The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families
David Niven
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Buy *The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It* online

The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It
David Niven
224 pages
April 2004
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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“Life satisfaction is 72 percent more likely among those who feel satisfied with their family life.” And just how are you to find that contentment? Start by reading The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families -- “a book about real families, the struggles and joys of their lives, and what they can do to make their family life more satisfying.”

Psychologist and social scientist David Niven, Ph.D., is author of the "100 Simple Secrets" series, including Happy People, Great Relationships, Successful People and Healthy People. In The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families, he doesn’t stray far from a proven formula. Each short chapter (there are 100) begins with an overview of the lesson provided, a personalized anecdote and a summary of the scientific study backing the idea.

Using this condensed formula, Niven is able to broach topics from fatigue to jealousy, family pets to parenting the parent, cherishing traditions to recognizing pleasant stress. Sifting through studies about families done over the years, he distills statistical findings into hard fact and flavors them with true-life experiences.

Happy families don’t have to live in each other’s back pockets. Frank, from Dayton, Ohio, claims that having time with family friends, away from spouses and children, was like a support group, where issues could be viewed from a different perspective. “A little time apart has meant a long time together.” Read about it in Chapter 88.

Realizing that parenting is not a popularity contest, that it is okay to say no and stick with your decision, is the subject of Chapter 44. When you read that “more than eight of ten adult children can identify a decision their parents made when they were young that they strongly objected to at the time but think was appropriate in looking back at the situation,” you can find comfort in sticking to what you truly believe.

Finding common ground is a key to a cease-fire between feuding in-laws. In Chapter 59, you’ll also learn that “satisfaction with marriage is 13 percent more likely when friendly relationships are maintained with both sets of in-laws.”

I found the individual chapters of great interest, but couldn’t read the book in one sitting. By design, The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families is better suited to the nightstand or coffee table -- where you pick it up for motivation, inspiration or general interest, read a relevant chapter and allow it to digest. It might also work well as a communication aid for family members to bring up issues they haven’t been able to discuss.

Overall, this book was a surprise. I expected textbook scenarios and doctoral responses; what I read were human interactions backed up by scientific research. The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families is worthwhile to keep at hand and pull out when you need a motivational moment.

© 2004 by Megan Kopp for Curled Up With a Good Book

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