Daily dynamics of feeling loved by parents and their prospective implications for adolescent flourishing

Mengya Xia, John K. Coffey, Gregory M. Fosco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Feeling loved by one's caregiver is essential for individual flourishing (i.e., high levels of psychological well-being in multiple dimensions). Although similar constructs are found to benefit adolescent well-being, research that directly tests parental love as a feeling from the recipient's perspective is rare. Historically, parental love has been measured using single-assessment methods and assumed to be a stable, trait-like characteristic; yet, like any feeling, it may fluctuate in meaningful ways on a day-to-day basis—the implications of which are unknown. Using a sample of 150 adolescents (59.3% female; ages 14–16), this study estimated level (person's mean level across days) and instability (fluctuations across days) of feeling loved by a caregiver across 21 days for each adolescent, and then examined their prospective effects on adolescent flourishing 1 year later. After controlling for demographics (adolescent age, gender, family income, and parent's sex) and variable baseline levels, feeling more loved by one's caregiver in daily life significantly predicted higher levels of flourishing in two global measures 1 year later. Moreover, level and instability of feeling loved by one's caregiver played different roles for different dimensions of flourishing: higher levels significantly predicted higher levels of autonomy, purpose in life, and personal growth, whereas higher instability significantly predicted lower levels of positive relations with others and environmental mastery. Findings emphasized the importance of considering daily dynamics of feeling loved by one's caregiver and demonstrated that level (of feeling loved) is particularly important for intrapersonal aspects while instability is particularly important for interpersonal aspects of flourishing. Research Highlights: Adolescents feeling more loved by their caregiver in daily life had higher levels of overall flourishing 1 year later. Level (of feeling loved) is particularly important for intrapersonal aspects of adolescent flourishing, including autonomy, purpose in life, and personal growth. Stability (of feeling loved) is particularly important for interpersonal aspects of adolescent flourishing, including positive relations with others and environmental mastery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopmental Science
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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