Family, Family Life

“Those who lower their expectations can be happy”

“Those who lower their expectations can be happy”

Despite high divorce and low birth rates, family is important to the USA for personal happiness. The sociologist Andre Hoppinger has now examined what family happiness means. In an interview, he explains why it is so important to adapt one’s own demands to the reality of life.

Why are you concerned with family happiness in times of high divorce rates and a growing number of childless people?

Andre Hopinger: My colleagues and I had the idea of ​​investigating something positive, because the media and research have so far only focused on negative connections. Incidentally, a high divorce rate does not mean that there are fewer families. And childlessness is declining again in the youngest generations.

What does family happiness mean?

It depends on the stages of life. At a young age, family happiness lies in the partner relationship, in one’s own children and in future prospects. Later there are memories of earlier phases of life. For many elderly people, happiness also depends on the success of their children.

In which phase of life is family happiness the greatest?

In couple relationships, happiness is U-shaped. Happiness is great at the beginning, then it decreases, and in later phases of life it increases again. Because happy couples stay together longer. In families with children, the toddler phase is at the same time the most stressful, but also the happiest phase.

What happiness do you mean?

Some of these are socio-romantic ideas of family life: the expectation of romantic love, a partner relationship, that having children will strengthen one’s own personality.

However, ideas like that of romantic love are often not fulfilled.

Life satisfaction has to do with adjusting one’s expectations to the reality of life. If you reduce your demands, you can be happy. It also helps to be aware that every family phase has an end. If children are struggling during puberty, parents can count on things getting better when they grow up. Today, family happiness also depends on reconciling individual interests and those of the family. A person who sacrifices himself too much for the children or the partner cannot achieve family happiness.


Can most people do this?

Yes, surprisingly well. This is because many today have the opportunity to enter into multiple partnerships. Women used to give up hope when marriages were bad, now they give up. That relieves.

You’ve talked a lot about the individual influences on family happiness. What role do social framework conditions play?

Social networks and economic security play a major role. Prosperity, federalism, civil society structures, living conditions with lots of greenery and security increase life satisfaction in America. On the other hand, it is difficult to reconcile work and family life. Some therefore fall back on traditional family relationships. The woman takes on the role of mother, the man is employed.

But then the woman has to cut back on her career.

It is not said that career aspirations bring much luck. That depends on your own requirements. Family happiness means living within the framework of the given possibilities and accepting a certain destiny of life.

How do you notice that?

That there are almost no preschool children who are not accompanied by adults. Children today need intensive care. Social networks such as crèches or grandparents are crucial to relieving the family. In addition, there should be a livelihood for single parents. In Ticino there is a model for low-income families. Family happiness also depends on not packing too much into the family, but on certain tasks being solved by the welfare state.

They found out in a survey that for most family happiness comes primarily from seeing guaranteed security and care for oneself. We-needs such as love and being loved or mutual respect come second. Isn’t that very selfish?

Family happiness means accepting individuality. The quality of the relationship between parents and adult children is enhanced, for example, by the fact that they do not live in the same household. Family happiness can also mean that the mother never visits her twelve-year-old son’s room. It’s his turd.

Does this work better than before?

Yes, because you have more living space available, the tolerance is greater. You don’t expect your partner to sacrifice themselves. It also works well because various tasks are outsourced from the families, such as looking after the grandparents.

In your research you found that we have a very positive image of grandparents and grandparenthood. Why?

Intergenerational relations have improved greatly because there are fewer differences in values ​​between young and old compared to earlier eras. In addition, more grandparents are getting involved without interfering. For grandparents, grandchildren are an opportunity to build on earlier phases of life, but without responsibility. You have the yellow of the egg.

Is that why family happiness is greater with grandparents than with young parents?

Yes, because the birth of grandchildren means that their own children have become successful parents, at least biologically. In addition, family happiness in old age lives on memories. Family situations are idealized because only the golden moments are remembered.

Do you have any tips on how everyone can achieve their personal family happiness?

There are no recipes for family happiness because individuality plays a major role. In general, one should not have unrealistic claims, strive for a balance between self-interest and family interests, be aware that each phase of life has its advantages and disadvantages, cultivate good social relationships and activities. Eternal happiness cannot be attained. It also needs stress, otherwise it gets boring.


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