Throughout time, family connection has been a huge part of the human condition; sustaining close, personal relationships with those you have genetic ties with has helped people understand themselves and the way that they think, interact, and behave (for better or worse) based on the history of their lineage. Often family has also been a built-in support system that can help nurture a person to growth and help them do the same for younger generations to come. In times when so much of our day-to-day life has changed due to technological and societal advances, people often wonder if the meaning or value of family has changed. Some wonder if the idea of remaining connected to, or carrying on the ancestry of a family is an antiquated or outdated phenomenon, while others are trying to make sense of how to best prioritize family at a time when other things can attempt to occupy our time and attention. While the concept of family may be changing, research shows that close, connected “familial” ties are more important now than ever before!
One of the things that has changed most in terms of the idea and concept of family is what people define as a familial relationship. In previous generations, family was a word meant strictly to denote those who share blood relation to a person, or someone who has married into that family to continue the family pedigree. While this is usually what most people would define as a family tie to another person, modern society has expanded the definition of who is considered family; this is mostly due to the fact that our social structure has been changing a lot in recent years. New social norms have expanded the idea of family to include non-blood, non-married, non-romantic partnerships, friendships, and many other non-traditional ways to think of family. It appears as if the modern conceptualization of family most closely resembles the following saying: “Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs…”–Unknown
Even in these tech-savvy times, the need for connection, support, and nurturing is ever-present in our society. People thrive off of their connections to others, and when they aren’t able to receive positive feedback in a social way, it can impact their overall functioning, including both their mental and physical health. Many studies have linked lack of positive social connections and interactions to negative health affects and even death! As humans, we are a social species who need others to help us feel connected, understood, supported, and loved. When we don’t have these quality relationships in our lives, we begin to feel less fulfilled, less appreciated, and less capable of finding meaning in life. This is why family relationships and quality time with the ones you love is so important… It may even save your life!
There is difficulty in modern times when trying to start and maintain quality relationships with family (either the family you were born into or the family you chose); learning how to balance all the things that people have on their priority list is complicated. Sure, most people will say family is of upmost importance; but, when work obligations, social arrangements, and pleasurable addictive stress relieving outlets get in the way, quality time with family seems to be the first thing to be put aside. When we feel the stress of providing for our family, it is often that we sacrifice the much needed connecting time to combat other pursuits, but as the research shows, prioritizing interpersonal connectection really is the key to success! Solid, healthy relationships with others that are nurtured and developed help a person feel more self confident, less stressed, and allow for them to succeed in other areas of their life! All in all, developing a healthy balance in life is one of the greatest things we, as people, have to learn how to do… but it’s of upmost importance.
Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events