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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

Anjelica Jerez

Anjelica Jerez

Alyssa Kozlowski

Alyssa Kozlowski

Aaron Broberg

Aaron Broberg

Blaise Dobson

Blaise Dobson

Brenna Sullivan

Brenna Sullivan

Eliza Peterson

Eliza Peterson

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham

Emily Purtschert

Emily Purtschert

Isabella Wright

Isabella Wright

Jared Benjamin

Jared Benjamin

Joseph Sheen

Joseph Sheen

Kelsey Johnson

Kelsey Johnson

Kyle Bird

Kyle Bird

McKay Morgan

McKay Morgan

Megan Gale

Megan Gale

Mikel Cressman

Mikel Cressman

Mitchell Wilks

Mitchell Wilks

Ren Martin

Ren Martin

Tyler Hayward

Tyler Hayward

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
Anjelica Jerez

Anjelica Jerez

Anjelica Jerez is a twenty-three-year-old Psychology Major at Brigham Young University. She was born in Utah but has also spent eighteen months living as a full-time missionary in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. Additionally, Anjelica lived in Orlando, Florida for eight months working for Walt Disney World, where she remains a seasonal employee. She is also currently employed at El Matador in Bountiful, where she has worked as a waitress for three years and is a new employee at TURN Community Services where she provides Family Support to individuals with disabilities as a Direct Support Professional. After graduating from BYU, Anjelica intends on going to graduate school for psychology, as she hopes to specialize in Child Psychology. She is grateful to be a part of the Family Foundations Research Team and looks forward to learning more about spirituality and faith in adolescents. When she is not at work or at school, Anjelica enjoys spending time her six-month old puppy Murphy, reading classic literature, drawing, developing black and white film in the dark room, or at the gym. Her hobbies also include yoga, meditation, hiking, camping, and dancing.
Alyssa Kozlowski

Alyssa Kozlowski

Alyssa Kozlowski loves learning, the outdoors, music, art, and finds joy in life wherever she goes. She was married to her wonderful husband in June of 2018, and he is also attending school. She graduated April of 2020 from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience, and is pursuing a Master's degree in Neuroscience beginning in the fall, also at Brigham Young University. Alyssa loves horseback riding and teaching riding lessons and piano lessons. She is passionate about research, especially research for the betterment of individuals: she believes wholeheartedly in the Family Foundations of Youth Development Project, and in its ability to help teens and parents. She has been involved with the project for 3 years, and is excited to continue to work as a lead managing research assistant with those who participate.
Aaron Broberg

Aaron Broberg

Aaron Broberg is from Los Angeles, California. He is currently attending Brigham Young University and will graduate soon with a bachelor’s in psychology and a Minor in Business. After graduating, he plans on attending Law School. His goal is to eventually work in International Law, helping businesses and individuals traverse the legal regulations in various countries. He enjoys doing research on religion and history. Aaron also loves going to the beach, surfing, reading, and playing ping pong.
Blaise Dobson

Blaise Dobson

Blaise Dobson is a Junior studying Psychology along with Spanish and Portuguese. With her love for languages, she hopes to be able to use them as a future counselor to help other communities with their mental health. Her goal is to graduate with a master’s and be able to do group counseling with young adults. Blaise is from Vancouver, WA and loves everything about the Pacific Northwest. Blaise also enjoys baking, playing guitar, sewing, reading, and exercising. She is excited to start collecting data for research this summer to help her understand how religion can affect others.
Brenna Sullivan

Brenna Sullivan

Brenna Sullivan is a sophomore at Brigham Young University who is studying to become a Spanish Teacher specializing in Dual Language Immersion in education. She is from Murrieta, California and she enjoys hiking, swimming, and playing volleyball with her friends. She served an LDS mission in Concepción, Chile for eighteen months where she discovered her love of teaching and connecting with children and teenagers. Her desire to understand how to better the lives of children led to her participation in the Family Foundations Project, and she is excited to learn more and gain experience so as to apply her knowledge to the raising of her own family in the future.
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!
Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is from Gilbert, Arizona and is student at Brigham Young University. She is working on a major in Psychology with a Family Life minor. After graduation, she plans on attending a graduate program for Marriage and Family Therapy. Emily enjoys ice skating, basketball, playing violin, and creative writing. She served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Florida Tallahassee Mission. She loves missionary work and helping others come unto Christ, which inspired her to start a YouTube channel called The Missionary Approach. She is new to the research team this summer.
Emily Purtschert

Emily Purtschert

Emily Purtschert is from Lehi, Utah. She is studying Psychology at BYU and will graduate in a year. She plans to go to graduate school in the Pacific Northwest to get a PhD in Social/Personality Psychology. Emily is involved with several professors on campus studying religion and child development. This is Emily's first year on the Foundations Project, but she is excited to contribute to the project in any way that she can. In her free time, Emily likes to hike, mountain bike, play sports, roller skate, and read. "I guess I'm also alright at drawing," she says. Her biggest goal in life (aside from getting to know and helping others) is to hike the tallest peaks in the United States! Emily is an advocate for the outdoors and smiling in the face of problems. Emily speaks Romanian and likes making pizza every Friday night. Emily is stoked to interact with the participants in the Family Foundations of Youth Development Project 2020!
Isabella Wright

Isabella Wright

Isabella Wright is an undergraduate student studying Psychology, with a minor in Art History. Her undergraduate research has focused primarily on adolescent health psychology, particularly looking at eating habits, exercise, and sleep as they relate to executive functioning. Additionally, her research has included adolescent private religiosity in relation to mood disorders. She is applying to PhD programs in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology this Fall. She hopes to continue her research in her graduate program by combining her research interests and examining the psychological relationship adolescents have with religion and how that influences their physical health. Isabella grew up primarily in Palm Beach, Florida, though spent a portion of her life living in London, England. She enjoys critiquing movies, reading, and visiting art museums with her father. She loves speaking French with her roommates and dancing in their kitchen together. Her favorite snack is apples and peanut butter, always paired with a Diet Coke.
Joseph Sheen

Joseph Sheen

Joseph Sheen is from Twin Falls Idaho and just finished his Sophomore year at Brigham Young University. He is majoring in Psychology and plans to attend graduate school to become a Developmental Psychologist working with adolescents and young adults. In the future, Joseph is interested in doing research and teaching at a university in this area. He likes to read, go on walks, and go to art museums and plays. He also loves all kinds of weather and will go out in all of them just to experience the feeling of nature.
Kelsey Johnson

Kelsey Johnson

Kelsey Johnson is from Olympia, Washington and is the oldest of four kids. She enjoys spending time in nature, rereading books, playing with puppies, and watching movies in her pjs. After her 18-month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Milan, Italy, Kelsey declared her fourth major: psychology. She will be graduating from BYU in April 2021 (hopefully) with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a plan to attend grad school to study school psychology. Her interest in working with teenagers led her to working on this project, and she is excited to assist in this important research.
Jared Benjamin

Jared Benjamin

Jared Benjamin is a sophomore at BYU and is studying Social Science Teaching. He was born and raised in Farmington, UT (right by Lagoon), and has been an avid BYU sports fan his whole life. He served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ to New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud. He loves reading books, snow skiing, riding his unicycle, spending time with his wife and helping her with her photography. He hopes to be able to become a seminary teacher, and if not seminary, to teach history or government classes at the high school level. He hopes that working on this project will give him experience to be able to better help the students he will come to teach.
Kyle Bird

Kyle Bird

Kyle Bird is a Computer Science major from Mapleton, Utah with a minor in Mathematics. He just finished his Freshman year at Brigham Young University and is preparing to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ. After graduating with his degree, Kyle wants to specialize in computer graphics research and move on to get a PhD at a prestigious graduate school. His career goals include researching and developing new tools for Pixar animators and making computer graphics a more accessible hobby for people around the country. In his free time, Kyle loves to hike, read, play the piano, and go on random adventures with his friends. Kyle plays the carillon on BYU campus (look it up!) and one day hopes to be a member of the BYU performing groups. He loves learning everything about everything and is excited to be a part of a research project that focuses on the most important things in his life: religion and family.
McKay Morgan

McKay Morgan

McKay Morgan is a Junior studying Psychology at BYU. He is from Vancouver, Washington and loves everything about the Pacific Northwest. He loves staying active, working outdoors, and loves watching and re-watching all sorts of movies. McKay has plans to continue his education into graduate school for Counseling Psychology and loves learning about how we can better cope with mental health issues. He hopes to have a career in therapy and consultation for adolescents and children.
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.
Mikel Cressman

Mikel Cressman

Mikel Cressman is a Psychology major with a minor in Communications from Spanish Fork, Utah. He is most interested in health psychology with specific interests in stress management and biofeedback. His plans involve getting a PhD in clinical psychology. Mikel enjoys reading, hiking, and camping.
Mitchell Wilks

Mitchell Wilks

Mitchell Wilks is from Flower Mound, Texas. He is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and is planning on studying dentistry. He is the second of five children and loves talking about any and all sports. He loves watching movies and spending time with his wife. Mitchell served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in San Pedro Sula, Honduras from 2014-2016. He loves speaking Spanish and learning more about Latin culture. His favorite kind of food is tacos. Mitchell has been a research assistant for the foundations project since January 2020. He looks forward to learning more about religion’s role in adolescents so he can use this knowledge to help others in their faith for the rest of his life.
Ren Martin

Ren Martin

Ren Martin is from Delaware and is the third oldest of six children. Some of her favorite things to do is bake, go on a wake, and spend time with friends. She is a Psychology major and is getting minors in Family Life and Gerontology at Brigham Young University. She has dreams to be a mental health counselor and work with those struggling with mental health in church. Ren has a huge fascination with the relationship between mental health and religion.
Tyler Hayward

Tyler Hayward

Tyler Hayward is a senior studying clinical psychology at BYU. He was raised in West Point, Utah and is the middle of three children. He served in the Illinois Chicago mission from 2014 to 2016. He also recently married the love of his life and plans to move with her to Washington D.C. next year. Tyler is working toward a PhD in Clinical Psychology. In what little free time he has, Tyler enjoys playing video games and listening to YouTube podcasts.
  • 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.
  • 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.