This is the key trait that leads to a happy family life, according to science

Rob Waugh
·Contributor
·2 min read
Happy family: mother, father, children son and  daughter runing and jumping on nature  on sunset
Being emotionally flexible is key to a happy life, researchers said. (Getty)

If you’re looking for long-lasting and stable relationships, there’s one crucial trait – being emotionally flexible.

The term refers to being broad-minded, open to new experiences and able to maintain a broader perspective, even in difficult times.

Researchers at the University of Rochester analysed 174 separate studies looking at how flexibility related to family and romantic relationships.

In total, the research analysed 43,952 people, ScienceAlert reported.

Ronald Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the university, said: “Put simply, this meta-analysis underscores that being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships.”

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The researchers found that emotional flexibility led to lower perceived parenting stress, and lower levels of child distress.

It also led to fewer incidents of harsh and negative parenting strategies.

Within romantic relationships, inflexibility led to lower sexual satisfaction, lower relationship satisfaction and greater conflict, the researchers warned.

Rogge said that the results build on his previous research, showing that partners who watch films together, then discuss them afterwards have closer relationships – and a lower chance of divorce.

Such mindful discussions help couples to develop the skills of emotional flexibility, Rogge believes.

He said of his previous study: “The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships.

“You might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving.”

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Earlier this summer, a separate study suggested that strict, overbearing parents were actually doing their children harm.

Research by University of Virginia scientists found that overbearing behaviour by parents was associated with children having difficulties in relationships and education as adults.

By age 32, children with strict, overbearing parents were less likely to be in relationships, and likely to have lower educational achievements, the researchers said.

Dr Emily Loeb, of the University of Virginia, said: “Parents, educators, and clinicians should be aware of how parents' attempts to control teens may actually stunt their progress.

“This style of parenting likely creates more than a temporary setback for adolescent development because it interferes with the key task of developing autonomy at a critical period.”

The damage caused by such parenting is “not easy to repair”, the researchers said.

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