Home is where the heart is: Families who spend quality time at home are happier, says study
12/08/2019 // Grace Olson // Views

It's a common sight among households in the U.S. to see both parents and their children caught up in their phones, tablets and computers. While this makes planning "quality time" challenging – planned vacations and trips included – researchers from Baylor University in Texas and Brigham Young University in Utah recently shared some surprising research on this topic. In their study, published in the World Leisure Journal, they found that quality time spent at home in familiar pastimes was quite effective at keeping family members happy.

For lead author Karen Melton, a child and family studies professor at Baylor, the findings could be fortuitous, especially for busy families.

“The best predictor of happiness for families may be spending quality time together in familiar activities inside the home,” she explained. “That’s great news for families who have little time or few resources.”

Put down the phones and spend some quality time together at home

According to Melton, the expression, “The family that plays together, stays together!” is misleading for two reasons:

  • Not all activities designed for a family have a positive effect
  • Not all family leisure is equal

Based on these reasons, these activities can be a source of conflict among family members. This also means that some activities are more effective at inducing happiness compared to other activities.

“Family members also can express stress and conflict as well as pleasure during leisure time,” Melton said. “The activities alone will not heal the scars of hurting families.”


The researchers arrived at this conclusion after administering an online study on family leisure. The team gathered data from 1,502 individuals in 751 families in the U.K.; each family had to have at least one child between the ages of 11 and 15. The team asked the participants whether they had spent time together in the last 12 months, what kind of activities they had engaged in, how much time they spent on it and how frequent it was.

Researchers found that people who spent quality time at home and engaged in everyday activities were comparably happier compared to those who did not. While they noted that all quality time with family contributes to a person's happiness, this was especially the case for quality time at home.

“That may be because when the brain is focused on processing new information — such as taking part in an unfamiliar activity with unfamiliar people in a new location — less ‘brain power’ is available to focus on the family relationships,” added Melton.

At home, a person feels at ease; thus, he can devote his attention to family members and actively engage with them. This, researchers suggested, promoted healthier and happier relationships within the family.

Some activities families can do at home include:

  • Eating at least one meal each day together, as a family (including food preparation and clean-up)
  • Watching a movie together (where adults can give guidance to young viewers)
  • Playing games together (like board games, yard games, etc.)

The researchers pointed out that this method did not necessarily apply to every family. It was still essential to find time to engage in new environments and activities. But for people who lack money, time or ability, the study showed that engaging in family leisure activities at home was enough. The important thing was that each member was present, involved, and interacting with each other. (Related: The “family diet” is best for kids: Researchers have found that children who consistently ate with their family were healthier and made better lifestyle choices.)

Learn about other discoveries in family development and leisure at Research.news.

Sources include:



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