The year was 1938. John F. Kennedy was a college junior at Harvard. Most Americans would not have known his name or recognized his picture. Years later, he would of course become President of the United States but for now, he was an accomplished swimmer on the varsity team.
That same year, Harvard began a longitudinal study that followed 268 male undergraduate students. The purpose of this study was to understand what factors (and combinations of factors) lead to human flourishing.
75 years later – in 2013 – the study was completed.Â One of the most intriguing discoveries of the study was how significant menâ€™s relationships with their mothers are in determining their well-being in life.
â€œMen who had â€˜warmâ€™ childhood relationships with their mothers took home $87,000 more per year than men whose mothers were uncaring.Â Men who had poor childhood relationships with their mothers were much more likely to develop dementia when old.Â Late in their professional lives, the menâ€™s boyhood relationships with their mothers â€” but not their fathers â€” were associated with effectiveness at work.Â
On the other hand, warm childhood relations with fathers correlated with lower rates of adult anxiety, greater enjoyment on vacations, and increased â€˜life satisfactionâ€™ at age 75 â€” whereas the warmth of childhood relationships with mothers had no significant bearing on life satisfaction at 75.â€ Â
This study serves to illustrate the importance of the attachment bond between parents and children. Parental engagement matters and the loving nurture received within a family unlocks the door to long-term success. Click here to read more from Harvard about the study.
Oh, and about Jack Kennedy? Here’s a look at his mother’s parenting philosophy: “I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was fully as interesting and challenging as any honorable profession in the world and one that demanded the best I could bring to it.â€ Â (source: pbs.org)
In June 1940, Jack graduated from Harvard. His father sent him a cablegram from London: “TWO THINGS I ALWAYS KNEW ABOUT YOU ONE THAT YOU ARE SMART TWO THAT YOU ARE A SWELL GUY LOVE DAD.” (source: jfklibrary.org)