Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Daily Wellbeing in Families with Children: A Harmonious and a Disharmonious Week

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Daily Wellbeing in Families with Children: A Harmonious and a Disharmonious Week

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: What makes daily life in families with young children harmonious, and are there better and worse times? Applying a daily approach, the present study examined one week in dual-earner families with young children, with special focus on families that reported either a harmonious or a disharmonious week in their family interaction. Quantitative and qualitative diary data were collected with mobile phones and with paper and pencil from 45 families. Fourteen families representing either disharmonious or harmonious interaction were chosen for a detailed analysis of good and difficult moments in the spousal and parent--child relationship. What most clearly distinguished these weeks was not the characteristics of good and difficult moments, but the frequency of these moments.

KEYWORDS: daily family life, diary study, emotions, relationship harmony, parent--child relationship, spousal relationship, wellbeing


It is only recently that daily positive and negative events and emotions and their interplay have become recognized as important dimensions of family wellbeing and harmony in family and relationship research (Campos et al., 2013; Daly, 2003; Fincham & Beach, 2010; Ronka & Korvela, 2009; Seidman, 2012). Researchers have called efforts to understand and study the both positive and negative emotional aspects of relationships and family life, on the grounds that emotions constitute the basis of relationships and wellbeing (Campos et al., 2013; Daly, 2003; Fincham & Beach, 2010). This mixed-method study focuses on daily emotional wellbeing in dual-earner families with young children. By means of the diary method, it is possible to intensively study the harmoniousness of daily moods, events and interactions inside families (see Bolger, Davis, & Rafaeli, 2003; Laurenceau & Bolger, 2005). We applied this method over the course of 1 week with the aim of answering the question: What are the factors that characterize for a harmonious or disharmonious daily life? More specifically, we aimed to capture daily family well-being by focusing on good and difficult moments in both the spousal and parent-child relationship, and on the possible interplay between the two.


The phenomenon of interest in this study, drawn from the everyday approach to family life (see Ronka & Korvela, 2009), is daily emotional wellbeing. We understand daily emotional wellbeing as a family-level phenomenon that arises from the emotional atmosphere generated by certain events and through the interchange of emotions between family members (see Ronka & Korvela, 2009). Here, we operationalize daily emotional wellbeing with the help of the concept of relationship harmony. Relationship harmony refers to the level of positive affect and supportive interactions relative to the level of negative affect and conflictual interactions (see, e.g., Galliher, Welsh, Rostosky, & Kawaguchi, 2004; Gavin & Furman, 1996; Gottman, Coan, Carrere, & Swanson, 1998). We study harmony both quantitatively, by measurements of interaction harmony and the frequency of occurrence of good and difficult moments during a 1-week diary period, and qualitatively through analyzing the contents of such moments.

In families with young children, in particular, a number of factors have the potential to influence daily emotional wellbeing. First, the enduring nature of family relationships has been argued to provide a secure place to air positive as well as negative emotions (Ronka & Korvela, 2009). This also explains why everyday family life is not only about harmony, positive intimacy, love and affection, but sometimes about frustration, stress, anger, and conflicts. It is often thought that family life with young children is characterized by heightened levels of stress and tiredness (see Campos, Graesch, Repetti, Bradbury, & Ochs, 2009; Offer & Schneider, 2010). …

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