With Father's Day approaching, San Francisco's State's Jeff Cookston has some advice for creating better harmony with dad. In a recent study, he found that when an adolescent is having an argument with their father and seeks out others for help, the response he or she receives is linked to better well-being and father-child relationships, according to a new study, ""He said what? Guided cognitive reframing about the co-resident father/stepfather–adolescent relationship,"by Jeff Cookston, Andres Olide, Ross D. Parke, William V. Fabricius, Delia S. Saenz and Sanford L. Braver, published in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Research on Adolescence.
Adolescents who receive an reason for the father's behavior or a better understanding of who is at fault feel better about themselves and about dad as well. Those feelings about dad, in turn, are linked to a lower risk of depression for youth, according to the June 6, 2014 news release, "Argument with dad? Find friendly ears to talk it out, study shows."
The study is the first to explore the intricacies of what Cookston, a professor and chair of the psychology department who has done extensive studies on fatherhood, calls "guided cognitive reframing." Previous research looked at who adolescents sought out for reframing and why; this study takes that research a step further. "There has been a lot of evidence suggesting that talking to people about conflict is a good thing for adolescents," he said, according to the news release. "What we did for the first time was look at what actually happens when they talk to someone."
Cookston and his colleagues surveyed 392 families about adolescents' conflicts with their co-resident fathers and stepfathers. Parents and children were asked who was sought out for support and how frequently; how often those individuals explained the fathers' behavior or blamed the fathers for the conflict; and how the adolescents felt about themselves and their fathers after the reframing.
Mothers were the most sought-out source for reframing, followed by a non-parental figure -- a friend, for example, or a non-parental family member. Next were biological fathers and, lastly, stepfathers
How often adolescents seek out a specific source for support does not have an impact on their well-being, the study showed. Instead, it is the quality of the reframing -- whether an explanation is provided for dad's behavior or whether responsibility for the conflict is assigned -- that drives how they feel following the conversation.
"When kids get explanations and good reasons that fit with the world they see, it helps them feel better," Cookston said, according to the June 6, 2014 news release, Argument with dad? Find friendly ears to talk it out, study shows. "It's sometimes hard to change how adolescents feel about situations, but we can talk to them about how they think about those situations."
Half the families surveyed consisted of co-resident biological fathers and half were co-resident stepfathers. In addition, the survey group was split between families of European descent and families of Mexican descent. But despite those variations in the families, the results were overwhelmingly similar.
The study highlights the value of helping adolescents understand conflict, their role in the family and their relationships, according to Cookston. "Adolescence is a time of physiological changes in the brain and in the way a child sees and interprets the world. We can use this time to help them understand personal relationships the same way we expect them to learn and understand, for example, geometry or algebra," he said. "Families are happier when they have less negative emotions, so anything we can do to promote more positive or even more neutral emotions within family is desirable."
Cookston's research comes as there is increasing attention on fathers who find themselves in transitional roles in today's economy
The Pew Research Center recently reported compelling new information on stay-at-home dads, and while such particulars aren't part of the study, it's another component affecting fatherhood and the relationships with children. Cookston has conducted wide-ranging research on parenting and fatherhood, with a focus on how children from diverse backgrounds respond to parenting, and how children perceive and construct relationships with fathers. His research has shown that the relationship between father and child can have a significant impact on the child's tendencies toward depression and behavior problems.
Can money buy happiness - beyond the purchase?
Many shoppers, whether they buy material items or life experiences, are no happier following the purchase than they were before, according to another new study from San Francisco State University, "Damned if they do, damned if they don't: Material buyers are not happier from material or experiential consumption," by Jia Wei Zhang, Ryan Howell, Peter A. Caprariello and Darwin A. Guevarra. The study appears in an article online in the June 2014 edition of the Journal of Research in Personality.
Although previous research has shown experiences create greater happiness for buyers, the study suggests that certain material buyers -- those who tend to purchase material goods -- may be an exception to this rule. "Everyone has been told if you spend your money on life experiences, it will make you happier, but we found that isn't always the case," said Ryan Howell, according to a May 1, 2014 news release, " Can money buy happiness? For some, the answer is no." Howell is an associate professor of psychology at SF State and co-author of the study. "Extremely material buyers, who represent about a third of the overall population, are sort of stuck. They're not really happy with either purchase."
Researchers found that when material buyers purchase life experiences, they are no happier because the purchase is likely out of line with their personality and values, but if they spend on material items, they are not better off either, because others may criticize or look down upon their choices
"I'm a baseball fan. If you tell me, 'Go spend money on a life experience,' and I buy tickets to a baseball game, that would be authentic to who I am, and it will probably make me happy," Howell said, according to the news release. "On the other hand, I'm not a big museum guy. If I bought tickets to an art museum, I would be spending money on a life experience that seems like it would be the right choice, but because it's not true to my personality, I'm not going to be any happier as a result."
Although the link between experiential purchases and happiness had been well demonstrated, Howell said few studies have examined the types of people who experience no benefits. To do so, he and his colleagues surveyed shoppers to find out if there were any factors that limited the happiness boost from experiential purchases. The researchers found that those who tend to spend money on material items reported no happiness boost from experiential purchases because those purchases did not give them an increased sense of "identity expression" -- the belief that they bought something that reflected their personality.
"The results show it is not correct to say to everyone, 'If you spend money on life experiences you'll be happier,' because you need to take into account the values of the buyer," said Jia Wei Zhang, according to the news release. Zhang is the lead author of the study and a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley who conducted the research with Howell while an undergraduate at SF State.
Reasons someone may buy a life experience that doesn't reflect his or her personality include a desire to fit in or spend time with others, according to Zhang.
And researchers did find that material buyers feel closer to friends or family following an experiential purchase. That feeling of closeness, however, was not enough to counter the lack of identity expression and therefore provide the happiness boost.
"There are a lot of reasons someone might buy something," Howell said, according to the news release. "But if the reason is to maximize happiness, the best thing for that person to do is purchase a life experience that is in line with their personality." He invites people to learn more about how their spending habits are affecting their happiness and contribute to further research by visiting his website, BeyondThePurchase.org.