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* This Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, empathy, compassion, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to! Subscribe to the Research Digests RSS feed to receive future digests.


Why It’s OK to Put Your Spouse on a Pedestal

"Tempting Fate or Inviting Happiness? Unrealistic Idealization Prevents the Decline of Marital Satisfaction"

Murray, S. L., et. al. Psychological Science, in press.

Is your spouse just the best? This study examined whether putting your romantic partner on a pedestal helps or hinders marital satisfaction. The researchers asked both partners in 222 newlywed couples to describe themselves, their partners, and their hopes for an ideal partner, and they asked them how satisfied they were with their relationship. They followed up with these couples three years later and found that, on average, marital satisfaction substantially declined over time. However, the people who initially idealized their partner the most suffered no declines in satisfaction; what’s more, the spouses who were idealized also stayed satisfied with their marriage. The results suggest that spouses will be happiest with their relationship when they believe that their partner matches their ideals—even when that belief is unrealistic. —Anahid Modrek

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A Program that Helps At-Risk Kids—and Their Parents

"Gender Differences in Behavioral Outcomes Among Children at Risk of Neglect: Findings From a Family-Focused Prevention Intervention"

Lindsey, M.A.; Hayward, R.A.; DePanfilis, D. Research on Social Work Practice, Vol. 20 (6), November 2010, 572-581.

This study suggests how it can be possible to improve at-risk kids’ well-being, particularly those at risk for neglect, by focusing on their family relationships and teaching important parenting skills. In the study, 111 children and their families participated in Family Connections, a program that works with families in low-income, urban communities to improve kids’ and parents’ well-being, such as by offering parents support and guidance and teaching them skills for managing stress. The researchers found that participating in this program helped to decrease children’s behavioral problems, including aggression, impulsivity, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. They also found that boys showed an even greater decrease in these negative behaviors than girls. The results suggest that a cost-effective community program can give parents and children, especially boys, the support they need in order to succeed. —Janelle Caponigro

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