news item: The Stories That Bind Us

After Traathy’s great post yesterday regarding Open Adoption (OA), we thought we’d continue with the theme of family ties today with a look at an article that we found on the New York Times website entitled, “The Stories That Bind Us.” Please go read it now and then hop back over here!

The article is about the author’s journey delving into the research that has been done in the past few years about how to help groups (including families) work more effectively. After looking at all of the evidence, according to the author:

The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

Sounds simple, right? The basis of the idea is that it is beneficial to children when their families talk about both the family’s good times and the bad times.

“The most healthful narrative [is] the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

There is much more to this article than I quote in the snippets here, so please go take a minute to read through the entire thing and the come back and let us know what you think.


Did you have an ascending, descending, or oscillating family narrative in your household growing up?

Are you close to your parents and siblings or did/do you have a more contentious relationship with them?

 Have you done anything in particular in your current household to encourage a close familial bond like a family mission statement?


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pail_josJosey is a semi-crunchy mom of a toddler who spent her college years studying business and French and traveling whenever possible. She now works at the local medical center and is continually in search of the optimum work/life/party balance as she cruises through her 30s with her family and friends in Colorado. She is more than a little Type-A and researches the hell out of random things that pique her interest. Josey blogs about her family’s travel and outdoor life adventures at My Cheap Version of Therapy.

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