What Makes for a Successful Family?

Written by Karyn Hall

May 14, 2021

Psychologists like to study everything!  Often they study what’s going wrong but sometimes they study what’s going right. What does the research show about successful families? They’ve identified some characteristics that could be helpful in strengthening your family relationships, especially if you find yourself in very close quarters now, due to the stay-at-home order.

1.  Open, clear communication.   Open and clear communication means that you are honest and vulnerable with your family members, not hiding your emotions or misleading them, or hinting around, or being indirect. Open means being authentic and real. This doesn’t mean that you say just whatever is on your mind. You can also censor. Honest communication means that you express what is true, NOT what you think in times of anger or upset. You can be honest and still censor unhelpful thoughts and words.

2.  Encouragement of individual members.   This means that individual members are supported, respected, and recognized. Strong families cultivate a sense of belonging to a family, but also nurture individual strengths and interests. The family framework provides structure but does not confine the family members.

3. Commitment to the family. Each family member is valued; each is supported and sustained. At the same time, each member is committed to the family as a united whole, with a sense of being a team. There is a sense of a family identity and unity. This also means that families spend time together. The shared time is high in both quality and quantity.

4.  Appreciation. Appreciation means that family members deliver a high level of positive reinforcement to family members, day in and day out, doing things that are positive from the other person’s perspective, just for their sake. Family members experience delight, liking, warmth and humor.

5. Ability to adapt; flexibility.  Healthy families can change, they can adapt as needed to cope with stress and predictable and unpredictable life cycle changes.

6.  Social Connectedness.  This characteristic is related to the family’s ability to adapt and cope with crises as well as daily problems. Successful families are not isolated–they are connected to the wider society.

7.  Clear role definition.  With a clear, yet flexible structure in place, family members are aware of their responsibilities in and to the family.  So when there are problems, members know their roles.

Live a skill-full life

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