"What's Wrong With My Family? And How to Live Your Best Life Anyway"


No 'recipe' for healthy families, but some shared traits

Gary Malone is a psychiatrist who admits he has seen some of the worst that family life can offer, from sexual abuse to alcohol, physical abuse to neglect. "If you don't address it, you will repeat it. But you can recognize and create the family you want," Malone said.

No recipe exists. But there are shared traits that most high-functioning families have. There are three in particular that make all the difference. Family is a place where a child experiences unconditional love. Individual family members are allowed to have their personal identity. And parents set boundaries and provide structure and consistency.

To that list, Craig Pierce would add paying attention. Pierce, who just published "Parenting Without Distraction: The Attunetion® Approach," said, "We respond, respond, respond. But we don't stop long enough to tune in to what matters most. We all need to tune in, past distractions."

Marital conflict down, satisfaction up in 21 minutes with writing exercise

While marital satisfaction typically declines after the first year, that's not true for couples that invest a little time by writing down an objective appraisal of their conflicts, according to researchers.

And they do mean "a little time." A study documented results in three seven-minute writing sessions a month.

A study led by researchers at Northwestern and Villanova universities showed intriguing evidence that couples who spent seven minutes at a time three times a month taking a neutral look at their moments of marital discord are generally less bothered by the friction than those who don't. That increases the likelihood that marital satisfaction stays high, the loving feelings undiminished by spats.

Care for the poor

Will the real minimum-wage worker please stand up?

Since President Barack Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 during his State of the Union message, there is a heated disagreement over who minimum-wage workers are. Are they teenage kids folding T-shirts at the Gap or single mothers working full-time at McDonald's to support their kids?

How experts answer the question depends on how they do the math.

Those who oppose the proposal say minimum-wage earners under 24 account for 49 percent of the total and 62.2 percent of those earners live in families with incomes more than double the poverty level. Only 16.8 percent fall below the poverty line.

On the other hand, 84.1 percent of those who would benefit from increasing the minimum wage to $9.00 are at least 20 years old. This means that less than 16 percent are actually teenagers.

Income disparity limits access to technology at school

Teachers across the nation say they are increasingly relying on digital technologies like laptops, tablets and cellphones in middle and high school classrooms, but they note a "striking" disparity in access to the latest technology between affluent and disadvantaged schools, according to a new survey.

Ninety-two percent of teachers say the Internet has a major impact on their ability to access content, resources and material for their teaching, yet 56 percent of teachers at low-income schools say they do not have sufficient resources to effectively incorporate digital technology into their classrooms.

For example, at Ecker Hill Middle School in the Park City School District, each of its 726 students receives an Apple laptop to use at home or in the classroom for the school year. At West Lake Junior High School, part of the Granite School District, there are about 340 computers for the school's 1,200 students — nearly four students per computer.


College tuition soars as states reduce funding

Growing enrollments and declining state budgets have been putting the squeeze on colleges and universities for the past 25 years, but the problem got a lot worse last year. That's bad news for college students and their families, because it falls to them to make up the difference. The percentage of college costs supported by tuition has climbed steadily from 23 percent in 1987 to 47 percent in 2012. Average tuition rates in the U.S. climbed a record 8.3 percent last year.

One glimmer of hope for students trying to save money can be found in the bipartisan push toward greater transparency. Along with politicians on both sides of the aisle, President Obama wants to provide data to help families choose colleges on the basis of tuition costs, graduation rates and potential earnings. The online College Scorecard shows costs and graduation rates for most public colleges and universities. Information about how well schools do at preparing their students for the job market, and what kinds of wages graduates make, might be coming soon.

Financial responsibility

Raising stakes: Relocating to save money is like getting a raise in salary

There are a lot of different factors to look at when deciding the best place to live. The financial part of the equation can be huge. It may sound awesome to be offered a six-figure income in, say, San Jose, Calif. — until you plug the figures into an online cost-of-living calculator like the one at or at To live at the same level in Austin, Texas, would only require a $60,000 salary — 40 percent less.

Bryan Sudweeks, an associate teaching professor of finance at BYU, says the cost of living is only one factor. "How do you quantify being close to family?" he says. "How do you quantify being close to something you really like doing — such as being close to the mountains or close to the water for waterskiing? There are other non-quantifiable factors as well. It's not a simple decision."

Values in the media

Hungry in America: New documentary shows 'food insecurity'

"A Place at the Table" — which opened March 1 at 35 theaters across the country and is also available for viewing via on-demand and iTunes — explores the issue of food insecurity, a condition defined as being "uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all household members because of insufficient money or other resources for food." (In other words, food insecurity basically amounts to not always knowing where your next meal is going to come from.)

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Specifically, the documentary earnestly seeks to understand how a country as prosperous as the United States can have 50 million people (including 17 million children) living their lives amid food insecurity.

Barbie, a single mother of two young children in Philadelphia, provides "A Place at the Table" with its most heartbreaking moment: Three months after starting a full-time job and getting off government assistance, she is sending her kids to bed hungry because she is caught in the no-man's land of making too much money to qualify for food stamps but not enough to actually feed her family three times a day.