We all want our family life to be as happy as possible – and now researchers have identified some personal characteristics and skills that can contribute to creating a harmonious home. A study of 40,000 people has identified a key personality trait that makes for a happy family.
It would seem that one of the key factors for a healthy family and romantic relationship is psychological flexibility. When challenges and problems arise, this flexibility can prevent the relationship from breaking down.
The conclusions were made on the basis of what is known as a meta-analysis or review of previous studies. In this case, the meta-analysis covered 174 earlier relationship studies, covering a total of 43,952 people.
“Put simply, this meta-analysis highlights that mindfulness and emotional resilience in difficult and critical situations not only improves people’s lives, but can also strengthen and enrich their close relationships,” says University of Rochester psychologist Ronald Rogge.
Rogge and colleague Jennifer Dux, also a psychologist at the University of Rochester, found that “mindful flexibility” was associated with family encouragement and relationship dynamics, as well as stronger bonds between participants. About what happiness is, we wrote earlier in a separate article.
Next, the researchers refine some of the personal skills required for psychological flexibility. These include openness and acceptance of experiences, good or bad, and mindful, mindful awareness of the present in everyday life.
Other positive skills include experiencing thoughts and feelings without dwelling on them, maintaining a broad perspective even during difficult times, staying connected to deeper values through changing moods each day, and being able to keep taking steps towards a goal even during difficult times.
It was a list of attractive features. On the other hand, psychological inflexibility usually results from active avoidance of complex thoughts, feelings, and experiences, diversion and inattention to everyday life, and getting stuck in difficult thoughts and feelings.
Other behaviors of psychologically inflexible people include taking difficult thoughts and feelings as a personal reflection (and feeling judged because of them), allowing the stress and chaos of everyday life to overwhelm deeper priorities and easily be led astray by setbacks and difficult experiences.
In families, psychological flexibility leads to greater cohesion, less stress, and greater use of adaptive parenting strategies. In romantic relationships, this leads to more satisfaction and less negative conflict.
The study aligns with previous analysis that examined how simply being aware of a relationship and maintaining open channels of communication can make a significant difference to the duration of those relationships.
“The results show that husbands and wives are pretty good at understanding what they are doing right and wrong in their relationship,” Rogge says of the earlier study.
“Maybe you don’t need to teach them a lot of skills to cut divorce rates. Maybe you just need to make them think about how they are currently behaving.”