What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Parents are often guilty of putting their own relationship on hold while they focus time, attention, and other resources on raising their children. That may be a dire mistake, according to new research based in Nepal, where a team of Canadian and American researchers discovered that self-reported parental affection was associated with children’s greater educational attainment and later marriage. To conduct their research, the authors of the study used survey data from the Chitwan Valley Family Study, which began in 1995 in the Western Chitwan Valley region of Nepal. Married couples were asked (separately but simultaneously) to rate the “level of affection they had for their partner” by answering the question, “How much do you love your (husband/wife)? Very much, some, a little, or not at all?” The researchers then followed the children of these couples for 12 years, to determine what impact their parents’ relationship had on their own life trajectory. “We find,” the researchers summarize, “that children whose parents report strong marital affection and less spousal conflict attain higher levels of education and marry later than children whose parents do not.” “Furthermore,” the researchers continue, “these findings are independent of each other and of multiple factors known to influence children’s educational attainment and marriage timing. These intriguing results support theories pointing toward the long-term intergenerational consequences of variations in multiple dimensions of parents’ marriages.”  “Family isn’t just another institution,” reported lead researcher Sarah Brauner-Otto. “It’s not like a school or employer. It is this place where we also have emotions and feelings. . . . Demonstrating and providing evidence that love, this emotional component of family, also has this long impact on children’s lives is really important for understanding the depth of family influence on children.” The re
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