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Friends Beat Family On Happiness

Chores Get In the Way Of Wellbeing

By John Salak –

The joys of family life aren’t all they’re cracked up to be compared to the fun and relaxation people enjoy hanging out with friends, at least according to research coming out of Southern Methodist University.

The news is only worse for significant others. SMU psychology professor Nathan Hudson not only claims that people have a stronger sense of wellbeing in the company of friends than family, he also reports that time with spouses and romantic partners scored even lower on the wellbeing scale than family.

There’s a caveat to Hudson’s research that involved more than 400 participants. He maintains that his findings may have more to do with the activities surrounding these interactions than the specific people involved. Think about it. Time spent with friends more often than not involves “enjoyable activities,” whereas time with family members and significant others means at times tackling unpleasant tasks and chores.

“Our study suggests that this doesn’t have to do with the fundamental nature of kith versus kin relationships,” Hudson said. “When we statistically controlled for activities, the ‘mere presence’ of children, romantic partners, and friends predicted similar levels of happiness. Thus, this paper provides an optimistic view of family and suggests that people genuinely enjoy their romantic partners and children.”

The research centered on asking the participants to rate experiences they have had with family and friends, noting various emotions, such as happy, satisfied, and with a sense of meaning. Each emotion was rated from 0 (almost never) to 6 (almost always).

The finding found that activities with their romantic partners often include socializing, relaxing, and eating. Participants do the same things with friends, they just do more of it. But they obviously do fewer annoying tasks in comparison with friends like housework, repairs, etc. The difference actually was pretty sizeable as 65 percent of participant experiences with friends involved socializing, while this accounted for only 28 percent of the time with partners.

Chores and work also ate up a lot of time the participants spent with children, which resulted in negative associations. Parents, nonetheless, still viewed childcare as a positive experience.

Beyond this, once the annoying activities were taken out of the equation, participants  generally recorded the same levels of well-being with friends, partners and children.

Hudson notes there is a critical lesson in his findings. “It’s important to create opportunities for positive experiences with romantic partners and children — and to really mentally savor those positive times. In contrast, family relationships that involve nothing but chores, housework, and childcare likely won’t predict a lot of happiness.”






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