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Faculty Bibliography Highlight: Shu-wen Wang

Citation: Campos, B., Wang, Shu-wen, et al. (2013). "Positive and negative emotion in the daily life of dual-earner couples with children." Journal of Family Psychology, 27(1): 76-85.

What is the emotional valence of family life and what factors contribute to this valence? Research indicates that most people are mildly happy but also that the years devoted to raising children are associated with diminished happiness and well-being, particularly for mothers. Public discourse is increasingly concerned that parenthood does not make us happy, but little empirical work has actually studied the emotional valence of family life. We addressed this gap in the literature with an intensive examination of the emotional valence of dual-earner family life. Specifically, we examined positive and negative emotional tone and expressivity throughout two weekday afternoons and evenings to test whether it was more positive or negative, explored gender differences in valence patterns, and qualitatively identified dinner food–related talk as a factor in mothers' evening emotion valence. Our sample was 30 dual-earner couples with young children who took part in a naturalistic observation study that involved continuous videotaping from the time that mothers and fathers left work until family members went to bed. Analyses revealed the following: (a) mild positive emotion was generally characteristic of both mothers and fathers, (b) mothers were more emotionally expressive than fathers, but (c) only mothers' positive emotion dropped during the evening period (5–8 p.m.) where the most salient feature of dinner was children's vocal expressions of distaste for dinner food. The implications of these findings for understanding the concurrent rewards and strains of everyday family life are discussed.

Shu-wen Wang is Assistant Professor of Psychology.

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