

Annie Palmer

Melanie Lytle

Melanie Lytle

MaCall Smith

MaCall Smith

Kendall Mellow

Kendall Mellow

Faith Larkin

Faith Larkin

Jacob Spotts

Jacob Spotts

Primary Researchers
Justin Dyer, Ph.D.

Justin Dyer, Ph.D.

May 15, 2020 01:33 PM
W. Justin Dyer is the principal investigator of this study. He received his Ph.D. in Human and Community Development from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after which he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Auburn University. Following this he joined the faculty in the BYU School of Family where he taught courses on family processes and statistical methodology. He became part of the Religious Education faculty in 2015 and currently teaches religion and family courses as well as graduate statistics. His research includes fatherhood with a particular emphasis on fathers in stressful circumstances such as fathers of children with disabilities and incarcerated fathers. He is also the principal investigator for the Family Foundations of Youth Development project, a longitudinal study examining how family functioning influences youth development with a particular interest in how their faith develops from early adolescence to early adulthood.
Michael Goodman

Michael Goodman

May 15, 2020 01:33 PM
Michael Goodman was born and raised in Southern California. He has degrees from four different universities including a Ph.D. in Marriage, Family and Human Development from Brigham Young University. Mike has worked for the Church Educational System since 1989. After serving as the president of an international mission, he began teaching at Brigham Young University where he teaches classes in marriage and family. He is an active researcher of the intersection of family and faith. He is currently serving as the Chair of the Religion, Spirituality and Family Section of the National Council on Family Relations, the largest academic organization in America that specializes in studying marriage and family. He has won awards for both his teaching and his research and has a passion for working with and for adolescents and young adults. He is happily married to Tiina Anita Goodman who also has a degree in Human Development. He has two children, both married and three wonderful grandchildren.
Sam Hardy

Sam Hardy

May 15, 2020 01:33 PM
Sam grew up in the farm town of Oakley, Idaho. Sam is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Brigham Young University, where he has been since 2007. He graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development, and received his masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He was also a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Virginia before coming to BYU. Sam has published over 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals as well as numerous book chapters, and is currently an associate editor for the Journal of Research on Adolescence. His research interests include adolescent moral development, identity formation, motivation, and religion and spirituality. Sam has been married to his wife Lois for about 20 years, and has two sons and a dog.
Mark Ogletree

Mark Ogletree

May 15, 2020 01:33 PM
Mark was raised in the Houston, Texas area. He has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in Human Resource Development, a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University in Educational Psychology, a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University in Mental Health Counseling, and a Ph.D. from Utah State University in Family and Human Development. After Mark worked for 21 years in the Church Educational System and in a private counseling practice, he returned to Brigham Young University in the Fall of 2010 where he accepted a position as an associate professor on the Religion Faculty. Mark has published several books and articles on topics ranging from marriage to parenthood. Mark’s research interests include marriage, parenthood, fathering, and adolescent development. He has been married for over 30 years to Janie Cook. They are the parents of eight children and fourteen grandchildren.
Meet the Student Team
Eliza Peterson

Eliza Peterson

Eliza Peterson is a sociology major at BYU. You can most often find her sitting on the grass on campus, fully engaged in her next project and research, only popping her head up to enjoy the sound of the birds chirping or look at the beautiful Utah mountains. When she isn’t working, she is talking to people, learning their stories, and writing (or painting) out new perspectives. She hopes that working on Youth Foundations will give her an opportunity to make new connections which will strengthen both you and her!
Megan Gale

Megan Gale

Megan Gale is from Mapleton, Utah and is going to start the Marriage Family and Human Development Master’s program at BYU in the fall. She has been a part of the Family Foundations Project since January 2018 and looks forward continuing to serve as a team managing lead. Megan loves studying how religion influences different aspects of life including family relationships, body image, and even media use. She hopes to continue her education to obtain a PhD studying religious influences in families. She would love to become a professor to teach, mentor, and do research with students. In her free time Megan enjoys watching movies, cooking yummy food, and working outside gardening and hobby farming.
Savannah George

Savannah George

Savannah George recently graduated from BYU with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. She plans to apply to BYU’s Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy programs in the fall. Currently working as a behavior therapist for children with autism, she dreams of continuing to work with children in various capacities, including foster and adopted children. In her free time, Savannah watches crime shows, plays video games, does puzzles, and eats Oreos. She can’t wait to see where this project leads and is excited for the effect it will have on everyone involved.
Julia Evans

Julia Evans

Julia is a BYU student interested in making education systems more student-centered and humane at the individual and policy level. She plans to attend law school and hopes her efforts can help youth everywhere to emphasize joyful education and minimize feelings of anxiety, depression, and perfectionism caused directly or indirectly by an imprudent grading system (i.e. the 1980s ‘GERM’). Family Foundations of Youth Development has helped her to better understand youth today and how to successfully conduct and interpret social science research, a skill relevant to her personal and academic path. She hopes that anyone interested in education reform or adversely affected by grading systems—our experiences in “school”—will reach out to her at julia314@byu.edu.
Annie Palmer

Annie Palmer

Annie Palmer is a psychology major at BYU. She is interested in how people think and what motivates people. She also loves to sing, play board games with friends, and learn about just about anything. She hopes to use what she learns from this project to benefit her future kids.
Melanie Lytle

Melanie Lytle

Melanie Lytle is from Tracy, California and is a psychology major at BYU. After graduation, she would like to pursue a career in the mental health field working specifically with the Deaf Community. Melanie loves water sports, baking and dabbles in watercolors. She is excited to explore the findings of the Youth Foundations project and using those findings as avenues to increase the quality of life for many people to come.
MaCall Smith

MaCall Smith

MaCall is a Senior at Brigham Young University studying Family Life. After graduation she plans to attend graduate school to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. She enjoys playing the piano, reading a good book, and spending time with friends and family.
Kendall Mellow

Kendall Mellow

Kendall Mellow is a Psychology major and Family Life minor at BYU. Her academic interests include family studies, adolescent development, and addiction recovery. She loves how this study involves both youth and parents and invites them to introspect about religion. Her goal is to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or a Licensed Professional Counselor. She loves learning new skills, trying new foods, and spending time at home with her loved ones and dogs. She loves the idea of having a dog in her work office. You can reach her at kmellow@byu.edu.
Faith Larkin

Faith Larkin

I’m currently a Senior majoring in Psychology at BYU. I’m from a little town in North Texas. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, going on beautiful hikes, playing board games, composing music, reading books of all kinds, and creative writing. I love learning from the unique perspectives of others and making connections with other individuals. I am excited to be a part of this project and I am looking forward to the work we will do!
Jacob Spotts

Jacob Spotts

Jacob Spotts is a psychology student at BYU. Following graduation, he hopes to pursue a career as an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. You might find him listening to music, participating in exercise or a wide assortment of sports, or playing games with his family. Some of his aspirations include writing a book, becoming a lowkey singer/songwriter, and inspiring others by helping them to know their purpose and live their life every day according to that purpose.
  • What are the unique challenges of youth today?
    At what point are youth most likely to drop off in their faith?
    What are the risk factors for youth dropping off in their faith?
    What are protective factors? What parts of family life most influence how youth faith develops?
    How do parents, siblings, grandparents, and peers influence faith development?
    How does faith develop differently for boys and girls?
    How does faith impact mental health, sexual activity, risky behaviors, and school achievement?
    What things at church matter most to youth in their faith development?
  • In this phase of the project we are recruiting new participants from California, as well as others who have previously participated in Utah and Arizona. To recruit families, we send them an email and/or letter and call them. Each time they participate in a survey we give the parent and the child an Amazon gift code.
  • The only contact the families have is over the phone and via email and/or letter. Participants may also receive a home visit to remind them to participate if they cannot be reached any other way.
  • Results from data analysis will be used to write research reports, describing the strengths and challenges of today’s teens.
  • A child between the ages of 15 and 18 and one of their parents will fill out a 35-45-minute online survey. This survey will be conducted every other year for 10 years. Individuals do not have to participate in any surveys. Participants’ answers will be entirely anonymous; their names will never be associated with their answers. Participants are welcome to withdraw at any time.
  • Emphatically “no.” This project is simply meant to help us understand youth development.
  • Here is a list of topics the survey covers for both parents and children:


    • Family Background Characteristics
    • Parenting
    • Parent-Child Relationship
    • Child Behavioral Problems
    • Parent and Child Depression/Anxiety
    • Sexuality
    • Substance Use
    • Suicidal Thoughts
    • Political Views
    • Family Religious Practices
    • Religious Affiliation
    • Private and Public Religious Practices
  • Qualtrics is a Utah based company with headquarters in Provo, Utah and Seattle, Washington. Qualtrics software allows individuals and organizations to collect and analyze data online. Many Universities and researchers use Qualtrics to administer surveys, collect data, perform statistical analysis, and interpret findings.

There are currently three waves of data collection in the Family Foundations of Youth Development project. At each wave of data collection those who participated previously were invited to participate again and new participants were recruited. Surveys at each wave took between 35 and 55 minutes to complete. Given Latter-day Saints are underrepresented in the research literature, they were oversampled.

The first wave of data was collected in the summer of 2016. This first wave consisted youth in Utah and one of their parents. To obtain a random sample, the national research company InfoUSA (now called “Data Axel”) was utilized. This company collects information from publicly available sources to identify U.S. households and their characteristics. Their database contains over 80 million households and their information is regularly updated. This company is not associated with Brigham Young University or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In Wave 1, the contact information for 10,000 households with children between the ages of 12 and 14 in Utah were randomly selected from InfoUSA’s database. Recruitment letters were sent to these 10,000 potential participants and they were also contacted by phone. Letters contained a unique code which they used on the Foundations Website to complete the survey. Although InfoUSA’s information regarding families was mostly reliable, we found it inaccurate regarding household composition (i.e., no child between the ages of 12 and 14) in at least 10% of the cases. However, of those households that were eligible, just over 60% participated. Youth were given $20 in Amazon.com credit to complete the survey and parents were given $30 in Amazon.com credit.

Throughout the three waves of data collection, we had several participants ask if their other family or friends could participate. In each instance, the answer was ‘no.’ Although this would have simplified recruiting, to obtain a random a sample, households could only participate if they had been randomly selected through the InfoUSA database. Thus, we reduced the bias inherent in “snowball” sampling. However, it is useful to be able to conduct within household analyses; that is, examine how children in the same household may be affected differently by parenting. Thus, if a household was randomly selected, any youth who met the age criteria could participate. In analyses, appropriate statistical methods for handling households with multiple participants were employed.

In total, 638 families participated at Wave 1. Youth ages ranged from 11 to 15 (some youth just under 12 or just over 15 took the survey). Regarding religion, 86.2% of the youth identified as Latter-day Saint, 4.3% as Catholic, 3.3% as Atheist/Agnostic, and 6.2% identified as another religion. Regarding income, 27.0% of households made $75,000 or less, another 22.8% made between $75,000 and $100,000, and 50.2% of households made more than $100,000. Racially, 88.1% of youth identified as White, 5.8% identified as Hispanic, 3.7% identified as a combination of races, and the rest identified as other races (e.g., Black, Asian, etc.).

The second wave of data collection occurred in 2018. Those who had been interviewed at the first wave were recruited to participate again in the second wave. Additional participants were recruited from Utah to increase the diversity within the Utah sample. Further, a sample was recruited from Arizona. The state of Arizona was selected given it is similar to Utah in several respects, though it has a substantially lower proportion of Latter-day Saints. New families in the sample were again recruited using the InfoUSA national database. The selection criterion for households was those having a child between the ages of 12 and 16. The age at this wave was increased from the first wave to be comparable to Wave 1 participants from Utah. The youth were compensated $30 and the parents were compensated $40 in Amazon.com credit. Over 80% of those who participated in Wave 1 participated again at Wave 2. In Utah, an additional 187 families were recruited. In Arizona, 689 families participated. The total sample at Wave 2 was 1,397.

The sample at Wave 2 became more diverse: 62.9% Latter-day Saint, 8.6% Catholic, 9.3% Protestant, 8.4% believing in God but part of no religion, 7.4% Atheist/Agnostic, and 3.4% of other religions. The sample remained mostly the same racially and regarding income. 28.4% made less than $75,000, another 22.4% made between $75,000 and $100,000 and the rest made over $100,000. Regarding race, Whites were 81.3%, with 7.12 Hispanic, 7% identifying as a combination of races, 1.8% Black, 1.7% Asian American, with 1.2% identifying as other races.

Wave 3 was conducted in the Summer of 2020, just as COVID-19 “lockdowns” began. This afforded an important opportunity to examine how the pandemic influenced individuals. Those who had been in either of the previous two waves were recruited to participate again and an additional sample from Southern California was recruited. The Southern Californian sample was recruited using two methods. The first was using the InfoUSA database—mailing and calling families to recruit them to participate. However, in doing so there were not sufficient Latter-day Saints recruited into the sample. To recruit additional Latter-day Saints in California, the Brigham Young University Alumni database was used. Drawn randomly from this database, 1,000 emails were sent to recruit families. Using this method we achieved a sufficient number of Latter-day Saints in Southern California. 36.6% of Latter-day Saints in Southern California were recruited through the InfoUSA database (n=49) and 63.4% through the alumni database (n=85). In all statistical analyses using the Southern California sample, a variable indicating whether the sample came from InfoUSA or the alumni database is included to control for potential bias.

In Wave 3, both parent and child received a $30 Amazon.com gift code for participating. In all, 552 families from California participated. In total, 1,782 families participated in Wave 3. Of youth who participated in Wave 2, 88.1% participated at Wave 3. Of youth who participated in Wave 1, 84.1% participated at Wave 3.

In Wave 3, 52.2% identified at Latter-day Saint, 10.6% as Protestant, 9.9% as Catholic, 12.5% as Atheist/Agnostic, 11.2% as no religion but believes in God, and 3.7% of other religions. Regarding race, 76.3% were White, 8.6% Hispanic, 2.5% Black, 2.0% Asian American, 9.4% a combination of races, and 1.3% of other races. For income, 24.1% made less than $75,000, 18.8% made between $75,000 and $100,000, and 57.0% made over $100,000.