Nav: Home

Mom still matters, UCLA psychologists report

August 08, 2018

If you're a parent who feels your college-age children would choose their friends over you, a new UCLA psychology study has a reassuring message: You're probably underestimating their loyalty to you.

The psychologists demonstrated for the first time that when forced to make a decision that benefits either a parent or a close friend, young adults are more likely to choose the parent.

"Our study suggests mom still matters," said Jennifer Silvers, a UCLA assistant professor of psychology and senior author of the study, which is published online today in the journal Psychological Science. "Parents continue to have an enduring impact on their children as they become adults -- and on their decision-making."

The study involved 174 people between the ages of 18 and 30. Each was asked to play a series of games that forced them to choose between the interests of a parent and a friend they chose. Each subject began with either $5 or 50 points, and was told to play as if the points could be redeemed for prizes, and the choices they made would increase or decrease their winnings. In half the rounds, all of the player's gains went to the parent and all of the losses went to the friend. In the other rounds, all gains went to the friend and all losses to the parent.

In each round, participants were shown 16 cards on a computer monitor, with the cards "face down." On the side that was hidden, each card indicated that the subject had either won or lost a certain amount of money or a certain number of points.

Participants could choose to turn over as many cards as they wanted until they chose to stop or until a card revealed they had lost cash or points. Most of the cards provided money or points, but a few resulted in losses. This meant the longer each participant chose to play each round, the more they helped one person they love and put the other person at risk. Each participant played 48 rounds.

Before playing, each participant completed a 28-item questionnaire that gauged their feelings toward the parent and friend they chose. Overall, the surveys suggested the participants had strong, positive feelings toward both, but on average, the participants felt their relationships with friends were stronger.

The experiment with the cards, however, revealed something different: When they knew they were playing the card game to benefit their parents, the participants were more than 25 percent more likely to turn over additional cards. In other words, they were substantially more likely to make choices to benefit their parents. (Researchers controlled for important variables, such as age, gender and the quality of the participants' relationships.)

"When push came to shove, they prioritized their parents," Silvers said. "Even though not much was at stake, the preferences were quite consistent."

The researchers expected the bias toward parents would occur more among older subjects than younger ones, but the study found it occurred equally regardless of age. Results also were consistent between men and women.

Interviewed after the game, participants expressed ambivalence about the task they performed.

"Many of them seemed conflicted," said Joao Guassi Moreira, a doctoral student in Silvers' laboratory and the study's lead author. "Several said slight variations of, 'Even though it was hard to not pay as much attention to my friend, I felt like I owed it to my parent, who has helped me so much.'"

The researchers are interested in studying why young adults prioritized their parents over their closest friends and whether the phenomenon would be the same among young teenagers as well.
-end-
Co-authors of the study are Sarah Tashjian, a UCLA doctoral student in psychology; and Adriana Galván, a UCLA associate professor of psychology.

University of California - Los Angeles

Related Parents Articles:

Is it ok for parents to be supportive to children's negative emotions?
New research suggests that whereas mothers who are more supportive of their children's negative emotions rate their children as being more socially skilled, these same children appear less socially adjusted when rated by teachers.
Parents with bipolar benefit from self-help tool
Online self-management support for parents with Bipolar Disorder leads to improvements in parenting and child behavior.
Stressed seabird parents think only of themselves
To see how bird families interact with each other being stressed, researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna and University of Gdansk studied parent-offspring interactions in a long-lived seabird, the little auk (Alle alle).
Parents purchase frozen dinners for more than convenience
Processed foods are higher in calories, sugar, sodium, and saturated fat than natural foods, but prepackaged, processed meals remain a popular choice for many consumers because they reduce the energy, time, and cooking skills needed to prepare food.
How parents divide their duties
Unexpected diversity in socially synchronized rhythms of shorebirds.
Should parents lie to children about Santa?
In an essay in the Lancet Psychiatry, psychologist Christopher Boyle and mental health researcher Kathy McKay question the benefits of making children believe in Father Christmas.
Are parents willing to have their children receive placebos?
Placebos are essential in any controlled clinical trial, providing a yardstick against which the test drug is measured.
Few children born to parents with serious mental illness live with both parents while growing up
A study published in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that the living arrangements of children whose parents have a serious mental illness differ from the general population.
Parents, listen up: Children keep still during prayer
Preschool-aged children, and their parents, are more likely to view the physical actions of prayer (i.e., closing eyes, folding hands) to help with reflection and communicating with God.
Looking different to your parents can be an evolutionary advantage
Looking different to your parents can provide species with a way to escape evolutionary dead ends, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Related Parents Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".