Dr. John Wu is a chair of PLNU’s Department of of Psychology and professor of psychology. Prior to joining PLNU, Dr. Wu worked for over a decade in university counseling centers providing counseling to undergraduate and graduate students at UCSD and Northeastern University. He received his master’s and doctorate degrees in counseling and consulting psychology from Harvard University. He has served in church youth ministry with junior high and college students, and he maintains a private practice (Celebration Counseling) which focuses on adults and couples.
Now, as a professor, he introduces students to skills that apply directly to everyday life in courses such as child development, family therapy, and group therapy, as well as a course designed for engaged or married students to learn skills shown to increase marital success.
We interviewed him about his new book, Yoyo Dad 2.
What inspired you to write this book?
I am privileged to teach a course in family therapy where we discuss topics like choosing a mate and factors that impact marital success. I find that students are hungry for good data about how to create long-lasting intimate marriages. Pulling some of that information into one place was the main goal of this book. We also wanted to offer parents and youth ministers access to recent psychology research findings so that when they encourage their kids to act in Godly ways, they can point to the actual consequences of poor dating choices.
How do you think/hope this will impact relationships of young adults and young couples?
My hope is that this book will provide understanding about how their own families affect their relationships, common relational knots (ways that people protect themselves in relationships that end up undermining relationships), and finally healthy dating and what to look for in a good partner.
We specifically wrote this book describing the research without using a faith perspective to make it accessible to those who might not have a strong faith commitment at this point. The discussion guide that follows each chapter is written from a faith perspective though, and is excellent for mentoring, discipleship, or youth group discussion.
Did you use the students in your classes as “inspiration” when writing this book?
Students were certainly an inspiration, but so were the many clients I have had over my past 20 years a counselor. My own sons are entering adolescence and in both the first Yoyo Dad book and this one I wanted to record things that I hope will help guide them as they grow older.
The reason I use the name Yoyo Dad is because my sons and I began playing the yoyo in 2010 and now the addiction has grown to the point that I can’t help playing yoyo wherever I go (yes, including in class.) You can see some video of our yoyo play at my website www.yoyodad.com.
What is one difference you see in the dating world from 20 years ago that parents of teens and young adults may not know about?
The biggest difference our young people face today, that a generation ago wasn’t as much of a factor, is the prevalence of divorce in their home life. I have students construct a family genogram showing issues such as divorce, alcohol, and mental illness. Compiling data across ten semesters, 59% of the student’s families (parents or grandparents) dealt with divorce, 33% of them dealt with alcoholism, and only 24% had neither (it totals over 100% because some families dealt with both alcohol and divorce.) Our students today crave long term successful relationships, but often have not seen them modeled.
In addition, another difference for today’s generation is the new norm of cohabitation before marriage. This book highlights data demonstrating that while cohabitation may be common, it is associated with negative outcomes such as increased divorce rates, decreased marriage satisfaction, increased infidelity, and increased instability. For example, a 2005 study out of Cornell reports that half of all cohabiting relationships end within one year, and 90% end within five years. If more couples who considered living together knew that nine out of ten couples who cohabit break up within five years, they might make different decisions.
What do you see as the difference between Christian and non-Christian relationships, and what is healthy/not healthy about each?
This is a tough question in that many Christians make poor choices in whom they marry, don’t do the things that lead to marital success, and consequently get divorced. Many Non-Christians do these things and have good relationships. It is obvious that a commitment to Christ and making Him the center of your marriage gives your marriage a better foundation and focus. But that said, you can love God, eat only fast food, and still get a heart attack. You can love God, make poor mate choices, act poorly in your marriage, and still get a divorce.
How did you divide the research and writing with your co-author, Tasha Wright (12)?
Tasha Wright was my student TA for the past several years, and she has just started her Clinical Psychology doctoral work at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It was a pleasure and joy to write the book simply so that I could spend time with her before she left! I tended to organize the core material, and Tasha tended to focus on the discussion guide, end notes, and references. That said, we both read over the entire book and it was definitely a partnership.
What new insights did you gain from writing with a young adult who is a part of your target audience?
Tasha certainly provided a unique insight as a young adult. What was really fascinating were the results of a survey we conducted about dating. We asked singles to describe their divorce stories, regrets about dating, reactions after sex, and dating advice.
For example, when asked, “What dating regrets do you have” one person responded:
Going all the way with my high school boyfriend. We dated for 2 years and through that, he became my identity. I wanted to be whatever he wanted me to be because I was afraid he wouldn’t want me anymore. Later I realized that came from my own insecurities and experiences with my parents, but it ended very badly. After he broke up with me, I felt worthless and unwanted. That was the lowest part of my life, but at the same time its the best thing that could have happened to me. God completely took all my brokenness and made me into who I was meant to be.
The responses came from all over the country and were eye opening. We compiled them into an appendix that is worth the cost of the book alone! To honor the brave folks who shared their stories we are donating a portion of all profits to PLNU student scholarships.
If you had to sum up the book in 1-2 sentences, what would you say?
In sum, the book is about dating well to marry well. The core plan for success is described in six words: choose well, avoid knots, and don’t quit! Our hope is that singles will find practical advice and encouragement to make use of their dating years to prepare them for long lasting and intimate marriages.
Visit www.yoyodad.com for more information.