Entries in children (33)

Tuesday
Apr102018

A Dark Side of Blended Families: The Role of Ex-Partners

By Jennifer Harman Ph.D. - Colorado State University

Adventures in Blending: Memoirs of Mixing Families

 

If I were to portray the blending of my family with the Consultant’s as all rainbows and butterflies, I would be lying. Not because things are challenging with him; quite the contrary. We are on the same page almost all the time about handling the normal challenges that come with being a family, such as who should handle one kid’s tantrum and how to handle our financial obligations.

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Tuesday
Mar132018

Feeling like a Family: Turning Points in Step-Families

By Jennifer Harman Ph.D. - Colorado State University

Adventures in Blending: Memoirs of Mixing Families

Photo Credit: News.com.au

After the Consultant and I moved our families in together, his youngest daughter (who I will refer to as #3 due to her birth order in our blended brood) started to attend the same elementary school as my two boys. I picked up my sons from school one day during a week when the Consultant’s kids were with their mother. While walking past us and after saying hello, a friend of #3’s asked, “who were they?” Her response was “they are my step-brothers.” My mouth dropped. Over the next several months, we then heard all of the children refer to each other as stepsiblings, without prompting or being instructed to do so. The Consultant and I were touched to say the least.

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Tuesday
Feb202018

Blending Homes: Making the Complex Decision with Kids

By Jennifer Harman Ph.D. - Colorado State University

Adventures in Blending: Memoirs of Mixing Families


Before launching back into a blog about being a (step)parent in a blended family, it is important to first describe how and why we became that way. I will start with our decision to move in together, something I wrote a little about a few years ago. I neglected to share, however, just how we came to the decision, which was not an easy one to make.

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Monday
Feb192018

All Mixed Up: Life in a Blended Family

By Jennifer Harman Ph.D. - Colorado State University

Adventures in Blending: Memoirs of Mixing Families

A few years ago, I shared my ups and downs of the dating scene in my blog Adventures in Dating: Memoirs of a Single Mom. Although dating is not necessarily a novel blog topic, I wrote about it from the perspective of a single mom. I also wrote about dating from the perspective of a researcher who studies and thinks about relationships all the time. For those who know me well, they know that I am constantly quoting empirical studies and psychological theories to explain why different things happen in relationships. Trust me, it’s endearing.

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Thursday
Jun012017

Can Using Hormonal Birth Control Affect the Health of Future Children?

When choosing a partner to have children with, it is only natural to desire “Prince Charming” or “Cinderella,” who may pass on their beneficial genetic qualities to future kids. Given that better genes increase the offspring's survival and reproduction chances, mechanisms that detect “genetic quality” should have evolved to lead people to be sexually attracted to “knights in shining genes.”

One such cue for mate suitability is odor, which signals compatibility between potential mates' immune systems. Specifically, odor indicates the extent of overlapping between potential mates' immune systems, such that more attractive odor signals less overlap between mates' immune systems. The larger the dissimilarity between mates' immune systems, the more threats the immune system can combat.

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Tuesday
Jan122016

Parental Alienation and the Fight for Children’s Hearts and Minds

Parental alienation involves one parent spoiling the relationship between a child and the other parent in the absence of actual abuse or neglect. In both my personal and professional lives, I have seen many parents actively turn their children against the other parent in an effort to “keep them (the child) close,” and to undermine their child’s loving bond with the other parent. Although research has demonstrated that parental alienation has very negative effects on children (e.g., depression, substance abuse and conduct disorders), few researchers have examined empirically how exactly parents engage in this alienation behavior.1

The majority of research on this topic has surveyed young adults (e.g., children) who report having been alienated from one parent by another. Alienating strategies include bad-mouthing or denigrating the other parent in front of the child (or within earshot),2,3 limiting the child’s contact with the other parent,4 trying to erase the other parent from the child’s mind (e.g., withholding pictures of the child with the other parent),2 creating and perpetuating a belief the other parent is dangerous (when there is no evidence of actual danger),2 forcing the child to reject the other parent, and making the child feel guilty if he or she talks about enjoying time with the other parent.2 The impact of these behaviors on children is devastating, but it also often has the opposite intended effect; parents who denigrate the other parent are actually less close with their children than those who do not.3

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Tuesday
May192015

Cheating: It's a Family Affair

Why do people cheat? It’s a question we get (and address) here at ScienceOfRelationship.com regularly. Our coverage of the topic generally reflects the state of research on the topic, which focuses on proximal predictors of infidelity --- or science jargon for those things about individuals or relationships that directly increase the likelihood somebody will cheat, such as low commitment, more attractive alternatives, lack of impulse control, narcissism, and so on. But what if we dig further in a person’s history, perhaps even preceding her or his foray into the world of romantic and sexual relationships? Are there more distal signs or risk factors for whether somebody will one day cheat on a partner? It would appear so.

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Wednesday
Feb252015

Does Parenting Make People Happy or Miserable?

Parenting, no doubt, is a demanding job. While parenting can bring people great joy and meaning, it can also be incredibly stressful and frustrating. The debate over whether parents are more or less happy than non-parents doesn’t have a definitive answer. This is in part due to the fact that people who have children differ, on average, from those who do not have children in ways that are related to happiness, such as in their marital status, age, and income. 

While people have debated whether parents are happier than non-parents, researchers suggest that the question of whether parents are more or less happy is not the most meaningful question. Rather, we should begin asking the questions of when, why, and how parenting may contribute to greater happiness or negativity. In a recent review linking parenting and well-being, researchers outlined a number of these differences, and identify a wide range of factors that affect the degree to which parenting affects happiness.1 Spoiler alert: It’s complicated.

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Monday
Oct202014

How Do Important Relationship Events Impact Our Well-Being?

Perhaps no life events fill us with more joy or sadness than those that involve important relationship partners. Whether we are committing to lifelong partnerships with someone we love, bringing a new addition to the family, leaving a bad relationship, or losing a loved one, relationship events may have different effects on how satisfied and happy we are with our lives. 

How do important relationship events impact our well-being over time? In a recent meta-analysis (a research paper that combines results from similar studies), researchers examined this very question. Specifically, they studied how our cognitive and emotional well-being change over time in response to four important life events: marriage, divorce, bereavement, and the birth of a child.

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Friday
Oct032014

Kids vs. Scantily Clad Women: Which Do New Dads Prefer and Why?

We’ve written previously that fatherhood is associated with decreased levels of testosterone in dads (except for when a testosterone boost might come in handy). For the most part, the general belief has been that the dads’ lower testosterone limits their impulses to mate (presumably not with their baby-momma), thus keeping them invested in their children.

Some recent research from Emory University, however, suggests another, or additional, possibility.1 Specifically, the researchers compared the testosterone and oxytocin hormone levels of a group of fathers of 1-2 year old children with hormone  levels of men without children. In addition to collecting blood samples to measure the hormones, the researchers also scanned the brains (via MRI scans) of all the men while they were looking at 3 types of pictures: 1) children’s faces (of the same sex and age as their own kids, and depicting a range of emotional expressions), 2) unknown adult faces displaying similar emotions, and 3) scantily clad women. The research team was interested in whether fathers vs. non-fathers responded neurologically (i.e., as assessed via increased brain activation) to the different types of images and, if so, what role hormones play in those neural responses.

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Wednesday
Oct012014

Parental Alienation and the Fight for Children’s Hearts and Minds

Parental alienation involves one parent spoiling the relationship between a child and the other parent in the absence of actual abuse or neglect. In both my personal and professional lives, I have seen many parents actively turn their children against the other parent in an effort to “keep them (the child) close,” and to undermine their child’s loving bond with the other parent. Although research has demonstrated that parental alienation has very negative effects on children (e.g., depression, substance abuse and conduct disorders), few researchers have examined empirically how exactly parents engage in this alienation behavior.

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Friday
Sep122014

Easy Love: Is it Easier for Some People to Love than it is for Others?

The other day, I asked my kids (7 and 8 years old) to sign a birthday card for a relative that they had only met a few times. I expected that their misspelled words and child-like handwriting would be appealing to the card’s recipient. What I didn’t expect was for their messages to be full of love: “I love you,” “xoxox,” and hearts dotting each letter "i". Where were these demonstrative notes for a relatively unknown person coming from?  Should I be worried about my overly affectionate children?

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Thursday
Jun052014

Unplugging to Reconnect this Summer 

When I was young, family vacations involved long road trips, my Walkman, 3 cassette tapes (usually Michael Jackson, Eddie Grant, and early U2 in heavy rotation), and the alphabet game. In many ways, these trips resembled the classic National Lampoon’s Vacation, which may explain why the movie has always been a favorite of mine. Fortunately, my family never had to drive across the country with a dead grandmother on the car roof, but I always empathized with Rusty and Audrey’s unrelenting boredom on their ride from Chicago to Wally World in LA.  

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Monday
Apr142014

Childfree and Carefree? It Depends on Your Nationality

“The next time you’re opening presents will be at your baby shower.” My mother-in-law (MIL) spoke these words to me the day after my wife and I were married and we were opening wedding gifts. Admittedly, my experience is not unique; I know of others who felt pressured to have kids soon after getting hitched (and in many cases prior to that). My MIL’s comment reflects her (and many others’) strong pronatalism, or the belief that adults should have and raise children for their own and society’s well-being. In fact, pronatalism can be so strong that the resulting societal pressure to have kids ultimately undermines childfree (or childless)* individuals’ happiness and life satisfaction.

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Friday
Jan312014

Marriage-Free, Not Fancy-Free

As a relationship scientist, I frequently consider research findings when making personal decisions in my life. The most recent personal decision I’ve made was to move in with The Consultant, a man I have been dating for some time now. Unfortunately, most of the research out there about cohabiting doesn’t quite map onto my particular situation. Although some research findings do seem to apply to us, such as cohabiters being more liberal, less religious, and more egalitarian compared to their married peers,1 other findings do not apply so clearly. 

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Thursday
Nov212013

America Speaks: Ideal Age for Parenthood

According to a recent Gallup Poll, "Americans see 25 as ideal age for women to have first child." The poll results have received a lot of attention in the popular media, so we thought we should chime in as well. As it turns out, we've previously summarized the scientific data regarding how mom's age affects child outcomes in our book. An excerpt from that chapter is below.

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Friday
Sep202013

Sex Ed at Home (for Elementary-Aged Kids): Your Questions Answered

Our daughter was barely 3 years old when she started asking about the birds and the bees. She wanted to know how mommies got babies inside their tummies and how babies came out of their tummies. Her curiosity has always kept us on our toes. Our son (now nearly 8 years old), in stark contrast, has always been relatively uninterested in learning about the “facts of life.” The last time we raised the topic, he responded, “Do we have to talk about this stuff again? I just want to be a kid!”

Regardless of your child’s curiosity level, most parents find themselves broaching the topic of sex education at some point with their children.

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Monday
May132013

I Dislike the Dog that Likes the Rabbit that I Dislike: Why Do We Like Some People but Dislike Others?

The notion that people prefer similar others is as empirically-validated a research finding as they come in our field (see here, for example). Similar people make us feel better about ourselves, and who doesn’t like somebody that makes us feel better about ourselves? In fact, the preference for similarity is so common that it is considered a general characteristic of the human condition, and it’s not hard to imagine how preferring to hang around similar people, and avoiding dissimilar people, might benefit survival.

Recently, researchers have begun to identify exactly how early this preference for similar others begins to develop.  One can’t help but wonder whether this “universal” preference for similar others is nature (i.e., we’re born with it) or nurture (i.e., others, such as our parents, teach us to like similar others and not like dissimilar others).

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Wednesday
Mar062013

How Your Family Upbringing Helps or Hinders Marital Conflict Resolution

If you are in a romantic relationship, it is nearly inevitable that you will experience conflict with your partner at some point. How you deal with conflict influences your relationship. When disagreements arise, some people manage them better than others. For example, some are able to talk through their problems in a supportive and respectful manner, whereas others fail to express their concerns and resolve their disagreements. These different conflict resolution skills (or lack thereof) come from many places, but recent research in Psychological Science suggests that your family climate during your adolescence may have something to do with how you manage conflict as an adult.

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Wednesday
Dec052012

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems: How Having Money Can Make You a Worse Parent

Common sense suggests that people should get their financial ducks in a row before having children. Indeed, couples frequently put off having children because they first want to be more financially secure. There are definitely some important upsides to this strategy; for example, kids tend to be healthier and happier when their parents are more well-off. But might there also be downsides to pursuing wealth before parenting?

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