Research on the Importance of Multigenerational, Extended, and Forged Family Bonds

Connections with family members can be a great source of support and identity for individuals. Research has found that multigenerational, extended, and forged family bonds are especially beneficially for the wellbeing of children. There are several studies and articles that point to the importance of these connections with family and community members. I will present the findings and suggestions from five such articles.

“To Change the Future, Children Need History” is an article written by Jenet Erickson, and she talks about the importance of knowing our family history and national history. Family history builds resilience in children, and research has found that “children who knew more about their family history had higher self-esteem, lower anxiety, lower incidence of behavior problems, a stronger sense of control over their lives and a view of their families as successful.”1 Knowing our heritage and larger family bonds can help us form a “intergenerational self” that brings confidence, support, and resilience.1 Knowing ones national history also opens our eyes to the sacrifices and work from those who came before us, and “what we must do to ensure that what we were given continues on for those who follow us.”1 Many valuable things come from knowing our personal and national history.

“Grandparents Contribute to Children’s Wellbeing” presents the research findings of Professor Ann Buchanan at the University of Oxford on the effect that grandparents have on children’s wellbeing. They found that “a high level of grandparental involvement increases the well-being of children” by lowering the amount of “emotional and behavioral problems.”2 This research suggests that involved grandparents provide nurturing, love, activities, and mentoring that benefit and strengthen children, especially in divorced and separated families. Grandparents can strongly impact their grandchildren’s lives.

“How Extended Family Builds Resiliency” by Tori Black talks about the negative impact of our individualistic society on families and close connections with others. Many children no longer have the protection and support from extended families. Extended families can provide great power however, and family members can often be “the cushion that softens the blow of trails that are part and parcel of life.”3 Even if we live far away from extended families, which is more and more common today, “forged families” can also provide this support and cushioning. Forged families can be made from neighbors, community friends, and especially fellow church members. “Without strong, interconnected kinship ties – both biological and forged – individuals and families crumble under the pressure of modern stresses which impacts the health and strength of communities and nations.”3 As we work to make supportive connections with extended and forged family members, we can create lasting connections that bless ourselves and our families.

Children Benefit if They Know About Their Relatives, Study Finds” presents the research findings of Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke on the impact of knowing family stories. They found that “Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world”4 They studied 66 middle-class teens and asked them several questions about their family history, like if they knew where their parents met. The teenagers “who knew more stories about their extended family showed “higher levels of emotional well-being, and… identity achievement”.

Lastly, “BYU Study Says Children are Kinder When Grandparents are Involved” explains that research done at BYU found that the involvement of grandparents made children more kind and more likely to act in pro-social behavior. Grandparents have a positive and strong influence over their grandchildren because of their experience with parenting and investment in their grandchildren’s wellbeing.5

Multigenerational, extended, and forged family bonds do have an impact on children. They impact the emotional and physical wellbeing of children and provide them with support, love, and identity. If we work to strengthen these bonds, we will see benefits in our own lives and in our children’s lives.