Chrsitina Rasmussen

A little girl creeps into her parents' bedroom at night, where she sleeps at the foot of the bed so she'll know if they leave to take her baby brother to the hospital again. She is the sibling of a seriously sick child and sometimes feels left behind and sad.

A young man who grew up without a dad boosts his own son high in the air and makes a solemn, silent promise he will do better by this child he loves with all his heart.

A woman reaches across a church pew for the hand of her elderly husband. Their journey has been filled with anger and counseling and prayer since she learned he was addicted to pornography, but she is learning to forgive.

I've met these people and told their stories this year as I've covered family issues for the Deseret News. Moments stick with me: Seeing faces light up and years fall from the faces of older singers in a choir is also a hedge against loneliness. Or trying not to cry as a dad describes people avoiding his son, who has multiple disabilities. I also appreciated the advice shared by experts and bereaved families about how parents help a child through the loss of a pet they dearly love. At my house, we're still mourning the death of our dog, Cassie.

The family we claim, love and sometimes even struggle with helps define who we each are, and that's why stories that help people figure out what works and what doesn't are important. This year, we've highlighted the shifting makeup of the American family, with more babies born to single than married mothers in their 30s and younger. The institution of marriage is being viewed by some as dispensable, and this has real ramifications for children and the future.

I love the research, too — actual data that track trends. For example, teens who are hovered over never learn to make decisions. Girls who have a good relationship with their dads are less likely to get pregnant as teens. Depression blurs memory. Yelling may be as harmful as hitting a child.

If we're all in this together — and we are — families who share their stories help themselves and others. I'm so grateful to be allowed to hold the pen.

--Lois M. Collins, Deseret News

Single for life? The social costs of fewer families

A growing number of singles worldwide are now aging into their middle years without forming families. Across the globe, birth rates are dropping, in part because couples are having fewer children, but also because fewer young adults are even living together — married or otherwise.

Read the full report here: Single for life? The social costs of fewer families

Dads are important to a kid's life
Deseret News

Dads are a powerful force in their children's development, from how they do in school to whether girls become pregnant as teens. Fathers influence independence, persistence and academic achievement, among other things.

Read the full report here: Dads are important to a kid's life

Study challenges 'hookup culture' view of college life
Jae C. Hong, AP

A study from the University of Oregon questions the perception that "hookups" play a greater role in college life than in the past. Researchers said the perception students have more sex and that campus life is more sexualized now is not borne out.

Read the full report here: Study challenges 'hookup culture' view of college life

Small survivors: Science of fetal pain and abortion law
Ian Puente

Behind the controversial Texas abortion statute passed in July is a scientific dispute about the development of the human fetus, as some argue that the fetus perceives pain as early as 20 weeks, while others choose a much later point.

Read the full report here: Small survivors: How the disputed science of fetal pain is reshaping abortion law

Dating dilemma: How soon is too soon to date?
Shutterstock

A study says kids who date too soon face problems in school and at home. But it takes proactive parenting to navigate the murky waters of young love.

Read the full report here: Dating dilemma: How soon is too soon to date?

Preserving relationships when your kids or your folks move in
Tom Smart

Hurricane Sandy sent Liz Brock to live with her parents again. When Susan Higgs' kids moved home, it was the economy. In the end, though, the "why" was less important than the "how." How do you make it work when the nest is full again?

Read the full report here: Preserving relationships when your kids or your folks move in

Navigating the difficult path of grief
Chrsitina Rasmussen

Each grief is different, getting through it unique. Sometimes surviving a loss means both holding tight and letting go.

Read the full report here: Navigating the difficult path of grief

The dramatic decline in international adoptions
Deseret News

International adoptions have decreased 62 percent since a peak in 2004. The decline correlates with increased U.S. oversight of the adoption process, but experts say foreign governments have imposed strict rules for adoptions as well.

Read the full report here: The dramatic decline in international adoptions

Creating meaningful family time in a plugged-in world
Michele McGraw

As technology reframes the way families interact, mothers face new challenges to embrace this advancement to create meaningful family time in a plugged-in world.

Read the full report here: Creating meaningful family time in a plugged-in world

Dads want to have it all, too
Deseret News

Increasingly, dads are finding themselves struggling to figure out how to "have it all" — a career and time with their families. The pressure for men to be dedicated to their job persists, but dads are working hard to make family time a priority.

Read the full report here: Dads want to have it all, too

Don't miss the other editors' picks
Associated Press

Editors’ picks 2013: Care for the poor

Editors’ picks 2013: Faith in the community

Editors’ picks 2013: Excellence in education

Editors’ picks 2013: Financial responsibility

Editors’ picks 2013: Values in media