In Jennifer Harman’s experience, when people are asked what’s most important in their lives, their answer usually involves relationships.
“(At the) college age, people are dating or starting to decide what they want from relationships,” she said. “It’s fascinating how the dynamics of relationships impact our behaviors. Others get us to do things we wouldn’t normally do.”
Harman, an assistant professor of social psychology at CSU, along with 14 other researchers answered 40 questions involving relationships and compiled their responses on their individual areas of expertise based on existing research, as well as their own, into the book, “The Science of Relationships: Answers to Your Questions about Dating, Marriage and Family.”
The 15 co-authors, professors at different universities, began as a supportive research group that has met every year since about 2004 or 2005, Harman said. They came up with the idea to create a book answering relationship questions, taken from students at universities and other people the researchers knew, that would be easily accessible to people and based on research rather than opinion.
“(We started) really thinking about where people turn to for relationship advice, (such as) blogs on Internet, or friends, or families, or self-help books,” Harman said, “which are based on opinion. There’s a real need for a resource people can go to to get reliable information based on large samples of adults from all over the world.”
The book focuses on relationship issues involving the best place to meet a partner, belief in soulmates, risky sexual behaviors, the role of power in relationships, parenting and more.
“The book is written to be smart and funny, yet full of the really solid scientific data. It hopefully satisfies the curiosity of intelligent students,” Ben Le, one of the co-authors and a professor at Haverford College, said in an email to the Collegian. “It’s written in ‘bite size’ chunks that work with students’ busy schedules.”
The answer to each question is about three pages long.
“We made sure the book wasn’t just separate chapters. It’s a fun Q & A kind of book,” Harman said.
College is a time period during which students experience a lot of transitions, said Tim Loving, a co-author of the book and professor at the University of Texas. Moving away from home, developing an independent identity, learning how to manage life are some of the experiences involved in the process of growing up in college.
“Part of that process involves learning whether and how to let somebody become a part of who we are,” Loving said in an email to the Collegian. “As a result, the questions we address in our book are central to the personal and social lives of college students — and most other people, for that matter.”
In addition to the book, Harman, Le, Loving and the other co-authors answer relationship questions through their website, http://scienceofrelationships.com, by posting answers to submitted questions they receive, as well as fact-checking relationship facts reported through other studies or news outlets.
According to Le, one of the best pieces of relationship advice college students can hear is not to underestimate the importance of social networks in predicting relationship success.
“Friends and family matter,” he said, “a lot.”
Loving said to educate yourself about how relationships work.
“It won’t make them any less exciting or stressful, but it will help you better understand why you feel the things you feel,” he said. “And knowledge is power.”
Entertainment Editor Courtney Riley can be reached at email@example.com.
What: “The Science of Relationships: Answers to Your Questions about Dating, Marriage and Family”
By: CSU assistant professor social psychology Jennifer Harman and 14 other researchers
Available at: www.amazon.com and the CSU Bookstore
A few questions the book answers:
-Does sex lead to love, or ldoes love lead to sex?
-How similar or different are hetero and homo relationships?
-Will we stop having sex once we’re married?
-How long should I wait before sleeping with my partner?
-If I make more money than my partner, will he or she resent me?
-How does my sex life stack up?