Tag Archives: Relationship

Cats form affectionate bonds with humans, similarly to dogs and infants

Cats have a reputation for being aloof creatures that simply cannot be disturbed with trivial human affairs (unless there’s some tasty treat involved). Meanwhile, dogs are excited to do anything with their owners and are ready to embark on an adventure at the flick of a tail.

But, that doesn’t mean that felines don’t become attached to their caregivers all that different from dogs.

A caregiver watches offer her pet cat after the two were separated for a brief time. This is an example of secure attachment. Credit: Oregon State University.

A new study found that pet cats form both secure and insecure bonds with their caregivers, similarly to canines, as well as human infants. This means that the cats are much more attached and socially attuned to humans than many have given them credit.

“Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans,” said Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University. “The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment.”

According to John Bowlby, the first attachment theorist, attachment is a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings”. There are three different attachment styles: secure attachment, ambivalent-insecure attachment, and avoidant-insecure attachment.

A securely attached child will show some sign of distress when a parent or caregiver leaves and happiness when they return. In this case, the child feels upset that the parents leave him, but those feelings are tempered by the knowledge that the parent will return. When a securely attached child is frightened, she will look to a parent for comfort, because she is confident mom or dad will provide reassurance.

Children who are ambivalent about their attachment to a caregiver typically become very distressed when that parent leaves. This is usually due to the parent’s lack of availability.

Avoidant attachment means a child tends to avoid a parent or caregiver. Given a choice, these children show no preference between a parent and a complete stranger. Research suggests this attachment style is probably the result of abusive or neglectful caregivers.

So, when infants are separated from their parents, their reaction upon reunion is telling of their type of relationship. For instance, secure infants are happy to see their caregiver but will quickly return to a relaxed exploratory state while insecure children engage in excessive clinging or avoidance behavior.

The photo shows a cat with insecure-avoidant attachment. Credit: Oregon State University.

Vitale and colleagues tested this type of behavior in cats by allowing felines to spend two minutes in a novel room with their caregiver followed by two minutes alone. Then, a two-minute reunion followed.

Previously, similar tests were performed with primates and dogs. The new findings allowed the researchers to classify the felines’ response to seeing their owners again into attachment styles.

This cat is rather clingy to her caregiver, an example of an insecure-ambivalent style of attachment. Credit: Oregan State University.

Surprisingly, the results showed that cats bond to their caregivers similarly to infants, with 65% of individuals being securely attached to their owners. Stable attachments may have facilitated the species’ success, growing alongside humans and their homes.

In the future, the researchers plan on expanding their researchers to cats and kittens that wind up in animal shelters.

“We’re currently looking at several aspects of cat attachment behavior, including whether socialization and fostering opportunities impact attachment security in shelter cats,” Vitale said.

The findings appeared in the journal Current Biology.

Breakfast.

Sharing a plate helps with both love and work

Need a boost to persuasion power at your next big meeting? Try changing the setting to someplace less plate-y.

Breakfast.

Image via Pixabay.

Business negotiations go more smoothly and take less time when participants share a plate, not just a meal, new research reveals. Shared plates are customary in Chinese and Indian cultures (among others), and people sharing a plate are able to collaborate better and reach deals faster, the study explains.

Breaking Bread

Ayelet Fishbach and Kaitlin Wooley, a Professor at the University of Chicago and PhD student Cornell University, respectively, say a family-style meal with a prospective business partner can help the deal go through smoothly.

The duo asked a group of participants (all strangers to one another) to pair off in a lab experiment regarding negotiation patterns. Before the experiments began, participants were invited to have a snack of chips and salsa with their partners. Half of the pairs received one bowl of chips and one bowl of salsa to share, while the others each had their own bowls.

After this light snack, the pairs were asked to simulate a negotiation between a member of management and a union representative. Their goal was to settle on an acceptable wage for workers of both parties in the span of 22 rounds of negotiations. To put a little bit of pressure on the hypothetical scenario, a “costly union strike” was scheduled to start on round three. Each party would incur costs from this strike which, the team hoped, would help coax the participants into reaching a deal as quickly as possible.

On average, participants that shared a bowl of snacks reached an agreement in nine strike days (i.e. in twelve turns). Their separate-bowl counterparts needed, on average, took four days longer to agree on their terms. In the team’s hypothetical scenario, these four extra days translated to an extra $1.5 million in combined losses.

What’s particularly interesting is that it didn’t much matter if the two parties liked one another — what mattered was whether or not they had coordinated their eating. This finding came from a repeat experiment carried out by Woolley and Fishbach, in which they had both friends and strangers participate. Both groups received pairs of both friends and strangers, and sharing plates had a significant effect in both cases.

The degree to which a person felt they were collaborating with their partner while eating — sharing food rather than competing for that last bite — predicted their feelings of collaboration during the negotiation phase, the team adds. Fischbach says that the results showcase the powerful effect a meal can have on interpersonal connections. Despite how convenient remote meetings can be, they simply don’t stack up to sharing a meal — and, he adds, this holds true for professional as well as personal relationships.

“Basically, every meal that you’re eating alone is a missed opportunity to connect to someone,” says Fishbach. “And every meal that involves food sharing fully utilizes the opportunity to create that social bond.”

The paper ” Shared Plates, Shared Minds: Consuming from a Shared Plate Promotes Cooperation” has been published in the journal Psychological Science.

Couple.

Most people tend to mirror their mother’s number of romantic partners

When it comes to romance, it seems we all agree — mother knows best.

Couple.

Image via Pixabay.

A national study found that we often follow our mothers’ relationship patterns. People whose mother had a greater number of partners (be them in a marriage or cohabiting relationship) were more likely to have more partners than their peers. The authors say it’s likely that the personality traits and social skill set mothers pass on to children make them more or less likely to form stable relationships.

Parental guidance

“Our results suggest that mothers may have certain characteristics that make them more or less desirable on the marriage market and better or worse at relationships,” said Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study and associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.

“Children inherit and learn those skills and behaviors and may take them into their own relationships.”

Dush says that the study expands on previous findings regarding the link between family dynamics and relationship patterns. For example, a lot of prior research found that children from divorced couples are more likely to divorce themselves — but the current study broadens the picture. “It’s not just divorce now,” Dush explains.

“Many children are seeing their parents divorce, start new cohabiting relationships, and having those end as well,” she said. “All of these relationships can influence children’s outcomes, as we see in this study.”

The study drew on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Child and Young Adult (NLSY79 CYA), run by the Ohio State’s Center for Human Resource Research. The (7,152) people in the NSL79 CYA survey were the biological children of women in the NLSY79, allowing researchers to analyze long-term relationship patterns and the number of partners over both generations — the surveys included information on marriage, divorce, cohabiting relationships, and their break-ups. Both studies tracked each participant for at least 24 years.

The team reports that a mother’s number of marriages and cohabiting partners both had similar effects on how many partners their children had. One key difference between the two was that older siblings, who were exposed to their mother’s cohabiting relationships for longer, went on to have more partners than younger siblings — who were less exposed to the relationships, the team explains.

But why?

Mother with daughter.

Image via Pixabay.

“You may see cohabitation as an attractive, lower-commitment type of relationship if you’ve seen your mother in such a relationship for a longer time,” Kamp Dush said. “That may lead to more partners since cohabitating relationships are more likely to break-up.”

The paper also treats three theories about why children tend to follow their mothers’ relationship patterns:

When parents break up, the family or household loses one source of income. Economic hardship associated with divorce can lead to poorer child outcomes and a more difficult transition to adulthood. These kids are then more likely to have more unstable relationships as adults. However; while the team did find a relationship between economic instability and one’s number of partners, controlling for economic background didn’t have any significant effect on the mother-child link in the number of partners. This suggests that while money mattered, it wasn’t the main reason why so many people follow the same relationship patterns as their mothers.

The second theory proposes that people simply learn by example. Actually witnessing your mother going through one or more divorces or break-ups leads you to have more partners yourself. Should this be true, older half-siblings who saw their mother going through multiple relationships should be more at risk of engaging with multiple partners — but they’re not, the researchers say. The team didn’t find a statistically greater number of partners for these kids compared to younger siblings who did not experience instability.

“What our results suggest is that mothers may pass on their marriageable characteristics and relationship skills to their children — for better or worse,” Kamp Dush said. “It could be that mothers who have more partners don’t have great relationship skills, or don’t deal with conflict well, or have mental health problems, each of which can undermine relationships and lead to instability.”

“Whatever the exact mechanisms, they may pass these characteristics on to their children, making their children’s relationships less stable.”

The paper “The intergenerational transmission of partnering” has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Men who flash their wealth are perceived as unsuitable long-term partners

Credit: Max Pixel.

Studies suggest that women generally prefer physical qualities when they have a fling in mind, while a man’s wealth is a more desirable quality when considering a long-term relationship. But how a man signals his wealth can also influence the framing of the relationship. According to new research, women can see through the bling and will generally consider a man who’s flaunting his wealth — by buying a flashy car, for instance — as a less suitable life partner than men with more practical considerations.

Male peacocking

Peacocks were one of Charles Darwin‘s long-standing dilemmas. They gave him headaches when devising the theory of evolution by natural selection. The peacock’s long tails and elaborate plumage did not confer any survival advantage — actually, the flashy plumage made them stand out, making them more vulnerable to predators. Darwin realized, however, that these features made the peacock’s more attractive to potential mates, conferring a reproductive advantage. He concluded that males who succeed in reproductive competitions will have more offspring and, thus, their traits will be selected for, even if such traits may lead to detrimental consequences in terms of survivability.

Later, psychologists found a similar puzzle when describing individuals who spent disproportionate amounts of resources on luxury goods relative to their utility, or made considerable charitable contributions that did not return economic benefits. They later concluded, however, that such conspicuous expenditure of resources incurred indirect benefits by raising prestige. Modern evolutionary psychologists now consider human male display of wealth as a costly signal strategy which is analogous to the peacock’s tail, thereby enhancing perceived attractiveness to women.

Daniel Kruger of the University of Michigan and Jessica Kruger at the University at Buffalo recruited two groups of undergraduate students who had to complete anonymous online surveys. The participants were presented with descriptions of two men who were purchasing cars. Both men had the same budget. However, one made a frugal purchase by buying a new car that’s reliable but rather boring. The other bought a used car but then spent the remaining budget on cosmetical enhancements such as larger rims, a new paint job, and a banging sound system.

Each participant, both male and female, had to rate each fictional character on dating and parenting behaviors, but also his interest in relationships and attractiveness to others. Consistently, for both males and females, the man with the flashy car was rated as being more interested in brief sexual relationships. Although this character was rated highly for the effort he made in securing a mate, he was rated poorly on his willingness to invest in a potential long-term romantic relationship. The man with the boring car scored much higher and received top marks as a life partner, parent, and provider.

“Participants demonstrated an intuitive understanding that men investing in the display of goods featuring exaggerated sensory properties have reproductive strategies with higher mating effort and greater interest in short-term sexual relationships, as well as lower paternal investment and interest in long-term committed romantic relationships than men investing in practical considerations,” explains Daniel Kruger.

The findings suggest that there are nuances in perceived male attractiveness that go-beyond the popular “man displays wealth, man signals he can care for offspring” paradigm.

“This contrasts with the notion that men’s conspicuous resource displays are attractive to women because they reliably signal expected future resource investment in partners and especially in offspring,” adds Jessica Kruger, who says the study increases researchers’ understanding of how human psychology and behavior applies to technologically advanced and wealthy societies.

Scientific reference: Kruger, D.J. & Kruger, J.S. (2018). What do Economically Costly Signals Signal? A Life History Framework for Interpreting Conspicuous Consumption, Evolutionary Psychological ScienceDOI: 10.1007/s40806-018-0151-y.

Life satisfaction hinges not on what you do — but who you do it with

If it’s happiness you’re after, you’ll need a team.

Socializing.

Image via Pixabay.

New research from the University of Leipzig, Germany, suggests that well-being strategies involving other people are more satisfying than nonsocial pursuits. So if you want to boost your life satisfaction, get yourself some people to share it with.

Group effort

“Our research showed that people who came up with ‘well-being’ strategies that involved other people were more satisfied with their lives one year later — even after taking into account that they were marginally happier to begin with,” says lead author and psychological scientist Julia Rohrer.

“In contrast, people who came up with strategies that did not explicitly involve others remained, on average, as satisfied as they were.”

The team examined a subset of data recorded during 2014 for the German Socio-Economic Panel Study, which is considered to be a nationally-representative survey of adults in Germany. The participants in this sample reported how satisfied they felt with their lives on a scale from 0 (completely dissatisfied) to 10 (completely satisfied). They also reported how satisfied they thought they’d be in 5-years’ time and described the strategies they could employ to maintain life satisfaction in the future.

One year later, the participants again rated their current level of life satisfaction.

Out of the 1,178 participants in the sample, 596 made a general statement such as “there is not much I could change” or one that didn’t require individual action, such as “a political shift would improve my life.” The rest, 582 participants, reported a specific strategy. There were no substantial differences in the life satisfaction of these two groups over time, the team notes.

The researchers further broke down this last group by the focus of the strategies they described: 184 people mentioned an approach centered around some form of social engagement and interaction — “helping others,” “spend more time with family,” “spend more time with friends”, and so on — while 398 described a nonsocial strategy — such as “stop smoking” or “pick up sports”.

Based on the answers each participant provided in the follow-up poll, the team says that those who engaged in a social strategy showed increased life satisfaction — while those who embarked on nonsocial strategies showed a relatively constant level of life satisfaction. Data reflecting how much time each participant invested in various activities that involved socializing with friends, family, or neighbors helps explain this boost in life satisfaction, the team adds.

Overall, the research suggests that spending more time with others, especially others we care about, could be an important avenue to increased well-being. Rohrer says that she plans to follow-up on the findings with experimental and longitudinal studies over long durations to determine exactly why socially-focused strategies seem to improve satisfaction — while nonsocial ones do not.

“Many people are interested in becoming happier, but there is a lack of evidence regarding the long term effects of pursuing happiness through various types of activities,” she says. “After all, there’s no guarantee that trying to become happier doesn’t make you more miserable in the end.”

“I think our study partly fills that gap in the literature, although more research with a longitudinal perspective is certainly needed.”

The paper “Successfully Striving for Happiness: Socially Engaged Pursuits Predict Increases in Life Satisfaction” has been published in the journal Psychological Science.

Credit: Pixabay.

It takes about 200 hours with someone to turn them into a best friend, new study shows

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

Humans long to bond with their peers — a fundamental urge, which may be evolutionarily rooted. We are often in the company of other people, be it at school, work, or at home; if we’re not, it can become a problem. A lack of human contact in one’s life can have devastating effects on health, with one study finding loneliness is deadliner than obesity. Conversely, a large social network and a socially engaging life with members of that network are factors that predict overall health and subjective well‐being.

Jeffrey Hall, a professor of communications studies at the University of Kansas, is the author of the Communicate Bond Belong (CBB) theory, which proposes “that a social interaction operates within a homeostatic system, developed from internal pressures to satiate a need to belong, shaped by competing desires to invest and conserve social energy, and adaptable to new social circumstances and technological affordances.” To satisfy this need, people invest time and energy into building bonds. Now, in the new research, Hall and colleagues quantified this temporal dimension, essentially learning how much time it takes, on average, for people’s relationships to evolve.

A time for friendship

In one study, the researchers interviewed 355 adults who had relocated to a new city within the previous six months. This was a great demographic, since the participants were forced by circumstances to build a new social circle, essentially resetting their social setting. Each participant was asked to identify new persons that they had met, who weren’t family members, romantic interests, or people they had previously met. The participants specified where they met the new person and how much time they spent together, on average, in a typical week. Each new person introduced to a social circle was rated on a scale from acquaintance to best friend.

A second study included 112 University of Kansas freshmen — students who were exposed to many opportunities to meet new people and possibly befriend them. The students were asked to name two new acquaintances, and then report back to the researchers three times over the course of nine weeks of school how these relationships had changed.

For both studies, the researchers focused on identified so-called cut-off points, where there was a 50% likelihood that a relationship switched from acquaintance to casual, from casual to friend, or from friend to close friend. In terms of time, it took 50 hours of interaction to move from acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours from casual friend to friend, and more than 200 hours for a person to fall in the ‘best friend’ frame. Acquaintances that had never moved up the social circle usually had spent fewer than 30 hours together.

The study suggests that time spent together with other people is a highly important metric to establishing meaningful connections. People who move to a new city for study or work and struggle making new friends might want to keep these findings in mind — it shouldn’t feel like work making friends, but it sure does take time.

The researchers also found that spending time together doesn’t automatically turn two people into friends — go figure. Some of the participants reported spending hundreds of hours with colleagues which were still classed as acquaintances at the end of the study. This usually happened when acquaintances didn’t spend leisure time together (outside of school or work).

Hall says that having friends isn’t just a life pleasure, it’s also a necessity. Over the years, much research has shown that friends influence your happiness and habits — whether you’ll smoke or drink, work out, stay thin or become obese. The findings show that making friends is an investment that requires time and a bit of strategy (asking acquaintances to join you in leisure activities outside a formal environment). If you’re the kind of person that struggles to make friends, besides social skills, you might want to evaluate how much free time you set aside every week for seeing friends and building relationships with the new people you’ve met.

The findings appeared in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Male prairie voles that drink alcohol ruin their relationships

Alcohol has been proven to harm relationships; when one partner drinks heavily and the other does not then they are more likely to separate than partners that drink a similar amount or not at all. Researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University wanted to learn more about why these long-term relationships break down. For example, they were interested in whether heavy drinking causes the problems, or if the partner turns to drinking as a result of an unhappy relationship.

So, obviously, they turned to prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) to test their theories. Prairie voles are eerily similar to humans in the effect of alcohol on relationships. Actually, it turns out that prairie voles are similar to humans in at least two aspects: they have monogamous relationship and enjoy booze.

“Not many rodents form long-term social attachments and not many rodents like to drink alcohol. However, prairie voles are unusual as they are socially monogamous and like drinking alcohol, so they are perfect to investigate the role of alcohol in relationships,” says Andrey Ryabinin, of Oregon Health & Science University.

The reason that researchers turned to an animal is that they wanted to directly investigate how alcohol affects the brain and relationships. They hope to apply this information to human relationships to help them overcome the negative consequences of alcohol.

When one vole turns to drinking, the pair’s relationship suffers. Image credits: theNerdPatrol.

First, the male and female prairie voles were allowed to form a social bond over a week. Then the males were given access to a 10% alcohol solution and the female partner was either given water or alcohol. A control had both sexes drinking just water. Next, the males had a choice between spending time with his partner or a new female. The researchers watched carefully and timed how long the vole spent next to his partner and the new female. The strength of the bond between the partners was then calculated.

Sure enough, the drunkard prairie vole males spent less time with their original partner. The voles that drank no alcohol or a similar amount to their partners spent more time next to them. Uneven drinking affected these prairie voles’ relationships and even their brains. The male prairie voles that drank alcohol showed changes in their periaqueductal grey brain region.

“Our results in prairie voles have identified a biological mechanism that could explain the link between discordant drinking and relationship breakdown, but we will need to do further work to confirm this for humans,” says Ryabinin. “In future studies, we might be able to find strategies to overcome the negative effects of alcohol, to improve relationships that are disrupted by problematic drinking.”

It seems, from this study, that drinking causes the relationship to deteriorate, as a decrease in bond was observed after uneven alcohol consumption. It also appears to be due to a change in the male, though perhaps it is indirectly affected by the behavior of the female. Further studies will be needed to fully explain the role of alcohol in relationships.

Journal reference: Andre T. Walcott, Andrey E. Ryabinin. Alcohol’s Effects on Pair-Bond Maintenance in Male Prairie Voles. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2017; 8 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00226.

Credit: Pixabay, sipa.

The eye of the friend zone: relationship goals influence how each person looks at potential friends or mates

Credit: Pixabay, sipa.

Credit: Pixabay / sipa.

The ancient Greeks asserted that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A new study lends even more credence to this rather overused metaphor after a team at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, found significant differences in how each person judges the physical attributes of strangers. The team found that relationship goals had a strong influence on whether a particular person was considered attractive as a potential mate or appealing as a conceivable friend.

More than looks

Angela Bahns, assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley, recruited 105 heterosexual undergrads that had to look at some pictures of strangers then express their level of interest in either becoming friends or dating that person.

While they were involved in this experiment, each participant was fitted with eye-tracking technology that captured information like what features the eyes were focused on and for how long.

When evaluating a potential mate, both men and women had their gaze linger on the chest and head of the opposite-sex for far longer and more often compared to when they were assessing a potential friendship. However, women who looked at the head longer and more often were particularly interested in friendship.

But when platonic rather than sexual judgments had to be made, the participants cast their sight on the legs or feet more often. Overall, however, these bodily features were the least observed regions overall. And looking at the center of the body—legs, waist, hips, or chest—indicated greater interest in both romance and friendship.

Not surprisingly, single women looked at a potential romantic partner for longer than the female participants already in a relationship, as reported in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

“However, men generally looked most at the chest and waist-hip region, regardless of whether they were judging friendship or dating potential,” said Bahns, “while women looked most at the chest and head. And men were more likely to look at a person’s legs.”

The tangled mix of results suggests that one person’s judgment of a potential friend or romantic partner can differ widely. One person’s romantic prospect is friend-zoned by another, and vice-versa. It follows, according to Bahns, that there are not only some fixed sets of characteristics that make a person desirable but also intrinsic factors like the beholder’s relationship goals. “People scan others for cues differently, depending on what they’re seeking regarding the role others may play in their lives,” she said.

This study enriches the current literature on the psychology of attraction which with each passing day seems to depend more and more on a person’s values, upbringing, and goals. In other words, it’s not just the good looks though this certainly counts. Dr. Tamsin Saxton from the University of St. Andrews studied the influence of familiarity found girls that went to an all-girls school were more attracted to feminine-looking faces. Researchers elsewhere also found that men and women in relationships tend to resemble their in-laws; in other words, people tend to pick spouses that look like mom or dad.  A survey at the University of Iowa found that men are likely to marry women who reached the same level of education as their moms and made similar career choices.

Close relationships make handling stress easier

New research has found evidence of emotional burden sharing (also known as load sharing) between partners in a close relationship. The study, co-authored by Queen’s University PhD candidate Jessica Lougheed, found that a strong personal relationship can help ease stress when placed in difficult situations.

The study, “Sharing the burden: the interpersonal regulation of emotional arousal in mother-daughter dyads,” was published in the journal Emotion.

Image via wellhappypeaceful

The social baseline theory

“We wanted to test a new evolutionary theory in psychology called Social Baseline Theory which suggests that humans adapted to be close to other humans,” says Ms. Lougheed. “The idea is that individuals function at a relative deficit when they are farther away from people they trust.”

The study measured under how much stress 66 adolescent girls were during an impromptu speech task. Before the task, they and their mothers were asked to rate the quality of their relationships. While they were delivering the speech, their levels of stress were tracked using galvanic skin response — by measuring the amount of skin perspiration. Participants’ mothers were also asked to either hold or not hold their daughters’ hand during this time, so the scientists could account for the effect physical, rather than the emotional, closeness had on the girls.

Hugs are golden, closeness is better

The girls’ performance spoke volumes: researchers found that physical closeness enabled the participants to manage stress much more efficiently, regardless of how close the mother-daughter relationship was reported to be. However, when physical contact was removed from the equation, only the participants who reported higher relationship quality showed signs of load sharing.

“Our results suggest that we are better equipped to overcome challenging situations when we are closer — either physically or in terms of how we feel in our relationships — to people we trust,” says Ms. Lougheed.

Participants who had reported the lowest level of mother-daughter relationship closeness and lacked physical contact during the task were the least efficient in managing emotional stress.

“We were somewhat surprised to find that mothers’ stress did not vary by physical closeness — after all, it can be stressful for parents to watch their children perform, but being able to offer physical comfort might have lessened the mothers’ stress,” says Ms. Lougheed.

“Thus, emotional load sharing in this context was not a function of the mothers’ stress level, and we expect that it occurred instead through the daughters’ perceptions of how stressful it was to give a speech. That is, higher physical and/or relationship closeness helped the daughters feel like they could overcome the challenging situation.”

The findings suggest that some of the difficulties associated with relatively low relationship quality can be overcome with physical contact, and that a high-quality relationship has the same effect on managing emotions as being physically comforted by a loved one.

Good relationships have the same effect on your emotional stability as a hug.
Image via erinhunter.katecary.co.uk

Lougheed does point out that the general level of relationship quality reported in the study was relatively high, and that physical contact may have profoundly different functions in distressed families.

She also cautions against generalizing these results to other partnerships — such as a relationship between romantic partners, platonic friends and other family members — and suggest that more research be done to determine the effect of socioeconomic status and gender, amongst other factors.