Family is important because it offers emotional support, nurtures a feeling of belonging, encourages educational growth, and fosters cognitive development. A family meets diverse needs throughout the various phases of life, from infancy through old age.
Families serve crucial societal functions, including socialization, values transmission, and social stability. Families can influence a child’s brain development, prospects of success in life, the formation of future relationships, health, and overall life satisfaction.
What is family?
A family is generally a group of individuals who come together to provide a natural environment for the development of their children and the well-being of the family’s members. The relationships between the family members can be defined in many ways. Here are 4 common ways to define a family.
- Biological or blood relations: Traditionally, a family is defined as a group of blood-related people. This includes parents and their children, siblings, and extended relatives like grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
- Social and cultural definition: Socially and culturally, a family can include individuals who are not necessarily related by blood or law but are bound by emotional ties, care, and support. This can include stepfamilies, godparents, close friends, and others who play a significant role in an individual’s life.
- Legal definition: Legally, a family often includes those related by blood, marriage, or adoption. In the United States, this definition varies by the legal context. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have their own interpretations and definitions of family.
- Personal and Emotional Definition: On a personal level, family can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s about biological connections; for others, it’s about who they share their life with, who cares for them, and who they care for.
What is the importance of family?
Here are 10 reasons why family is important.
Provide emotional support
A good family is a source of emotional support and unconditional love. Adults who received emotional support from their family during childhood are associated with experiencing fewer depressive symptoms, according to a 2004 study published in the American Psychological Association’s “Psychology and Aging” journal.1
A healthy family with good parenting is associated with better emotional regulation, self-confidence, mental health, social competence, and resilience. Families can be a source of support in good times and in bad.
Foster belongingness and identity
Families shape an individual’s identity and belonging from a young age. As social creatures, belonging to a group is important for our self-concept. Families provide a sense of social identity, a sense of self, and a feeling that we belong to something larger than ourselves.
Families facilitate children’s education by creating learning opportunities, providing intellectual stimulation, and modeling literacy and language skills.
Foster cognitive development and academic performance
Families provide an environment that stimulates cognitive skills, such as problem-solving and critical thinking and supports and encourages academic achievements.
Families play a central role in socializing children and teaching social norms, cultural differences, manners, prosocial behavior, and beliefs. Family members help children understand social relationships and navigate community dynamics.
Maintain physical health
Families instill healthy lifestyles by educating family members about nutrition, exercise, and hygiene. These efforts lay the foundation for children’s long-term physical well-being. Additionally, families provide essential care and support during illness, aiding in recovery and managing health challenges.
Guide moral development
Parents shape their children’s moral development by modeling ethical behavior and teaching right from wrong. Many cultures hold family itself as a fundamental moral value.
Preserve cultural and traditional transmission
Families pass down language, rituals, customs, stories, and belief systems from generation to generation, preserving cultural identity and traditions.
Ensure economic support and security
Families provide material support, including food, clothing, and shelter. This economic support contributes to a sense of security and stability from childhood through older adulthood.
Uphold continuity and legacy
Families preserve cultural heritage and traditions, ensuring these are passed down through generations. A 2015 study conducted by the Manchester Metropolitan University indicated that a family helps individuals gain a sense of continuity by providing a shared history and a link to the past through narratives.2
Why do we need a family?
Our families are one of the most important things in our lives. We need a family for different reasons at various stages of our lives.
- When babies are born, they need a family’s care and protection to survive.
- Children need a family’s guidance to learn. They also need a family’s assistance to grow physically and mentally.
- Teenagers need a family’s continued financial and emotional support. They also need a family’s to develop their independent identity.
- Adults need a family’s emotional connection to feel loved and belong.
- Seniors need a family to have a sense of purpose in life.
Is family the most important thing?
Yes, family is the most important thing to many people. In a survey conducted at the University of London in 1995 with 2,000 adult respondents, 31% mentioned relationships with family or relatives as the most important thing in their lives – the highest percentage for any item.3
However, family is not the most important thing to everyone. In a 2015 study conducted at Kean University, 43.5% of 354 graduate and undergraduate students were estranged from their families. Reasons for estrangement included disagreement, financial issues, divorce, substance abuse, and abuse.4
What is the importance of family in society?
The importance of family in society includes the following 5 factors.
- Socialization: Families instill values, beliefs, and norms in children that support a peaceful, well-functioning society. They teach kids fundamental social skills like language, customs, roles, and norms. They also shape children’s prosocial behaviors like cooperation, respect, and contribution to the community. Well-socialized children grow into productive adult citizens.
- Values transmission: Families are the primary way values such as responsibility, honesty, generosity, etc., are passed down to shape future generations and society.
- Social stability and structure: There is a strong connection between family nurturing and the well-being of society. Family is a basic building block of society, performing an important role in providing structure and stability. Strong family units contribute to a stable social framework, which is essential for the overall functioning and cohesiveness of the community.
- Community engagement and development: Families often participate in community activities and local governance, contributing to developing strong, supportive, and resilient communities.
- Economic support: Families provide economic support for children, the elderly, sick, and unemployed family members, reducing the burden on society. Families also contribute to society through consumption and production.
What is the role of family in child development?
Families play 5 important roles in child development.
- Shape brain development: Family experiences can impact brain development, according to a 2011 research published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The research reviewed over 50 studies on brain development and found direct evidence that factors such as maltreatment and maternal deprivation during childhood could lead to changes in brain structure, volume, growth, and activities. Early experiences lay the groundwork for developing a healthy brain, emotional regulation, social competence, and resilience.
- Contribute to life success: Researchers have observed that parenting and the family play a crucial role in a child’s life and success in all the societies studied. For instance, a Harvard University study conducted in 1938 tried to determine the secret of raising successful kids. 268 male Harvard students were tracked for 70 years in the Harvard Grant Study, the first of its kind. Their mental and physical health, as well as their successes and failures, was analyzed. A loving family and healthy relationships are strongly linked to a successful and happy life.5
- Influence future relationships: According to the attachment theory theorized by psychiatrist John Bowlby and psychologist Mary Ainsworth, family plays an important role in establishing children’s attachment styles. This early attachment influences the child’s emotional development, self-perception, and future relationships.6
- Impact health and well-being: Numerous studies have consistently shown that family life is an important aspect of our well-being. A strong family unit characterized by positive, supportive relationships enhances mental and physical health. For example, a 2011 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that family structure was significantly linked to teenagers’ behavioral issues, physical health, and emotional health.7 A supportive family environment fosters a sense of security and belonging, contributing to lower stress levels and improved health outcomes.8
- Predict life satisfaction: In a 1980 study conducted at Indiana State University, life satisfaction levels at 4 stages of adult life from early adulthood (ages 22-34) to late adulthood (ages 65 and older) were examined. A strong family life was one of the strongest predictors of life satisfaction at each stage.9
Why is family important to you?
Family is important to people in many different ways. Here are 10 potential reasons why family can be important to you.
- Family can offer unconditional love.
- Family gives you strength and support to face difficulties in life.
- Family models good values.
- Family provides companionship and a sense of belonging.
- Family helps you build self-esteem.
- Family provides you with shelter and safety.
- Family teaches you vital lessons in life.
- Family gives you a sense of security and stability.
- Family teaches you moral values.
- Family enhances mental health.
How does family influence your life?
A family influences your life in many different ways. Some influences are positive, while others are negative. From our earliest moments, our families shape our understanding of the world, our beliefs and values, habits and behaviors, and even our personalities.
Our families provide our first social interactions and environments for learning. Parents, siblings, and extended family teach us through their words, actions, encouragement, and discipline. Growing up, we observe how our families communicate, solve problems, express emotions, and relate to one another and the outside world. Consciously and unconsciously, we integrate much of what we learn from our families into our ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.
The family relationships and dynamics we experience can impact our self-esteem, mental health, worldviews, communication patterns, decision-making, relationships outside the family, and more. Healthy, loving family bonds often lead to positive development and outcomes later in life. Dysfunctional family environments can negatively shape us, too.
Our families leave lasting imprints on who we become as individuals. Their influences remain with us as we mature and start our own families, determining what values, behaviors, and environments we pass on to our children. For better and worse, our families shape our lives through the lessons they teach us and the models they provide.
Why should we help our family?
We should help our families because families provide not just basic needs for children but also emotional needs. A loved one can be a source of strength during hard times. By being there for family when they need us, we reciprocate this love and care they have provided us. When we support family members, we reinforce our relationships and embody the family values of love, responsibility, generosity, and a sense of community.
How do families develop strong foundations?
To develop strong foundations, here are 4 ways to promote a strong sense of family.
- Invest in family support: Families provide not just basic needs for children but also emotional needs. A loved one can be a source of strength during hard times. Showing children unconditional love is one of the best ways to create a support system. It is their safe haven, so they know they can always come home.
- Improve communication: Open communication is critical to building close connections. Good communication means everyone should be able to speak up, including children. They can have open discussions and share their thoughts honestly and respectfully. Happy, healthy family dynamics rely on respecting each other’s thoughts and feelings and compromising when necessary. Each family member feels connected and is part of something bigger than themselves.
- Cherish family dinner time: A 2006 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health highlighted its significance in the positive development of teenagers. This extensive study surveyed 99,462 high school students across the United States and discovered a notable positive correlation between regular family dinners and essential aspects such as commitment to learning, the development of positive values, social competencies, and a positive sense of identity. Conversely, it found that these family meals were inversely associated with high-risk behaviors, including substance use, sexual activity, depression, suicidal tendencies, antisocial behaviors, and violence.10
- Prioritize quality time together: The value of family time lies not just in its quantity but significantly in its quality. Quality time goes beyond just engaging in enjoyable activities; it encompasses being present and supportive during your child’s challenging moments and actively participating in their life. These meaningful interactions are what constitute true quality time.
Do I need a family to be happy?
No, you don’t need a family to be happy. True happiness can come from within through personal fulfillment, self-discovery, achieving competence, a sense of purpose, and healthy relationships. What brings fulfillment varies significantly among individuals.
In addition, having a family does not automatically equate to happiness. For instance, children in abusive family environments often do not have a happy childhood.
Similarly, parenthood doesn’t guarantee happiness. A study by the Berlin Social Science Center 2014 found that new parents were generally less happy than their childless counterparts.11
Is it OK not to have a family?
Yes, it is OK not to have a family. In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau found that married-couple households without children under 18 were more common than married-couple households with children. Not everyone feels compelled to have children or establish a traditional family structure.12
Your happiness and love for your life are what matter most. If not having a family aligns with your happiness and life goals, it’s the right path for you. There is no need to conform to societal norms or feel pressured to do what everyone else does. Prioritize what brings you fulfillment and joy.
- 1.Shaw BA, Krause N, Chatters LM, Connell CM, Ingersoll-Dayton B. Emotional Support From Parents Early in Life, Aging, and Health. Psychology and Aging. Published online March 2004:4-12. doi:10.1037/0882-7922.214.171.124
- 2.Bennett J. Narrating family histories: Negotiating identity and belonging through tropes of nostalgia and authenticity. Current Sociology. Published online April 20, 2015:449-465. doi:10.1177/0011392115578984
- 3.Bowling A. What things are important in people’s lives? A survey of the public’s judgements to inform scales of health related quality of life. Social Science & Medicine. Published online November 1995:1447-1462. doi:10.1016/0277-9536(95)00113-l
- 4.Conti RP. Family Estrangement: Establishing a Prevalence Rate. JPBS. Published online 2015. doi:10.15640/jpbs.v3n2a4
- 5.Woodhams V, de Lusignan S, Mughal S, et al. Triumph of hope over experience: learning from interventions to reduce avoidable hospital admissions identified through an Academic Health and Social Care Network. BMC Health Serv Res. Published online June 10, 2012. doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-153
- 6.Ainsworth MDS. The Bowlby-Ainsworth attachment theory. Behav Brain Sci. Published online September 1978:436-438. doi:10.1017/s0140525x00075828
- 7.Langton CE, Berger LM. Family Structure and Adolescent Physical Health, Behavior, and Emotional Well-Being. Social Service Review. Published online September 2011:323-357. doi:10.1086/661922
- 8.Elgar FJ, Craig W, Trites SJ. Family Dinners, Communication, and Mental Health in Canadian Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health. Published online April 2013:433-438. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.07.012
- 9.Medley ML. Life Satisfaction across Four Stages of Adult Life. Int J Aging Hum Dev. Published online October 1980:193-209. doi:10.2190/d4lg-aljq-8850-gydv
- 10.Fulkerson JA, Story M, Mellin A, Leffert N, Neumark-Sztainer D, French SA. Family Dinner Meal Frequency and Adolescent Development: Relationships with Developmental Assets and High-Risk Behaviors. Journal of Adolescent Health. Published online September 2006:337-345. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2005.12.026
- 11.Pollmann‐Schult M. Parenthood and Life Satisfaction: Why Don’t Children Make People Happy? J of Marriage and Family. Published online March 4, 2014:319-336. doi:10.1111/jomf.12095
- 12.. Married Couple Households Made Up Most of Family Households. United States Census Bureau. Published 2023. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2023/05/family-households-still-the-majority.html