1. Study examines reactions to infidelity

    October 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Norwegian University of Science and Technology press release:

    Infidelity is very common. At least 20 per cent of couples – and perhaps many more, depending on where you set the limit – are unfaithful to their spouse.

    Being forgiven for infidelity is simply not easy. But many people whose spouse forgives them mistrust the signals and do not really believe that they are forgiven, according to a new study from NTNU.

    “We have a strong tendency not to believe our partner when they tell us we are forgiven,” says Mons Bendixen, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology.

    Overcompensate

    Free of charge infidelity is not, because possible forgiveness comes at a considerable cost. A large part of this cost we bring upon ourselves.

    When you do not really believe you are forgiven, even if your partner asserts that you are, you will overcompensate.

    You may become more attentive, buy gifts or do other things that you expect your partner will appreciate. Underestimating the degree of forgiveness is probably an evolutionary mechanism, because the relationship may be in danger.

    “The cost could be high if you think you are forgiven, but really are not. You might not work hard enough to mend the relationship,” says Bendixen.

    Better safe than sorry, it is better to make a little extra effort rather than do too little. Regardless, the consequences are usually uncomfortable for the unfaithful party. Your partner takes it for granted that you believe what he or she says to be true.

    Advantageous to be wrong

    In this case, it may be to your advantage to be wrong. The Error Management Theory (EMT), a theory of evolved perceptual errors, can help explain why. (See fact box.)

    When interpreting signals, we can make one of two false assumptions: we can believe that something exists even if it doesn’t, and we can believe that something doesn’t exist even if it does.

    From an evolutionary perspective, it’s a question of which errors are more adaptable.

    “An example is men who think women are interested in sex, even though the women’s intention is just to be nice. The most important thing for men in situations like this is not to miss a sexual opportunity,” says Bendixen.

    Similarities between the sexes

    Most partners aren’t particularly intent on getting revenge or seeing their partner suffer. That doesn’t mean that it never happens, but the probability is the same for both sexes.

    They are more likely to pull away and want to keep some distance.

    “Partners want the infidelity to have a cost, but will rarely respond by being unfaithful themselves,” says evolutionary psychologist Trond Viggo Grøntvedt in NTNU’s Department of Public Health and Nursing.

    There is also no difference between the sexes when it comes to whether they would break up with the unfaithful partner or not. This is as likely for women as for men.

    The sexes agree on a lot when it comes to infidelity. But one exception exists.

    Did I do something wrong?

    “Men often do not understand how hard emotional infidelity is on women,” says Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair in the Department of Psychology.

    Sexual infidelity strongly affects both men and women. Neither men nor women usually find it acceptable for their partner to have sex outside the marriage.

    But say you meet someone at a party and dance and flirt with the person there. Later you meet that person multiple times without telling your partner, but you don’t have sex. A friend of your partner finds out, and even reports that you look like you are in love. Is this wrong?

    Women find this scenario much worse than men do.

    “Many men do not see this as infidelity at all, since they did not have sex with the other woman,” said Kennair.

    Is this a problem? Well yes, maybe.

    Men forgive more often

    Men who are confronted with emotional infidelity do not necessarily think that they have done anything wrong. As a result, they do not attempt to make up for anything, at least not as much as if they had been sexually unfaithful. This certainly does not benefit the relationship.

    “It can also be a seed for conflict in the relationship,” says Kennair.

    At the same time, men are more likely to forgive this form of infidelity in their spouse. Men have less need to distance themselves from their partner than women do, and they look at emotional infidelity as less threatening to the relationship than women do.

    The same with jealousy

    This matches up with the psychologists’ predictions. Previously, they investigated jealousy reactions in women and men around the suspicion of imminent infidelity. Many of the same patterns were found in that study.

    Women become most jealous at the thought of their partner being emotionally unfaithful, whereas men become most jealous in the case of sexual infidelity.

    This is again entirely in line with the evolutionary theory of parental investment. For most women, it has historically and evolutionarily been worse for them if their partner breaks up than it has been for most men.

    Becoming emotionally attached to someone other than themselves has therefore been more threatening to women than to men.

    Clear gender differences

    Researchers conducted the survey with 92 heterosexual couples. These were young students who answered questions about imagined sexual or emotional infidelity by their partner and themselves.

    Whether these responses would apply to all heterosexual relationships is of course a question. Those asked were young, perhaps inexperienced and idealistic, starting their adult lives, so they could more easily find a new partner than others, and we can assume they knew they would talk to each other about the answers afterwards.

    But the conditions were the same for both sexes, and gender differences are nevertheless clear.

    Infidelity is named as the most common cause of divorces in Norway, although other reasons often other underlie it. Women initiate divorce much more often than men do.


  2. Study suggests possible genetic component to divorce running in families

    October 9, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Virginia Commonwealth University press release:

    Children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced when compared to those who grew up in two-parent families — and genetic factors are the primary explanation, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden.

    “Genetics, the Rearing Environment, and the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce: A Swedish National Adoption Study,” which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, analyzed Swedish population registries and found that people who were adopted resembled their biological — but not adoptive — parents and siblings in their histories of divorce.

    “We were trying to answer the basic question: Why does divorce run in families?” said the study’s first author, Jessica Salvatore, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU. “Across a series of designs using Swedish national registry data, we found consistent evidence that genetic factors primarily explained the intergenerational transmission of divorce.”

    In addition to Salvatore, the study was conducted with Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., professor of psychiatry and human and molecular genetics in the Department of Psychiatry at VCU’s School of Medicine, along with Swedish colleagues Sara Larsson Lönn, Ph.D.; Jan Sundquist, M.D., Ph.D.; and Kristina Sundquist, M.D., Ph.D., of the Center for Primary Health Care Research at Lund University.

    The study’s findings are notable because they diverge from the predominant narrative in divorce literature, which suggests that the offspring of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves because they see their parents struggling to manage conflict or lacking the necessary commitment, and they grow up to internalize that behavior and replicate it in their own relationships.

    “I see this as a quite significant finding. Nearly all the prior literature emphasized that divorce was transmitted across generations psychologically,” Kendler said. “Our results contradict that, suggesting that genetic factors are more important.”

    By recognizing the role that genetics plays in the intergenerational transmission of divorce, therapists may be able to better identify more appropriate targets when helping distressed couples, Salvatore said.

    “At present, the bulk of evidence on why divorce runs in families points to the idea that growing up with divorced parents weakens your commitment to and the interpersonal skills needed for marriage,” she said. “So, if a distressed couple shows up in a therapist’s office and finds, as part of learning about the partners’ family histories, that one partner comes from a divorced family, then the therapist may make boosting commitment or strengthening interpersonal skills a focus of their clinical efforts.”

    “However, these previous studies haven’t adequately controlled for or examined something else in addition to the environment that divorcing parents transmit to their children: genes,” she said. “And our study is, at present, the largest to do this. And what we find is strong, consistent evidence that genetic factors account for the intergenerational transmission of divorce. For this reason, focusing on increasing commitment or strengthening interpersonal skills may not be a particularly good use of time for a therapist working with a distressed couple.”

    The study’s findings suggest that it might be useful for therapists to target some of the more basic personality traits that previous research has suggested are genetically linked to divorce, such as high levels of negative emotionality and low levels of constraint, to mitigate their negative impact on close relationships.

    “For example, other research shows that people who are highly neurotic tend to perceive their partners as behaving more negatively than they objectively are [as rated by independent observers],” Salvatore said. “So, addressing these underlying, personality-driven cognitive distortions through cognitive-behavioral approaches may be a better strategy than trying to foster commitment.”


  3. Study suggests couples weather bickering with a little help from their friends

    September 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Austin press release:

    Every couple has conflict, and new research finds that having good friends and family members to turn to alleviates the stress of everyday conflict between partners. In fact, according to the study led by The University of Texas at Austin’s Lisa Neff, social networks may help provide protection against health problems brought about by ordinary tension between spouses.

    In a paper published this week in the online edition of Social Psychological and Personality Science, Neff and other researchers in UT Austin’s Department of Human Development and Family Sciences found that “spouses who reported being more satisfied with the availability of friends and family, whom they knew they could connect with during times of marital conflict, experienced conflict as less physiologically stressful.”

    The paper is the first to look at the link between spouses’ cortisol levels, which are an indicator of physiological stress, and marital conflicts occurring in the home. At a time when more couples in the U.S. are living in communities separate from where their families and friends reside, the research suggests there is a strong correlation between relationships like these outside of a marriage and people within the marriage experiencing lower risk factors for health problems such as weight gain, insomnia, depression and even heart disease.

    “We found that having a satisfying social network buffers spouses from the harmful physiological effects of everyday marital conflicts,” said Neff, an associate professor. “Maintaining a few good friends is important to weathering the storms of your marriage.”

    The research looked at 105 newlywed couples who kept daily records of marital conflict in their home environment and completed questionnaires about the number, quality and characteristics of their connections with friends and family. In addition, the couples participating in the study collected morning and evening saliva samples for cortisol testing every day for six days. Cortisol levels over the course of the day are a measure of the stress response.

    The overall number of friends and family members that study participants reported having didn’t appear to affect couples’ ability to handle conflicts nearly as much as the quality of those outside relationships. Neff and her colleagues found that people who reported having even a few close friends or family members to talk to outside of their marriage experienced lower levels of stress when marital conflicts arose.

    “Even everyday conflict takes a toll on people physiologically,” Neff said. “But we found that the association between marital conflict and cortisol responses completely disappears when people are happy and satisfied with their available social network.”

    The other authors on the paper are Liz Keneski, a former graduate student in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at UT Austin; and Tim Loving, an adjunct faculty member in the department. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.


  4. Study looks at how couples maintain relationships

    September 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences press release:

    For some couples in romantic relationships, just staying together is good enough. But others want to see their relationship move forward — to get better and better — and are willing to put in the effort to get there.

    Family studies researchers at the University of Illinois who study the science behind maintaining romantic relationships focus their work on the central organizing unit — the relationship — rather than on the individual. Through their work, they hope to find out what works and, maybe, what doesn’t in keeping a relationship moving forward.

    “We know relationships are key,” says Brian Ogolsky, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at U of I. “We spend all of our time in these relationships. Whether we are at home, with our siblings, our parents, or our colleagues, these are all extremely important. And consequently we spend very little time alone with our thoughts. So it’s critical that we carefully and methodically understand what’s going on in relationships and what is unique that two individuals bring that you can’t get from studying person ‘x’ and person ‘y’ separately.”

    In a recent study published in the Journal of Family Theory and Review, Ogolsky and his research team discuss romantic relationship maintenance and the two primary motives behind a couple’s attempts at staying together: threat mitigation and relationship enhancement.

    Ogolsky calls these “macro-motives,” or the main reasons people maintain their relationships. In their study, the researchers provide a visual framework of how relationships may be maintained by staving off threats or moved forward by relationship enhancement strategies, which involve putting effort into the relationship for the pleasure of it. For the most part, relationships include a combination of both.

    “Threats to the relationship come from all kinds of different places,” he explains. “Generally, there are many threats early in relationships that can cause problems, but that is not to say that these disappear later. We know couples cheat in the long-term, people end up in new work places and in new situations where possible alternative partners show up, conflicts arise, or a lack of willingness to sacrifice time for your partner emerges.”

    Some threat mitigation tactics can actually become enhancement strategies over time, Ogolsky says, but adds that the reverse is not usually true. “We get to a place where we are pouring energy into the relationship simply because we want to keep the relationship moving forward rather than just mitigating threats.”

    In their integrative model of relationship maintenance, the researchers also illustrate individual versus interactive components of maintenance. “This question of ‘is this an individual thing or is this a couple-level thing’ often goes unanswered. But as we were doing this review, we started noticing that there are ways to maintain the relationship that we can characterize as ‘more or less in our own heads.’ We are doing something to convince ourselves that this is a good relationship and therefore it’s good for our relationship,” Ogolsky explains. “Things like positive illusions, the idea that we can believe our relationship is better than it is or that our partner is better than he or she is. We can do that without our partner.”

    Mitigating conflict, however, is something that partners must do together. “Good conflict management or forgiving our partner for doing something wrong is an interactive process. When a threat comes in, we can do one of two things: we can ditch our partner or forgive them over time.”

    The same is true of enhancement strategies: partners can do things individually or interactively. “Individually, even the act of thinking about our relationship can be enhancing. Whereas engaging in leisure activities together, talking about the state of our relationship, these are all interactive,” Ogolsky says.

    But why study relationship maintenance as a science?

    While Ogolsky rarely offers direct interventions to couples, he explains that he tends to study the positive side of relationships because of what can be learned from people who are going through what, he says, is inherently a very turbulent thing.

    “Relationships have ups and downs. I never go into my work saying people should stay together or they should break up. Relationships are individualized, a unique pairing of people that comes with a unique history. What we are talking about here are processes that exist across different kinds of couples, some of which work very well for some people, some of which may not work for some people. I am interested in understanding processes that keep relationships moving.”

    For the review, Ogolsky and his team searched for previous research, regardless of discipline, dealing with relationship maintenance. They eventually discussed about 250 studies in the paper (reviewing more than 1,100) that deal with romantic relationships and that met their criteria. Ogolsky hopes the review will bring together relationship scholars from across many disciplines.


  5. Burdens of spousal caregiving alleviated by appreciation

    September 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University at Buffalo press release:

    The fact that spouses often become caregivers for their ailing partners is quite common in American life — and few roles are more stressful.

    Yet helping behaviors, which are at the core of caregiving, typically relieve stress, according to Michael Poulin, an associate professor in the University at Buffalo Department of Psychology.

    When discussing spousal care, the draining demands of caregiving and the uplifting effects of helping stand in apparent contrast to one another.

    But recent research shows that the time caregivers spend actively helping a loved one can improve the caregiver’s sense of well-being — and now, Poulin, an expert in empathy, human generosity and stress, is part of a research team that has published a study exploring why that’s the case.

    Their research points to the specific conditions necessary to alleviate the burdens of spousal caregiving.

    Spending time attempting to provide help can be beneficial for a caregiver’s mental and physical well-being, but only during those times when the caregiver sees that their help has made a difference and that difference is noticed and recognized by their partner,” he says.

    “These conclusions are important because we know that spousal caregiving is an enormous burden, emotionally, physically and economically,” he says. “If we can find ways for community resources to help create those conditions we might be able to make a difference in the lives of millions of people.”

    The findings of the study, led by Joan Monin, Yale School of Public Health, Stephanie Brown, Stony Brook University, Kenneth Langa, University of Michigan, and Poulin, appear in the American Psychological Association’s journal Health Psychology.

    Poulin says more than 30 years of research shows that being a caregiver is among the most stressful, emotionally burdensome and physically demanding roles a person can take on. Spouses who are caregivers show decreased immune function, increased signs of physiological stress and are at greater risk for physical and mental illness.

    Yet other studies, including much of Poulin’s own research, suggest that the act of providing help to somebody is typically stress-relieving and is associated with better emotional and physical well-being.

    “The problem is that when you’re a caregiver, not all of your time is spent helping,” says Poulin. “Sometimes all you can do is witness the person’s state while being passively on duty.”

    But previous research confirmed that the act of helping in this context was associated with improving the caretakers’ well-being, a finding that was true even when general caregiving was broken downs into tasks, like feeding or bathing.

    “This is what we wanted to get at,” says Poulin. “We knew that something about being helpful is good in these circumstances. But why? Is it just being active? Is doing something better than doing nothing? Or is it that doing something to improve another person’s well-being is what matters?”

    The research team conducted two studies with spouses caring for partners with chronic pain.

    In the first study, 73 participants reported caregiving activity and their accompanying emotions in three-hour intervals. This allowed the researchers to look at the amount of help given and how much that help pleased the spouse and subsequently affected the caregiver.

    The second study involved 43 caregivers who completed a diary at the end of the day that detailed the help they provided and the appreciation they received.

    The findings suggest that spouses caring for a partner feel happier and report fewer physical symptoms when they believe their help is appreciated.

    “Importantly, this study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that it is important to target emotional communication between spouses in daily support interactions to improve psychological well-being in the context of chronic conditions and disability,” the authors write in their paper.

    It’s an important point to consider, not just today, but for the future, notes Poulin.

    “As the baby boomers continue to age, this phenomenon of spousal caregiving will continue to increase,” he says.


  6. Study looks at what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

    September 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Utah press release:

    Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

    Now a new study offers insights into what people are deliberating about and what makes the decision so difficult, which could help therapists working with couples and stimulate further research into the decision-making process.

    The study, led by U psychology professor Samantha Joel, was published in Social Psychology and Personality Science. Co-authors were Geoff MacDonald and Elizabeth Page-Gould of the University of Toronto.

    “Most of the research on breakups has been predictive, trying to predict whether a couple stays together or not, but we don’t know much about the decision process — what are the specific relationship pros and cons that people are weighing out,” Joel said.

    In the first phase of the study, the researchers recruited three samples of people — including people who were in the midst of trying to decide whether to break up or not — to participate in an anonymous survey.

    Participants were asked open-ended questions about their specific reasons for both wanting to stay and leave a relationship.

    That yielded a list of 27 different reasons for wanting to stay in a relationship and 23 reasons for wanting to leave.

    The stay/leave factors were then converted into a questionnaire that was given to another group of people who were trying to decide whether to end a dating relationship or marriage. Those dating had been together for two years on average, while married participants reported relationships that averaged nine years.

    In both studies, general factors considered as the individuals deliberated what to do were similar.

    At the top of the stay list: emotional intimacy, investment and a sense of obligation. At the top of the leave list: issues with a partner’s personality, breach of trust and partner withdrawal.

    Individuals in both dating and married situations gave similar reasons for wanting to leave a relationship.

    But the researchers found significant differences in stay reasoning between the two groups.

    Participants who were in a dating relationship said they were considering staying based on more positive reasons such as aspects of their partner’s personality that they like, emotional intimacy and enjoyment of the relationship. Those who were married gave more constraint reasons for staying such as investment into the relationship, family responsibilities, fear of uncertainty and logistical barriers.

    And about half of the participants said they had reasons to both stay and leave, indicating ambivalence about their relationships.

    “What was most interesting to me was how ambivalent people felt about their relationships. They felt really torn,” Joel said. “Breaking up can be a really difficult decision. You can look at a relationship from outside and say ‘you have some really unsolvable problems, you should break up’ but from the inside that is a really difficult thing to do and the longer you’ve been in a relationship, the harder it seems to be.”

    Most people, Joel said, have standards and deal breakers about the kind of person they want to date or marry but those often go out the window when they meet someone.

    “Humans fall in love for a reason,” Joel said. “From an evolutionary perspective, for our ancestors finding a partner may have been more important than finding the right partner. It might be easier to get into relationships than to get back out of them.”


  7. ‘Tightwads and spenders’ study examines financial perceptions that hurt couples

    August 30, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brigham Young University press release:

    When a husband thinks his wife spends too much money, whether it’s reality or perception, financial and marriage problems follow.

    A new multistate study from researchers at BYU and Kansas State University looked at contrasting financial personalities in a marriage. They titled the personalities “tightwads and spenders,” as seen in the Journal of Financial Planning.

    What shaped these personalities in marriage wasn’t concrete attributes the individuals displayed or even the circumstances they were in. Rather, it was the perception about how spendy the other spouse was.

    “The fact that spouses’ perceptions of each other’s spending behaviors were so predictive of financial conflict suggests that when it comes to the impact of finances on relationships, perceptions may be just as important, if not more important, than reality,” said Ashley LeBaron, BYU graduate student and study co-author.

    The study found that for husbands, having a wife who they saw as a spender was the highest contributor to financial conflict. For wives, having a husband who viewed them as a spender was the highest contributor to financial conflict. This was seen for couples with high incomes and low incomes as well as with couples who spent a lot and those who did not spend much at all. The views were completely relative to perception.

    LeBaron worked with BYU family life professor Jeffrey Hill as well as a national expert in the area of finances in marriage, Kansas State professor Sonya Britt-Lutter.

    “Couples need to communicate about finances, especially early in marriage,” Britt-Lutter said. “Don’t think that financial problems will magically go away when circumstances change. The study showed that circumstances weren’t the issue here, perception was, and perception doesn’t always change when circumstances do.”

    Secondarily to the perception of a spendy wife, the study found that men saw having more children as impacting financial conflict, and women saw a lack of financial communication overall as impacting financial conflict.

    Of those who participated in the study, 90 percent of women and 85 percent of men reported that they experienced some kind of financial worries.

    The researchers suggest that no matter what the perceptions or realities are exactly, if finances are causing problems in a marriage, help is possible.

    “The good news is that couples can benefit from clinical help,” Hill said, “whether that be a financial planner or a marriage and family therapist.”

    There are also a host of resources available online, paid and free, to assist in budgeting and money management.

    Data for this study came from BYU’s Flourishing Families Project, which is a longitudinal, multi-informant, multi-method look at inner-family dynamics. The project began in 2007 and to date includes 10 waves of data (including questionnaire, video and physiological data) on nearly 700 families from two locations. Hundreds of BYU undergraduate and graduate students have been involved over the course of the project.


  8. Being dominated on consumer choices can make less-powered partner unhappy

    August 27, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Duke University press release:

    It might not seem like a big deal if you like Coke while your partner likes Pepsi — but new research suggests preferring different brands can affect our happiness in relationships more than shared interests or personality traits.

    “People think compatibility in relationships comes from having similar backgrounds, religion or education,” said Gavan Fitzsimons, a marketing professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. “But we find those things don’t explain how happy you are in life nearly as much as this notion of brand compatibility.”

    The findings, “Coke vs. Pepsi: Brand Compatibility, Relationship Power, and Life Satisfaction,” were recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Fitzsimons worked with Fuqua colleagues Tanya Chartrand and Grainne Fitzsimons, plus lead author and former Fuqua PhD student Danielle Brick, now at the University of New Hampshire.

    The researchers found that partners who had low power in their relationships — those who don’t feel they can shape their partner’s behavior — tend to find themselves stuck with their partner’s preferred brands.

    “If you are lower in relationship power and have different brand preferences than your partner, you’re probably going to find yourself stuck with your partner’s favorite brands, over and over again. This could lead to a death-by-a-thousand-cuts feeling,” Brick said. “Most couples won’t break up over brand incompatibility, but it leads to the low power partner becoming less and less happy.”

    Studies in several settings produced the same result. The researchers used brand preferences in soda, coffee, chocolate, beer and automobiles to study individuals and couples, some of whom were tracked over two years. These results were combined with findings on relationship power and happiness.

    “It’s an extremely robust effect, we found it over and over and over again,” Fitzsimons said.

    Brick said it’s likely these brand compatibility effects have steadily gained strength as brands have evolved to play a bigger role in the daily lives of consumers. But they aren’t given the same weight as other relationship-influencing factors because they’re not seen as significant.

    “If you are a different religion than your romantic partner, you know that if this is an issue you can’t work through, then the relationship isn’t going to last,” Brick said. “Conversely, if you like Coke and your partner likes Pepsi, you’re probably not going to break up over it — but 11 years into a relationship, when he or she keeps coming home with Pepsi, day in and day out, it might start to cause a little conflict. And if you’re the low-power person in the relationship, who continually loses out on brands and is stuck with your partner’s preferences, you are going to be less happy.”

    The results have implications for individuals and firms.

    “People who are looking for love should maybe consider including brand preferences on their dating profiles,” Fitzsimons said. “There’s also an opportunity for marketers to seek to be the family brand. Even if two partners have slightly different brand preferences, if they can adopt a joint brand that both are happy about, that might increase happiness for a partner who would otherwise feel unsatisfied.”

    Fitzsimons said that family branding isn’t currently commonplace.

    “Some brands are marketed as family-oriented, but that’s not the same as reaching out to everyone in the family,” he said. “It’s tricky, but firms that get it right can have their brand associated with happiness and harmony — and there’s nothing better than that.”


  9. Supportive relationships linked to willingness to pursue opportunities

    August 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Carnegie Mellon University press release:

    Research on how our social lives affects decision-making has usually focused on negative factors like stress and adversity. Less attention, however, has been paid to the reverse: What makes people more likely to give themselves the chance to succeed?

    That’s the question Carnegie Mellon University psychologists recently posed. Published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, they discovered that people with supportive spouses were more likely to take on potentially rewarding challenges and that those who accepted the challenges experienced more personal growth, happiness, psychological well-being and better relationship functioning months later.

    “We found support for the idea that the choices people make at these specific decision points — such as pursuing a work opportunity or seeking out new friends — matter a lot for their long-term well-being,” said Brooke Feeney, lead author of the study and professor of psychology in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

    The researchers brought 163 married couples into the lab and gave one member of each couple a choice: either solve a simple puzzle, or they were given an opportunity to compete for a prize by giving a speech. The researchers then recorded the couples’ interactions as they decided whether to take on the challenge.

    Participants with more encouraging partners were substantially more likely to decide to compete for the prize, while those with partners who discouraged them or expressed a lack of confidence more often chose the simple puzzle. Six months later, those who pursued the more challenging task reported having more personal growth, happiness, psychological well-being, and better relationships than those who didn’t.

    So what can one do to encourage a partner to embrace life opportunities? The researchers found that the most supportive partners expressed enthusiasm about the opportunity, reassured their partners, and talked about the potential benefits of taking on the challenge.

    “Significant others can help you thrive through embracing life opportunities,” said Feeney. “Or they can hinder your ability to thrive by making it less likely that you’ll pursue opportunities for growth.”


  10. Parents’ disagreements about bedtime can affect coparenting relationship

    August 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Penn State press release:

    Positive parental teamwork is key to promoting healthy child development, but when mothers have stronger opinions than fathers about how to tend to their infants in the middle of the night, the coparenting relationship can suffer, says a group of researchers.

    In a study, researchers asked mothers and fathers how they felt about responding to night wakings — for example, whether they should attend to their crying infant right away or let him or her self-soothe — and their perceptions about their coparenting. The researchers found that when mothers had stronger beliefs than the fathers, the mothers also reported feeling worse about their coparenting relationships.

    Jonathan Reader, a doctoral candidate in the College of Health and Human Development and lead author on the paper, said the study was an important step in learning more about how parents can work together to promote child well-being.

    “Setting limits about how to respond to night wakings is stressful, and if there are discrepancies in how mothers and fathers feel they should respond, that can reduce the quality of that coparenting relationship,” Reader said. “We found that for mothers in particular, they perceived coparenting as worse when they had stronger beliefs than the father.”

    While previous research has examined how a mother’s beliefs about infant sleep affects her baby’s quality of sleep, few studies have explored the father’s beliefs or how their beliefs about sleep affect coparenting quality.

    The study’s participants — 167 mothers and 155 fathers — answered questions about how they feel they should respond to night wakings, for example, “My child will feel abandoned if I don’t respond immediately to his/her cries at night,” when the baby was one, three, six, nine and 12 months old.

    At the same time, participants also answered questions about coparenting, for example, “My partner and I have the same goals for our child,” and if they were experiencing depressive or anxiety symptoms.

    After analyzing the data, the researchers found that mothers generally had stronger beliefs about how to respond to night wakings than fathers, although both parents started to become less concerned about how to set limits as the infant got older. But when mothers had stronger beliefs, their perceptions of coparenting went down.

    “During the study, we saw that in general mothers were much more active at night with the baby than the fathers were,” Reader said. “So perhaps because the mothers were the more active ones during the night, if they’re not feeling supported in their decisions, then it creates more of a drift in the coparenting relationship.”

    Reader said the findings, published recently in the Journal of Family Psychology, underscore the importance of early and frequent communication between parents.

    “It’s important to have these conversations early and upfront, so when it’s 3 a.m. and the baby’s crying, both parents are on the same page about how they’re going to respond,” Reader said. “Constant communication is really important.”

    Douglas Teti, department head of the Human Development and Family Studies department in the College of Health and Human Development and who also participated in the study, added that the health and mindset of the parents are just as important as that of the baby’s.

    “What we seem to be finding is that it’s not so much whether the babies are sleeping through the night, or how the parents decide to do bedtime, but more about how the parents are reacting and if they’re stressed,” Teti said. “That seems to be much more important than whether you cosleep or don’t cosleep, or whatever you choose to do. Whatever you decide, just make sure you and your partner are on the same page.”

    Moving forward, Teti said the next step is more research into how best to develop and enhance the coparenting relationship, with attention paid to infant sleep.

    “We want to learn more about how to put families in a position where they know that not every baby will be sleeping on their own by three months, and that’s ok,” Teti said. “Most kids learn how to go to sleep eventually. Parenting has a lot to do with it.”