S. Katherine Nelson

What leads people to live happy and fulfilling lives? How do major life events, such as having children, alter the course of adults' lives and ultimately shape their well-being? These questions are…

Day: January 14, 2022

CARE Lab

CARE Lab

CARE Lab – Caregiving, Affect, & Relationship Experiences Lab

What leads people to live happy and fulfilling lives?

How do major life events, such as having children, alter the course of adults’ lives and ultimately shape their well-being?

These questions are the central focus of our research program.

We take a multi-method approach to understanding how simple behaviors and major life changes influence well-being, including randomized interventions, longitudinal studies, daily diary methodology, and cross-sectional surveys.…

Improving Well-Being With Simple Behaviors

Improving Well-Being With Simple Behaviors – My second approach to human happiness focuses on understanding how simple day-to-day behaviors influence well-being.

I have been exploring how the thoughts and behaviors common among naturally happy people–for example, affirming one’s core values or practicing acts of kindness–can be nurtured, acquired, or directly taught.

Specifically, I have investigated the mechanisms underlying the efficacy of simple behaviors or “positive activities” to boost well-being.

For example, in several longitudinal experiments, I have found that affirming one’s core values, performing acts of kindness, and practicing optimism lead to increases in happiness and meaning in life. 

Selected Publications: 

  • Nelson, S. K., Fuller, J. A. K., Choi, I., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). Beyond self-protection: Self-affirmation benefits hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 998-1011
  • Layous, K., Nelson, S. K., Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). Kindness counts: Prompting prosocial behavior in preadolescents boosts peer acceptance and well-being. PLOS ONE, 7, e51380. 

Parenthood & Well-Being

Parenthood & Well-Being

Parenthood & Well-Being – For years, scholarly and media accounts painted a dismal picture of parenting.

My work, however, suggests that happiness and parenthood can indeed coexist, but also that the link between parenthood and well-being is incredibly complex.

Do mothers and fathers–young and old, single and married, rich and poor–share similar parenting experiences?

How and why do their differences relate to their well-being? 

I propose that parenthood is associated with greater well-being to the extent that it provides opportunities to pursue meaningful goals and enhanced life purpose, greater fulfillment of human needs, more positive emotions, and enhanced social roles.

By contrast, I propose that parenthood is associated with lower well-being when it leads to subsequently greater negative emotions, financial stress, sleep disturbance and fatigue, and strained partner relationships. 

Selected Publications: 

  • Nelson, S. K., Kushlev, K., English, T., Dunn, E. W., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2013). In defense of parenthood: Children are associated with more joy than misery. Psychological Science, 24, 3-10.
  • Nelson, S. K., Kushlev, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). The pains and pleasures of parenthood: When, why, and how is parenthood associated with more or less well-being? Psychological Bulletin, 140, 846-895.
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