Marriott Alumni Magazine

Summer 2012

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Online Role-Playing Games Can Hurt Marital Satisfaction, Says BYU Study Online role-playing games negatively affect real-life marital satisfaction, according to a BYU study published in the 15 February Journal of Leisure Research. The study reports that 75 percent of spouses of sword-carrying, avatar-loving gamers wish they would put less effort into their guilds and more effort into their marriages. The researchers, led by graduate student Michelle Ahlstrom and recreation management professor Neil Lundberg, studied 349 couples to learn how online role-playing games affect marital satisfaction. What the researchers found confirms popular opinion with some interesting new details. The study revealed it’s not the time spent playing games that caused dissatisfaction but rather the resulting arguments or disrupted bedtime routines. These issues can cause problems such as poorer marital adjustment, less time spent together in shared activities, and less serious conversation. The study showed that gaming is dominated by men, but there is a contingent of women gamers who play with their spouses. “In those gaming couples where the marital satisfaction was low, the same issues existed,” Lundberg says. “For example, if they argued about gaming and bedtime rituals were interrupted, even though they gamed together, they still had lower marital satisfaction scores.” However, the study found that for couples in which both spouses play, 76 percent said that gaming has a positive effect on their marital relationship. Interestingly, for those who do game together, interacting with each other’s avatars—their online persona—leads to higher marital satisfaction. However, both must be satisfied with their mutual participation, especially the individual who plays less. “Not all video games are bad,” Ahlstrom says. “With any type of gaming, consider the content; how much time it is taking; how it is affecting you, your schooling, work, sleep, body; and especially how it is affecting your spouse and marital relationship.” The researchers believe the problem could be more severe than the study shows because they found that many dedicated gamers were not willing to participate in the study. Ahlstrom and Lundberg were joined by BYU co-authors Ramon Zabriskie, professor of recreational management and youth leadership; Dennis Eggett, associate research professor of statistics; and Gordon B. Lindsay, professor of health sciences. Seventy-five percent of spouses of online gamers wish their significant others would put more effort into their marriages. Book Outlines Methods for Reducing Recidivism When it comes to preventing criminals from returning to crime, successful methods can be hard to come by. A Marriott School professor has teamed up with RealVictory, a recidivism-reducing program, to publish a book that looks at solutions to the social problem. Helping Offenders: What Works? was written by a team of researchers led by David Cherrington, an organizational leadership and strategy professor. “There’s a big push for evidence-based results because the government has spent millions and millions trying, incarcerating, and supervising criminals,” says Bruce Bennett, RealVictory executive director and Marriott School alumnus. “It’s a huge issue. Officials no longer want to spend money on a program that is not proven to work.” Bennett asked Cherrington and Stephen Bahr, a professor of sociology, to research the effectiveness of the RealVictory program. The program, which helps offenders align their actions with long-term goals and beliefs, combines a six-week training program with a cell phone coach to help former criminals change their lives for the better. The three were joined by co-authors Leslie Kawai, an adjunct faculty member of organizational behavior, and Burt Burraston, an associate professor of sociology. In their findings, the program reduced recidivism among juveniles by 40 percent. From a sample of seventy juveniles, twenty-eight youth were given the training and then a cell phone coach for a year. Whereas 90 percent of the control group were rearrested within the next year, only 54 percent of those who received the training and coach were rearrested. Those who were rearrested after receiving training and the cell phone coach took, on average, more than twice as long to be rearrested than those who did not participate in the RealVictory program. The training consists of six classes that invite participants to analyze their personal desires and then help them see what kind of behavior will lead to fulfillment of those goals. The cell phone coach solidifies the training to ensure that the goals are not forgotten. Each participant is given a cell phone, donated by Cricket Wireless, and receives automated phone calls as many as two times a day. The interactive calls check in on the participants and provide a prerecorded message of either encouragement or congratulation from a close friend or relative. Cherrington and Bennett say they have witnessed many examples of the changes that the program can initiate in people’s lives. The rewards of their involvement inspired them to write the book, and they hope the program can influence more people.

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