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Past Research

†​​ = Senior author

Being a Father: Is Parenthood Protective
Working Moms: Can Support Ameliorate the Stress of the "Second Shift"
Self-regulation, Threat Perception, and Perceived Parental Support: an fMRI Investigation of Children with ADHD

Family roles are shifting for fathers as well as mothers, such that egalitarian marriages are the norm, and fathers are sharing childcare and household responsibilites with their wives. This study examines fatherhood, family dynamics, and his physiological and psychological health. We are looking for married fathers who have working wives, married fathers who have stay-at-home wives, and married men who are not fathers.

Family roles are increasingly shifting, and more mothers work outside the home. These mothers may experience increased levels of stress as they attempt to balance their competing roles of mother, wife, homemaker, employee, and church member. Such stress can have physiological, psychological, and emotional consequences. This study examines 112 married working mothers, 112 married stay-at-home mothers, and 112 single working mothers in order to understand their perception of available social support. Analysis is underway.

ADHD is a disorder that often affects individuals' self-control and attention, which may result in academic and social difficulties. This study utilizes functional MRI technology to understand the areas of the brain that are activated during tasks that require attention and impulse control in adolescents diagnosed with ADHD. We have currently completed data collection.

Using Pupillometry to Explore the Influence of Social Support on Physiological Stress Response (Stress and the Eyes)
Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behavior of Young Adults and Parents Regarding HPV Vaccination in Religious Populations
Retirement, Job Loss, Precarious Employment, and Family Support: Effects on Physiological and Psychological Health

Pupillometry is a novel method of studying physical stress response and because pupil size enlarges rapidly after the onset of a stressful event, pupillometry can detect stress response in real time. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between marital relationship quality, received social support, and physiological reactions to stress using pupillometry.


Graff, T., Luke, S.G. †Birmingham, W.C., (2019). Impact of received emotional support on pupillary stress response. PLoS.

Representative Conference Presentations:

** Graff, T., Birmingham, W.C., Luke, S. Tonic Pupillary Stress Response and the Impact of Received Social Support. Poster presented at the annual Meeting of the International Association of Relationship Research. (Jul 2018). Fort Collins, CO.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a commonly sexually transmitted infection. Since 2006 HPV vaccination has become available protecting males and females against the virus. Some people choose not to adhere to vaccination recommendations and religiosity may play a role in low adherence. Utah and Idaho are particularly low in complilance to vaccine recommendation. As well, those high in religiosity may not be aware of both HPV and HPV vaccination. This study assessed HPV and HPV vaccination knowledge, attitudes and intentions.

Birmingham, W.C., Macintosh, J.L.B., Vaughn, A., Graff, T. (2019). Strength of belief: Religious commitment, knowledge, and HPV vaccination acceptance. Psych-Oncology.

In review:

Birmingham, W.C., Macintosh, J., Vaughn, A. Strength of parents' religious beliefs: HPV vaccination decisions.

Birmingham, W.C., Macintosh, J., Vaughn, A. What do parents know about HPV: predictions of vaccination for children?

Invited Talk:

Birmingham, W.C. (Feb 2015). “HPV Vaccination: Understanding the LDS Perspective”. Invited talk given at the quarterly meeting of the Intermountain West HPV Vaccination Coalition. Boise, Idaho.

Retirement can be a stressful time for couples as they adjust to the new roles that come with retirement, which can affect health and well-being. Additionally, the economic recession may have forced some individuals to retire earlier than anticipated and this can place additional strain on a relationship. Our study examined the relationship between economic recession, marital relationship quality, and health outcomes in retired and semi-retired older adults using both an existing national data set and one-on-one interviews with retired individuals. Interviews were conducted with 240 participants over age 55 at the Huntsman World Senior Games in Saint George, Utah.


Ketcher, D., Reblin, M., Hung, M., **Voss, M.W., Bounsanga, J., †Birmingham, W.C. Effects of communication and decision-making on psychological outcomes in married adults. Journal of Family Psychology. August 2018

Hung, M., Voss, M.W., Chen, W., Bounsanga, J., Graff, T., †Birmingham, W.C. (2018). Assessing spousal support and health in an aging population: support and strain amidst changing social dynamics. Social Work in Health Care.

**Voss, M. W., Wadsworth, L. L., Birmingham, W.C., Merryman, M. B., Crabtree, L., Subasic, K., & Hung, M. (2018). Health Effects of Late-Career Unemployment. J Aging Health, 1-21. doi:10.1177/0898264318806792

​**Voss, M., Merryman, M. B., Crabtree, L., Subasic, K., Birmingham, W.C., Wadsworth, L., Hung, M. (August 2018). Late career unemployment has mixed effects in retirement. Journal of Occupational Science. t]

Voss, M., Birmingham, W.C., Wadsworth, Bousanga, J., Chen, W., Gu, Y., Hung, M.. (February 2017). Honest labour bears a lovely face: Will late life unemployment impact health and satisfaction in retirement? Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 59(2), 184-190.

Hung. M., *Bousanga, J., **Voss, M.W., *Crums, A.B., Chen, W., †​Birmingham, W.C. (January 2017). The relationship between family support: Pain and depression in elderly with arthritis. Psychology, Health & Medicine. 22(1), 75-86. doi: 10.1080/13548506.2016.1211293

Hung. M.,*Crums, A.B.,* Bousanga, J., **Voss, M.W., Chen, W., †Birmingham, W.C. (December 2016). Prevalence of depressive symptoms in the older population. Geriatric Mental Health Care. 3(3-4), 29-35.

Representative Conference Presentations: ​

Birmingham, W.C., Wadsworth, L., *Kaseda, E, **Voss, M.W., Hung, M. (2017). Spousal retirement communication and decision-making on relationship quality and self-reported health in older adults. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 51, S2269-S2270.

*Hall, K., *Kaseda, E., **Graff, T.C.,*Subiantoro, T., **Voss, M.M., *Bounsanga, J., Wadsworth, L., Hung, M., †Birmingham, W.C. Senior Olympians: Models of Successful Aging. Paper presented at the annual conference for the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. April 2017. Salt Lake City, UT.

Diversity Award Winner

Relationship Quality in Married Couples: Elucidating the Physiological Pathways of Marriage on Health
Relationship Quality and Work Stress on Daily Ambulatory Blood Pressure and Nocturnal Blood Pressure Dipping
Relationship Quality as a Predictor of Eating Behavior Symptoms and Body Image Perception in Women​

While we know that marriage is good for health, the specific pathways by which this occurs are still unknown. In this study we examined the neurological pathways linking relationship quality (supportive versus ambivalent) and health outcomes by way of the autonomic nervous system and limbic system. Specifically, we examined the activation of the hippocampus and amygdala in response to a couples’ conflict task. Couples participated in a conflict discussion task with their spouse and then underwent an MRI the following day in the BYU MRI Research Facility during which they viewed the conflict discussion from the prior day.

Representative Conference Presentations:

*Kaseda, E. Birmingham, W.C., Kirwan, C.B., *Nielson, S.J., **Anderson, M., **Blackhurst, Z., **Aaron, S., Braithwaite, S. (2017). Emotional processing in supportive marriages: increased amygdala activation in an fMRI investigation. Psychosomatic Medicine. 79(4). A129-A130.

*Kaseda, E., Birmingham, W.C. Family Relationships and Inhibition Control in Emerging Adults with ADHD. Poster presented at the annual Meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. (Mar 2018). New Orleans, LA.

*Nielson, S., *Kaseda, E., Anderson, M., Blackhurst, Z., Aaron, S., †​Birmingham, W.C., Kirwan, B., Braithwaite, S. Ambivalent Relationship Quality in Neurological Functioning: Elucidating the Physiological Pathways by Which Marriage Impacts Health. Poster presentation at the annual Mary Lou Fulton Mentoring Undergraduate Research Conference; Provo, UT. (Undergraduate student presented). April, 2016. Provo, Utah.

Marital quality can impact cardiovascular functioning via blood pressure. Sustained increased daily and nocturnal blood pressure can be a risk factor for future cardiovascular disease. This study involved married couples wearing an ambulatory blood pressure throughout the work day and evening, and overnight. Marital quality was assessed and results have shown differences in both marital quality and work relationship quality on daily blood pressure.


Birmingham, W.C., Wadsworth, L.L., Hung, M., Li, W., Herr, R. (Mar 2019). Ambivalence in the early years of marriage: Impact on ambulatory blood pressure and relationship processes. Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

In review:

Birmingham, W.C., Wadsworth, L.L., Hung, M., Herr, R. While you are sleeping: Relationship quality and nocturnal blood pressure dipping.

​Wadsworth, L., Hung, M., Herr, R., Birmingham, W.C. Quality of supervisor support and daily ambulatory blood pressure: an examination of workplace environment.

Wadsworth, L., Hung, M., Herr, R., Birmingham, W.C. Nocturnal blood pressure dipping depends on workplace relationships.

Representative Conference Presentations:

Wadsworth, L., Birmingham, W.C., *Kaseda, E., *Wade, T. (2017). The relationship between work social support and ambulatory blood pressure. Psychosomatic Medicine. 79(4), A117-A117.

Birmingham, W.C., Wadsworth, L., Hung, M., *Kaseda, E., **Graff, T. Stress and marriage: Relationship quality, stress and blood pressure. Poster presented at the 75th annual Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society. (Mar 2018). Louisville, KY. Citation Award Winner

Birmingham, W.C., Wadsworth, L., *Kaseda, E., *Wade, T.,* Eversole, K. (2017). Marital Relationship Quality Begins with Me: The Impact of One’s Own Behavior Toward Spouse on Ambulatory Blood Pressure. Poster presented at the annual conference for the American Psychological Society. March 2017. Seville, Spain.

Marriage has been linked with eating behavior disorders, but less is known about the impact of ambivalent relationship quality on eating behaviors, specifically in women who exhibit eating disorders but are not yet clinically diagnosed (i.e., sub-clinical). We interviewed 61 sub-clinical married women about their eating habits, their relationship with their spouse and the effects of media on body image.


Birmingham, W.C., Cavallini, A. *Sgro, J. (in review). Spousal influence on body image and eating: A study of sub-clinical women. Journal of Health Psychology.

Representative Conference Presentations:

*Sgro, J., Birmingham, W.C., *Kaseda, E., Cavallini, A., *Ballew, K., *Nielson, S.J., *Ray, K., *Herron, C., *Eversole, K., *Hyatt, K. Relationship quality and body image: Can supportive spouses make a difference

*Nielson, S.J., Birmingham, W.C., *Sgro, J., *Ray, K., Hartung, E., *Kaseda, E., *Herron, C., *Romney, C. Perspectives of the optimism bias on behavior modeling in new and prospective parents. Presented at the American Psychosomatic Society annual meeting, March, 2016. Denver, CO.

Family Cancer History Knowledge
Communication Patterns, Spousal Influence and Relationship Quality in Colorectal Cancer Family Members

Having a close family member diagnosed with cancer increases one's own risk for cancer. Cancer screenings can detect cancer early and increase the likelihood of survival, yet adults often are unaware of their own person family cancer history and the need for regular/early screening. This may be especially true for younger adults for whom cancer is not yet salient. Having a knowledge of one's own risk via family history can aid in lifestyle decision-making including screening behavior. In this feasibility study we assessed the relative knowledge of younger individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 of their own family cancer history, and how much of that information had been relayed to their spouses and primary care provider.

Representative Conference Presentations:

Birmingham, W.C., *Romney, C., *Sgro, J., *Nielson, S., *Hartung, E., *Ray, K., *Kaseda, E. (March 2016). Family cancer risk: The relative accuracy of family cancer history knowledge in a younger population. Society of Behavioral Medicine.

Birmingham, W.C., Reblin, M., Kohlmann, W., *Higbee, S., *Hartung, E., *Sgro, J., *Willoughby, K., *Romney, C. (August, 2015). Improving cancer screening behavior: How spousal influence and communication effect behavior. American Psychosocial Oncology Society.

Birmingham, W.C., *Romney, C., *Sgro, J., *Nielson, S., *Hartung, E., *Ray, K., *Kaseda, E. Family cancer risk: The relative accuracy of family cancer history knowledge in a younger population. Paper presented at the Society of Behavioral Medicine annual meeting, March, 2016. Washington DC.


Individuals with a family member diagnosed with colorectal cancer (CRC) are at increased risk. Spouses can encourage healthier behaviors that will decrease risk, including diet, exercise and adherence to cancer screening recommendations. In this study we recruited individuals with a family history of CRC, and their spouse, and had them participate in a genetic counseling session with a licensed, certified genetic counselor who assessed their relative risk. Afterward, couples discussed strategies for reducing the risk of theincreased-risk spouse.


Birmingham, W.C., Reblin, M., Kohlmann, W., **Graff, T. (March 2019). Spousal influence on cancer screening and healthy lifestyle behaviors: perceptions of at-risk individuals and their partners. American Journal of Health Behavior.

​Reblin, M., Birmingham, W.C., Kohlmann, W., Graff, T. (2018). Support and negation of colorectal cancer risk prevention behaviors: analysis of spousal discussions. Psychology, Health & Medicine. doi: 10.1080/13548506.2017.1381747

Representative Conference Presentations:

Birmingham, W.C., Reblin, M., Kohlmann, W., *Sgro, J. The Effects of Genetic Counseling Information on Spousal Influence on Modifiable Risk-Reducing Strategies for Their at-Risk Partner. Presented at the biannual conference of the International Association for Relational Research, July, 2016. Toronto, Canada.

Reblin, M., Birmingham, W.C., Kohlmann, W., *Sgro, J., *Hartung, E. (Oct 2015). Communication strategies associated with greater spousal influence in colorectal cancer risk prevention discussions. Paper presented at the 2015 International Conference on Communication in Healthcare. New Orleans, LA.

Reblin, M., Kohlmann, W., Birmingham, W.C., *Hartung, E., *Sgro, J. (July-August 2015). Spousal support can be positive or negative: Qualitative analysis of colorectal cancer risk prevention discussions. Poster presented at the 2015 World Congress of Psycho-Oncology, American Psychosocial Oncology Society meeting. Washington, D.C.

Birmingham. W.C., Reblin, M., Kohlmann, W., *Higbee, S., *Hartung, E., *Sgro. J., *Willoughby, A., *Romney, C. (July-August 2015). Improving cancer screening behavior: how does spousal Influence and communication effect behavior? Poster presented to the 2015 World Congress of Psycho-Oncology, American Psychosocial Oncology Society meeting. Washington, D.C.

Birmingham, W.C., Kohlmann, W., *Hartung, E., *Higbee, S., *Sgro, J., *Hanni, S., *Romney, C., *Willoughby, A., Reblin, M. (June 2015). Spousal Influence on Colorectal Cancer Screening Behaviors and Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Perceptions of Both At-Risk Spouses and Their Partners. Paper presented to the 2015 Conference of the International Association for Relationship Research, New Brunswick, NJ.

Reblin, M., Birmingham, W.C., Smith, T.W. & Uchino, B.N. (June, 2015) Multi-situational, multi-dimensional measurement of dyadic relationship quality. Poster presented to the 2015 Mini-Conference of the International Association for Relationship Research, New Brunswick, NJ.

*Hartung, E., *Higbee, S., *Sgro, J., *Hanni, S., *Romney, C., *Willoughby, K., Birmingham, W.C., Kohlmann, W., Reblin, M. (April 2015).Spousal influence on colorectal cancer screening behaviors: a feasibility study. Poster presented at the Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference, Brigham Young University. Provo, Utah.

*Hartung, E., *Higbee, S., *Sgro, J., *Hanni, S., *Romney, C., *Willoughby, A., Birmingham, W.C., Kohlmann, W., Reblin, M. (Feb 2015). Spousal influence on colorectal cancer screening behavior and lifestyle choices. Poster presented at the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research. St. George, Utah.