Parent-Child Relations throughout Life

By Karl Pillemer; Kathleen McCartney | Go to book overview

8
Adolescent Happiness and Family Interaction

Kevin Rathundee Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi The University of Chicago

Few family studies have investigated the subjective rewards that adolescents experience at home, which may build toward positive developmental outcomes. This despite the fact that extensive research into "optimal experiences" (interest, flow, intrinsic motivation, peak experiences) suggest they are among the most important influences on growth, such as the full utilization of potential, and the achievement of a sense of self-determination and creativity (Amabile, 1983; Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1988; deCharms, 1976; Deci & Ryan, 1985; Dewey, 1913; Groos, 1898; Harter, 1978; Maslow, 1968; White, 1959). Identifying which factors enhance momentary experience may stimulate new ideas on how to improve adolescent life, and therefore aid the structuring of enjoyable and effective developmental contexts. Toward this end, this chapter focuses on one dimension essential for healthy families -- the experience of happiness.

Our assumption is that adolescents who report being happy in everyday activities of life -- in schoolwork, housework, and other usually unpleasant routines -- have benefited from family environments that facilitate such experience. To investigate happiness and family life the first questions addressed by this study are descriptive: What kinds of activities do adolescents engage in at home with their parents? Which activities are engaged without them? Which one makes adolescents happier?

These questions are answered using the Experience Sampling Method ( Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1987; Csikszentmihalyi, Larson, & Prescott, 1977) -- a method designed to provide systematic access to subjective experience through daily self-reports of momentary thoughts and feelings in natural settings. The data were obtained from a sample of 165 talented high school students who

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