EMORY (US)—Children show higher levels of emotional well-being if they know stories about relatives who came before them.
Emory University psychologists Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke analyzed dinner time conversations and other measures of how well families work and found that family stories are a critical part of an adolescent’s emerging identity.
“Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world,” the researchers write in the study published in Emory’s online Journal of Family Life.
Researchers developed a “Do You Know” (DYK) scale to measure how much children knew about family history and intergenerational family stories. The 20 yes/no questions ask the child to report if they know such things as how their parents met, or where they grew up and went to school.
Researchers studied 66 middle-class, mixed-race, 14- to 16-year old adolescents from two-parent families.
Participants completed the DYK scale, and multiple standardized measures of family functioning, identity development, and well-being.
Teens who knew more stories about their extended family showed “higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement, even when controlling for general level of family functioning.”
“There is something powerful about actually knowing these stories,” the study concludes.
The authors caution, however, that since this is the only study to use the DYK scale, more research is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
The research was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
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