Strengths and Stresses of Family Relationships Featured at USU's Blue Plate Research Event April 20

While a source of joy for most, family relationships can often introduce stresses as well. Successfully managing relationships on an individual level is an important part of strengthening family units.

The next Utah State University Blue Plate Research event Tuesday, April 20, at 11:30 a.m., looks at three common relationship types and shares the latest discoveries from researchers in USU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies regarding sibling, stepfamily and caregiver relationships.

“Research reveals that children in middle childhood and early adolescence spend more time with siblings outside of school hours compared to any other relational partner,” said Shawn Whiteman, who studies how sibling relationships and shared experiences affect individuals into adulthood. “It is in these settings that children may learn and practice social behaviors with their brothers and sisters.”

His research has recently emphasized the ways brothers and sisters influence each other’s health risk behaviors, such as drug abuse.

Similarly, Brian Higginbotham studies family relationships in a stepfamily setting.

“Just because there is an instant family doesn’t mean that there will be instant love,” Higginbotham said. “There’s trust that has to be earned, rapport to be established and positive memories to be created.”

In particular, his research explores the effectiveness of family life education programs that are intended to help individuals and families navigate periods of change in relationships.

Finally, Elizabeth Fauth focuses primarily on caregiver relationships for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, with emphases on the person receiving the care as well as the person giving it.

“What we were really trying to do is help caregivers not really avoid the difficult emotions that they’re experiencing in this role, but to become comfortable with those and to try to live according to the values that they felt were most important to them,” Fauth said.

The event features a 30-minute video presentation that will give viewers an up-close look at the researchers, their work and their findings. A live panel session with the three presenters answering questions will follow the presentation.

Both parts of the event will be hosted in a Zoom meeting through a link that provided after receiving an RSVP.

Presented by Utah State University and sponsored by Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah, Blue Plate Research is a new event series that is focused on sharing easy-to-understand well-being research with Utah health advocates, statewide stakeholders and the public.

Learn more and RSVP at

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