SU psychology professor’s new book explores how family routines, rituals create family wellness
SU psychology professor’s new book explores how family routines, rituals create family wellnessSeptember 01, 2006Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
While family life has changed significantly in the last half century, family traditions are just as important now as they were back when father knew best, according to a new book. In “Family Routines and Rituals” (to be released by Yale University Press on Sept. 12), clinical and developmental psychologist Barbara H. Fiese examines how the practices of diverse family routines and the meanings created through rituals have evolved to meet the demands of today’s busy families.
Fiese, a pioneering researcher in the field of developmental psychology and family process, is professor and chair of the psychology department in The College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. She is also senior scientist at SU’s Center for Health and Behavior.
In “Family Routines and Rituals,” Fiese discusses various research literatures and draws on her own studies to show how family routines and rituals influence physical and mental health, translate cultural values, and may even be used therapeutically. From bedtime stories to special holiday meals, Fiese relates such occasions to significant issues including parenting competence, child adjustment and relational well-being.
For example, taking brief or extended trips over the summer can help in establishing a tradition that fosters togetherness and creates shared experiences for families. “My research has found that family rituals such as this may provide feelings of belonging and closeness related to mental and physical health,” Fiese says. “Just remember that while high-tech gadgets such as portable gaming devices, MP3 players and DVD players are fun diversions, they should not monopolize the attention of individual family members during the whole trip. Instead, consider finding a way to use the technology to create a shared experience, such as creating a family playlist for the MP3 player.”
Family routines and rituals are important to the health and well-being of families, according to Fiese’s review of more than 32 studies over the last 50 years. Says Fiese, “Rituals are particularly important and convey that ‘this is who we are’ as a group and provide continuity in meaning across generations.” Her research has appeared in the Journal of Family Psychology, the Journal of Pediatrics and Family Process, among other publications.