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Men's happiness may depend on this family dynamic

By Shannan Rouss ; Updated April 12, 2018
Studies have found no link between education level and happiness — until now.

New research shows that, for men, surpassing mom and dad’s academic achievements is essential to happiness, while falling short can be as psychologically devastating as divorce.

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Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield College analyzed data from more than 50,000 people (most of them based in the United Kingdom and Europe) between the ages of 25 and 65 and examined the link between their psychological well-being and their educational achievements, reported The Guardian. Researchers compared the subjects’ achievements with that of their parents.

The results? “Getting a higher educational achievement than one’s parents is associated with a reduced level of psychological distress, even after the direct effect of individuals’ and their parents’ education and other conventional explanations of distress are accounted for,” explained researcher Alexi Gugushvili at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference.

He continued, “On the contrary, falling short of one’s parents’ education tends to raise the distress level, and a big disparity is especially harmful for men’s psychological health status.”

For example, they found that men whose educational achievements were at the bottom (with no high school diploma) and whose parents were in the top (with a college degree) were more than twice as likely to be among the top 10 percent most psychologically distressed as compared to men whose educational levels matched their parents.

The researchers didn’t only look at men. It’s just that it was only men who were affected by their parents in this way. Women apparently took failing to outperform mom and dad in stride.

Offering possible reason for the gender difference, Gugushvili speculated that men are more likely than women to attribute success or failure “to their own merits, abilities and effort.” Which means that women link success or failure to “factors they have no control over.”

Hmmm.... We’re not sure we buy the explanation — we know plenty of women who credit their success to their own abilities (and rightfully so), not outside forces.

Either way, we hope that men can find some peace and focus on being better than the only competition that matters: their past selves. We’ll be rooting for them!

What Do YOU Think?

Have you outperformed your parents academically? Do you think it has an affect on your happiness? Are you surprised by the difference between men and women? What do you think might be the reason for it?

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About the Author

Shannan Rouss is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She has written for magazines including Self, Prevention, Glamour and Cosmopolitan, and her work has appeared online at MSN.com, mom.me and elsewhere.

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