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Surprising Science

Why Good Partners Make Good Parents

The same set of skills, called caregiving responsiveness, that make someone a good partner can be carried over into parent-child relationships, says a new study out of England. 

What’s the Latest Development?

The ability to respond sensitively to loved ones can be carried across different types of relationships, says a new study out of the University of East Anglia, UK. “Looking at 125 couples with children aged 7 to 8 years, the study…examined a few factors: the way the couples are attached toward each other; the parenting styles they use with their children; and their ‘caregiving responsiveness’,” defined as the capacity to be tuned into what another person needs. “If you can do responsive caregiving, it seems that you can do it across different relationships,” said Abigail Millings, lead author of the study.  

What’s the Big Idea?

Being a responsive caregiver means identifying when someone has had a bad day, for example, and knowing how to respond appropriately. It also means knowing how to respond to the good stuff in life. But because the study’s data do not speak to causality, Millings wants to explore how caregiving and parenting relate to one another in other family structures. If it is found that improving caregiving responsiveness in one relationship does indeed improve relationship functioning elsewhere, “it may be possible to use this idea to design a self-help program that enables people to improve their own relationships.”

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