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This Week in Family

Millennials have killed plenty of time-honored American traditions—and cheating on your spouse might be the next one on the list. A new study found that younger Americans are less likely than those 55 and older to cheat on their spouse. But given that Millennial couples are also more likely to live together before they’re married, and more likely to wait several years before getting married at all, the study’s takeaways aren’t definitive. “It does seem as if [Millennial] marriages, when they do happen, are more faithful than those of their elders, but it’s just too soon to know for sure whether that will continue,” writes Olga Khazan.

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Highlights

(Wenjia Tang)

In this week’s installment of The Friendship Files, eight women who were part of an online parenting group in the early ’90s talk about the email list that formed when some of the moms wanted a more private space to discuss the joys and challenges of motherhood. They were all pregnant at the same time, and for the past 25 years, they’ve been sending one another updates big and small about their families.
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The World Health Organization recently released a set of guidelines that advises parents to limit the amount of time their kids spend in front of a screen: none at all for those under the age of 1, and no more than an hour for kids ages 2 to 4. But the catchall prescription might not work for all families. As one expert focused on parenting trade-offs points out, less screen time may be beneficial if it means more high-quality time with an engaged and happy adult—but that isn’t always the case.
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Conventional wisdom says that a baby’s first words are a major milestone in their development, but it turns out most baby talk is truly gibberish. This year, researchers published an analysis of the Communicative Development Inventories, which catalogs the first words of infants in hundreds of languages worldwide. The most frequent first words all have to do with what researchers call “babiness,” which means they’re words toddlers might need in real life, based on their surroundings: Mommy, grandpa, car, and banana are among some of the consistent hits.
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Is there a magic number of children, or combination of sons and daughters, that parents should have to maximize their happiness? The number can change with personal preferences, but factors such as social-support systems and financial resources can influence the ideal. And when it comes to the bigger picture, the number 2.1 has been widely recognized as the “replacement level” of fertility, which would ensure that the population of a country remains steady. But for most parents, the more immediate concern is how many hotel rooms they’d have to book for a family vacation, and whether there are enough seats in the minivan for everyone.
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Dear Therapist

(Bianca Bagnarelli)

Every Monday, the psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb answers readers’ questions about life’s trials and tribulations, big or small, in The Atlantic’s “Dear Therapist” column.

This week, another therapist writes in to ask Lori about her boyfriend’s mother. She can see all the signs of narcissism and histrionic personality disorder, and she knows the tools of the trade to deal with them—but practicing those tools is harder in real life. Making matters more complicated? Her boyfriend bought a house with a unit for his mother. Should she leave before her boyfriend’s mother becomes her live-in mother-in-law?

Lori’s advice: You can’t change other people, but you can change how you respond to them. And having an honest conversation with her boyfriend about the house he wants to live in might be the only way to work through some of the hidden issues in the relationship and to establish healthy boundaries.

One way to be less reactive around his mother is to focus less on her shortcomings and more on her positive qualities. She has to have some redeeming qualities if the man you’re in love with was raised by her; figure out what those are. In therapy, we don’t just look at what’s not working with our patients—we’re also scanning for strengths.

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Send Lori your questions at dear.therapist@theatlantic.com.

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