Three key aspects of relationships are… 1) Depth, 2) Support and 3) Amount of conflict.

Depth is – how close you are and will be, how important this person is to you, how much you depend on each other.

Support is – how much you can turn to each other for help and support, to listen and do important things together.

Conflict is – how much you have to work to avoid conflict, how much you feel guilty or angry, how much you want each other to change or try to control each other. 

Here’s some research.

You could probably think about your key relationships and quickly place them in terms how much they combine these three qualities.

You could also think about which of these are most important to you in certain relationships, and what may have changed over time. 

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The University of California , San Diego, issued the following news release:

Acts of Kindness Spread Surprisingly Easily: Just a Few People Can Make
a Difference

For all those dismayed by scenes of looting in disaster-struck zones,
whether Haiti or Chile or elsewhere, take heart: Good acts — acts of
kindness, generosity and cooperation — spread just as easily as bad.
And it takes only a handful of individuals to really make a difference.

In a study published in the March 8 early online edition of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the
University of California, San Diego and Harvard provide the first
laboratory evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious and that it
spreads from person to person to person.

When people benefit from kindness they “pay it forward” by helping
others who were not originally involved, and this creates a cascade of
cooperation that influences dozens more in a social network.
(more…)

The journal *Child Development* issued the following news release:

Depression In Pregnancy Tied To Antisocial Behavior In Offspring During Teens

Children from urban areas whose mothers suffer from depression during
pregnancy are more likely than others to show antisocial behavior,
including violent behavior, later in life.

Furthermore, women who are aggressive and disruptive in their own teen
years are more likely to become depressed in pregnancy, so that the
moms’ history predicts their own children’s antisocial behavior. (more…)

Can Acetaminophen Ease Psychological Pain?

Headaches and heartaches. Broken bones and broken spirits. Hurting
bodies and hurt feelings. We often use the same words to describe
physical and mental pain. Over-the-counter pain relieving drugs have
long been used to alleviate physical pain, while a host of other
medications have been employed in the treatment of depression and
anxiety. But is it possible that a common painkiller could serve double
duty, easing not just the physical pains of sore joints and headaches,
but also the pain of social rejection? A research team led by
psychologist C. Nathan DeWall of the University of Kentucky College of
Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology has uncovered evidence
indicating that acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) may
blunt social pain.

“The idea–that a drug designed to alleviate physical pain should reduce
the pain of social rejection–seemed simple and straightforward based on
what we know about neural overlap between social and physical pain
systems. To my surprise, I couldn’t find anyone who had ever tested this
idea,” DeWall said.
(more…)

The journal *Personal Relationships* issued the following news release:

The Importance of Attractiveness Depends on Where You Live

Do good-looking people really benefit from their looks, and in what ways?

A team of researchers from the University of Georgia and the University
of Kansas found that yes; attractive people do tend to have more social
relationships and therefore an increased sense of psychological well-being.

This seems like common sense, and might be why we spend billions of
dollars each year trying to become more attractive.

However, the study, published in this month’s issue of Personal
Relationships, also determines that the importance of attractiveness is
not universal; rather, it is determined by where we live.

The importance of attractiveness in everyday life is not fixed, or
simply a matter of human nature.

Instead, the impact of our attractiveness on our social lives depends on
the social environment where we live.

Attractiveness does matter in more socially mobile, urban areas (and
from a woman’s point of view actually indicates psychological well-
being), but it is far less relevant in rural areas. In urban areas
individuals experience a high level of social choice, and associating
with attractive people is one of those choices.

In other words, in urban areas, a free market of relationships makes
attractiveness more important for securing social connections and
consequently for feeling good. In rural areas, relationships are less
about choice and more about who is already living in the community.

Therefore, attractiveness is less likely to be associated with making
friends and feeling good.

Furthermore, urban women need not have below average looks in order to
experience a diminished sense of well-being and social life. Dr.
Victoria C. Plaut and her team studied women at mid-life in the U.S.
based on data related to their well-being, social connectedness, and
their body attractiveness (assessed with a calculation of their waist-to-
hip ratio).

Plaut points out, “In the field of psychology, research results are
generally seen as having a natural and universal applicability.

This research suggests that this is far from being the case.

Rather, the importance of attractiveness varies with certain
sociocultural environments, and, if you think about it, urban
environments are actually a relatively recent addition to human life.”

From BBC News today:

Loneliness makes cancer ‘more likely and deadly’

Doctors know depressed cancer patients have poorer survival rates. Fresh evidence adds weight to suggestions that loneliness makes cancer both more likely and deadly.  Work in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows social isolation tips the odds in favour of aggressive cancer growth.

Rodents kept alone developed more tumours – and tumours of a more deadly type – than rats living as a group. The researchers put it down to stress and say the same may well be true in humans. Cancer experts say more work is needed to prove such a link in people. Lead investigator Gretchen Hermes, of Yale University, said: “There is growing interest in relationships between the environment, emotion and disease. “This study offers insight into how the social world gets under the skin.”

Stress

Doctors already know that cancer patients who are depressed tend to fare worse in terms of survival.  And previous research has suggested that social support can improve health outcomes for patients with breast cancer. In the latest study, the researchers found that isolation and stress trebled the risk of breast cancer in the naturally sociable Norway rats. Outcast rodents developed 84 times the amount of tumours as those living in tight-knit social groups, and the tumours also proved to be more aggressive. The isolated mammals also had higher levels of the stress hormone corticosterone and took longer to recover from a stressful situation than fellow Norway rats.  The researchers ultimately hope their work will help cancer patients.

Lifestyle

Co-researcher Martha McClintock, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, said: “We need to use these findings to identify potential targets for intervention to reduce cancer.”  Ed Yong, of Cancer Research UK, said: “This study was done in rats. “Overall, research in humans does not suggest there is a direct link between stress and breast cancer. “But it’s possible that stressful situations could indirectly affect the risk of cancer by making people more likely to take up unhealthy behaviours that increase their risk, such as overeating, heavy drinking, or smoking.”

*New York Times* (Tuesday, Dec 1) includes an article: “We
May Be Born With an Urge to Help” by Nicholas Wade.

Here are some excerpts:

[begin excerpts]

What is the essence of human nature?

Flawed, say many theologians.

Vicious and addicted to warfare, wrote Hobbes.

Selfish and in need of considerable improvement, think many parents.

But biologists are beginning to form a generally sunnier view of humankind.

<snip>

The somewhat surprising answer at which some biologists have arrived is
that babies are innately sociable and helpful to others.

Of course every animal must to some extent be selfish to survive.

But the biologists also see in humans a natural willingness to help.
(more…)