As a parent, how much should you help pay for your child's college education? How much should you help with their homework? The parent-child relationship is based on parent's helping their child. But sometimes parents can help too much. A recent article in the New York Times examines "helicopter parents" and how parents can help so much, that it actually hurts the child.
Entries in parenting (29)
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).
Having a first child can be a stressful time for couples for many reasons. One factor that may contribute to new-parent stress is whether the new parents agree on how to parent. In a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers examined whether new parents had similar parenting styles and felt like they were working together as team in raising their new infants; they also assessed whether this teamwork was related to parents’ mental health and relationship satisfaction. New mothers and fathers who felt like their parenting styles were similar had more positive moods and experienced less depression in the months following the birth of their first child. In addition, perceived agreement in parenting styles was related to mothers’ overall relationship satisfaction.
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.
I’ve kicked off this year’s SPSP in N'awlins by attending the close relationships preconference – an all-day relationship research extravaganza that precedes the official conference. One of my favorite aspects of this event is its signature “data blitz,” in which ten up-and-coming relationship researchers are each given just three minutes (!!!) to quickly tell us about their most exciting, hot-off-the-presses data. Here are some of this year’s highlights:
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?
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.
Political scientists often wonder what makes someone liberal versus conservative. Fortunately, there are several well-studied clues to predicting individuals’ political attitudes. For example, disgust sensitivity, which refers to how easily you are repulsed by gross things, increases the likelihood that you call yourself a conservative and vote for conservative politicians.1 How do the researchers explain this effect? The emotion of disgust may have evolved in part to help humans avoid poisonous or diseased substances (that’s why dog crap smells so foul to us) and we also generally associate immoral behavior with feeling disgusted. When people feel disgusted, they also express harsher, condemning attitudes toward social behaviors they feel are immoral (like incest). Conservatives, who happen to be more easily disgusted in general, also have more critical perspectives on stigmatized social behaviors (like same-sex sexual contact).
High conflict with an ex-husband spills over negatively onto women’s relationships with their children. In a recent survey of a random sample of 1,239 divorced mothers, conflict with an ex-husband was associated with increased feelings of parental stress -- the greater the conflict, the more mothers felt their children were challenging to deal with (acting out, tantrums, etc.). This stress reduced the quality of mother-child interactions. The researchers proposed that mediated communication between ex-spouses, such as with a lawyer or psychologist, could help alleviate some of this conflict and improve family relations.
Hakvoort, E. M., Bos, H. M. W., Van Balen, F., & Hermanns, J. M. A. (2012). Spillover between mothers’ postdivorce relationships: The mediating role of parenting stress. Personal Relationships, 19, 247-254.
image source: parentdish.co.uk
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?
Me: What did you do? Who’d you play with?
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.
How are adolescent boys learning about sex these days? By pointing, clicking, and streaming through a seemingly endless supply of Internet pornography. That’s right…online porn is now the default form of sex education for a growing number of young boys because they simply are not getting the information they need elsewhere. Personally, I find this prospect kind of scary. I mean, do you really want your son to learn everything he knows about sex from watching Ron Jeremy?
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
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 colleagues 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.
I have two kids. One is 3½ and generally sleeps through the night. The other is 14 months old and either fancies himself as living on a farm or simply likes to jack with his parents by waking up most mornings between 4 and 5 a.m. He may or may not go back to sleep after a trip to the milk bar, typically depending on how late we went to sleep the evening prior (it’s uncanny). Most nights, I admittedly sleep through the first of his wake-ups, and, in fact, often have no conscious recollection of ever hearing him squawk for us from the adjacent room. But, when my wife is out of town or taking in a way-too-early spin class, I find myself jumping out of bed with the urgency of a testosterone-fueled (albeit very tired) man-protector, ready to address whatever it is that has awoken young Mowgli.
We’ve written a few articles on the effect of attachment style on adult relationships (see here for a primer on attachment and here for all attachment articles). To recap, attachment style represents the ways in which we relate to the people we care about. Some people tend to be open and trusting (secure attachment), some people tend to be more needy and insecure (anxious attachment), and yet others prefer to keep their distance (avoidant attachment). Researchers know that people’s attachment styles can explain a lot about the roots of their behavior in their relationships.1 But where do these attachment styles come from?
Marriage laws may affect the children of same-sex partners, but until recently the impact of such laws on kids has not been studied. When researchers examined the views of adolescent and young adult children of gay and lesbian couples, the children typically desired marriage for their parents. Although opponents of same-sex marriage express concern about the welfare of same-sex couples’ kids, this research suggests that families of same-sex couples think that marriage would benefit them.
Goldberg, A. E., & Kuvalanka, K. A. (2012). The perspectives of adolescents and emerging adults with lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 34-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2011.00876.x