Originally published December 27 2012
Better romantic partners make better parents, study finds
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) The same set of interpersonal skills that make a person a good romantic partner also make them a good parent, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Bristol and published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP).
SPSP, an organization of social and personality psychologists, promotes scientific research related to thought, behavior, emotions and social interactions.
Prior studies have examined the importance of various sets of social skills in romantic relationships, while others have examined the importance of those skills in parenting, but none have previously examined the relationship between the two.
"Our work is the first to look at romantic caregiving and parenting styles at the same time," lead author Abigail Millings said.
In the new study, researchers sought to determine whether there is a relationship between families in the way a person cares for their partner and the way they care for their children.
"We wanted to see how romantic relationships between parents might be associated with what kind of parents they are," Millings said.
The researchers evaluated 125 couples with children between the ages of seven and eight for their parenting styles, attachment to each other, and their caregiving responsiveness, which Millings defined as "capacity to be 'tuned in' to what the other person needs."
"In romantic relationships and in parenting, this might mean noticing when the other person has had a bad day, knowing how to cheer them up, and whether they even want cheering up," she said.
"[It's not] just about picking you up when you're down, it's also about being able to respond appropriately to the good stuff in life."
A shared skill setThe researchers found that for both fathers and mothers, a shared set of skills applies to both parenting and to romantic relationships.
"If you can do responsive caregiving, it seems that you can do it across different relationships," Millings said.
The way that person cared for their partners; however, had no effect on that partner's parenting behavior.
Millings noted that all the researchers found was a correlation between certain relationship traits, but that they do not know if having relationship skills actually causes someone to be a better parent.
"It might be the case that practicing being sensitive and responsive - for example, by really listening and by really thinking about the other person's perspective - to our partners will also help us to improve these skills with our kids," she said. "But we need to do more research to see whether the association can actually be used in this way."
Noting that even people without partners can have good relationships with their children, Millings said that the research team now plans to investigate the relationship between parenting and caregiving in other types of family structure.
They also plan to research whether strengthening caregiving responsiveness in one relationship will lead to improvements in other types of family relationships. If that is the case, they said, it could be possible to design self-help programs for relationship improvement.
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