Our families are one of the most important things in our lives. Researchers have observed that in all the societies they have studied, family plays a crucial role in the success of individuals.
A family’s influence on young children can last a lifetime in many ways. Healthy families are the building blocks of a healthy society.
Why is family important in our lives
Family is the key to success in life
A Harvard University study conducted in 1938 tried to determine the secret of raising successful kids.
268 male Harvard students, including John F. Kennedy, were tracked for 70 years in the Harvard Grant Study, the first of its kind. Their mental and physical health was analyzed, as well as their successes and failures.
One clear conclusion emerged – a successful and happy life depends on having a loving family and healthy relationships 1.
Family relationships lay the foundation for future relationships
Human beings are social creatures. We are wired to connect with others and to thrive in strong relationships.
Children’s first relationships are with their parents.
In the early years, a child forms a strong bond with their parents which shapes the way they view themselves and others. Strong parent-child relationships help children develop a sense of security.
The quality of these close relationships will influence the child’s ability to form and maintain relationships in adulthood. If this relationship is strong, a child will be more likely to successfully navigate and form meaningful future relationships 2.
Family can change brain development
A child’s early experiences establish either a sturdy or fragile foundation for behavior, learning, and health. For younger children, family life makes up a large portion of their early experiences and parents are their first teachers and role models.
Children’s brains develop over time, bottom to top. Stable, nurturing, and responsive parents, as well as a positive family experience, contribute to the healthy development of children’s brain architecture.
Family can strengthen mental health and wellbeing
During adolescence, peer influence starts to overshadow parental influence, but the strength of families continues to play an important role in shaping adolescents’ development.
Having a strong family with positive relationships is associated with lower levels of adolescent depression and delinquency 4. Psychological disorders, externalizing behaviors, and depression among teens are significantly reduced with parental support. Moderate levels of control and monitoring also seem to prevent antisocial behaviors in teens 5.
Studies also find that good family traditions foster adolescents’ sense of identity and promote self-esteem. Positive family ties lead to a lower level of conduct disorders and a stronger sense of family cohesion, which helps them endure difficult times and disruptions6.
On the other hand, negative family relationships in a troubled family during adolescence have a negative impact on adolescents’ impulse control7 and on their mental and emotional health as adults8.
Healthy family relations predict life satisfaction
The family continues to have an important influence on a child’s life as they grow up.
An Indiana State University study examined life satisfaction levels at various stages of adulthood from early adulthood (ages 22-34) to late adulthood (ages 65 and older). They found that strong family life was one of the strongest predictors of life satisfaction at each stage9.
Psychological well-being and life satisfaction are closely related10. Having quality time with family and participating in family activities together can have a positive impact on one’s mental wellbeing.
Adult children who are married report a high level of life satisfaction when they receive emotional support from their spouses who are now also part of their family units11
How to build a close-knit family
Invest in family support
Families provide not just basic needs for children but also emotional needs. A loved one can be the source of strength during hard times.
Showing children unconditional love is one of the best ways to create a support system for them. It is their safe haven, so they know they can always come home.
Open communication is key 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 with each other.
Successful family dynamics rely on respecting each other’s thoughts and feelings and compromising when necessary. Each member of the family feels connected and is part of something bigger than themselves.
Cherish family dinner time
Studies on family dinner and family time consistently find that eating meals together as a family is correlated with more positive and fewer negative outcomes in children12.
Frequent family meals are associated with better communication, nutritional intake, school performance, and mental health, especially in adolescents13. In addition, it helps prevent high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, violence, sexual intercourse, and school dropouts in children14.
Spend more quality time together
The importance of spending time together as a family cannot be overstated, but it should be quality time.
Just being together more often doesn’t improve relationships. If it were true, we would have all had perfect relationships after a lockdown. More important is how we spend that time.
There’s more to quality time than just doing fun things. Taking time out to be with your child and helping them through tough times are also good ways to have quality time.
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- 2.Simpson JA, Rholes WS. Attachment and relationships: Milestones and future directions. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Published online March 2010:173-180. doi:10.1177/0265407509360909
- 3.Shonkoff JP, Richmond JB. Investment in early childhood development lays the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society. In: Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. .; 2009:1-5.
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- 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.Ryff CD, Keyes CLM. The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Published online 1995:719-727. doi:10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2069
- 11.Veenhoven R. The Study of Life-Satisfaction. .; 1996.
- 12.Sen B. The relationship between frequency of family dinner and adolescent problem behaviors after adjusting for other family characteristics. Journal of Adolescence. Published online February 2010:187-196. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.03.011
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