Friday, March 18, 2011

Facebook Fans Old Flames

The headline is "Facebook cited in 20% of divorces." The story inside, though, is that people reconnect through Facebook with old flames. I think the underlying story is that when we have intimate relations with others it leaves a connection.

In my previous posts on Premarital Sex in America I noted that the authors found that what was bad about a series of intimate relations that do not lead to marriage is not the sex, but the breaking of the ties, over and over.

I take from this that love, and even lesser intimacy, is not without cost, and should not be entered into lightly. Or, in the case of Facebook romances, re-entered into.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tweeting Sorts By Happiness

Johan Bollen and colleagues at Indiana University have found that happier people tend to exchange tweets with other happy people, and unhappy people tend to tweet with other unhappy people.

They were just analyzing the content of the tweets, without any background data on the people sending them.

It does make sense to me. I don't tweet much, but I do blog and use Facebook. I know I am much more likely to respond to happy, or at least not unhappy, messages. I have also seen exchanges among blog commenters in which unhappy people respond to one another in long chains. These are aptly called "troll wars." I stay out of them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Conscientiousness Leads to Long Life; Divorce Kills, Even in the Second Generation

The Terman study followed smart kids from 1921 until the last of the subjects died. A new book, The Longevity Project, mines this data for clues about what makes for a long life, and what doesn't.

The main point: conscientious persistence in long-term projects with others is the single best predictor of long life.

And the main killer?

Parental divorce during childhood emerged as the single strongest predictor of early death in adulthood. The grown children of divorced parents died almost five years earlier, on average, than children from intact families. The causes of death ranged from accidents and violence to cancer, heart attack and stroke. Parental break-ups remain, the authors say, among the most traumatic and harmful events for children.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Millenials Don't Really Care Less About Marriage, They Just Marry Later

The Pew Research Center has a nifty study of marriage attitudes by generation. To start with, let's compare the marriage facts. Below are the proportion of each of the four most recent generations who were married when they were 18 - 29:

Millennials: 22%
Gen X: 30%
Boomers: 40%
Silents: 50%+

On the attitude side, only 30% of Millennials think making a good marriage is one of the most important things in life. At the same age, 35% of Gen Xers thought that way. (The Pew study doesn't have comparable attitude data for Boomers and Silents.)

Some have read this to mean that Millennials are starting to give up on marriage.
I read this differently.

The average age of marriage has been rising. The average age of first marriage now is 27.5 years for men, and 24.6 years for women. In the mid-'90s, when the Gen Xers were at a similar point in their generational career, the average age of first marriage was two years lower for men and for women.

It seems reasonable to me that married people rate the importance of making a good marriage higher than never-married people do. When we compare the marriage attitudes of 18 - 29 year old Millennials with Gen Xers at the same age, we are comparing a mostly unmarried group with a halfway-married-already group.

I expect that when half the Millenials are married, we will see a comparable rise in their estimate of how important it is to make a good marriage.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Life Story

Tonight I get to speak in my favorite Centre convocation of the year: "Life Stories." The student leadership group ODK asks three professors each year to tell their life stories, in about 20 minutes apiece.

My daughters helped me put together the slides for my portion of the convocation. As I looked at the good pictures I have, I realized that they are more about family than work. The more I thought about it, the more this seemed an important clue and opportunity.

I am going to tell my life story to students as a back-and-forth balancing of career and family. I have been teaching this subject in the "Family Life" class this week. This is a topic of intense interest to students, especially to women. Much of the scholarship about family life is driven by women trying to balance their careers and their own families. I have heard many women speak on this topic, and the women who study work/life balance almost always use examples from their own lives.

I realized today, though, that I have never heard a public lecture on work/life balance, with research and personal examples, from a man.

So that will be my theme tonight. Having it all. Seeking the happy balance of career and family. Which matters to me as a man just as much as it does to most women. Sociology gives me a vocabulary to talk about it that most men don't have. And ODK has given me a platform.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ehrenreich's Incoherent Worldview

At the end of Bright-Sided, Barbara Ehrenreich reveals her own worldview, in opposition to the positive thinking that the book criticizes.

“What we call the Enlightenment and hold on to only tenuously, with our fingernails, is the slow-dawning understanding that the world is unfolding according to its own inner algorithms of cause and effect, probability and chance, without any regard for human feelings.”

This strikes me as a curious and unstable mix. She has a dogmatic certainty both that there is order in the world and that is not made by a being that cares about us. I can see how one might believe in a God who created both cause and effect and who regards human feelings, as most people on earth do, myself included. I can see how one could at least try, in the name of intellectual consistency, to believe that there is no God and no order, that these are both illusions we invent to comfort ourselves - though I don't know anyone who can actually stick to this hopeless view. But to insist, as Ehrenreich does, that there is both cause and effect in the world and that it has no human-regarding creator seems to me at least a very eccentric view.