Parents’ Love For Each Other Shapes Children’s Lives
When parents love each other, their children stay in school longer and marry later in life, according to a new study of families in Nepal.
“In this study, we saw that parents’ emotional connection to each other affects child rearing so much that it shapes their children’s future,” said co-author and University of Michigan (U-M) Institute for Social Research researcher William Axinn. “The fact that we found these kinds of things in Nepal moves us step closer to evidence that these things are universal.”
The study, published in the journal Demography, used data from the Chitwan Valley Family Study in Nepal. The survey launched in 1995 and collected information from 151 neighborhoods in the Western Chitwan Valley.
Married couples were interviewed simultaneously but separately and were asked to rate the level of affection they had for their partner. The spouses answered questions such as “How much do you love your (husband/wife)? Very much, some, a little, or not at all?”
The research team then followed the children of these parents for 12 years to document their education and marital behaviors. They discovered that the children of parents who reported they loved each other either “some” or “very much” stayed in school longer and married later.
“Family isn’t just another institution. It’s not like a school or employer. It is this place where we also have emotions and feelings,” said lead author Sarah Brauner-Otto, director of the Centre on Population Dynamics at McGill University in Quebec.
“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.”
Nepal provides an important backdrop to study how familial relationships shape children’s lives, according to Axinn. Historically, in Nepal, parents arranged their children’s marriage, and divorce was rare. Since the 1970s, that has been changing, with more couples marrying for love, and divorce still rare, but becoming more common.
Education has also become more widespread since the 1970s. In Nepal, children begin attending school at age 5, and complete secondary school after grade 10, when they can take an exam to earn their “School-Leaving Certificate.”
Fewer than 3% of ever-married women ages 15 to 49 had earned an SLC in 1996, while nearly a quarter of women earned an SLC in 2016. In 2011, 31% of men earned SLCs; by 2016, 36.8% of men had.
The researchers say their next investigation will be to determine why parental love affects children in this way. They hypothesize that when parents love each other, they tend to invest more in their children, leading to children remaining in education longer.
The children’s home environments may also be happier when parents report loving each other, so the children may be less likely to escape into their own marriages. Children may also view their parents as role models, and take longer to seek similar marriages.
Source: University of Michigan
Pedersen, T. (2020). Parents’ Love For Each Other Shapes Children’s Lives. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/02/21/parents-love-for-each-other-shapes-childrens-lives/154321.html