Courtesy of Theresa and Luke Jordan

Josh Stauffer, Megan Pilling Kemp and John Pedersen don’t know each other. Their stories don’t seem to have much in common.

 

Stauffer is a high school student trying to undo mistakes after nearly losing himself to substance abuse. Kemp has advanced breast cancer and is trying to build lasting memories with her young daughter. Pedersen is a young dad trying to do everything right with his own kids despite the lack of powerful role models as he grew up.

 

Their stories, which are among those I’ve had the privilege of telling this year, share a theme. They are all about family. That's my beat at the Deseret News.

 

Families are the glue that holds society together. Though those bonds can be fragile, broken, mending or strong, the human experience with family resonates, and we can learn from and help each other.

 

We’ve offered our readers stories that cross the spectrum from practical advice about when it’s time for an elderly person to relinquish the car keys to an in-depth look at the pressures facing boys and young men today in school and from the media. We have dealt with sensitive topics like suicide and shared the sorrow of a mother whose toddler fell from a window to his death.

 

The pressures on family have never been more intense or the stakes higher. From a purely structural perspective, fewer couples are getting married, though sociology experts say that’s the best family structure for children to thrive. Moreover, fewer couples are having children, and many are having fewer children. Look to middle age and beyond, and more people are choosing to go it alone. Safety nets are being strained and sometimes tattered. Governments wrestle with the very definition of what family is.

 

What happens in families writes the future.

 

The stories they've shared this year have left me pondering the meaning and impact of family and what we learn from each other. I can't wait to see whom we all meet in 2013.

Decreasing divorce, strengthening families (series)
Courtesy of Theresa and Luke Jordan

Initially hailed as a progressive step toward greater individual rights and increased freedom for women, many scholars and marriage advocates now argue that unilateral no-fault divorce has made ending marriages too easy and too one-sided, with children most affected.

Read the full report here: Reforming divorce: Changing laws to preserve families

Learn about methods for bolstering marriages here: Tools to succeed: Decreasing divorce by strengthening marriages

Pro-life advocates increase, but abortion remains complicated issue
Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

A historic low 41 percent of Americans consider themselves pro-choice, while 50 percent of Americans say they're pro-life, a new Gallup poll shows.

Pro-lifers are celebrating, but the other side counters that a single statistic can't paint a realistic picture of the divided and nuanced feelings that Americans have about abortion.

Read the full report here: Pro-life advocates increase, but abortion remains complicated and divisive

When girls participate, they change the world

Raising confident girls who speak up improves policies, decision-making tomorrow. But mixed messages and lack of confidence are barriers that parents need to help daughters overcome.

Read the full report here: Teaching girls to speak up early could help them change the world

The war on boys (series)
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Boys across America are losing ground. It's a situation so dire that three dozen national experts have formed a bipartisan commission to bolster their proposal that President Obama establish a White House Council on Boys and Men.

Read the full report here: The war on boys: Young men losing ground in education, emotional health and jobs

Read the second article in the series here: The war on boys: Sex, media and violence

Growing pains: Rate of young men struggling in careers higher than for young women
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

More young adults — especially men — are delaying marriage and staying in their parents' homes. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of young adults living at home rose from 4.7 million to 5.9 million — contributing to an increase in "doubled-up" households since the onset of the recession. But the national numbers mask an important gender difference.

Read the full report here: Growing pains: Rate of young men struggling in careers alarmingly higher than for young women (+video)

Religious leaders urge parents to talk to kids about intimacy

Today's society is awash in depictions of sexuality, ranging from salacious magazines, ads and Internet sites to more-than-suggestive television shows and movies that glorify casual sex and promiscuity. Yet religious leaders say too many parents are still uncomfortable with the idea of talking to their children about sex and thus remain awkwardly silent.

Read the full report here: Dangerous silence: Why you need to talk to your kids about sex

Stay-at-home moms find challenge, reward in raising children
Stone family photo

Who the stay-at-home moms are is a question with renewed interest after Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen took a snipe at Ann Romney, wife of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, saying she "never worked a day in her life." She later apologized. But the implication that staying home is solely the prerogative of those wealthy enough to afford the "luxury" is not the demographic truth. Most stay-at-home moms are actually younger, less-educated women with lower incomes than in the past.

Read the full report here: Stay-at-home mothers find challenge, reward in raising their children

Fathers who fail are costly for families and economies

"Fatherhood failure" comes at an incredible economic cost, its symptoms seen in incarceration rates, teen drug abuse, teen suicide, high numbers of school drop outs, emotional illness, out-of-wedlock births and more. Setting it right is the stuff of how-to books, memoirs, government initiatives, parenting classes and motivational talks.

And some experts say there's nothing less at stake than the future itself.

Read the full report here: Fathers who fail costly for families, economies, but dads can bounce back

Studies challenge widely held assumptions about same-sex parenting

The oft-cited assertion that there are "no differences" in outcomes between children of same-sex parent households and those of intact biological families may not be accurate, according to a new study published Sunday in the journal Social Science Research.

Adult children of parents who have been in same-sex relationships are different than children raised in intact biological families on a number of social, emotional and relationship measures, according to research from the University of Texas at Austin.

Read the full report here: Studies challenge widely held assumptions about same-sex parenting

Making decisions about the end of life (series)
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The Deseret News explores what happens in times of grave illness, with a focus on making decisions about what you want and informing care providers and loved ones. That is a gift for the person making the decisions and others during a stressful time, experts agree.

Read the five parts of this series here:

How will I die: Preparing your family, directing your care

How will I die: Finding hope in hospice

How will I die: A good life, a young death?

How will I die: Negotiating death's details

How will I die: The high cost of death