Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy Families

The Happy Family by Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.  -- Leo Tolstoy
I don't think I quite agree with Tolstoy but I guess there are certain characteristics that add up to happiness in a family even though the details may differ quite drastically.    Maybe it's like the way there are all kinds of saints but they all have certain essential things in common, like love for God and a spectrum of virtues.  

James Stenson discusses successful families in his book and so I went looking to see if there was any research about what makes a family successful.   I found this:

Identifying Successful Families
Research on Successful Families

From these, it seems that the markers for a successful family according to the researchers' parameters are:
  1. communication
  2. encouragement of individuals
  3. expressing appreciation
  4. commitment to family
  5. religious/spiritual orientation
  6. social connectedness
  7. ability to adapt
  8. clear roles
  9. time together

The definitions of a successful or strong family vary but usually include (1)  room for maturation and development for both parents and children and (2) healthy response to stress.   

Within these parameters there can be wide variations for temperament, circumstances, and other factors.  In other words, income, level of education, discipline style, and number of activities and opportunities do not correlate directly as success markers except as they affect the main categories (for example, very rigid discipline usually means less room for flexibility, which makes it more difficult to respond healthily to stress and to allow room for individual development).  .  

Also, here is James Stenson's website called Parent Leadership with various articles on parenting.  I find it slightly discouraging (sigh).   But his list of what makes for successful parenting seems realistic and balanced.    He says:

"What is striking about these successful parents is their diversity.  Temperament and "talent" do not seem to be crucially important...Some successful parents are energetic extroverts; others are quiet and mild-mannered.  Some seem to sense immediately what needs to be done with their children in a host of situations; others, far more numberous, have serious concerneds and questions and so they seek experienced advice.  Some are home-centered, though not to a fault; others are busy in professional and social affairs, but not to excess."
So what things do these parents have in common?

  1. Unity
  2. Mutual Respect
  3. Seeing children as adults in the making
  4. Religious convictions
  5. Discipline treated as strength building, not merely control.
  6. A stress on responsibility as well as freedom.
  7. Television kept under control.
  8. Frequent conversation with children
  9. Discipline seen as worthwhile investment
You can see some overlap between the US Dept of Health study and Stenson's list.   Unity and mutual respect are something like communication.    Television under control and frequent conversation seem related to time together.   The religious orientation carries over direct to both lists, interestingly enough, and the adaptability and clear roles on the secular list seem to speak to Stenson's balance between freedom and responsibility or discipline.   To stretch a little, discipline seen as worthwhile investment seems to correlate a little with commitment to family, since both involve time and consideration, not just reflex or default mode.

1 comment:

  1. sweet painting.......been looking at art a lot lately??

    someone must be going through books.......


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!