People grow alike naturally, as the people with less power change

A little girl looks at her mom, showing one big way that people grow alike naturally

A little girl looks at her mom, showing one big way that people grow alike naturally [1]

People grow alike temporarily while they’re together

…people in close relationships become more similar to each other over time. For example, relationship partners converge in their values and attitudes, verbal and social skills, cognitive complexity and mental abilities, eating and drinking habits, and perceptions of others.

People express emotion through facial, vocal, and postural behavior, and quickly and automatically detect and interpret the emotional expressions of others.

Moreover, people are quite susceptible to the social transmission of emotion. Research on emotional contagion has shown that people automatically mimic facial expressions, vocalizations, and postures when they interact with another person, which leads both individuals to experience similar emotions. Studies of empathy find that people take the perspective of others and vicariously feel the emotions that the other person feels.

People grow alike over time emotionally

In the present study, we ask: Do relationship partners also converge emotionally over time?

The development of emotional similarity would benefit relationships in at least three ways. First, because emotions are modes of relating to the environment, emotional similarity would coordinate relationship partners’ thoughts and behaviors and help them respond to potential opportunities or threats. Second, when two people feel similar emotions, they more accurately perceive each other’s intentions and motivations. Third, emotional similarity would be reinforcing to relationship partners; when two people feel similar emotions, their own feelings and appraisals are validated.

…our three studies offer strong evidence that emotional convergence does occur…

…the current research shows how emotions help individuals build and maintain long-term, intimate relationships. Our research shows that close relationships shape emotional responses in fundamental ways. We become emotionally similar, both in experience and display, to those people with whom we are intertwined.

People grow alike in ways that help the relationship

…we hypothesized that emotional similarity would benefit close relationships. The evidence for this hypothesis was strong and consistent across studies.

…this similarity would help coordinate the thoughts and behaviors of the relationship partners, increase their mutual understanding, and foster their social cohesion.

…relationships whose partners were more emotionally similar were more cohesive and less likely to dissolve.

People grow alike regardless of whether the changes help them personally or hurt them personally

…our findings shed light on processes by which relationship partners “transmit” emotional disorders such as depression or anxiety. For example, children of depressed parents are often themselves depressed, and individuals who live with a depressed person can become depressed. The social transmission of emotion may not be limited to clinical levels of emotionality, or even limited to negative emotion. The transmission of emotional disorders can now be understood as a special case of a much broader and inherently normal emotion process in close relationships.

…emotional convergence may be due to a convergence in appraisal styles. Ways of appraising events lead to specific emotions, just as specific emotional dispositions lead to ways of appraising social events. For example, people who view an event as uncontrollable and dangerous tend to experience fear in response to that event. When individuals become close, they might converge in appraisal styles, which in turn leads to greater similarity in emotional responses. Consistent with this idea, close friends are similar in the cognitive dimensions they use to describe themselves and others.

The people with less power change the most

…relationship partners with less power made more of the change necessary for convergence to occur.

These findings paint a striking picture of the emotional lives of powerful and powerless people. The emotional lives of low-power individuals… seem more variable, changing across relationship contexts.[2]

  1. “Child & Parent Place (CAPP).” Accessed 29 May 2017.
  2. Anderson, Cameron, Dacher Keltner, and Oliver P. John. “Emotional Convergence Between People Over Time.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84.5 (2003): 1054-1068.

Close feelings built by mothers’ and fathers’ play with infants and toddlers

Father play with infant builds close feelings[1]

Close feelings built by connecting with mother and father

Background emotions… chart the timeline for the ongoing sense of self, and integrate… changes in internal milieu in response to external or internal events…[2]

…background emotions reflect our basic proximity to others, that is, our fundamental feeling of interpersonal connectedness. Pathologically altered background emotions in depression thus reflect a sense of lost proximity.[3]

In contrast to negative emotions, which can be expressed and regulated by the infant in alone states from the first day of life, positive affect in infancy occurs only in dyadic contexts… To experience and express positive emotions, infants require the participation of an attuned adult who can both construct and coregulate the positive affect in a moment-by-moment process.

The present findings chart one pathway in the development of background emotions—from parent–infant affect coordination to sequences of symbolic play in toddlers…

Close feelings built through play with infants

The shape of infant arousal at play, the background emotion temporal line, showed a markedly different pattern with mother and father, and those were persistent across the first years of life.

The affective contour with mother was more gradual and contained more neutral states. There was typically only one positive emotional peak of longer duration that occurred later in the interaction and was preceded and followed by shared gaze in neutral arousal, as if mother and child were copreparing the intense moment.

…moments of high positive arousal with father were more frequent, were shorter in duration, occurred more quickly, and could have been reached from any previous state. Fathers also showed higher affective matching of the infant’s positive arousal, accentuating episodes of intense emotionality through shared affect. …the degree of father–infant synchrony (coherence) was comparable to the mother’s, suggesting that although interactions with fathers may appear more random, fathers and infants engage in a tightly fitting, well-matched interactive dance to the same extent as mothers.

It is possible that the quick-paced yet fitted interaction with father facilitates specific forms of emotion regulation in infants, perhaps those related to the management of novelty, unpredictability, and quick shifts in arousal. Research on the effects of father absence on children’s difficulties in regulating emotions in social and learning contexts… is consistent with this assumption.

…father– child play partners are less focused on each other and moments of intense affect appear quickly, frequently, and without preparation, an affective line that may direct infants to explore the environment and contribute to their capacity to engage in rapidly changing intense experiences while maintaining a sense of secure base…, internalized through the synchronous interactions with the father.

Close feelings built through play with toddlers

As infants make the transition from preverbal relatedness to verbal representations, a symbolic layer is added to the previously established mutuality in ways that preserve the specific rhythms of the parent– child coordination and thus echo the child’s earliest nonverbal experiences.

The parent-specific contours of infancy were preserved at the toddler stage, and episodes of complex symbolic play with father were of shorter durations, higher frequencies, and quicker latencies. The present findings are the first to show sequential relations between the father’s and child’s symbolic expression at play. Similar to the findings for synchrony, fathers appear to support the child’s creative output to the same extent as mothers while providing moment-by-moment scaffolding.

…the affective components of the interaction played a more central role in toddlers’ interactions with mother. Reciprocal maternal acts were followed by an increase in symbolization; intrusiveness was followed by a decrease in symbolic play and the child’s resort to functional activity; and mothers used the social play mode more than fathers. Reciprocity also emerged as an independent predictor of the child’s symbolic complexity with mother, pointing to the special role of mutual, socially oriented reciprocity for infant development via the relationship with mother.

For fathers, the frequency of positive peaks in infancy predicted toddlers’ symbolic expression above and beyond the father’s concurrent scaffolding and the father–infant synchrony, highlighting the organization of intense positive arousal as a potential contributor from the father– child relationship to emotional development.

Close feelings built by co-occurrences, sequences, and synchrony with mothers and fathers

…the infant’s first two meaningful relationships incorporate all three forms of affective coordination— co-occurrences, sequential relations, and synchrony—into the interaction and may suggest that such coordination is an important aspect of interpersonal intimacy across the life span, with each relationship offering affect matching and synchrony in a unique and special way.[2]

  1. Parke, Ross. “Are Mothers and Fathers Interchangeable?, Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.
  2. Feldman, Ruth. “On the origins of background emotions: from affect synchrony to symbolic expression.Emotion 7.3 (2007): 601-611.
  3. Varga, Somogy, and Joel Krueger. “Background emotions, proximity and distributed emotion regulation.Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4.2 (2013): 271-292.

Bonding in parent’s marriage is template for bonding in children’s marriages

man and woman embrace and kiss

Bonding in children’s marriages reflects bonding in parent’s marriage

… the give and take of living with another person,… how to deal with differences, and… how to resolve conflicts… is knowledge that children acquire from growing up with both parents in reasonably harmonious, intact families.

… members of the comparison group, even those raised in disappointing marriages, were hopeful that sooner or later they would meet the right person and enter into a satisfying, committed relationship, usually involving marriage.

“I never doubted I’d marry and have a family” was a typical comment.

They expected ups and downs in their relationships, but they did not expect to fail, if they chose carefully. The issue of choice of partner, which was so baffling to the children of divorce, was where the comparison group told us they put their greatest efforts. Their confidence that things would eventually work out well enabled most to survive heartbreak and to delay marriage until they felt ready.

Often they drew on their family of origin for images of what they wanted. “I didn’t want a volatile lady like my mom.”

Many men and women mentioned that they wanted someone who would be a good parent to their future children.

Asked how she chose her husband, one woman laughingly answered, “Besides his being devastatingly good looking, you mean? I wanted someone who wasn’t too serious, who would treat me well, who would be a good father, and was someone I’d like to wake up with 50 years later.”

Bonding weakness in children’s relationships is predicted by bonding weakness in parents’ marriage

I remember feeling so alone. I would go for days with no one to talk to or play with.” “I remember being angry at everyone.”

“I remember the sun striking the patterns on the living room carpet in the late afternoon. It was the last time that I saw my dad. I was 4 years old,” said one 30-year-old woman.

One 30-year-old suffered with severe nightmares that occurred twice weekly and recapitulated a particularly violent scene in which her father burst into the home with a gun and attempted to shoot her mother but was arrested in time. When told of the dream, her mother explained that it had happened just that way, when the girl was 4. The daughter answered, “I don’t remember it.”

One 34-year-old man described how, at age 5, he would bang his head repeatedly against the wall when his father hit his mother in the adjoining room.

Violence was sometimes an overture to sex for the parents, which the children also remembered overhearing.

“My mom never taught me about men. She didn’t know anything.”

One woman said, “I could never do to another human being what my mother did to my father.”

Unlike the men, all of the women from both the divorced and comparison groups had been in relationships, either brief or longer lasting affairs. A subgroup of over 20 women from the divorced group sought out multiple lovers.

Ten women told us that when they were with a man they did not care for, they enjoyed the sex, but that when they liked or loved the man, they froze.

Many eventually overcome their fears, but the struggle to do so is painful and can consume a decade or more of their lives.

One woman in her 30s told us that her strongest memory of her parents’ divorce, when she was 11 years old, was of her father crying as he walked slowly down the flower-bordered path away from the family home, after her mom threw him out because of his adultery. This memory flashed before her eyes whenever she contemplated leaving her alcoholic boyfriend.

Some attractive, very young women accepted the first marriage offer they received, whatever the man’s attributes. When asked why they had married, they replied, “I was afraid no one else would ever ask me.” In one such instance, the 23-year-old woman turned to a man she hardly knew, on their second date, and said, “Marry me. It’s my birthday.”

“I learned from my dad how not to parent,” said one man, who was then expecting his first child.[2]

  1. Arsic, Vera. “Man Kissing Woman.” Pexels, 4 Apr. 2018, Accessed 13 Jan. 2021.
  2. Wallerstein, Judith S., and Julia M. Lewis. “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: Report of a 25-Year Study.Psychoanalytic psychology 21.3 (2004): 353-370.