Entries in children (30)

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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Monday
Dec032012

Dating with Children: How and When Should You Introduce the Kids? 

I have not been able to see The Consultant much the last few weeks due to his travel schedule. When he is in town, our ability to find time to spend together has been further complicated by the fact that we both have kids. Faced with the possibility of not seeing each other at all over the long Thanksgiving weekend because of our childcare obligations, I proposed “running into each other” at a local museum. He was looking for something to do with his tween girls anyway, so it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Monday
Oct152012

Note to Parents of Adolescent Kids: Stay Out if You Want "In"

My daughter is 4 years old, and has proven to very evasive when asked about her daily life at the Montessori she attends daily. A typical dinner conversation will go something like this:

Me: How was your day?

Her: Boring.

Me: What did you do? Who’d you play with?

Her: Nothing.

That pretty much captures it. And I will admit that it absolutely drives me crazy. Why? Because if the details of her private life are this elusive to me now, there’s no way I’m going to make it through her adolescent years without some intense therapy. I always want her (and our son) to feel comfortable confiding in me and keeping me informed about what’s going on in their lives --- something that will become increasingly important as they age and spend more and more time in their own private social worlds.

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Tuesday
Jun122012

"Gay" Parenting and Child Outcomes: The Devil is in the Details

A recent study by University of Texas sociologist Dr. Mark Regnerus is receiving a large amount of media attention. The study, published in Social Science Research, supposedly calls into question the empirically-based argument that children who grow up in households with two mommies or two daddies generally show no differences on a host of outcomes relative to kids who grow up with a mom and a dad. You can read a summary of the work, written by the lead author, here.

As William Saletan, of Slate.com writes, however, the devil is in the details. The survey methodology, analytical strategy, and overall conclusions drawn by the reseachers all suffer from serious limitations (never mind the role of the funding source for the study). Saletan does an excellent job of evaluating the work and highlighting how the findings, if anything, argue for marriage equality.

This work, and the ensuing discussion/debate, demonstrates once again how conclusions drawn from research are only as sound as the science behind the research.  

image credit: blogs.orlandosentinel.com

Wednesday
Jun062012

Common Punishment Techniques: Do They Work?

(This article was adapted from the book Science of Relationships: Experts Answer Your Questions about Dating, Marriage, & Family.)

When most people hear the word discipline in the context of parenting, they often think of punishment, which generally involves the application of some negative stimulus (e.g., physical pain, like spanking) or removal of something positive (e.g., removal from a rewarding activity, like a time-out from play) in hopes of changing a child’s behavior. Researchers, however, conceptualize the term discipline far more broadly; it turns out that a lot of what parents might do when their children misbehave is considered discipline. For example, recent research by Elizabeth Gershoff and colleagues1 assessed how eleven different parental responses (or, as researchers refer to them, discipline techniques) in six different countries were associated with 8- to 12-year-old kids’ aggressive and anxious behaviors. Researchers asked parents how frequently they performed eleven behaviors after their kids misbehaved over the prior year (kids also indicated how often their parents did these things) and also measured kids' use of aggression and anxiety symptoms.

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