Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Importance of Family Rituals

Fact: Rituals are valuable for families.

What's that you say? You want a list of their benefits? I thought you'd never ask.

Rituals serve to:

1. Create and maintain intergenerational bonds (Schvaneveldt & Lee, 1983)
2. Pass on family attitudes, values, and beliefs (Braithwaite, Baxter, & Harper, 1998)
3. Prevent families from negative addictions such alcoholism (Wolin, Bennett, Noonan, & Teitelbaum, 1980)
4. Offer members a feeling of belongingness (Wolin et al., 1980)
5. Provide a means for maintaining family contact (Meredith, 1985)
6. Promote physical health, especially in children (Compan et al., 2002; Kiser, Bennett, Heston, & Paavola, 2005)
7. Combat the stress-induced side-effects of asthma in children (Markson & Fiese, 2000)
8. Encourage children to form positive relationships as adults (Homer, Freeman, Zabriskie, & Eggett, 2007)

Family members also tend to enjoy hanging out together during rituals. They laugh, create memories, and relive the past while also securing a future together. But the problem both researchers and our culture have is that we've focused primarily on the OUTCOMES of family rituals. In doing so, the preparation and thought that goes into them before, during, and after is seemingly invisible and silent.

Research has shown that women are more likely than men to see themselves carrying family-of-origin rituals into their own future families (shocking, I know!). The strongest indicator of whether or not an individual would carry a family ritual into their future families was how much their same-sex parent had taken responsibility for initiating rituals (Friedman & Weissbrod, 2004). Dads, are you reading? Your boys don't see you doing much kin work and therefore don't recognize it as something they should do.

The family is the first group a child is a part of, and is where they learn the majority of their lessons about how to conduct social life. When families teach their members that women should be responsible for ritual and domestic kin work, where will anyone learn otherwise? And when?

The ritual cycle of inequity begins and continues in the family. You know what that means, right?

It's the only place where change might occur, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment